5 Ways To Combat Audition Nerves, FOR GOOD!
Let me just start by saying, if you DON’T get nervous, for anything, because you are just that lucky/cool fantastic! This article isn’t for you…you odd human whom I would have envied at one point in my life. However, if you’re anything like me, your nerves have at one point or another, become a HUGE issue and I personally don’t know ANYONE who doesn’t get nervous.
I remember getting so nervous before an audition, meeting, making a food order, you name it I was a ball of nerves in a very crippling, defeating way. THANK GODDESS that’s not the case any longer! But before you get it twisted, let me be very clear, I STILL get nervous, I just have a better handle on it, instead of the other way around and it’s just much less effective in throwing me off than it used to be and in making me feel like I was about to PTFO.
How did I do this? Well, first and foremost, it has taken me years a lot of work, tons of trial and error and an ‘ish load of patience, that most of you know is a new skill I am acquiring. I can say without a doubt, it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve done and it’s a daily practice. Here are my 5 things, in order of importance.
OK, I know, I know! This seems SO obvious but it’s something that has changed my life. Now, I don’t mean breathe and your nerves will go away duh, I mean practice breathing, all day, every day, and especially when you are in a nerve-wracking situation. “Practice Breathing?” YES! This is something I laughed at until I actually started paying attention to my breathing and what I realized was that most of the time, even driving in my car, running errands, walking my dog etc, that I was taking quick, very shallow breaths, rather than full, mindful slow breaths.
Just this acknowledgment alone brought attention to the fact that, when I was in a constant state of anxiety, most of the time it was because I was not using my breath to my advantage and I was blaming the environment, people, noise, etc on the cause of my anxious moods. I still get anxious, but now I am able to focus my attention on my breath before I panic I take a deep breath in through my nose, hold it for 4 seconds and let it do out of my mouth for 8 seconds. This takes some getting used to and although I am never 100% calm, I am present to myself and my breath and it helps me slow down my mind so I can focus on what’s in front of me and that makes all the difference.
2) Get Physical
I once saw an article from a dance choreographer, where she suggested that all actors & dancers, before an audition, in the waiting room, find a corner and hold a plank position to “get all of the nerves out”. No shade, but….um… yeah. Nope. Not I. While I agree that there are some physical things that definitely help, I am sure as hell not going to hold the plank pose in the lobby, in a dress and heels, while I wait-As-If! So, here’s what I do… before I even get into my car to go to the audition, I take a dance class or yoga class or just walk my dog, while mindfully breathing and NOT thinking about my audition, meeting etc. Then I get ready and do some calf raises, forward folding stretches and some lying down ab work.
On the way to my destination, I breathe and prepare mentally for what I am on my way to. When I get to an audition, I sign in and depending on how I am feeling, I either stand or sit and take a deep breath. If I start to feel myself go into hyper-anxious drive, I slowly move my head side to side, back and forth, shrug my shoulders and roll my wrists out, all while breathing. And when I am about to perform or if none of that seems to help me, I go into a bathroom stall and do the old, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 shaking out of the body, which is always something that helps me.
The idea is to move the nervous, anxious energy around so that you don’t sit/stand and feel like you are stuck in the chair and worse, in your head. Being physical helps to boost your mood and your endorphins plus about a million other things, and gives your brain something else to focus on. When you move your body, you are able to loosen up and focus on the task at hand, instead of only the dramatic, anxious critic in your head.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen off the meditation train, but the important thing is that you get back up and on, right? This, like all other things mentioned here, is a daily practice and is a life-changing habit, you should seriously consider. This also takes patience, A LOT OF IT… I am just now starting to meditate daily and I’m finally not just falling asleep! (#thestrugglewasreal)
This practice has taught me that I can take it anywhere; my car, (eyes open of course!), walking my dog, meetings, gym, auditions ANYWHERE. And just like being aware of how I am breathing, it’s a simple thing to do, after some serious repetition. I like to take a seat, even in a crowded room, take a few breaths and close my eyes, even for just a minute to shut out all of the energy I am seeing. I then find a word(s), like, breathe, present, calm, or set an intention like, “I want to focus on being present and in the moment.” I also say phrases to myself, “Girl, you got this”, “I am so excited”, “I’m nervous, but that’s ok” or “I am so grateful to have this opportunity and I’m freaking out, but just breathe”.
Yeah, I know… it sounds corny AF but this is what works for me and self-proclaimed affirmations are always a great thing in my book! If you feel weird about closing your eyes, ok, keep ’em open, but just really start to pay attention to your breath and being present. I am still working on being present to myself, since I tend to have sensory overload, and it’s heightened when I am nervous. Meditation helps me a ton and it’s something that’s really clicked with me recently. And, it’s a great way to start every day, before the craziness of emails, Instagram, and life, in general! (And yes, there is such a thing as a meditation train!… Even if it only exists in my mind.)
4) Use Your Nerves to YOUR Advantage!
Once I was able to get a handle on noticing my breathing and acknowledging the fact that I was nervous, I was able to focus on the things my body was doing and take stock in each, to help me use them to my advantage. For example, when I’m nervous, my heart races, I feel a hot/cold chill throughout my entire body, I shake, my palms get sweaty and sometimes I start talking a mile a minute, to try to cover up how terrified I was feeling.
Before learning to help myself with breath etc, I used to walk into the room this way; at auditions, or in a meeting or even a coffee date with a new friend. It was exhausting wondering why I couldn’t remember things that I had worked so hard on or that I was not at all able to be in the moment because I was so worried that someone was going to notice that my hands were shaky.
Now, I call out what I am feeling to myself, (or out loud if no one is around), to begin with, or I will inevitably just push all of my feelings down, trying to convince myself I’m not feeling whatever it is I am feeling. No Bueno. I also look around the room and take the attention off of myself, while breathing slowly, to calm my pounding heart and shaky limbs. If I am at a meeting or audition, I use whatever I’m feeling and make it part of the work, and if for some reason, I find that difficult, I go back to what I am feeling right then and there.
As my teacher is constantly saying, “Always start where you are at and then go moment to moment.” It’s pretty badass how grounding this little action in. It immediately makes my fear etc, powerless and my attention OFF OF ME and then I can choose how I want to deal with it from there. It’s empowering, to say the least….this has helped me tremendously and I have seen this help so many other artists in a very short amount of time.
4) BE YOUR BAD-ASS SELF!
This should actually be #1 because if we are not comfortable in our own beautiful skin, being unabashedly who we are, then everything else is null and void. As long as you’ve done your job and are prepared for whatever it is you’re going into, audition, meeting and especially on set, people are going to respond best when you are your genuine, authentic, self. Trust me on this one people, it’s only been in the last few years I’ve started to put this into practice and I still struggle from time to time. One of the things I love so much about my acting studio is that my teacher is constantly reminding us to just be human, especially in situations where we tend to make others more important than ourselves, which is actually, never the case.
I had a general meeting with a very well-known CD and I was both so excited and really nervous to meet her. (Side note for those of you reading this asking, “WTH is a general meeting?” it’s an awesome opportunity to meet casting directors, in a very casual way, they want to get to know you and usually they are a quick chat, at their office… a general introduction. They are a really great thing.)
So anywho, when I got to the meeting, her assistant handed me sides and said they wanted me to audition for a role that just came up hours before my meeting. WOW! How lucky was I?! A general that turned into an audition, for a role that JUST came out in the breakdowns!? And while that was part of the dialogue that was going on in my head, the other part was OH SH$%! My anxiety levels skyrocketed and I went into panic mode. I walked into her office and all of a sudden forgot every question I had for her, I was smiling so big and sweating SO much. It was a mess and I left there only remembering fragments of our conversation and felt terrible about my audition.
Most of that was because the second an audition was mentioned, that I didn’t prep for, I went into impress mode. Sub-consciously, I had wired myself to believe that making an impression, was more important than leaving an impression, through my work. That pattern of thought put everyone else “above me” and shifted me straight into people pleasing mode. YUCK. This is something that I have always struggled with, tbh, along with the need to be liked and giving a “F” about what everyone thinks.
A lot of this BS manifested itself all over again, here in Los Angeles….when after listening to SO MANY PEOPLE tell me where they saw my career going, what I could and couldn’t do, in their opinion and the type of person and actor they believed I was, it all started to bleed into my own beliefs of who I was. It’s something I have to keep an eye on now that I know it’s there again, and to say it’s taken a lot of work to begin to undo what’s been done, is an understatement.
Along with focusing on the work and the things I love and enjoy, first and foremost, I also make sure that I surround myself with artists that uplift each other, help one another and are honest, even when I don’t want to hear it. Having a tribe and an artistic community full of people who seek what is possible on a daily basis and who also help me stay accountable and most importantly who accept me for who I am, FULLY, has given me such creative freedom and I’m so thankful for that.
I guess the biggest lightbulb moment for me was realizing that these things start long before I got an audition, meeting etc.. These things are actually a daily practice in mental well-being! As artists, we sometimes get so wrapped up in the physical that we forget to also nourish the mental. We owe it to ourselves to take care of our bodies and minds, in a well-rounded way, that helps us be the badass bosses that we are!
As a mentor of mine once told me, “Practice makes permanent. There is no such thing as perfect, so just be your lovely self and SHINE baby SHINE!!”
What do YOU do to calm your nerves? Comment below and then share with a friend who you think would love this!
Have a great week!