No matter who you are, what you do or how long you’ve been doing it all of us suffer from nerves at times. I often get asked by my students how to ‘get rid’ of nerves. The truth is, you can’t get rid of them. But you can learn how to manage them and hide them so that no one else knows they are there.
When I started acting, aged nine, I used to get so nervous I would make myself ill, I even ended up in hospital once and missed the show all together. My mum said if I couldn’t learn to control my nerves I wouldn’t be able to carry on acting as it was getting ridiculous. That was completely out of the question, I loved acting and those that know me well know how stubborn I can be. So I learned how to handle it. Here are some tips that may come in handy when those dreaded nerves kick in.
My dad always told me: plenty of practice prevents poor performance. I hate to agree with him but from experience it seems to be true. I only really get nervous when I don’t know what I’m doing. Whether it be being on top of lines or ensuring you’re fully briefed on whatever topic is being discussed you can never do too much preparation.
This is a classic technique used by sports psychologists. Take five minutes before hand to sit quietly and visualise a positive outcome. Then you’ll go into whatever challenge you’re facing feeling like you’ve won already.
Breathing plays a bit part in how we are feeling. Have you ever noticed that if you’re scared or worried about something you’re breathing pace will increase? Taking big, deep, slow breaths will trick your body and mind into feeling relaxed and that anxiety will start to go away.
Sometimes you won’t be able to sit and visualise or take deep breaths as you might look a bit foolish so the pressure point is a great, discreet way of calming yourself down.
Press your thumb into the middle of the palm of your opposite down and hold down ‘the button’ for five seconds. This is an acupuncture pressure point and pressing on it will calm you down.
I find, even if I’m supposed to be appearing as myself for a talk or presentation, adopting a character can help dispel your nerves. Try and take on a character that is confident and in control and this will help you to feel the same. Most people fear being judged or looking foolish. By adopting a character you can deflect this fear. It’s the character being judged, not you!
Find a private place, I like to do this in a toilet cubicle; which ensures ultimate privacy, and stand in ‘super hero’ pose for ten seconds. Hands on hips, wide stance, proud chin and puff your chest out. Standing like this may not make you feel like you could take on Lex Luther but it will make you feel more powerful, in control and confident.