How to beat stage fright
What is stage fear
Stage fear is an involuntary reaction of our organism, a characteristic anxiety reaction that occurs as a preparation mechanism before a threatening stimulus for survival.
Some of the symptoms of this organic anxiety reaction could be the following:
- Increased heart palpitations.
- Tremors of the hands.
- Motor restlessness.
- Pupil dilation.
- Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating.
- Digestive upset.
- Muscle pain.
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty speaking (something like stuttering).
- Difficulty listening.
- Dizziness or feeling of emptiness.
- Shaking chills.
- Piloerection (or goose bumps).
- Vomiting or nausea
- Feeling of passing out.
- Difficulty breathing or increased respiratory rate.
Fear is a very useful tool for human beings throughout their phylogenetic evolution to survive, but it can represent a great obstacle when it manifests itself in a situation that poses real danger, in this case speaking or being in front of an audience. This exacerbated fear is known as stage panic.
In addition to the physiological manifestations that are described, there are also cognitive symptoms:
- Thoughts of failure. He is certain that it will ruin his performance in public (for example "I am going to fall, I will forget everything I had to share, I will be wrong to speak, surely there is someone much more expert than me and he will laugh if I am wrong, no I am prepared enough, I am making a fool of myself, they will surely realize that I am very scared and they will laugh ").
- Critical body self-perception. The subject judges his physical appearance as out of tune, wrong or ugly. He expresses very severe judgments about his wardrobe and body aspects (for example "the jacket is not for the occasion, the pants look very bad on me, I am poorly groomed").
- Forgotten or blank mind. People who experience stage fright report not being able to remember what they had prepared for their act in public, which generally means that on stage they cannot develop unless it is with great difficulty.
- Catastrophic thoughts or self-fulfilling prophecies. Quite related to thoughts of failure but these are much more dramatic or excessive (for example "surely if I make a mistake they will yell me out of the stage, I can defecate or urinate in my pants, surely on stage these symptoms will worsen" ).
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Finally, the manifestation of stage fear is in the behavioral area, which we share below:
- Low voice volume. It is very difficult to hear what the subject is saying, even when using a voice amplifier.
- Complications to speak. Sputtering or alteration in the speed, fluency, sequence or rhythm of the voice. They generally speak faster (use of circumlocutions).
- Avoidance of action. The subject can escape from the place where he has to act, before or at the time of his performance.
- Use of drugs, calming or stimulating substances. The subject consumes before going on stage any or several substances that can alleviate his discomfort (alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, tobacco).
How to overcome stage fright when speaking in public
Public speaking is for many people one of the most pleasant and profitable activities, since by speaking in front of many people many of the ideas or personal criteria about a given situation can be shared.
The fear of public speaking many times arises from the anticipated idea of failure. People who express suffering the characteristic discomforts of this fear generally have this type of catastrophe thoughts in common (everything will go wrong), but they also present another rather particular characteristic: ignorance of the physiological manifestation of emotions.
Addressing stage fright when speaking in public should be especially addressed by a professional, since there is no standardized magic formula or technique to overcome it as each person is different even in their way of expressing discomfort. Before suggesting some tips to overcome fear when speaking in public, it is necessary to clarify that there are innumerable factors or causes of symptoms, which must be specifically addressed and identified for their treatment.
Therefore, I suggest that the first thing to work on is the exploration of possible causes (traumatic experiences related to the public "some teacher ridiculed him in front of his other classmates", since he was little at home, no one listened to his words "during meals at the table what ignored or asked to be silent).