I’m Not Nervous, I’m Excited | 12 Tips for the Anxious Actor

Originally Published: 23 March 2018

After all, nerves and excitement are siblings. They share a room with bunk beds. Which gets the top bunk (which, in my opinion, is the best bunk because you can bop people below you with your pillow) is up to you. 

It’s okay to be nervous. Yes, your nerves may cause you to breathe shallowly, physically stiffen up and get tongue tied. But guess what? If you’re nervous, it also means you’re excited! You just have to change your mentality around nerves is all.

Here are 12 ways to center those nerves and convert them into something that can actually help you, rather than distract you from the work you’re going to be doing in the room:

1. Name a minimum of three things around you that are undeniably true. Examples: The wallpaper is blue. The floor is carpeted. There are two people sitting to my right.

2. You can even touch those things that are undeniably true! Well, if they’re people, I suggest asking them first.

3. Eat a granola bar, a bit of chocolate, a banana. It’ll get your blood sugar up and  you’ll be less shaky. You also may have forgotten to eat.

4. Listen to music, but really listen to the lyrics. When was the last time you did that? Let the song encapsulate you.

5. Think about each of your characters. What are you going to do to get them what they want in the room? How are you going to take care of them? Take the focus off of you and onto taking care of these beautiful creatures who have allowed you to tell their stories for the day.

6. Talk to people about something completely unrelated to the situation you are currently in. Example topics: Ikea’s meatballs, House Hunters and other guilty pleasure TV shows, cockroaches vs. rats – which is better?

7. Take it a step further and learn a skill from those people you’re talking to, or teach them a skill.Examples: some form of dance that you or they teach, origami, another language.

8. Take a nap and/or meditate with help from an app. I like Insight Timer.

9. Call someone on your support team. Example: Mom, Dad, coaches, teachers, friends, enemies. American Express support is also very good for this function.

10. Do jumping jacks. That physical activity will force you to breathe. Also, when you’re having a panic attack (which I get every few months) my favorite book on the subject, When Panic Attacks by David D. Burns, suggests doing jumping jacks. If you can do jumping jacks, you’re not having a heart attack.

11. Dance. Put on “Love On Top” by Beyonce and dance, baby, dance! Head to a bathroom stall or a secluded corner so as not to disturb others too much.

12. Notice each jitter, each bead of palm sweat, each shallow breath and acknowledge it. Thank that nerve for being here with you, accept that nerve, move to the next one.

Always remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot get rid of nerves. Sorry. If you actively try to get rid of nerves, they will get worse.

So even though a number of the suggestions above involve distraction and converting nerves to excitement, know that you you must accept the nerves, and they will accept you.

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