Quick Tip #1: State the Obvious

It's go time. You're ready to walk into the audition room, or onto the performance stage. You've practiced, you've prepared, you've done your due diligence. 

And BAM!

Suddenly adrenaline is rushing through your body. You get hot. Or cold. You start to shake. You can't see as well. Your breathing gets tight. You've forgotten everything you've ever learned in your whole life. 

It's times like these that we need a quick solution. It is not practical to go deep and get curious about what is happening and why. You need to do your job and do it well. Right now.

Today’s blog and the following weeks will be dedicated to some short term skills and tricks for coping with nerves. 

State the obvious. Get as basic as you can – you are safe.

Our lizard brains evolved to be on the lookout for any potential danger. It reads DANGER from an audition panel or an audience and does not interpret between real and imagined threats.

To get back into our bodies and thinking brains, and outta survival mode, one strategy is to notice the basics of your situation. Even though it might feel silly, say it out loud.

  • Take a look around you and notice – no one here can eat me. Lizard brain is truly worried that you might die. Remind it that you will not die. Alexander teacher Peter Jacobson suggests taking this another step and saying what action you are doing:
    • No one here can eat me…and I’m playing octaves.
    • No one here can eat me…and I’m singing a “o mio babbino caro
    • My body is safe….and I’m [character] from [this] monologue
    • I am safe….and I’m dancing a box step.

As you know, the key to anything that improves performance is practice. Same with using a tool to address nerves.

The thing about nerves is that our prefrontal cortex, our thinking brain, goes offline. Our ability to remember what to do can feel nearly impossible, once the adrenaline kicks in and the lizard brain is scrambling for safety. So even with these tricks, you need to practice and train for the quick default when the rush of adrenaline washes everything away.

This tool will help bring your prefrontal cortex back online so it and you can function better, even while nervous.

Here's how to practice this tool:

  • In the practice room, as part of your practice routine, look around, state your version of events. I am safe, and I am practicing a Chopin Nocturne. No one can eat me here, and I am practicing my speech on {this topic}. Observe how your body feels when you say this. Take a breath. How does your mind feel? 
  • Do a practice performance. Include walking in to the room, and as you walk in, say your safety statement. Take a moment to look around the room and notice that nothing here can eat you. 
  • Hook this activity to something else you do on a regular basis - washing dishes, brushing teeth, bathing, walking. Especially if you notice anxiety creeping in for any reason, try out saying a safety statement and observing what happens in your brain and body.

I've been doing this exercise while writing this newsletter - even though there is no adrenaline, I have plenty of avoidance desires creeping in. Looking around my yellow and turquoise room, noticing my safety made me smile and settle and commit a little longer and avoid facebook for a few more minutes.

I know you know this, but since we are practicing stating the obvious here, I will state the obvious: the more you practice any given tool, the more it will be available to you when nerves strike.

Consider dropping a note here on the blog about your favorite tools to deal with nerves. I'd love to compile and share a list of tools that really work. 

Warm wishes for the start of this new year!