This is a great article by Katie and Angela of Reiki2Relax.co.uk:
Performance anxiety or stage fright is an emotional response which can occur when an individual is required to perform in front of either a live audience or in front of the cameras whilst filming. Quite often, stage fright arises in mere anticipation of a performance, often a long time ahead.
For the most part the ability to have feelings or emotions allows an individual to make a connection with the audience and give an engaging performance. However, not all emotions are positive. Some, like anger and fear can be quite destructive, causing tension, especially in the muscles. This tension is caused by an overload of adrenalin, which gets released into the bloodstream whenever a person has to face a stressful situation. This bodily response is known as the ‘Fight or Flight’ reaction, a naturally occurring process in the body in preparation to protect itself from harm.
During ‘Fight or Flight’ the body changes the way it works physically in order to maximise strength and energy. It’s an important and very powerful response to kick start our survival function, though it is not quite as helpful when faced with non-physical threats such as the fear of making mistakes and performing in public. Because these actions do not require a physical response, like running from a threat, the extra energy is not released or absorbed by the body, so the person will quickly feel stressed.
In addition, those experiencing stage fright will have an increase in blood pressure, which supplies the body with more nutrients and oxygen in response to the ‘flight or fight’ instincts. This, in return, causes the body to overheat and sweat excessively.
Breathing will increase so that the body can obtain the desired amount of oxygen for the muscles and organs and may cause hyperventilation. Lastly, the digestive system shuts down to prepare for producing energy for an immediate emergency response. This can leave the body with the effects of dry mouth, nausea, or butterflies.
The fear of performing or of public humiliation can be so strong that it can evoke the same level of panic as coming face to face with a dangerous animal for instance, causing stress levels to increase dramatically. With long term, chronic, stress having a detrimental effect on physical and emotional health. Most performers have experienced performance anxiety in some form. The fear may be experienced during the preparation for a performance, for days or even weeks before hand. The anticipation and apprehension can start to take hold in the build up to a performance, leading to a lack of concentration and memory loss.....forgetting lines, which is one of the biggest fears for a performer. All of these can bring on a panic attack resulting in stage fright!
It is good to have a certain amount of nervous excitement before a performance, but the main issue is how to control the stress and anxiety so that it doesn’t become counter-productive and have negative effects on the performance.
Learning to manage these feelings of stress and anxiety can help performers to overcome much of the pre-performance nerves. Many artists use various forms of relaxation/ breathing techniques and complementary therapies, yoga and meditation as part of their performance preparation.
Reiki has been found to be an excellent treatment for performers. It evokes a sense of calm and warmth and is the perfect treatment to help people drift into a restful state, thus enabling them to re-balance mind and body. It reduces feelings of immense pressure due to busy rehearsal and performing schedules. It requires the recipient to remain fully clothed and as no oils are used, does not interfere with hair, make-up or costume.
A full treatment can last an hour and enables the recipient to achieve a deeply relaxed, sometimes meditative state. The physical effect of such intense relaxation is that the circulation increases and breathing becomes slower and deeper allowing oxygen to reach all the vital cells and organs. Regular treatments help to continue to improve emotional wellbeing.
Many performers find Reiki to be very reassuring and calming before going in front of an audience or on camera. And done as a quick booster session backstage, allows them to relax and centre themselves in a nurturing and tranquil atmosphere, while helping to alleviate some of the more severe symptoms of stage fright.
This leaves the performer with enough adrenalin and nervous excitement to give an engaging and focused performance.