If you have ever been on stage, you know all about performance anxiety. A 1988 survey conducted and published in Medical Problems of Performing Artists revealed that 40% of musicians who suffered from performance anxiety relied on prescription medication in order to relieve symptoms. A further 25% sought psychological counseling in order to manage their stage fright.
Did you know, that emotions such as anxiety and fear not only impair your performance, but can also create an adverse biological reaction within you that may last for hours after? The response within your body can potentially trigger an increase in your heart rate for hours beyond the event which can then create conditions for sleeplessness, stress, anxiety etc. What if the event was at night and you had to work the next day? The Institute of HeartMath has developed a systematic technique that, when applied consistently, will not only reduce your anxiety leading up to the event, but will actually increase and enhance your abilities during the spotlight event!
In 2006, Dr. Myron Thurber published his dissertation on the effectiveness of employing HeartMath® techniques for relieving stage fright amongst musicians. The results were quite amazing. There was a 71% decrease in anxiety and a 62% increase in performance. The technique used was a combination of heart-focused breathing coupled with a bio-feedback machine emWave2 ®. Let’s briefly discuss these two components of this landmark study.
Heart-Focused Breathing (HFB) not only targets and neutralizes stress and anxiety leading up to the event, but also allows the body to remain strong and resilient for managing subsequent tasks. A further benefit is the increase in production of anti-aging vitality hormone DHEA and an improvement in the quality of sleep. One of the HFB techniques developed by the Institute of HeartMath is the Quick Coherence® technique. The following is the process:
- Place awareness around the chest area,
- Breathe deeply – inhale for a five count and exhale for a 5 count and
- Draw in a feeling of appreciation or a positive emotion.
There is actually science behind this method.
Placing awareness in the chest area sends a signal to your heart to gear up to modulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is responsible for over 90% of your body’s functions such as breathing, hormone production, digestion etc. By consciously modulating the ANS we can induce the body to produce higher levels of DHEA and stop the stress related biological responses such as higher heart-rate, increased level of cortisol, higher blood sugar levels, hypertension etc.
By further drawing in positive emotions such as love, gratitude and appreciation the body creates a resonance between the heart and the brain resulting in optimal communication between the two. This translates into higher cortical functioning and an enhancement of vitality and rejuvenating biological responses within the body – including production of DHEA and improved immune response. You become smarter, healthier and younger!
The emWave2® is a personal bio-feedback unit developed by the Institute of HeartMath for helping individuals manage their stress and anxiety. The chart below is produced by this unit and it illustrates the subject’s heart rhythm when asked to recall the emotion of frustration. This is an important concept for actors and musicians who invest their emotions into their craft – the body responds to emotions in a similar way whether induced by real events or staged events. The heart rhythm in this chart can be compared with the analogy of driving a car with the foot on the gas and the brake at the same time resulting in a chaotic jerky movement.
Then sometime later, the subject was asked to recall the emotion of appreciation. Notice in the next chart that the heart rhythm is more harmonious and less chaotic. By simply injecting a positive emotion coupled with the breathing technique, the individual was able to shift out of a stress response and into a rejuvenating mode.
Prepare yourself for the big event by listing all things that you appreciate about being at the event. Perhaps it is your anticipation that the audience will be enriched by your delivery, or perhaps it is a milestone performance for you – whatever the case may be, find something to appreciate so you can draw on the emotion at will. Then use the Quick Coherence® technique to quickly shift out of frustration and restore body elasticity and resiliency for optimal performance. For the actors who want to deliberately create and sustain a dramatic posture on the stage, use the technique for 5 – 15 minutes a day through the rehearsal process so you can build the capacity to deliver authentic dramatic scenes and reset your body biology during the curtain call. You will go home every night relaxed and well-poised for the challenges that you may face the next day.
Shamir S. Ladhani, P.Eng., M.Eng., is a Professional Engineer and a Certified HeartMath™ Trainer. He is a seasoned lecturer, workshop facilitator and a stage and film actor. In 2010 he received Workshop Theatre’s coveted award for Best Supporting Actor in his role as Meeker, the Bailiff, in Inherit the Wind.
After serving as a Vice-President of a dynamic and fast-paced energy company, Shamir decided pursue his passion in the health and wellness industry and formed Panther Power Corporation. His motivation was fueled by how well his body responded to alternative healing methods in helping him eliminate his diabetes and hypertension prescribed medications. Today he is excited about sharing the amazing tools and techniques developed by the Institute of HeartMath especially because these are scientifically validated simple techniques with an amazing set of results for virtually all health maladies.
To learn more about how you can receive the benefits of twenty years of scientific research and evidence-based tools and techniques, visit the Products and Services page of Panther Power Corporation website