Q. I love acting, but I suffer from stage fright. My doctor prescribed propranolol to ease my anxiety during a play.
Fortunately, I experimented during the final days of rehearsal. The first night, I couldn’t remember where I put my clothes during a scene change. The second night, I couldn’t recall my lines. It was a very strange and frightening experience.
Instead, I took Benadryl an hour before going on stage and it took the edge off my anxiety.
A. Many people who love acting as you do also suffer from nerves or even debilitating stage fright. Others are gripped with fear when faced with a public speaking obligation.
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is not an ideal solution for stage fright. This antihistamine can be very sedating and might interfere with your best performance.
Propranolol (Inderal) and other beta blocker heart medicines like atenolol (Tenormin) and metoprolol (Toprol) have been used for years by professional golfers and musicians to steady their nerves and hands. The PGA banned beta blockers in 2008 as part of its antidoping policy. While some people may find that a beta blocker is helpful for stage fright, it makes sense to test it before show time. You have plenty of company finding that this is not the ideal way to handle performance anxiety.
Another option is cognitive behavioral therapy. Although this may require several sessions with a trained therapist, the results are long-lasting.
Readers of this column also report the herb valerian can be quite helpful:
“I am a professional singer and my daughter does public speaking for her job. We both swear by valerian. It does the trick for nerves if you take it 15 minutes prior to performing or taking the podium.”