Performance Anxiety: Practical Suggestions

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can reduce performance anxiety (also known as stage fright). However, there are things the performer may do for herself to help relieve performance anxiety. The following useful suggestions are from the Athletes and the Arts Coalition: Integrating the science of sport and the performing arts for mutual benefit of both.

Performance anxiety, commonly referred to as “stage fright” in
performing arts contexts, is a distressing and disabling condition
that affects performers of all ages. At least half of all performing
artists, regardless of age, gender, and talent or experience level,
report problems associated with performance anxiety.

Performing in front of people, whether it be an anonymous
audience or one’s instructors and/or peers, can be both exciting
and stressful. Experiencing some level of anxiety, or anticipatory
energy, is necessary in order to perform well. Thus, eliminating
performance anxiety altogether is not advised.

“A little bit of stage fright, then I’m ready.” – Faith Hill

Rather, the focus should be on working to control the anticipatory
energy in order to optimize one’s performances. Most people
perform better when they feel relaxed. Relaxation is an active
process, not a passive one. It is something that needs to be
practiced in order to be effective.

One common mistake performers make is to only attempt
relaxation exercises when stressed. Like other performance skills,
relaxation needs to be rehearsed. A performer must be very
familiar with what being relaxed “feels” like and how to engage a
relaxation response:

Remember to Breathe. Take a few slow, deep breaths
regularly throughout the day to release tension. Inhale slowly
through the nose down to the diaphragm and exhale slowly out
the mouth. Work to create respiration cycles that last 10
seconds (5 second inhale… 5 second exhale). It is important to
practice this exercise regularly, both during and outside
rehearsals, to create a habit of relaxation. Before every
performance, it may help to take 4 or 5 slow, deep, relaxing
breaths to re-create the feelings experienced during rehearsals.

Positive Self-Talk. As you breathe, mentally remind yourself
that you are ready to perform. Say to yourself: “I am prepared
and ready to perform” or “I can do it.” Positive self-talk is most
effective when the message relates to the process of performing
(i.e., “I am prepared”), rather than an outcome (i.e., “I will win
the audition.”)

Evaluate After You Perform. You will have plenty of time
after a performance to critique, criticize, and try to improve.
Optimal performances happen when you allow yourself to trust
in your ability and just perform. Everyone makes performance
mistakes. The difference between elite performers and
everybody else is how quickly they recover from mistakes (not
necessarily the absence of mistakes). 

Click here to download this info in pdf format. It’s a one page sheet that gives the Practical Suggestions above plus Guidelines for music teachers and directors.