Calming Stage Fright: Exercise helps Anxiety

Performing arts training, of necessity, includes methods to develop relaxation, concentration and presence. Years ago, in acting school,  I learned to do a voice and body exercise warm-up before auditioning or performing. While it did not completely get rid of my performance anxiety, it did help calm me. When I became a teacher of public speaking, it seems like a no-brainer to guide my speaking classes through a warm-up. Over time, I evolved a set of exercises I teach even now to all my speaking clients.

At the beginning of each group speaking class called Transform Stage Fright into Authentic Presence, we go through some exercises involving movement, breathing and meditation. Just like athletes who warm up before playing on the field or like dancers who warm up so they can express them selves fluidly on stage, my clients find that warm-up exercises help calm their anxiety. Clients grumble and laugh nervously when I first teach the warm-ups, but they soon experience how much more comfortable they feel to speak to the group after doing the warm-up series.

Science is catching up to artistic and spiritual wisdom in many areas of life. Lately scientists have discovered that exercise helps anxiety. And other activities like meditation do so as well. Imagine that!

CBS This Morning did a piece on how exercise helps anxiety on July 5, 2013. Dr. Holly Phillips shares that exercise both energizes and calms us. The video below is worth watching. It does not take a scientist to figure out that some kind of warm-up exercises prior to speaking can make a significant difference in the speaker’s comfort and confidence.