How To Control Your Nerves [Through Breathing]

performance Feb 28, 2020

Have you ever stood backstage with a mind that won't stop racing? If so, you're not alone.

It's normal to be nervous before your performance, whether you’re about to step on stage for the first time or you have dozens of shows under your belt.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can manage your nerves and one of those ways is through breathing! 

Breathing techniques bring you into a calmer state by deactivating the ’fight or flight’ system in your body and is something that has been used by Lauren across many of her big competition days.

Instead of standing backstage and watching the competition warm-up, Lauren practiced controlled breathing, which in turn kept her heart rate down, made her body more relaxed and most importantly saved more energy!

In today’s blog, I am going to teach you the exact same techniques so that you too can calm your nerves at a competition, and make your performance reach new heights! 

So let’s get started.


The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

This technique is a 4-7-8 breathing pattern developed by Doctor Andrew Weil. It’s effective at promoting calmness and channeling your inner thoughts. Here is how you do it:

  1. Empty your lungs of air. 
  2. Take a deep four-second breath through your nose. 
  3. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  4. Breathe out for eight seconds.
  5. Repeat the cycle at least four times.


This is by far the most popular technique used and one which Lauren adopted across many competitions, and it is guaranteed to lower your heart-rate and reduce your levels of stress.

If you are still unsure do not worry, here are four tips you can use to get the most out of this exercise and make sure it really works for you.


Tip 1: Breathe Through Your Belly, Not Your Chest

To calm your nerves, it’s best to breathe through your belly. So, when you perform the 4-7-8 technique, try to push your belly button out when you inhale instead of having your chest rise. (1)(2)


Tip 2: Breathe Through Your Nose

When you breathe, you can either do so through your nose or through your mouth, both of which offer unique benefits. 

If you’re dancing, for instance, it’s natural to breathe through your mouth, as that allows you to take in the most oxygen each time you inhale, something that supports your performance.

But while breathing through your mouth is beneficial during your show, it’s not ideal before your show.

Instead, when you’re backstage doing your breathing exercises, it’s better to do nasal (nose) breathing. That’s because such breathing promotes calmness by forcing you to slow down. 


Tip 3: Maintain a ‘Power Pose’ During Your Breathing

Maintain an open posture instead of a closed one during your breathing exercise. That means having your shoulders back and your chest and head up.

Keeping your head up allows you to breathe more deeply, which means you can reap more of the calming benefits.

Secondly, your posture influences your physiology. Maintaining a ‘proud’ posture reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, something that helps you feel more calm and confident. (3)


Tip 4: Familiarise Yourself with the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise in Advance

Aside from adopting the right position, you may also want to practice the 4-7-8 breathing exercise at home, so that you can get used to using this technique for calming your nerves.

If you practice this breathing pattern every day for a few minutes leading up to your performance, you’ll be able to calm your nerves down more effectively and quickly.

In fact, you may even become so familiar with this exercise that you only need to go through one breathing cycle to be in a calm state. 


Other Benefits

Remember the body can not tell the difference between different types of stresses. And so whether you are going on stage to dance, going for a job interview, or feeling the stresses of life and need to calm down. 

This breathing technique is great to implement during times where you need to find your inner calm. It can also be used by anyone and so any dance moms in the audience who are nervous can also implement this to keep yourself calm until your dancer hits the stage!


The Bottom Line

Whether it’s your first feis or you’re a senior, it’s normal to be hit by nerves before you step on stage.

Nerves aren’t always a bad thing however and having controlled nerves can actually improve your performance by making you more alert and focused. 

But in case you experience more nerves than make you comfortable, the breathing tips outlined above can offer a solution. So, try them out!


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