BWW Blog: Acting With Anxiety
Anxiety has been something I've dealt with for practically my entire life. If anyone reading this suffers from anxiety, I'm sure you're familiar with the rush, panic, and worry that you feel when it comes to a performance regardless of what part you take in the creation of it. Personally, I love to act, but getting up on a stage can be no easy feat when the fear of failure is weighing you down among many other factors. There are a few key strategies I've developed in order to help with performing jitters, so I decided to write them down! These may not work for everyone, but they have definitely helped me.
1. Practice, Practice, and Practice More
You may have heard this before, but often times when you're anxiety-ridden it helps to practice excessively for an upcoming performance-if you have the time, that is! If I feel like there's one section of my part that has a good chance of tripping me up, I practice for as long as I can to make sure I at least understand the words I'm saying and the key points I'm conveying. While it's important to know your lines, being able to convey the idea of what you're saying is even more important. You can practice your lines a thousand times over but if you don't recognize the meaning behind them, you'll have a harder time on stage if you forget them. It doesn't hurt to try and convey the idea in a couple different ways just in case you trip up too!
2. Don't Let It Build Up
I have a tendency to let the anxiety of performing build up in my head before I've stepped on stage, so I consider this rule to be an incredibly vital and important one. While it's good to relieve anxiety when you can, if it's too difficult to fully get rid of then it can help to keep yourself distracted before your performance. Physical activity is great for this so I'll often dance before I have a performance for my acting classes. Other times I might sing, talk to fellow actors, etc. I highly suggest finding something that will take your mind off of what's about to happen if you have anxiety. It's an incredible help for me!
3. Deep Breaths
Long, deep breaths are a bit self-explanatory, but they really do wonders with anxiety on and off stage. Of course, when you're on stage then you are expected to be acting, but you may experience moments where you aren't taking enough time to breathe. Performing is important, but if you're speaking too quickly or experiencing a shortness of breath from nervousness then it is incredibly important to stop and take a breath or two. If you can, try to weave it into your acting. If you can't, then that's okay too. Stop for a second, compose yourself, and move on.
4. Manifest Your Best Energy
The energy you put into the world plays a great part in your performance. I've come to learn through my acting performances that I am at my worst when I let my worries take over. If I go into a performance thinking that I will do badly, then the chances of me acting badly increase tenfold. I cannot stress enough how important it is to believe in your abilities as an actor or actress. Encouraging yourself and telling yourself that you will do a good job can do wonders. Enter with a positive attitude and you will have a higher likelihood of success! Understand that you're a good actor/actress and good at what you do. If you don't do as well as you expected, then assess why but don't berate yourself for mistakes. It can be easy to focus on what went wrong in a performance, but recognize what went right too. To an unknowing audience, the mistakes may not have even been noticeable!
5. Accept Mistakes
As I mentioned in the last strategy, you shouldn't spend all of your time nitpicking your performance for its mistakes. Every show is going to have its high and low moments and there is more than likely never going to be a flawless performance so it's unfair to yourself and others to expect that. While there isn't anything wrong with recognizing your flaws during a performance and trying to improve them, you shouldn't let them bring you down in the long run. I recommend walking into any acting scenario with the perspective of, "I'm going to do my best and that's the best I can do."
No actor in the world is going to be perfect. Every actor is going to have their highs and lows. As someone who has anxiety and acts, I have to come to terms with the idea that I am my own worst critic and others will not be as hard on me as I am on myself. Regardless of where you act, whether that be in high school, college, professionally, etc, you should understand that the best thing you can do is try. While you may never reach perfection as an actor/actress, neither will anyone else. All of us are here to entertain to the best of our abilities, so we should stay positive and break a leg!