Marcia Brady was told to combat stage fright by picturing audience members in their underwear – but here are some proven ways to beat an affliction that affects three-quarters of all performers.
Step 1: Visualize success Visualize success by picturing the performance going perfectly. Studies show that visualizing something going well helps make it happen. Many athletes, such as champion divers, use mental imagery to psych themselves up before a competition.
Step 2: Drink juice Drink citrus juice before you go on stage. One study found people who downed OJ before giving a speech had lower blood pressure, fewer stress hormones, and less anxiety within just 15 minutes – and the effect lasted over 40 minutes!
Step 3: Take a deep breath Place your hands on top of your head or over your eyes or heart, and breathe deeply for a count of ten while visualizing a healing light coming through your hands. This Japanese exercise lowers blood pressure and decreases stress hormones.
TIP: Chew gum before you take the stage. It releases tension in the jaw, which, in turn, helps the entire body relax.
Step 4: Imagine the audience as one person Imagine everyone in the audience is a clone of one person: your best friend, your wife—whoever is your biggest supporter. This is a favorite technique of stage-fright sufferer Shirley MacLaine.
Step 5: Think of a word There’s a good reason meditators sit around saying, 'Om.' Research shows that focusing your thoughts on one word – any word – actually switches the brain from busy beta waves to slower, calmer alpha waves.
TIP: Rub your hands with a little lavender or vanilla lotion before going out on stage. These scents are so well-proven to reduce anxiety that they’re used by hospitals before frightening procedures like MRIs.
Step 6: Have some carbs Forget your low-carb diet for one day and enjoy bagels, pasta, and popcorn. Carbs trigger the release of the calming chemical serotonin in the brain.
Step 7: Wear a lucky charm Many actors and athletes wear a lucky charm to help them cope with performance anxiety. Richard Burton always wore something red when performing.
Step 8: Read a poem Read a rhythmic poem out loud 15 minutes before showtime. Reciting poetic rhymes calms the nervous system by making you focus on something else, and the rhythmic patterns of speech help slow your breathing.
FACT: Legendary actor Sir Laurence Olivier calmed down before stage performances by arriving at the theater early, scanning the audience for theater critics, and muttering insults at them.