The blog was written with the expert guidance and feedback of Ms. Indhu Rajagopal, an RCI licensed Clinical Psychologist. She is a consultant clinical psychologist at CareMe Health.
Edited & Coordinated by Arathi Nair
Have a speech to make? Doing a presentation at work or at school? Giving a casual talk to a group? Do these situations make you tense and anxious? Stage fear is also known as stage fright, stage phobia, or glossophobia. It is an experience where the individual feels scared to speak in front of an audience. An online survey found that about 74% of the respondents experienced speech anxiety. So if you experience stage fear, you are not alone!
“The only way to conquer stage fright is to get up on stage and play.– Taylor Swift
Every time you play, it gets better and better.”
A study revealed that stage fright is commonly attributed to specific reasons. The reasons include mistakes, unfamiliar roles, humiliation, negative results, rigid rules, audience interest, preparation, physical appearance, and personality traits. Sometimes stage fear could be due to fear of being judged or being evaluated negatively. Further, some individuals also experience stage fear as a part of their social phobia. To effectively deal with this issue, you must resolve its source. It could be negative perceptions, feelings, beliefs, images, predictions, etc. We will discuss here 5 key strategies to deal with some of the primary origins of stage fear-the 5 Rs.
We have all heard the saying, “practice makes a man perfect.” The same goes for stage fear as well. Research has proven that the quality of a speech performance is linked to the amount of preparation. It is important to rehearse your presentation or act before performing on stage. To do this, you can practice in front of the mirror or record your performance on video and review it. Further, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that it is best to make the rehearsal as realistic as possible.
Most of us have known the joy of daydreaming. We create scenarios and imagine their outcomes. Similarly, visualization can be used to recreate the performance in your mind. You can use your creative imagination to develop a positive expectation of your stage performance. By focusing on that positive image, you will eventually see yourself becoming more confident. Resultantly, it will help you perform well on stage. You can read the book ‘Creative Visualization-40th Anniversary Edition’ (2016) by Shakti Gawain to better understand this technique.
Breathe in and breathe out. Consciously or unconsciously, we start taking short breaths when we are anxious. It makes us physiologically in a fight or flight mode. Being in this physiological state will not be helpful for your performance. Hence, it is vital to calm down your body and mind through relaxation. Research shows that breathing exercises are useful to help cope with stage fear. A simple way to regulate your breathing is to practice abdominal breathing. Just keep your hand on your tummy and ensure it goes up when you breathe in and down when you breathe out. You can also use the Benson deep-breathing technique to help you relax.
It is common to have a lot of nervous energy when you start your performance. An effective way to deal with this energy is to harness it, not push it away. The nervous energy you have can improve your focus and add extra passion to your performance. Another technique is to convert that energy into excitement. Instead of thinking that you are anxious, tell yourself that you are excited! Research has shown that reframing your energy will help you feel more excited and perform better.
As mentioned in the quote initially, the more times you are up on stage, the better you get. Stage fear is a real thing, and there is no denying that. It is okay to make a few mistakes now-and-then or stutter on stage. It happens, so don’t let it stop you. Ensure that you keep trying, practicing, and performing! A study has shown that systematic desensitization is an efficient method to reduce stage-fright. So, you can start small, maybe stand up and talk amongst your friends, or speak at a family function. You can begin speaking or performing in front of small audiences or somewhere you feel safe. You can then gradually progress to more challenging situations.
Professional help for stage fear
Just because many people experience stage fear, it need not be okay to live with it. Seeking a professional can help you become more confident. It will enable you to overcome stage fear and become more successful in your professional and personal life. At CareMe, we have psychologists who can assist you in this process. They will support you and guide you in overcoming your stage fear. Start dealing with your stage fear now!
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