It is Monday afternoon and your phone vibrates with a text from your agent – you’ve got an audition for a national commercial tomorrow morning. As you download the sides to start preparing, you’re starting to feel excited. Tuesday morning arrives and you get up early, run the lines a bit more and start getting ready for the audition. You arrive early, feeling prepared and eager to perform. It goes great, you nailed it and you feel on top of the world. Tuesday evening you find yourself glancing at your phone hoping to see a text informing you of a callback. You feel half present as you wait. The evening arrives and it finally comes – a callback! Your mood is elevated. Everything feels all right in the world. Things are looking up again. Wednesday, you feel positive as you walk into the door for your callback. Again, it goes great. You were in the zone. This part has your name written all over it. You drive away dreaming about being on set, getting the opportunity to do what you love. That evening, a text from your agents – they put you on hold. You knew it!! It just felt right. You start re-arranging your schedule to be available for the shoot. Thursday goes by without any word from your agent.
Anxiety starts setting in. Early evening, you phone your agents just to double check. No word. Your life feels on hold. Some dread starts to creep in and you notice your elevated mood is deflating into anxiety. You try to keep your mind occupied, but thoughts of the commercial keep coming back. The wait feels excruciating. Finally, Friday morning, you get a call from your agent. You were taken off hold. It feels like you’ve fallen off a mountain top. You keep racking your brain trying to figure out why this happened. You just don’t understand it and most likely you never will. It may be something as simple as they went with a different gender. Yet, you feel emotionally exhausted because within a five day period, you went on an emotional roller coaster ride.
Emotional ups and downs are a large part of an actor’s life. Sometimes, your emotions can go from elation to deflation in a matter of minutes. It feels as if your mood and well-being are in the hands of someone else. You are not calling the shots, THEY are. Booking a job rests on how well you perform while being under enormous stress. You only get one chance to get your foot in the door and shine. I don’t know of any other profession where this rollercoaster ride is so pervasive. The fact is, it’s not going to change. When you make a decision to devote your life to being an actor and doing what you love, these challenges are part of the deal.
You don’t want the thing that is supposed to give you joy end up giving you a whole lot of misery. This degree of emotional turmoil has an effect on the body. Therefore, you must include self-care as part of your success plan. If you need a little motivation to start thinking more seriously about taking care of yourself, read on. Researcher Dr. Esther Sternberg, in her groundbreaking work linking stress to disease, writes: “The same parts of the brain that control the stress response play an important role in susceptibility and resistance to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Rather than seeing the psyche as the source of such illnesses, we are discovering that while feelings don’t directly cause or cure disease, the biological mechanisms underlying them may cause or contribute to disease. Thus, many of the nerve pathways and molecules underlying both psychological responses and inflammatory disease are the same, making predisposition to one set of illnesses likely to go along with predisposition to the other.” Also, “If you are exposed to, say, a flu or common cold virus when you are chronically stressed out, your immune system is less able to react and you become more susceptible to that infection.”
With this information, you can see how the division between mind and body begins to disappear. Every moment is filled with thousands of sensations that can trigger positive emotions like happiness or negative emotions such as sadness. Add to this mix the rollercoaster of emotions an actor deals with on a daily basis, and you can see how the amount of stress actors experience can easily take its toll on their bodies. You cannot ignore the toll this profession can take on your mind and body.
Below are some helpful tips to manage and keep yourself in tip top mental and physical shape:
- Take control of your perceptions. Are you treating your auditions as a curse rather than a gift? Do you find yourself complaining about them? “Oh, they’re on the other side of town, at a difficult hour, with too much to memorize?” If so, you are just laying the groundwork for misery and stress to settle in. Instead, set the stage for a joyful experience by perceiving your audition as a gift to be appreciated. When you find yourself spinning off into negative thoughts stop and ask yourself, “Is this thinking helpful or harmful?” Then move forward with behaviors that will add joy to experience not take away from it.
- Make room for quiet time in your life. Slow down, meditate, swim, bike, go for long walks in nature. You’re an artist, and creativity gets stimulated as you allow yourself to daydream. The best ideas come when you free your mind. Schedule some time to play, it’s good for your health and well-being.
- Put some space around your experiences. When you hit a bump and it feels like it’s the end of the world, remember that it’s not. Okay, it didn’t feel so good to fall on your face in front of everyone, but you’re still alive aren’t you? Get away from telescopic thinking by taking a distant view. When you’ve experienced a letdown and feel miserable, know that those feelings will pass eventually with time.
- Don’t give away your power. You are the custodian of your self-esteem. If you don’t get cast, it doesn’t mean that you are a terrible actor; it only means that you didn’t get the part. Don’t put meaning into outcomes that are not based in any kind of reality. Stick to reality, not virtual reality. Be your own best friend and take good care of your emotional life. Stay away from people who are negative and not supportive of you. Be around people who lift you up, not pull you down.
- Anything worthwhile takes time, including your career. Make peace with this fact. Expect and accept that hard work is part of being successful. Embrace struggle as part of your path instead of fighting it. Don’t expect rewards for every ounce of effort you put forth. Instead, let a job well done be reward enough.
- Get a daily dose of optimism. Researchers say that positive beliefs have a positive effect — feeling safe and secure, or believing things will turn out all right, seems to help the body maintain and repair itself. It also helps reduce stress-induced inflammation and lowers the stress hormone, cortisol.
The next time your phone buzzes with an audition, approach it like a “Conscious Actor,” in charge of your emotions, ready to work hard and determined to enjoy your experience. Help yourself to free resources and helpful hints to meet your challenges by visiting http://bonniekatz.com.
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.