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Your agent calls with great news — you got the role! It's your first major break of your acting career and you're…terrified. Your heart is pounding. You can't breathe. The phone slips from your sweaty palms.
Most people suffer from performance anxiety from time to time. We all want to look good in front of people, whether it be a small group or an audience of thousands. For actors, stage fright is part of the territory.
Being a little nervous is a good thing. Feeling awed by your famous co-star or the role itself can motivate you to work hard and surpass yourself. But too much stage fright can blow an acting career. Follow these tips to get your jitters under control:
Know your stuff. Nothing will make you more nervous than being unprepared. If you need to, hire a coach or take a cold reading class.
Don't forget to breathe. Try this exercise: Exhale completely. Then wait a moment at the bottom of the breath for the inhalation to come naturally. When you feel the impulse to breathe in, allow your lungs to fill with air. Exhale without holding your breath. Repeat. Continue for a few calming breath cycles.
Get moving. Movement helps dissolve nervous tension. Pace, jog around the block, shadow box, jump up and down, shout. Do whatever feels good.
Start giggling. Try to get yourself laughing, even if you have to force it. You'll trigger endorphins which should help you feel more relaxed.
Learn more about the mind-body connection. Take lessons in the Alexander Technique or the Feldenkrais Method, both forms of mind-body work that can help with stage fright.
Seek professional help. Find a therapist or an acting coach who specializes in helping actors overcome performance anxiety.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|