The moments before a performance are your launch pad. Then, you can make a crucial difference between maintaining calm control or succumbing to blind panic. You need to learn to slow down on your launch pad, to resist the impulse to rush on and tumble headlong into an incoherent performance.
Assemble your own check-list from these suggestions:
1. Sit comfortably, visualise transferring all your nervous energy away from the tense part of your body (e.g. the jaw or fingers) down into your toes.
2. Think “toes, toes, toes” and your jaw/fingers relax. Give your hands about twenty vigorous shakes.
3. Sip some water or rinse your mouth.
4. Think “I feel fine, my fingers and shoulders are relaxed, I am in good form. The audience will like me.”
5. Turn down the volume of those nagging voices in your head. Instead, focus on the outcome you desire – to inspire, to entertain, to win.
6. Warm your hands and fingers by relaxed movements, stretching or other gentle exercise. Limber up as athletes do, starting with easy, relaxed actions, then
increase the challenge as your muscles loosen up. Water and heat are excellent therapies.
Cold contracts muscles, causing tension. Remember how reluctantly limbs move when we play in draughty halls in winter?
When performing in northern Sweden, often above the Arctic Circle, I learned to thaw my cold fingers under the dressing-room hot taps, the warmth relaxing my muscles. Alternatively, bring gloves or a hot-water bottle.
7. Turn those fidgets to good use! Waiting backstage, many feel the urge to fidget. Perhaps we should adopt the Mediterranean habit of fiddling with worry beads – a more healthy distraction than a cigarette.
8. Stretch. Stand against a wall to ensure upright posture.
9. Imagine “I am the greatest”. Assume a confident, positive face. Smile.
10. Breathe. Slow down.
You’re on. Be the greatest you can. Have fun!
Excerpt from Speak Out – Don’t Freak Out by Ruth Bonetti Available on Kindle