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The house manager pokes her head backstage. “You guys ready? You’ve got a great crowd tonight.” You clutch your guitar to your chest and nod. Except you don’t feel ready. You feel like running away.

Or maybe you’re finally auditioning for The Voice. You’ve waited patiently in line for hours, and you’re next up. Only a minute ago, you were as cool as the proverbial cucumber, but now your breathing is speeding up, your heart is thumping, your stomach is churning and your palms are beginning to sweat. You feel a bit dizzy, and your legs are going numb. What’s going on?

You’ve got stage fright, also known as performance anxiety. And if you’re a musician—whether an instrumentalist or singer—you should know how to overcome stage fright so that if it ever strikes, you’ll be ready.

So what is stage fright, exactly? Stage fright is a form of anxiety, and like most anxieties, it’s about your brain and body mistakenly believing that you’re in danger. Humans have evolved to be really good at fighting or running away from things that might hurt us. But even when there’s no actual threat, when you get scared, your body wants to fight, flee or freeze—and that can get in the way of all sorts of things, including performing.

The first (and maybe the most important) step to overcoming stage fright is to let yourself off the hook. It’s not a rare experience, and you’re not unusual for getting pre-show jitters. John Lennon, for example, was famous for throwing up before he went on stage.

Adele once ran down a fire escape rather than perform. Eddie Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, Rihanna, Katy Perry… the list of famous, successful musicians who have had to navigate and overcome stage fright in order to do what they love is very long indeed. You’re not alone. So now that you know you’re in excellent company, here are practical tips for how to overcome stage fright.

1.Set yourself a time limit for feeling nervous.

It’s normal to feel anxious before a performance, but the longer you let yourself freak out, the more anxious you’ll grow. Give yourself a short amount of time to feel nervous—set a timer so you don’t go over—and then move on and do something active like drink some tea or warm up your voice and body.

2.Visualize your ideal performance.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself performing. You’re hitting every note, connecting with every audience member. These kinds of positive visualizations not only help you feel calm but also set you up for success. Your brain is extraordinarily powerful. Make it work for you.

3.Exercise to release endorphins.

If you’re a performer, you’re probably exercising regularly anyway, so don’t let your routine slip on the day of a concert. You need those endorphins. Get to the gym, go for a run, take a dance class—whatever works best for you. Exercise is one of the best anxiety-management tools out there. Just don’t overdo it and wear yourself out. Save some energy for the show.

4.Watch something funny to make you laugh.

Watch YouTube videos of puppies romping in deep snow. Or exchange texts with a friend who always makes you laugh. Laughter produces endorphins (like exercise, see above), and endorphins counteract feelings of anxiety.

1.Dispel your excess adrenaline to feel calm.

When you’re anxious, your body is filled with adrenaline, so use it. Jump up and down. Shake out your limbs one by one. Jog in place. Even a little bit of movement will help you feel calmer.

2.Slow your breath.

You naturally breathe faster when you’re in fight-or-flight mode, so forcing yourself to breathe more slowly and deeply can convince your body that you’re not in danger. Breathe in, and then breathe out through pursed lips. Set up a rhythm where your out-breath lasts twice as long as your in-breath as this is naturally soothing to your nervous system.

3.Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.

Before an audition or concert, your body is flooded with adrenaline. There’s no need to charge yourself up any further. In fact, too much caffeine (like that third cup of coffee) can actually cause you to feel anxious, so sip some herbal tea, and save the latte for later.

4. Smile to make yourself feel better.

Even if you don’t feel like smiling, do it. Forcing your face to smile (crinkling your eyes, letting your smile puff out your cheeks, the whole nine yards) can actually make you feel happier and calmer because your brain figures that if you’re smiling, you must be happy. The brain-body connection goes both ways.

Here is a video showing you a more detailed breakdown of stage fright and how it led to the downfall of some of the most famous artist you know. Its a must watch video and educative too. Many successful artist who overcame stage fright used some of these tactics. Click below to watch.

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