Everyone gets nervous to perform in front of people. It’s as natural as breathing. When people say they don’t get nervous, what they are really saying is they’ve just learned how to deal with their nerves. We get nervous in performance situations because we are vulnerable. We are putting ourselves out there to be judged and our instincts kick in. We either go into fight or flight mode. To avoid flight and stay in the fight, here are some tips to coping with performance anxiety.
1. Be prepared! Nerves are minimized when we know we are 100% prepared for our performance. When we know our music backwards and forwards, the odds are in our favor for a successful performance. This requires hard work and practice. Don’t leave anything to chance. If there is a hard section of a piece, don’t give up or think you can just wing it. Work hard to get it ironed out. The phrase “over-rehearsed” gets thrown around sometimes. My opinion is this is not possible. You can never practice too much.
2. Prepare early! Don’t wait until the week before to knuckle down. Work hard early, and you will feel more comfortable coming into the final weeks before a performance.
3. Perform often! The more you perform, the more you will begin to learn how your body reacts to scary situations (like performing). The more familiar you are with your “symptoms,” the more equipped you will be at handling them. For example, if you get dry mouth, be sure to have a bottle of water with you. If your hands get cold, bring gloves. If your heart rate increases, practice some slow, deep breaths. You will find what works best for you, the more you perform.
4. Remember that your audience is rooting for you! We may think that people are judging us when we perform, looking for us to mess up. But, the reality is, the people listening to your performance want you to do well and genuinely appreciate your efforts.
Hopefully, these tips will be a helpful reminder for anyone preparing for an upcoming performance. And remember, if a performance doesn’t go as well as you would have liked, learn what you can from it to help you be better prepared for the next one!