How you manage your fear has a direct effect on the quality of your life. If you spend lots of time worrying about future events, that may or may not happen and are out of your control, you’re creating unnecessary anxiety. An actor’s life is already filled with uncertainty, you don’t need to make it worse by dwelling on it. Trying to control the uncontrollable is a waste of time and can set you off into an emotional downward spiral. Instead, get really clear on what fear is, how it can help or hurt you. Start taking control over what really matters—yourself!
To begin with, fear is a useful emotion. It can keep you from dangerous situations that might harm you, and even save your life. When a situation doesn’t feel safe, your fear guides you to make good decisions. “Oops, dark alley, this feels scary, better take a different route.” Your fear can keep you from getting involved with people who don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s a good thing. But when you let your fear run wild in areas that it has no business being in, then you are setting yourself up for lots of dis-ease (pun intended). Do you really need to fixate on everything that can go wrong with everything and everybody else? Fretting over what others think of you, or worrying about the future will not protect you from it. Yes, prepare for future events, set goals, and be the best that you can be, but be wise enough to know when to let go. Fretting weakens you. Trust your brave heart to handle what may come your way. You’ve gotten through tough situations before and survived, those wins will hold you up if you let them. Worry doesn’t make you stronger; remembering your strengths will. Obstacles will always appear on your path, don’t be surprised when they do. Nod your head and say, “Oh yes, this again, of course,” and put one foot in front of the other until you get to your destination. Whining about obstacles, will make your journey harder. Just view obstacles as a natural part of your journey and an important part of your growth.
Stay with what’s real. The mind likes to tie up loose ends by making up stories. Someone darts a look at you from across the room. You have no idea what that look means, yet you’re off and running into “They don’t like me land.” Really? Is that a fact? Do you know that for sure? If not, then you are experiencing False, Evidence, Appearing Real. Stop filling your head with negative stories instead start reality testing your beliefs. The good news is that most of those stories are false and reality is often a lot better.
Calm your body and the mind will follow. You are more than your fearful thoughts and projections. Your fear causes you to lose yourself. Your body is here, but your mind is all over the place. The awareness of your body allows you to take control over your thoughts by intentionally bringing your focus on the body and out of your head. You cannot focus on feeling your body and thinking thoughts at the same time. Use this method of refocusing in order to get out of your head and grounded in the moment. Try a body scan and learn to transform your states of anxiety rather than staying stuck in them until they subside.
At some point, you will benefit from acknowledging your fear and looking into its source. When you don’t have understanding, you become afraid. Understanding is a way of working through your fears. How did these thoughts and feelings come to be? Make a decision to stop running from them and instead invite them in to your awareness so that you can look at them clearly and deeply. Remember what remains unconscious has power over you. Be invested in understanding yourself so that you may make conscious choices and take better care of yourself.
Learning to stop. Nobody can take your fear away from you. You must invest in yourself by making a commitment to learn how to mange your fear. Your safety is not outside yourself. Inside each of you is a safe island that you can go to. Right now, you may be caught in an old habit of running, self-medicating or being carried away by your thoughts when you are afraid. Practicing mindfulness meditation can give you a safe, healthy place to be when you are afraid. Knowing what to do when you are afraid is already a relief. Develop a strong mind to endure the unpredictable weather of life. We don’t have control over what happens to us, but we do have control over how we choose to view it. Practice mindful meditation. Mindfulness is simply the act of openly and actively observing your moment-to-moment experience with kindness. Learn how to intentionally focus your attention. As we do this, we begin to understand our bodies and minds better and not be so reactive in our daily life to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. With mindfulness, we develop a quality of attention that can be present no matter what is happening. You start with the simple awareness of your breathing. Mindful meditation is free and accessible to everyone. To try a quick five minute meditation click here.
Every time you feel a strong wave of fear, you can do something about it. Take the time to break old habits by replacing them with good habits that will help you ride out the storms. Fear doesn’t have to overwhelm your life when you develop tools to stop, calm and transform yourself.
I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Samuel French Bookshop
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.