Managing stage fright

I’m a musician and I used to have stage fright. These are the methods I used to learn how to be relaxed on stage.

Make some time before the competition to do some progressive relaxation.

How to do progressive relaxation: Page on

Give yourself permission to be nervous. It is counter intuitive, yet it helps you to relax, because you are being gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that it is OK to be nervous.

Trying to suppress the symptoms of nervousness or telling yourself to relax actually makes it worse. Instead, I want you to try to intensify any nervous feelings you have. You will probably find that when you do this, you become less nervous. I saw a psychotherapist tell a woman who was blushing to blush more. When she tried, the blushing stopped.

Body language can build confidence. Widen your stance while waiting to play. Put your hands on your hips with your elbows out or tuck your thumb into your waistband like a cowboy. Hold your head up.

Be aware that many of the symptoms of being nervous are the same as when you are pumped: pulse racing, heart pounding, etc. Remind yourself of this.

When you catch yourself thinking, “I’m nervous.”, tell yourself, “No, I’m psyched.” You will have to do this repeatedly. It’s worth it, because it helps a lot.

Notice your breath. It is probably shallow because you are nervous. Do some deep, slow breathing.

Often our thoughts go a mile a minute when we are nervous. Becoming aware of a place in your body that feels good actually slows the mind down. Often my feet feel good, even when I am nervous.  To become more aware of your feet, try curling your toes really hard and release them.

©2016 Stephen L. Martin

Lion tamer, in lithograph by Gibson & Co

One thought on “Managing stage fright

  1. Very well summarized. I’ve found similar thoughts useful in a corporate context (while addressing large gatherings of people many years senior to me – in age and experience)

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