6 Tips To Calm Your Nerves Before A Performance

Performances of any kind are triggers for nerves. Whether it’s a game, an interview, an audition, a presentation, or a show, nervousness is likely to be right there with you.

When you find yourself nervous before a performance, it’s easy to grow fearful of the nerves. This can be the result of a previous bad experience where you did not perform well due to becoming overly nervous.

Or, it can be out of concern that others will see you as nervous and you find that embarrassing.

For most of us, including myself, it’s a combination of both.

I know the feeling of nervousness all too well. Before baseball games, faced with a presentation, going to talk to strangers, these have all been moments where nerves controlled my mind.

For me, being nervous was a fear. Many times those nerves led to poor performances, where I found myself playing below what I knew I was capable of.

But nerves also led to some of the most embarrassing moments I can remember. At times becoming overwhelmed with nervousness to the point my whole body was shaking and voice was crackling as though tears were about to flow from my eyes.

This led to a nerve phobia.

But the truth is, nerves are going to be present. They are a natural part of life, especially when you place yourself in a performing environment. What you must remember, and took me a while to learn, is nerves do not have to be something to fear.

Through practice, you can learn to calm your nerves. Reducing your fear, and allowing your hard earned skills and talents to shine.

Through the six tips I’m going to share with you, you can do just that. It all begins with acceptance.

Tip #1: Accept Your Nervousness

But wait, aren’t we trying to reduce our nerves? Why would we want to accept them?

I know, it may seem like a strange concept. Though, it’s not when you understand how your focus operates.

When you become nervous before a performance, how much attention are you giving to that feeling?

Probably a whole lot of attention I’d say. That’s because, even if you’re trying to reduce nerves in the moment, your focus is still placed on them.

What this does is amplify what you’re already experiencing.

For example, let’s say you have a sore throat. All day you’re in pain due to the irritation in your throat. But then you’re playing a game that afternoon and twist your ankle. Automatically, the pain you experience shifts.

Your ankle is throbbing and you're taken to the hospital. Through this whole experience, not once did you think about the pain in your throat.

Did twisting your ankle automatically heal your sore throat? No, but what it did was alter your attention in a dramatic way.

This shows the power of focus. Instead of having pain pull your attention away from your nerves, you can use acceptance.

Going into a performance, accept the nerves you are experiencing. Do not try and fight them, simply allow them to be. Rather than focusing on not being nervous, think about something else.

Maybe this involves reviewing your process goals, repeating a self-talk routine, or talking with those around you. Use the concept of shifting focus to accept your nerves and place your attention somewhere else.

This will immediately reduce the impact and severity of the nerves you feel. You will also place yourself in a calmer mindset, rather than feel resistance to the nervousness you’re experiencing.

Tip #2: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Are you as prepared as you can be for your performance?

If you know you’re the type of person who gets overly nervous before a game or performance, no stone can be left unturned in preparation.

Preparation equals comfort and confidence. The more prepared you are, the more your performance feels second nature.

Now, being prepared does not automatically mean you won’t feel any nerves. However, what it does do is build confidence and self-belief that work to eliminate many worrisome thoughts.

When you are less prepared than you should be, it’s easy to grow fearful and anxious over what may happen. You begin to doubt yourself, questioning whether or not you’re ready.

Once a small amount of doubt enters your mind, it starts to spread like a fire. The possibility of failing and embarrassing yourself leads to tightness and more nervousness.

That’s why you need to ensure you do all you can to prepare. This involves physical preparation, along with mental preparation.

Be sure you’ve trained as much as you can physically going into a game. Have you focused on your weaknesses and worked to fine tune your strengths?

If you have a presentation or interview, have you gone over your material and what you want to say so much that it’s burned into your memory?

In addition to physical preparedness, you need to use mental training exercises to increase confidence. This can involve visualizing your performance going well. Put yourself in the environment and simulate how you want to feel and how you wish for it to go.

Being prepared works to make your performance feel second nature. Allowing you to relax into your confidence going into the performance, rather than feeling overly nervous.

"If you know you’re the type of person who gets overly nervous before a game or performance, no stone can be left unturned in preparation."

Tip #3: Remember Past Successes

One of the main reasons being prepared is so important is the confidence it instills. But before a performance, there’s a more immediate exercise you can do to boost your confidence.

Why is confidence vital to feeling less nervous? Because nervousness is rooted in uncertainty. When you know something is going to happen one way, and you one-hundred percent believe it to be so, are you nervous?

Let’s say you knew you were going to succeed within your performance, don’t you think you would be much less nervous? I know I would. That is the kind of certainty confidence provides.

While we can never be completely sure how a performance will turn out, what we can do is put our minds in a higher state of confidence.

To do so, you must remember past successes.

All of us have times in the past where we’ve succeeded. Even if it’s not in the exact same environment as you’re about to enter, I’m sure you can think of something similar.

What you want to do is fill your mind with memories of you succeeding. I would do this before baseball games, and it automatically boosted my confidence and reduced anxiety.

I have a tendency to focus on fear and anxiety. Having my mind see all the possible negative outcomes that may occur. By remembering past successes, I am exchanging those negative thoughts for more positive and productive ones.

All you need to do is begin thinking about previous moments in your life where you have performed well. See, in your mind, what all you did. Feel the confidence and success that accompany the memory.

This is going to remind you that you are capable of success, and work to reduce the nervousness you’re experiencing.

Tip #4: Practice Gratitude

Whenever you are nervous, you don’t want to focus on the nerves. That was the basis for what we discussed in the first section on acceptance.

Placing your attention on the nerves will only perpetuate what you’re experiencing. Instead, you need to shift your attention onto something more positive.

Being nervous gets in the way of performing when it leads to you being timid, stiff, and fearful. When this occurs, your performance level will decrease. So, you want to get yourself into a more positive and uplifting state.

One that will allow you to perform freely and naturally.

An incredible way to boost your mood and alter your state from one of nervousness to one of positivity is gratitude.

Whenever someone is struggling with performance anxiety, one of the best tools I can recommend is gratitude. The same holds true for nerves.

A state of gratitude is one of ease, joy, and positivity. This will shift your attention off your nerves and put you in a great position to perform your best.

All you need to do is start thinking about everything you have to be grateful for. You may feel gratitude for the opportunity to perform, your team, those watching, the skills you’ve developed, the beautiful day, or anything else that comes to mind.

You will be reminding yourself of all there is to be grateful for in the moment. That will work to calm the nerves you are experiencing before a performance.

"An incredible way to boost your mood and alter your state from one of nervousness to one of positivity is gratitude."

Tip #5: Turn To Your Breath

Your breath is a powerful tool.

It works to relax the mind and body, along with improving focus by generating a state of mindfulness.

Have you ever noticed your breath when you are nervous? Our tendency is to take short, shallow breaths. The reason we breathe this way is due to our fight or flight response.

When in a situation our minds deem to be threatening or intense (such as a performance), our muscles contract and lead to us feeling tense. This tense feeling makes it difficult and unnatural to take deep breaths.

However, your breath is one of the best tools you have to calm your mind. If you allow yourself to take these short and shallow breaths, all that will happen is your nerves will heighten and likely turn into anxiety or panic.

What you must do is place conscious attention onto your breath.

Focus on your breathing. Take deep, rhythmic breaths, calming yourself and generating a state of mindfulness.

When you begin to breathe deeply, your mind is centered in the present moment. That is what is referred to by the term mindfulness. Since nerves are fueled by future thinking, being present is a great way to shift this attention.

A great way to take control of your breath is practicing count breathing. This is where you breathe in for a certain amount of time and breathe out for a certain amount of time.

Here are a few different exercises you can try:

  • Breathe in for 5 and out for 10.
  • Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4.
  • Breathe in for 4 and out for 4.

It doesn’t matter as much which type of breathing you choose. What is most important is the underlying principle of taking deep, rhythmic breaths.

Tip #6: Choose A Focus Point

The last tip will help as you begin the performance.

Your mind needs something to focus on during a performance. If you don’t take control of this focus, it will likely be your nerves and the possibility of making a mistake. Both of those are not going to help you perform well.

What you need to do is decide on a focus point for your mind.

But be careful, as you don’t want your focus point to contribute to any more feelings of nervousness. For this reason, be sure you are focusing on that which is completely in your control.

That’s why setting process goals is a valuable skill for you to master.

Process goals involve anything that makes up the process of your performance. This includes the physical skills and actions you need to perform, along with mindset factors such as your attitude.

Going into your performance, decide on at least one process goal you want to focus on. This will take your attention off your nerves, thus reducing the impact they have on you.

Final Thoughts

Nerves are natural. While being nervous can be helpful, it can also be distracting and lead to lower levels of performance.

For this reason, it’s important to understand ways you can calm your nerves before a performance.

It starts with accepting the nerves you are feeling. Stop trying to fight them and work to shift your attention.

Always be prepared, focus on past successes to boost your confidence, focus on gratitude, and be sure you are breathing in a way that calms your mind and body.

Lastly, set process goals to provide your mind a focus point.

All of this will work to calm your nerves before a performance, allowing your hard earned talents and skills to shine through.

I hope you enjoyed the article, and if you have any questions, please email me at elistraw@successstartswithin.com.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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