Did you know that achieving peak performance is 90% mental and 10% physical?
Though it is important to always be working on your craft through voice lessons, acting classes, and dance classes, it is just as important to be working on your mental game. No matter how much you train physically, if your mind isn’t in the right place it’ll get the better of you as you walk into that audition room or onto that stage. All of a sudden our limiting beliefs and habits fueled by our stress, fear, and anxiety come to the forefront and we are no longer able to perform to our highest potential.
By creating a personal mental training program, you can re-train your mind to work for you and not against you. Your practice can support you through the preparing, auditioning, and performance process. And even though setbacks are inevitable, having your practice as your foundation will help you to be more resilient and bounce back faster.
Mental training programs are a combination of a variety of fields including sport psychology, positive psychology, and mindfulness. It is important to create a practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit. Most importantly, it is important to create a practice that works for and supports YOU!
Here are 3 tools to get you started on building your practice.
1. Self Talk – The inner monologue that we all have continuously going on in our heads is called Self Talk. Most thoughts can be put into three different categories: Positive, Negative, and Instructional. Instructional being thoughts that help us direct our actions. For example, when executing a pirouette you may say to yourself, “Keep your core engaged and remember to spot. Ideally, we want to amplify our positive self talk, aka our “cheerleader,” and limit our negative self talk, aka our “gremlin.”
The first step in this process is to simply observe our thoughts and acknowledge them. Once we acknowledge our thoughts, we can then start to shift them. Creating a list of personal affirmations, or a personal “litany”, can help to begin this shift.
A litany is a group of positive statements that we have created ourselves that we can then say out loud or silently to help practice positive self talk and create authentic confidence. When creating your litany remember that the statements should be positive and in present tense. For example,
I love to perform.
I am confident and free when I am performing.
I approach every audition with confidence, strength, and openness.
I deserve to be here.
Once you create your litany, it is important to say them every day. The more we say something, the more we start to believe it and then embody it.
2. Visualization – Visualization is a technique where one closes their eyes and uses mental imagery to simulate or recreate a physical place, scenario, or event. Visualization can be used to improve self-confidence, acquire new skills (like learning the dance combination at an audition), manage pain and stress, hone our concentration and focus, and for relaxation. Like everything else, visualization is a practice. It may come easier to some than others, but the good thing is that through repetition we can become more skilled at it.
When visualizing, it is important to clear your mind and create vivid and clear images. Think of the five senses (see, hear, touch, taste, and smell) as a starting point. Be as detailed as you can when visualizing the images or the scenario. Next, implement your mental and emotional feelings into the visualization. This allows the visualization to penetrate and connect the body, mind, and spirit. Finally, make sure that you are controlling your mind by not allowing outside thoughts to distract you or negative thoughts to creep in.
A great way to start practicing is to close your eyes and begin to visualize your bedroom in as much detail as possible. Do this every day for 5 minutes. Once that becomes easy to do you can start working your way up to seeing yourself in the audition room crushing your songs, monologues, and the dance call!
3. Breath Work - Our breath is our life force and the foundation to our being. Many times when we are feeling anxious or stressed, our breath becomes short and quick, which only activates our nervous system to freak out even more. Instead, we want to be able to control our breath so that it supports us, whether that be to remain grounded and focused or energized and clear.
There are many different breath exercises we can learn. Deep breathing is a wonderful way to begin creating a breath practice and is helpful for when we need to get out of our head and calm our nerves. Begin by closing your eyes and inhale through your nose on a count of 4. At the top of the breath, hold your inhale for a count of 4. Then, exhale out your nose for a count of 4. Repeat this sequence several times and then gently open your eyes. This exercise will help you to become more centered, grounded, and calm. From this place, you will feel more confident and ready to tackle the task at hand.
By creating and practicing a mental training program that supports you, you will be able to focus your mind, build self-confidence from the inside out, manage performance anxiety, and navigate stress more easily. There will be no room for your gremlin, just your cheerleader so that you can show up in that audition room and on that stage as your best performing self!
Dance Coach/Mental Training Coach at My College Audition
Stephanie is a NYC based coach, speaker, and director/choreographer/performer. She is a graduate of Emerson College, Smith College, and soon to be Columbia University. You can learn more about her journey as an artist and lover of creativity and curiosity at www.stephanie-simpson.com
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