Looking after yourself is essential for anyone to live a fulfilling life. For actors and creatives there are regular and specific challenges such as low self-esteem, dealing with rejection and money worries. These challenges can be managed with a few simple changes. As we find ourselves in the midst of an anxious time with the spread of Covid19 the steps below are even more essential. As creatives, being in isolation and unable to work with others is a huge challenge. However, it can be a great opportunity to check-in with yourself, address ongoing challenges by developing new, healthy habits, that will enhance your ability as a performer as well as make you feel less anxious in times of uncertainty.
Keeping a regular structure to your days and weeks is so important for positive mental health. Our senses have to work so much harder to navigate life if we are often thinking ‘what should I do now’ or if there are long periods of boredom or over working. Consistency and balance is key. Avoid peaks and troughs of energy, make a general plan for the day and stick to it. Keep meal times and sleep consistent. This structure will allow you to see the end of any task that you don’t want to be doing and also look forward to the things you do want to do. Creating a measurable list of achievable tasks, however mundane, creates a stability that is comforting and allows you to utilise your rest and sleep better.
When you have your designated me-time (which should be built into your schedule) do something you enjoy, for yourself, without any judgement. Whether it's having a hot bath and reading a book, watching a reality TV show, taking time to cook a nice meal, or going for a walk in the park. Do something that makes you feel good, daily. Most of all do not apologise for it, or sacrifice it. This time is important to prove to yourself that you are worth being taken care of. You cannot be at your best when performing or working, if you never give yourself time to breathe and smile.
Limit screen time. Lots of us work on computers and are aware that regular breaks from the screen are essential. However, often our downtime is also spent looking at a TV or a phone. Every time you look at a video or moving images on a screen, your senses are having to work hard to keep up. Screens do not offer a natural pace that the body can keep up with, or be in sync with. Physiologically, using a screen is never a restful process. Be aware of this and, where possible, replace screens with other things, listening to audiobooks, podcasts, radio, music, reading a book, drawing etc. Also think about this when working with scripts- always print the script you are working on and allow your body to preserve some energy.
These are incredible for expanding your work on scripts, widening your bank of imagery that you can use for character work and monologues. It's also valuable in opening the door to allow inspiration and intrigue that will serve your ideas for creative projects. Many imagination exercises are based on mindfulness practices so are doubly useful for actors. Our Head of Acting, Lotte Ruth Johnson, has/will do an online tutorial, guiding you through some vital imagination exercises.
Start each day by finding a comfortable spot, sitting calmly, take three deep breaths and look around you. Say out loud or in your head, three things that you are grateful for. It's soeasy to get snowed under in negativity. Our minds cannot fight this without us actively countering it. Remind yourself why at the moment, everything is as it should be. Even if the only thing you can think of is ‘I’m grateful I’m alive’ that is a great start. Do this daily and different things will come up to help you feel more positive and content with where you are.
Positive internal dialogue
When you are working on a scene, a monologue or doing a class, be really aware of any negative dialogue. ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘She is better than me’ or ‘I’ll never get this audition.’ Although you may believe these things, the only way for that to change is for you to make a choice to forgive yourself of any flaws and congratulate the positive things. Try to catch the negative dialogue and replace it with positivity. Even if it’s as simple as ‘I’m brave enough to try’ or ‘I’m doing my best’ or ‘what's the worst that can happen?’ Over time, this will filter into your subconscious and give you a better chance of feeling confident in yourself, which will come across in your performance.
Remember judgement is contagious. If someone is not working with you in a way that is productive, maybe they haven’t learnt lines or don’t seem like they’re trying, do your best not to be judgemental. Instead think ‘I wonder why they are behaving like this?’ Maybe they need some support. All human behavior is rooted in Love or Fear. So if someone is behaving in a way that is unfavourable, try to dig a little deeper, ask questions and offer help before deciding what is happening. This open approach will allow people to offer you the same gift.
This is not everyones cup of tea but meditation is often misunderstood. No religious beliefs are necessary for mediation to work. It is simply taking the time to let the mind be still and quiet. Just holding a 5 minute meditation can be really hard for most people at first. However, using the tips above, with regards to self care and positive internal dialogue, try it and see how you get on. There are hundreds of guided meditations online that will tell you exactly what to do. No skill or experience necessary. If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, mediation can clear the mind to allow some peace and possibly a clearer approach to tackling your worries.
Stillness and silence is great for the mind. However, equally, exercise and movement is essential for creating endorphins (the happy hormone) and keeping us healthy. Acting is a psychophysical practice, so movement and an understanding of the body is essential for your craft, as well as your mental and physical fitness. I’d highly recommend yoga or dance classes. You can do them online, in the safety of your own home! See the City Academy facebook page for some classes you can do straight away.
Engage with people and things that make you laugh, smile and have joy in its purest and simplest form. Make time for conversations with people so this can happen. All work and no play makes you a very full actor! Your personal joy and contentment feeds into the energy you bring to auditions and the work you do. It makes you more open to other people and more able to be playful with your approach. This is very attractive to other artists, directors and writers because it offers inspiration. So play charades, a board game, Heads-up or just chat with someone who makes you smile, regularly, to bring more joy to your life.