So how to get out of fight or flight mode? Well, first you need to know what exactly is fight or flight response. Fight or flight response is simply your body telling you to either stay and fight or literally run away. Your body doesn’t know whether it’s running away from a mad dog chasing or is on the stage in front of hundreds of people waiting for you to say something.
That’s why your blood pressure spikes, heart rate becomes faster and your body starts to shake, it’s just your body trying to help you by pumping more blood in your muscles, so “you can run away from that dog.”
Stage-fright also called performance anxiety happens because we get scared on stage and we get scared because we fear of making a mistake, rejection and of unknowing.
We care about our reputation, and we don’t want to ruin it.
It’s in our nature and that’s why we can never eliminate it from our minds completely but we can still control it and the typical “imagine all people naked” advice is not going to work here and why would it, that is not the solution to stage-fright.
So how to get out of fight or flight mode?
The diaphragm is the king:
Why do people always say
” Wow, this guy has some guts”
“He must have some nerve”?
Well because our brains and our guts are the ones which become the victim to stress when we get nervous or tensed.
When we get nervous our thinking gets clouded because of the cortisol in our brain increases.
Our belly gets these butterflies and we are not able to breadth properly.
So what is the solution to all these problems?
Well when it comes to stage fright or even panic attacks, the best thing to consider is to breathe properly. It’s not just about breathing in and breathing out.
There are so many different exercises that can help us to breathe properly on stage.
For example, my favorite one, and which gives results too, is to lie down on our back and put some gym-weight on our diaphragm and then try to breath-in as much as you can and then exhale and repeat.
The main idea is to put pressure on your diaphragm, it doesn’t have to be gym weights, you may simply press it with your hands.
Doing this exercise right before getting on stage works like a charm and breathing in gets way easier on stage and you get a lot less nervous.
When we are on stage, it becomes harder to breathe so this exercise actually mimics the pressure we face on breathing whilst on stage.
Also, remember to always breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth when doing this exercise and when on stage.
We all get nervous.
It’s in our nature, It happens because we don’t focus on the main thing which is our work that needs to be delivered.
Our brain doesn’t allow us to focus on more than two or three things at a time so you need to only focus on one and that is your message, that you want to deliver to the audience. Understand that it’s not about you, it’s about what your message is.
When you get on that stage simply move away all of your focus from yourself and think of delivering your message. Don’t think that you are going to screw up. Remove all the negative thoughts.
Since our mind can process only one thought at a time, simply replace any negative thought with a positive one. Use positive affirmations.
Think that you are going to nail it up there.
Catch those negative thoughts before they overcome your mind. It all takes some practice.
Always try to think positive, no matter whatever the thing is. Always believe in yourself and believe that everything would turn out just fine.
Remind yourself of your successes
Remind yourself of all of your successes no matter how tiny they are, don’t think of failures, everybody fails. We fail, we learn and we do better next time. You will get rid of those negative thoughts if you have an intense focus.
You know, learning an instrument teaches you too much than just that instrument, It teaches you patience, focus and the value of practice.
My guitar taught me that I can do anything in life if I practice right and slow, taking one step at a time and focusing on the goal. When I first started playing guitar I couldn’t even shift through cords and within a year I was playing “Sweet Child of Mine- Guns N Roses”, only because I believed in myself and kept on practicing, I remained focused and after practicing thousands of hours I was able to do it even faster than Slash himself.
Now, I am not saying that you have to learn an instrument, I’m just saying that you have to train your mind like it’s a muscle.
We are unfocused because we have taught our brains that way and it’s now a muscle memory and we do it unknowingly.
Let’s teach our brain to focus.
Try with focusing on one thing every day for just only 5 minutes and take it up from there. Just remember great speakers are made not born, so you need to put some effort into it.
You will be teaching your mind to focus and so when you will get back up on that stage you will be only focusing on one thing and that is your content, and ignoring all the overwhelming negative thoughts.
Give an awesome image of yourself:
When I say image, I’m talking about your speech, your body language, your movement on stage and of course your message/presentation.
First, let’s talk about the speech.
The first thing is to get rid of is those “areas” and “umms”.
It’s OK to pause so just take breaks instead of using those words if that’s what you want to call them.
Pauses make the audience a little curious about what the next thing you would say so they listen to you.
Second thing is to speak slowly, you don’t have to rush, nobody is making you, so just speak at a low pace.
This will give you more time.
For your body language, you need to keep a good eye contact, smile and make a correct posture.
To make a good eye contact, just select three or four people randomly throughout the audience and only look at them, and by looking at them I mean looking at their foreheads or nose or whatever, you just have to create an illusion of looking.
Seeing people directly in their eyes also causes a little nervousness so avoid it.
Also, remember to pick only those who don’t look bored and seem like they really want to listen to what you have to say.
For your posture, the correct way is to stand up with your back straight.
Most of the people who stand up on stage, unknowingly put a little more stress on their one leg then the other and so they tire themselves out.
Your spine has a natural “S” curve and so you have to stand in a way that balances your muscles on both sides of your spine so you don’t stress out one more than the other like in the leg example.
It will make you look more confident on stage and also less nervous.
Also, do not worry about the shaking of legs.
My legs still shake a little when I get in front of a huge audience but trust me nobody can see that.
The best way to remove shaking is by walking on stage and trying to stay relaxed. Just remember the very first point “Diaphragm is the king”. Breath and relax!
Now the last yet the most important point is your content.
Your content is everything. Make your content perfect.
Put some effort on it and don’t take it lightly. Practice your content again and again.
Record yourself in front of a camera, and then analyze it critically. You may also take opinions on it from your friends by showing it to them.
Avoid being so hard on yourself:
The topic says it all, don’t be so hard on yourself, you are going to get better.
Everything takes a little time. Don’t worry how deficiently you performed the last time you were on stage, people forget.
Probably only you are the only person who still remembers whatever happened to you on that stage earlier.
It is a fact that people forget almost 80% of the stuff you present in front of them.
They don’t really care about remembering every last single detail about you or your content, so you don’t have to worry.
You did badly last time doesn’t mean you are going to do the same again.
Understand that you are going to feel a little anxious at first, no matter what you do. So you always have to fight it but just keep on working, you will get better.
Remember to breathe and focus and your nervousness will go away within 2 or 3 minutes.
The main idea is to relax on stage. When you go up there interact a little with the audience, make stage and audience your friend.
Stage fright and anxiety happen to everybody because we all get nervous. There are ways to control stage-fright but you cannot finish it completely.
The best way is through relaxing and breathing properly. When we are on stage it becomes harder to breathe and we feel a pressure on our lungs. So what can we do to learn to breathe under pressure? You can do so by practicing breathing exercises like putting pressure on our diaphragms.
Focusing also helps to make us less nervous on stage too.
When we train our minds to concentrate on any specific thing for a given amount of time, it gets easier. How? You only focus on your content rather than all sorts of other negative thoughts like what if you screw up.
You are going to get better at it. Understand that everything requires practice and a little time so don’t be so hard on yourself.
Great speakers are made not born.