Number 21 – Dealing with Nerves
Today was the first day of a two weeks stint leading online workshops on A Christmas Carol in primary schools. Over ten working days, I’m doing approximately 30 workshops via online platforms. Today was also the first time I’ve felt genuine “pre-performance nerves” for a long time.
I normally get a little burst of nervous excitement before running workshops in person, doing any public speaking or starting a new rehearsal period. This morning was the first time I’ve felt that since March. Add to that, I didn’t have the usual ritual of travelling, signing in and finding rooms to take the edge off so I was actually feeling really quite nervous. It was a strange moment when I realised that I coach people through situations like this all the time, yet I was failing to follow my own advice. Once I clocked this, I was able to do a few things to turn nerves into focussed energy.
1) Welcome the Nerves
The biggest fuel for nerves is fighting them! The more you try not to be nervous, the more nervous you will feel. It is important to flip the perspective and welcome those nerves. Embrace them. They are there to help you. They’re there to give you energy, to give you heightened senses, to increase focus and alertness. Be grateful for the nerves and welcome them in!
2) Remember You’re There to Give
The workshop isn’t (or at least is very rarely!) about you. The group you’re working with isn’t interested in you. They are interested in your ideas, your exercises, and in themselves. You are there to give them your skills and expertise. They want to receive them (usually!). They are on your side. They want to have a good time. They’re not taking from you; you’re giving to them.
Remember to keep breathing! Taking some slow deep breathes makes a massive difference. Focus on the outbreath. Push all the air out from you belly, relax, then let the inbreath flood into your body. Relax for your inbreath; gently squeeze from your belly for the outbreath.
4) Trust Yourself
You’ve almost certainly done similar things before, whether that’s performing, speaking, presenting, facilitating. You’re there because people want to hear from you, and you know what you’re doing. Even if you haven’t delivered that exact project or piece before, you know how to do this sort of thing. All your experience has led you to this point. Just trust yourself. You’ll make the right choices. And, if you don’t, you’ll manage to negotiate you’re way out of it. Ultimately, there’s so much that’s not in your control, so just back yourself to listen and respond.
5) Reward Yourself
Plan a little reward for yourself for when you finish. Keep it simple. Just something you’d really like to have been doing instead of the thing that is making you nervous. Have a nice cup of tea, read a chapter of your book, watch the next episode of the series you’re currently watching. [NOTE: try to avoid using alcohol or food as a reward! This can lead to dangerous habits!]
So, there’s just a few ways of turning your nerves into energy. Remember to enjoy yourself, stay open and listen. Although you’re there to lead, you’re also there to hear and to give.