This topic has been very much on my mind this week, since I once again volunteered to read the Rosh Chodesh Torah portion at the weekday minion at my synogogue on Sunday morning. Reading from the Torah is particularly challenging because there are absolutely no vowels, and the letters are of course Hebrew letters! This means that you have to know beforehand what the vowels should be. There are two readers standing with you to correct any mis-pronounciation, and the actual scroll is hand written, so you never know how it is going to look. this alone was a big shock for me the first time I read!
Not to mention having to sing in front of a group! But it is a thrill beyond measure to have the opportunity, and I have already signed up for the August reading as well. None the less, my performance nerves kicked in as usual, and even after all the experience I have had as a dancer in NYC and workshop leader, I still have to meet and greet my anxiety before every performance.
Sometimes I think I have unusual performance nerves, but in speaking with other people, I often get the same "Oh Yeah" response, which means to me that having symtoms of anxiety is quite a normal part of life and therefore a perfect opportunity to learn about this beastie. After all, you may have recourse in your own line of work to have to speak in front of a group professionally or just have a desire to strengthen your visibility and leadership for more connection with your potential clients.
I coach many people to greet their performance anxiety and start to work through it. My gold standard is using some of the principles of the F.M. Alexander Technique. (Go to my website www.bodymindbalance.net to find out more about this extraordinary work). The Alexander Technique has a simple and logical process through which to address your reaction to stimulus, and having to perform is a major stimulus! The Alexander process a simple yet profound method for meeting the stimuli of life, and changing the way you deal with them. We are CONSTANTLY stimulated in life, so we have plenty of opportunities to practice changing our reactions.
Here is a simple process for you to practice shifting and changing your reactions to performing:
1) Before you have to actually perform, spend 5-10 minutes lying down on your back with a few books under your head and your knees bent (a position called semi-supine). Just breathe and relax for a few minutes.
2) Now think of yourself actually beginning to perform in front of others. Visualize doing this and notice the feelings that come up in your mind and body. Notice particularly where you start to get tense. Is your breath becoming short or non-existant? You you feel yourself contracting anywhere? Most people feel their necks getting tense, among other places like the shoulders scrunching up. What are your legs doing, your feet?
3)Consciously note that you are not actually performing, so the feelings that are coming up right now are HABITUAL feelings, and this is a good thing because you can now start to practice changing them!
4) Here is where you can start to change things. You want to be curious about the sensations that are coming up, like light headedness, increased heart-beat, sweaty hands. For me it is a combination of increased heart-beat and a feeling that I am floating out of body and can no longer feel my legs and feet grounded. I spend a few minutes literally getting my energy back into my body, then I can start to get some control over the panic that has set in. It might be very different for you. The important thing is to notice how the anxiety is relected in your system. It will be slightly different for enerybody.
5) Notice what you are thinking, especially the negative thoughts of panic..."Oh no, I don't remember what I am supposed to say/sing/dance". "I want to leave". Now you really have some material to work with; greet the sensations, even the anxiety itself, and just let it be a part of the experience. In the Alexander Technique we call this INHIBITION, or deciding to not do the same thing you usually do habitually. Very odd, I know, but what you are actually doing is training yourself to have a different, non-habitual experience.
6) Celebrate your break-throughs! Even a little shift in your energy is something to celebrate because the old way you managed your energy perpetuated some lost resources that you would be so much happier funneling into the excitement and joy of expression.
Performance is such a mixed bag; both the thrill of sharing and the torture of having to share your gifts and talents! This fear is the single biggest reason that more women don't take risks and chances in their businesses, either in the asking for the business, or completing the sale. All because of a reticence or awkwardness in the sharing itself.
Start to really free yourself from this drawback by taking little baby steps toward making peace with speaking your truth out loud for all to hear!
Diane L. Sussman is a Body Transformation Coach and Mindset Mentor to artists, healers and Entrepreneurs, helping them clear the physical and emotional blocks to standing strong in their brilliance so that they can bring their work into the world in a clear and confident way. She has been working for more than 25 years as a Teacher of the Alexander Technique, is an Energy Healer, and uses her depth of knowledge of the body and free movement as a base for teaching how to stand on any stage while bringing your beauty and authenticity with you. Diane is a creative and enthusiastic speaker and workshop leader that inspires people to reach for their next best step in fulfilling their soul-full work in the world! Please go to www.soulconnectioncoaching.com to find out more about how to work privately to get your good work out there more!