A reader has this question: Is propranolol a cure for stage fright?
“Your recent article was very helpful. I have a question: Do you think the beta-blockers that many people use can remove performance fears overnight, like the antibiotic way of solving bacteria? – Joshua
I’m glad you found the information helpful. Finally, knowing what stage fright is, where it comes from, and getting more objective about it can help. That is definitely part of what can cure stage fright.
I hope the tips I offer down below will be helpful, too.
About your question: if you are asking about something you take, like medicine, no. If you are talking about other mind-body techniques that work, yes. There are lots of them. (BTW, antibiotics don’t work overnight, but I know what you mean.)
Anything you take physically is only temporary and does not cure stage fright. Alcohol is a wrong choice: it will affect your perceptions and lower the quality of anything you do. Sedatives, like Valium, also negatively affect your awareness, thinking ability, timing, reactions, etc., and will impair your performance.
There is a prescription medication some people use for high blood pressure. It’s called propranolol. It temporarily slows the heart rate and blocks other physical fight or flight symptoms. But it doesn’t touch the underlying psychological states that produce stage fright – the “perceived threats” of insecurity about your abilities, fear of what people are thinking, imagined consequences, negative inner voices, past experiences, perfectionism, self-esteem, etc.
No, propranolol doesn’t cure stage fright because it doesn’t really change anything. And it can put you in a psychological loop that reinforces your fear, and your fear of your fear, by “proving” that you need a medication to handle it. It can continually re-create the need for itself and do nothing about the real cause of your stage fright.
(Important: if you decide to consider propranolol, you MUST clear it with your doctor, partly because you can only get it from a doctor AND because it can have serious consequences depending on your health status, AND there can be unexpected side effects. If you try it, try it away from any performance situation to test how it affects you. Also, check out these pages: http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6840/inderal-oral/details#precautions and http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6840/inderal-oral/details#interactions)
So what else can you do?
You can train your own system to calm down. Doing this takes a combination of mental, physical, and practical strategies, and it is individual to you which will work the best. But here is something that will be easy for you to try. It has two parts, then combined into one.
- First, learn this simple breathing technique. It is a yoga breathing pattern that I learned from Stig Severinsen, champion athlete and creator of “Breatheology. ” In this exercise, you inhale through your nose for half the length of time that you exhale, a ratio of 1:2. Always breathe in through your nose and then breathe out either through your nose or mouth – letting the air out in a controlled sigh. Breathe as though you are filling your belly, not your chest. Opening your rib cage all around your torso allows your diaphragm to move down and out and bring air deeper into your lower lungs. As you let the air out, your ribs and belly relax again. A more advanced version is to breathe in a ratio of 1-4-2. That is, breathe in for 1, hold your breath for 4, and then breathe out for 2. These are ratios – so you might breathe in for a count of 2 and out for a count of 4, or for a count of 2, hold for a count of 8 and breathe out for a count of 4. Again, let go of as much tension as you can throughout your body as you “sigh” your breath out. If you pay attention, you might find that your heart rate slows down on the out-breath and gradually overall.
- The second part is to put some vibration into specific acupuncture points in a particular order, using a very light tapping with your fingertips. Instead of tapping, you can hold the points or lightly massage them if you prefer.
- Now, combine the tapping and the breathing using your inner awareness and intention to apply it to a specific feeling. For instance, think about a performance situation you might face and notice the degree of tension or apprehension you feel. Then tap lightly on each pair of points for about the time it takes to do two or three breathing cycles. Do this on each pair of points in order. Then stop and observe any changes you may experience with the same thought. Repeat this as often as you need to. The goal is to think about the same thing (a performance, a memory, a belief) and not have it affect you as it did before.
You will probably feel more and more relaxed as you practice this, even while thinking about various aspects of your fear, holding your performance situation in mind, or approaching an actual situation. You may also notice other physical changes or mental realizations along the way. These breathing techniques may be unusual or challenging to do at first, so I have put together a short video for you. This exercise is an Energy Psychology technique that you may find helps you right away.