What to do with Performance Nerves

What to do with Performance Nerves
happy Sunday!

Nerves.  We all have them.

Anxiety.  Fear.  Clammy hands.  Elevated heart-rate.  Quickening of breath.  Shortness of breath.  Gonna pass out....


We ALL have them.  We get them in anticipation of something that matters to us.  This could be a performance, an audition,  a class,  a presentation,  meeting the in-laws...

What happens?  Why don't they settle down?  Why can they be controlled by some,  and some are debilitated by them?

I am not a psychologist.  I cannot give you a psychological outline of the phenomenon,  but as a performer and someone who works in performance and in public in many ways, I have had many years to observe myself and others.

This blog post is to simply create an outline of possibility.  If anything I can say here can help you, even a little bit,  that is my hope.

What creates the fear/anxious?  Is it fear of failure?  Is it being in front of people?  Is it the high note?  What makes you anxious?

What have you done to eliminate that fear or anxiousness?  Are you as prepared as you can be?  Do you know what to expect? 

I have seen, and have experienced it myself:  if I focus on the anxiety I am only more anxious.  I get more nervous.  It becomes a vicious cycle.  The physical manifestations become more vivid, I become more anxious,  and I feel that I must flee,  as if putting physical distance between me and the space I am in will clear up the nervousness.

We become fixated on the nerves,  and the action of what we are about to do somehow gets lost.

We allow the narcissism of the moment to turn violently inward,  and we forget why we are there.

We need vamped up energy to perform.  We need adrenaline to keep us alert and focused on the task at hand,  not over-stimulation of me me me.

We need to practice ACTION and DECISION.

Action is always outward.  It always has an "other".   Action doesn't "feel".  Action "does".

These are simply suggestions and activities that may be of some help to you. 

If it is important to you,  you will have a vamped up energy.  USE IT to your advantage.

What are you there to do? 
How do you DO that?  How do you go after that?
Who are you doing it to?
What should be in the space between you and the receiver?
What do you expect from them?
What should they expect from you?

How should you leave that space?  With what?
How should they leave that space?  With what?

See where I am going?
Notice there is nothing in these questions that has anything really to do with "feelings".

I think this is where we get lost:  we associate a physical manifestation of energy with an emotional feeling.  We then try to CONTROL that feeling.  The physical manifestation of energy needs a place to INHABIT.  It needs a reason to BE.  It needs action.  It needs DOING, not feeling.

We trap ourselves in our own feelings.  We often hide in the nerves.  "I am too nervous to audition" means what exactly?  "I am not ready".  "I am not capable".  "I am not right for this show."     It is okay to BE any of these.  It is okay to then say,  if I am not ready,  how do I make sure I AM ready?

We are athletes as performers.  We must focus as athletes.  Anything done in a public forum - any performance - needs an athletic stance in mind and body.

Why are we there?
What have we done to prepare to be there?
Have we done all necessary preparation both technically, and physically/tangibly to be there?

As we enter the space,  physically and psychologically, are we AWARE and PRESENT?

This is a big one.  So often,  we feel dream-like, or nightmare-like in our physical space.  We cannot allow for that.  We MUST be present.  Our minds are strong enough for that kind of focus.

Observe.  Do not make judgements.  Do not "feel".

The negative pattern would be: "I am feeling shaky.  I don't know if I can do this.  My voice is feeling dry.  I can't breathe.  I feel dizzy. "

Do you think any of those thoughts will calm you down?  Make you aware of your surroundings or the people in the space?

The more positive ACTION would be:

"I am in my body.  My breathing is a little shallow.  I sense my feet into the ground.  My legs will be stronger with each step.  I am prepared to DO xyz.  I see myself opening the door,  pausing to scan the room,  taking another breath,  walking into the room.  I continue to breathe and smile as I enter the room and walk firmly toward the piano..."

You get the idea?

There is no room for feeling.  You SEE everything you will do.  You SEE everything you have prepared.  There is no guess work involved.

The more action you give yourself clearly to DO,  the less space there is to "FEEL",  and in that, the less anxious you will allow for, both physically and emotionally.

All great athletes want to get MOVING!  They focus on why they are there,  and how they will move toward the finish line,  and how they will cross that line. 

If we perform,  we MUST determine the athleticism of body, behavior, technique, mind and spirit.  We decide which voices speak to us before, during and after. 

We ACT.  We SING.  We SPEAK.  We TAKE action.

We are there to complete a task,  to take an audience on a journey,  to offer expertise,  to offer information,  to get a job.  

Our focus needs to be on the task,  not the feeling.  It is crucial to harness the energy because it matters how that task is completed.  We have prepared for it,  now we must DO it.

Just something to begin exploring, or continue to explore...me too.

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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