Singing with Stage Fright: How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

stage fright

Have you ever felt that nervous, butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling before going on stage? If so, you’re not alone! Stage fright is a common experience among singers and performers, and it’s the body’s natural response to the adrenaline and excitement of performing. You might feel your heart racing, your hands shaking, or even your legs turning to jelly. But don’t worry, it’s totally normal, and there are a number of techniques you can use to overcome your stage fright.

What is stage fright?

Stage fright, also known as “performance anxiety”, is the fear, phobia or anxiety experienced when an individual is required to perform in front of an audience. When we’re faced with a stressful situation, such as performing in front of an audience, our bodies automatically go into “fight or flight” mode. This triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, and shaking. At the same time, our emotional response to the situation can cause feelings of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt.

Although Stage fright is a natural and normal response to the stress and excitement of performing, it can be uncomfortable and even debilitating for some singers and performers, causing them to sound tense and lose control of their voice.

By understanding the biological mechanisms behind stage fright, we can learn how to manage and overcome our fears and anxieties and enjoy the experience of performing to the fullest.

How can I overcome stage fright?

1. Practice

The more you perform, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become on stage. When you practice, you get the chance to perfect your vocal technique and become familiar with your performance material. This helps you feel prepared and ready to go, boosting your confidence and calming your nerves. Plus, practising allows you to experiment with different movements, gestures, and facial expressions, so you can find what works best for you and your performance style.

2. Engage with your audience

Make eye contact, smile, and connect with your audience members. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident and help the audience connect with you and your music.

Also, when you’re interacting with the audience, it takes your mind off your own nerves and helps you focus on the moment. So don’t be afraid to engage with your audience – they’re there to support you and enjoy your performance, so make sure to include them in the experience.

meditation

3. Take care of yourself

Physical well-being is an important part of overcoming stage fright. By taking care of your physical health, you can help to improve your overall mental and emotional well-being, which can in turn help you to manage your stage fright better.

Here are a few ways that physical well-being can help you to overcome stage fright:

  1. Exercise: Regular exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and can also improve your physical health and fitness. This can help you to feel more confident and prepared for your performance.
  2. Proper nutrition: Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to support your physical and mental health. Avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol, which can exacerbate anxiety, is also advised.
  3. Getting enough sleep: Sleep is essential for both physical and mental well-being. Get enough rest before a performance to help you feel your best.

4. Use positive self-talk.

If you’re a singer struggling with performance anxiety, positive self-talk can really help. 

By reframing your thoughts and emotions in a more positive light, you can feel more confident and in control. For example, you can remind yourself that you’ve prepared well for the performance, that you’re capable of singing well, and that any mistakes are not the end of the world. Positive self-talk can help you stay calm and focused and approach the performance with a positive attitude.

5. Speak to a therapist

In some cases, talking to a therapist could help combat performance anxiety. Many people who experience stage fright have underlying anxiety or other mental health issues that can be addressed through therapy. A therapist can work with you to identify the causes of your stage fright and develop strategies to help you manage it. This could include techniques such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, and visualisation. In addition to these techniques, a therapist can also provide you with support and encouragement as you work through your stage fright.

If this is of interest, perhaps research local mental health counsellors, clinical psychologists and therapists who specialise in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as this type of therapy is often effective for addressing anxiety and other related issues.

6. Meditate

Because stage fright is a type of anxiety, practising meditation could be a helpful tool to reduce stress and improve your performance. 

Meditation is a practice that involves focusing your mind to train your attention and awareness, and to achieve a calm and stable state. Research shows that meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, so if you’re a singer dealing with stage fright, it may be worth trying. By learning to quiet your mind and focus your attention, you may be able to manage your anxiety better and perform with more confidence and poise. 

6. It’s okay to make mistakes

Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes. Making mistakes is a natural part of the learning and performing process, and it’s not the end of the world if you mess up on stage – most of the audience won’t even notice! 

By accepting that mistakes are normal, you can approach your performance with a more positive and relaxed mindset. Plus, reminding yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes can help you focus on enjoying your performance, rather than worrying about messing up. So don’t be afraid to let go and give it your all!

The following video offers a fantastic insight into the scientific causes of performance anxiety as well as details on the symptoms of stage fright, and some mindful steps you can take to build your self-confidence, reduce anxiety and flourish in front of an audience.

What are the symptoms of Performance Anxiety?

The symptoms of performance anxiety can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous or anxious before or during a performance
  • Feeling physically tense or on edge
  • Rapid heartbeat or rapid breathing
  • Feeling like you are unable to control your thoughts or emotions
  • Feeling like you might make a mistake or fail
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling sick to your stomach
  • Difficulty focusing or thinking clearly.

These physical symptoms can in turn affect the singer’s vocal abilities, causing them to lose control of their voice, to sound tense or strained, or to have difficulty hitting high notes or holding long notes. Additionally, the emotional responses associated with stage fright, such as anxiety and self-doubt, can cause singers to hesitate or rush through their performance, which can also affect their vocal performance. In severe cases, stage fright can cause singers to lose their voice altogether, making it difficult or impossible for them to perform. 

Singing with Stage Fright

Remember that it’s normal to feel nervous before going on stage, and for many, this feeling stays with them their whole career. 

Whilst you may not be able to overcome stage fright completely, following the above steps can make it manageable, allowing you to perform to your full potential.