Lights, Camera, (Re)Action
I heard a fantastic lecture this past March on Stage Fright from Psychotherapist Melissa Duncan. In addition to her insight on the genetic sources and internal and external influences of stress, she went into detail about getting into "the zone" and taking a self-inventory to help cope with Performance Anxiety.
One exercise she asked the audience to do was write about three separate performances; specifically, how you got through them. We were asked specific questions to elicit detailed memories:
What do you remember about that day?
Visualize the lights. What color are they? Where are they pointing to on stage?
Look at the audience. Who do you see? Where are they sitting?
Who did you make eye contact with?
What were you wearing? How do you feel in your dress/suit/outfit?
The list is by no means exhaustive, but it's a great jumping off point to remember past performances. The idea behind this exercise is to review what you remember when feeling anxious in order to increase confidence.
As we all know, trying to suppress thoughts and memories just makes them more frequent and upsetting. By noticing past stress and acknowledging its existence, it gives you more power to stay grounded in the present.
Although most of us aren't in audition and performance season right now, using this visualization tool in daily practice can set us up for more confident performances in the future. When we understand and recognize triggers of anxiety, we are in a better position to react to them with confidence.