When I was acting, I had recurring nightmares of being in unknown plays without a clue of my role, and paralyzing real-life panic right before the curtain came up.
Many talented musicians, actors, speakers and others experience performance anxiety, often called stage fright.
A new study shows that biofeedback can be highly effective in decreasing stage fright.
Here is a report on the study:
Researchers studied 14 college-age musicians. The musicians’ tendency to have stage fright was estimated in a performance before an audience at the start of the study (with questionnaires and heart rate measurements).
Half of the musicians repeated the performance four weeks later. The other half received training in biofeedback that was designed to teach them how to control their heart rate through thoughts and emotions. These students also performed again after four weeks.
The study showed a 71% decrease in performance anxiety in the biofeedback group compared with the control group. The biofeedback group had a 62% improvement in performance. The musicians in the biofeedback group also said they had an overall increased sense of calmness, slept better, were more relaxed and had less anger in their everyday lives.
Biofeedback helps coordinate the brain-heart-body processes, the authors wrote. This synchronicity defeats performance anxiety and gives musicians a feeling of “flow,” the authors said, which they defined as “when a person is functioning at peak capacity, including mind, body and energy.”
The study appears in the current issue of Biofeedback, published by the Assn. for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.