We all know the feeling. You’re sat in a room, outside another room and you’re thinking to yourself:
“Holy kiwi fruits! Am I really about to do this? What the hell’s waiting for me on the other side of the door? Will my legs continue to work? Will I have a voice? Will my brain continue to remember the English language?”
Then, the dreaded ‘Keeper of the Clipboard’ tells you “you’re next,” like they’re a member of the ‘International Waterboarding Society’. You’re stomach flips and your ryvita tongue and twitching teeth say “OK great! Thank you” in your chirpiest Disney princess voice.
No, you’re not about to be interrogated at Guantanamo, or pushed from a plane without a parachute. No you’re about to do something you trained your whole life to do, which you love, which you are very good at and have done at least a hundred times before. You’re about to…..*jazz hands*…..do an AUDITION.
So why do you feel like you’ve got a gun to your head and you’ve gotta choose which puppy gets it?
The reality is; if you get the job it’s gonna be just wonderful right?! If you don’t get it, well nothing much actually changes. Although what’s going on chemically in your body makes you think HOW DO I CHOOSE BETWEEN A BABY LAB AND A CAVAPOO??!!!!
That would be your good old trusty friend we like to call ‘Fight or Flight’. Any stressful situation, good or bad, sends a message, first from your change of breath to your spinal chord up to your frontal cerebral cortex saying “ok flower, you have two options, you either fight this like a Viking, or flee from the scene and save your pretty head, run, pretty, run!”
Now we need ‘Fight or Flight’ as it’s a very protective survival tool. But as we don’t use it as our ancestors did, for regular saber toothed tiger negotiation, it likes to exercise it’s muscle at times when quite frankly, you need to have your Zen on. So let’s look at how we can respect that adrenal gland’s function yet ensure it doesn’t Jeff up your entire audition.
- Massage your ears. Your ears are like your feet, there are lots of points in your ears that relate to other parts of your body. Plus, it releases tension in your head and jaw as well as feeling just scrummy. It’s like a quick and natural Xanax. Go on try it now. I insist.
- Breathe between your nose and mouth. Your Philtrum (yes, that’s what that groove of skin is called) is a point of consciousness on your body. You may have heard of people pressing it to bring people round after they pass out. If you feel your breath blowing from your nose onto that groove, it’ll focus you out of your whirling brain and more importantly, regulate your breathing. Anyone in any state of anxiety will be hyperventilating to some degree, you need to get that oxygen back to a normal level.
- Stamp your feet. When in a state of ‘Fight or Flight’ lots more blood rushes to your legs to make sure they work harder for you whichever route you choose. This will make you feel light headed and also your legs will feel shakey. If you jump into the ground or stamp your feet it will get this blood pumping back round the body. It will also ground you if you’re into all that energy/chakra/hippy malarkey. Same with your hands, clap them so you don’t get the shakey sight reading saga.
- Give yourself a rub. This is not the time or place for the fruity stuff, although that is a tried and tested stress relief. I mean, you may feel rather sick, or even have pain in your stomach. That’s because all the blood has been dragged away from your digestive system to serve other parts of your body that need to react quicker. A quick massage yourself will help, or any other part of the body where you are feeling a tense sensation. Get stuck in!
- Listen to all the sounds in the room. Another reason you feel so rotten is because you are not being very present. You’re inviting a lot of fantastical scenarios into your head and letting them tell you how it may or may not go. This is what you need to stop immediately. I know a lot of people find it difficult to understand what being present means, but there is a very simple sure fire way to find it without trying too hard. Listen to every creak, traffic horn, bird chirp, paper rustle in and outside the room. As a rule, don’t listen to the actor telling you they had a BBQ with the director last week, they’re probably lying anyway, it rained last week.
- Breathe out. Taking in lots of “deep breaths” like all the old wives say, and therefore lots of oxygen, isn’t really going to help you feel stronger or less dizzy. It sounds bonkers but you actually need to get that oxygen out of your body and get more carbon dioxide in. Anxious people always have too much oxygen. Lift up your shoulders and tip your head back to the ceiling and breathe out through your mouth until all your breath has gone. You should sound a bit like a gasping dragon. Breathe in normally and repeat 3 times. Maybe do this one in the safety of the Loo, as it’s a bit noisy. Or just sit and concentrate your breath out more as you sit in the waiting room.
- Think in Threes. One of the most stress inducing thought patterns in human existence is thinking we only have two choices. This ‘Binary thinking’ is the exact sort of message that will trigger your ‘Fight or Flight’ mode. There’s a very simple way to redirect some of these roulette messages and disperse some anxiety. Think in Threes. Know that you always have more than two choices. The audition may go well, badly or you know, kinda ok.
- Take control of the ‘Wobbly leg’. When your body is nervous it can twitch and you feel like you are losing control. Because you’ve decided to not run away but instead fight, you just have a little bit too much blood and adrenalin to stand still and sing ‘Astonishing’ without a fight. If the stamping hasn’t quite dispersed that extra energy, here’s another thing you can do. Like all panic attacks the best thing to do is stop fighting and tell yourself to have a panic attack. A panic attack is not a panic attack, it’s you actually fighting one that’s causing all the sensations. So, be brave and let it wobble. It will soon stop once you stop fighting it. Drill that leg into the ground and stand firm.
The trick is to not let the bodily sensations take over enough for you to start sending smoke signals to your brain and run you off the runaway track. Accept the sensations, the nerves and do your bloody best. We are not saving lives.
How do you deal with audition anxiety?