How to Overcome Performance and Audition Anxiety

The person ahead of you just went into their audition. You’re next in line, and you feel frozen with fear.

They’ll know you’re a fraud the minute you step in the room. Your throat feels tight, and you aren’t sure you can speak now.

The door finally opens, and they’re calling you in. Next.

Audition anxiety can feel like you’re being choked from the inside. Paralyzing fear can make your performance robotic, like you’re a ghost outside your body. Instead of giving up on auditions, shut down your inner casting agent. Take these tips for overcoming performance and audition anxiety for actors.

Do not try to repress, deny or fight anxiety. These defenses tend to make it worse. Instead, label the anxiety and allow it. Here is an example internal dialogue:

“I feel anxious. This is a normal response. It’s allowed to be here.”

Avoid over-identifying with the anxiety—don’t collapse into it. Zoom back and notice anxiety is a small, fleeting part of your experience, but not the total of you or your experience.

“I notice some anxiety, Nevertheless, I am still going to access the joy and passion of my craft.”

Use any of these techniques bleow when you need to calm the butterflies. Even better, put a few of your favorite techniques together. Train your body to stay grounded by creating a calming pre-audition ritual.

Mental rehearsal – Visualize a successful auditionIt’s tempting to describe a successful audition in negative terms, like “not screwing up,” or, “not sweating and shaking.” Instead, flip the script and do a positive reframe. Imagine the entire setting including the casting agents. Then, imagine yourself fully immersed in the character. Imagine yourself “in the flow” of your craft. Imagine yourself feeling satisfied afterwards. Repeat this visualization multiple times per day.  Use empowering words to paint a picture in your mind.

  • “I will project my voice with confidence.”
  • “I will fill fully embody the character.”
  • “I will enjoy the passion of my craft.”
  • “My physical talent and skills and will drive my performance.”

Mental escape – Visualize your calm placeAnxiety can make you feel ‘out of body.’ You may spend more time self-spectatoring rather than feeling grounded and at ease. Take control of your nervous system several hours before an audition by spending 20-30 minutes getting relaxed. This will make it harder for your nervous system to get hyper-aroused and increase your chances of remaining centered.

Imagine a calm, soothing location. This could be a place in real life or something from your imagination. Daydream about this place in detail, getting down to scent, color, sounds, and physical sensations.

Create this full scene and allow your mind to experience it. The more details you add, the more realistic it will be in your mind. Visiting this place several times will help you bring it up easily when you really need it. You can also use one of the many guided meditations on Youtube.

Comforting touchTouching a soft or soothing object can calm you quickly, like a child with their favorite blanket. Find something that’s physically comfortable to touch, like a soft blanket to wrap yourself in. The calming effect can be even greater when it holds emotional meaning. When you pet a dog or cat for several minutes, your body releases hormones that help you feel relaxed. Your blood pressure drops and the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream decreases.

When your audition time draws near, find a smaller comfort object to keep with you. Stay in touch with your body by focusing on how the object feels next to your skin.

Get grounded with deep breathingDeep breathing is about more than just air. Taking several slow breaths will:

  • Connect you with your body and the present moment.
  • Activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will send calming chemical signals to your entire body.
  • Increase the flow of oxygen to your brain.

When you feel nervous, breathe slowly and deeply several times. Breathe with your diaphragm so you draw in plenty of air. Better yet, don’t wait until you’re already feeling flustered to try this method. Practice a few minutes of deep breathing several times a day.

Feel the shoes on your feetWith this technique, pay attention to physical sensations you normally ignore. Start by consciously focusing on your toes and how they feel. Wiggle them around and notice how the rest of your foot feels in your shoe. How tightly is your shoe on your foot? How much can you shift your foot around? Squeeze your foot as hard as you can for a few moments, then release it.

Repeat this for your ankles, knees, and up the rest of your body. Also, try starting with your head and go down to your toes. See which direction helps you feel more relaxed or grounded.

Get Grounded and PerformUse these tried-and-true tips for overcoming performance and audition anxiety. Make your next audition authentic, confident, and grounded. For further techniques, pre-audition role-plays and a deeper exploration of your blocks, Silver Lake Psychology can connect you with a therapist that specializes in working with actors and entertainers.