There’s nothing more frustrating than investing your time, hard work and money into nailing an audition only to walk into the audition and have it all fly out the window because of anxiety. If this happens to you more often than you’d like to admit, maybe it’s time to understand why this occurs and what you can do about it.
Let’s begin with the definition of anxiety. According to the Encyclopedia of Psychology, anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension and worried thoughts, often accompanied by physical changes such as sweating, increased blood pressure, breath rate, blood flow to muscles and increased heart rate. The mind has sent a message to the body that there is danger lurking out there, and the sympathetic nervous system becomes highly active. This is an involuntary nervous system response that secretes specific hormones: adrenalin or epinephrine and noradrenalin or norepinephranine. These hormones cause physical changes to take place in our body, and is known as our fight or flight response. And while, it’s a wonderful system that has an important purpose in helping us to either fight off what is threatening us, or give us the energy to run away from it. In an audition, it can be devastating.
Since an audition is not a life threatening emergency (or at least it shouldn’t be), in order for the sympathetic nervous system to not kick in, the mind must be reassured there is no danger present. Here are three steps to help you manage your anxiety before an audition:
Be aware of what you are telling yourself as you prepare to go on your audition. If you begin an audition process with negative self-talk, such as ’ I’ll just die if I don’t get this part’, ‘I’m sure I’m not right for the part’, ‘I didn’t prepare enough’, you are preparing yourself for negative results, no matter how great an actor/actress you are. You’ve just set the stage for your anxiety to kick in. Remember— positive thoughts create positive actions.
Once you have become aware of a negative thought, replace it with a positive one. For example, you can say to yourself, ’ I will do the best I can right now, and that is enough’, ‘I trust that if I am right for the part, I will get it’, ‘I am more than this audition’. Or create your own positive sentences. It is important to replace that thought with something that is aligned with who you are and what makes you happy. One actress I spoke to said that she likes to tell herself that she’s going to the audition to meet interesting, creative people. When she shows up, this gives her a great ability to connect with the Casting Director rather than experiencing them as being judgmental and critical of her.
If before the audition, you find that the sympathetic nervous system is speeding things up, you can do a simple Mindful Meditation. A Mindful Meditation can be a wonderful tool , to not only relax the mind and body, but to also bring awareness to your thoughts and how they might be hindering you before you even walk out the door. Clear up the clutter in your mind so that you can access your creativity to be the best you can be. Try the following meditation either before you leave your house for the audition and/or while you are waiting to see the Casting Director:
- Sit in a comfortable, but alert posture. Gently close your eyes. Take a couple of deep breaths, and, as you exhale, settle into your body, relaxing any obvious tension or holding. Then, breathing normally, bring your awareness to your body, sensing for a short while how the body presents itself to you. There is no particular way to be; just notice how you are at this moment.
- Then, from within the body, become aware of your breathing, however it happens to appear. There is no right or wrong way to breathe while doing mindfulness practice; the key is to simply notice how it actually is right now. Let the breath breathe itself, allowing it to be received in awareness. Notice where in your body you feel the breath most clearly. This may be the abdomen rising and falling, the chest expanding and contracting, or the tactile sensations of the air passing through the nostrils or over the upper lip. Wherever the breath tends to appear most clearly, allow that area to be the home, the center of your attention.
- Keep your attention connected with the inhalations and exhalations, sensing the physical sensations that characterize them. Let go of the surface concerns of the mind. Whenever the mind wanders away, gently come back to the breath. There is no need to judge the wandering mind; when you notice that the mind has wandered, simply return to the breath without evaluation. Do this for 5-10 minutes.
Contrary to belief, audition anxiety does not necessarily go away with experience or success. It requires effort, energy and practice to control and alleviate. Working regularly to handle your anxiety will build inner strength. For more free info on meditation and handling anxiety, visit my website at bonniekatz.com. Break a leg!
Feel free to email me with any questions, comments or suggestions for future article topics that might be helpful to you.
Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. One of her specialties is working with artists in the Entertainment Industry. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice,visit her website.Follow her on Twitter and Facebook
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.