You’ve prepared for a dynamite presentation. The message is planned, the slides are strong, and you know your material inside out. But as soon as you stand in front of the audience, your mind goes blank and you break out in a nervous sweat. Gemma Page Thompson, an opera singer, actor, and coach with the TAI Group in NYC, confronts this herself and successfully uses a natural resource we all have: our breath!
Every emotion we experience has its own breathing pattern: anger produces rapid, erratic breathing; sadness makes us sigh; and anxiety has shallow, rapid breaths. If you are feeling angry and take a deep breath and pause, your anger will begin to dissipate and your thoughts will settle down. Our minds are deeply affected by our breath.
But with stage fright, many of us have tried various strategies that never seem to work. Gemma suggests focusing on breathing, in and out. This very simple instruction will quiet an unquiet mind. She also suggests taking the time to work on and improve your relationship with your breath. To make this a habit, practice deep breathing during times when you feel fairly comfortable, so you can feel its benefits as it becomes more natural to your subconscious. Try practicing morning and night every day for five minutes.
Find somewhere to sit where you won’t be disturbed. Rest your hands in your lap, let your shoulders relax and fall back toward the floor. Relax your jaw, mouth, and tongue. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so, or simply find a spot to focus on. Feel your feet on the floor, and feel your legs resting on your seat.
Take a slow deep breath through your nose and count to four. Breathe in as deeply as you can, and feel your stomach stretch and expand. Now breathe out through your mouth slowly as you count to seven. Empty your lungs completely and pause for a moment.
Repeat 10 times. One deep breath in and count to four, one long breath out and count to seven. Every breath will help you relax a little bit more. Taking long breaths out triggers the relaxation response in your body. It tells your mind and nervous system that you are safe and in control.
–Andrea Zintz, Career Coach