when grocery shopping is anxiety-inducing

I need to tell you that I had a breakdown yesterday mid-I afternoon. I still managed to have a good day. That’s my new normal.

I have had to have medical intervention for my anxiety. It’s not just being a “worry wart”. It’s not being a pessimist. For me, anxiety is this fear of being unprepared–that the other shoe is going to drop, that the good won’t last long enough, that I could be blind-sided at any moment.

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In a COVID-19-infected world, my anxiety has gone up, and I self-manage it the best I can.

Here’s what I know:

I never have been germ-phobic. I don’t think my worries about COVID are going to morph into a generalized germ phobia. So that’s win!

I have not always done well in crowds. People not maintaining a social distance is really irking me. That’s one of the things that triggered my breakdown yesterday while getting groceries.

As soon as I feel I’ve taken reasonable measures to protect myself, I feel better. For me, that’s keeping my mask on in public, disinfecting my grocery cart, wiping down my shoes and keys after going out, washing my hands a reasonable amount of times, and drinking hot herbal tea after outings. A feeling of safety and being able to protect myself helps ease the anxiety.

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No amount of ruminating makes things better. There’s very little I could say or do this moment that would change anything. I can only change how I respond, if I respond at all. Sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing or to do less. It’s hard when you’ve built your identity around being a do-er or achiever. I’ve needed to pivot to how can I be helper, and more particularly, how can I best help myself–first?

If you’re going through this pandemic with anxiety, I feel ya. It’s not easy. It’s hard to have a siege mentality at the grocery store. It’s hard to watch people flout rules and guidelines. Help yourself by taking care of yourself as best you can, first.

Self Care for Artists During Self-Isolation

Sometimes, after years of being in the arts professions, we have to get reacquainted with ourselves.  We are not the actor, the dancer, the comic, et al, we were a year ago, much less five or ten years ago.  Hopefully, we’ve grown.  Sometimes, we have growing pains.  With arts imperiled by corona virus, artists of all disciplines can lean into this cultural and social pause and do some self-care.

fashion woman notebook pen

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Starting last year, I went through a period where I felt I needed to take stock.  One of the things my self inventory yielded up was the need to forgive and release past experiences on stage and screen.  #MeToo and #TimesUp have us sharing our stories, and I also came to the conclusion I needed to re-write, by releasing and forgiving, my narrative of myself, particularly in my profession.  I also needed release negative, defeating beliefs about “how things are”.  This is what I came up with for myself:

“I release myself from all past and present pain in acting.  I release myself and surrender times of overwork, over-stress, humiliation, body image issues, hurtful and invalidating comments and all other pain and trauma I’ve experienced during my life as an actor.

I embrace a vibrant, creative life that I love, where I do the acting work I’ve always wanted, needed and been called to do.  I am a happy and healthy artist who’s thriving.  I love communicating verbally and non-verbally to the best and peak of my abilities.

I release all negative, harmful, self-defeating patterns and thoughts around acting.  I am a sane, healthy, happy, holy person who makes art.  I am loving, kind and compassionate and that radiates throughout all my performances.  I honor my unique needs and challenges and honor the needs, challenges and contributions of others.  I am here, now, today, firmly rooted in the reality of my chosen profession.”

Artists, if you’re not already, utilize this valuable time.  Practice, create, innovate and experiment!  So often we’re too rushed and rely on technique and well-honed skills and don’t have the precious silence that cocoons inspiration.  There are gifts in this experience.  It’s also a great time, to challenge your beliefs and get present to yourself, the artist today.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1.  What assumptions do I make about myself based on my age, gender, etc., in my field?
  2. Do I have a teacher, coach,mentor in the arts, that I have hurtful memories with?  What did they say or do?  What toxic lesson did I learn from that?  How do I re-frame this to empower me, now, today?
  3. What are my culture’s harmful beliefs about my arts profession?  Stereotypes?
  4. What are my family’s harmful beliefs or invalidating comments about my arts profession?
  5. What do I feel I lack as an artist?  Discipline?  Depth?  Re-frame that belief.
  6. What do I truly desire for myself in my arts career?

Identify patterns.  Re-frame your beliefs to empower you.  Claim the power in the present–whatever the present may bring.

May you be happy, safe and well, now and always.

 

Giving Myself Time

It seems like there’s never enough time.  We pack our schedules full, keep busy, keep moving and still, there’s an emptiness.  Time just flies, and we have so little time for ourselves.

This past week, I resolved to give myself some time back.  I resolved not to just wake up and do, do, do.  I resolved to give myself two hours of my day back.  That’s less than ten percent.  It’s my morning practice.  I’ve had a daily sadhana on and off for years, but in light of some events in my life, I’ve really doubled down on it.

61684677_2166278680159049_4817819988796637184_nI give myself 20 minutes to read whatever I want.  I give myself 30 min of meditation.  I give myself 10 minutes of reading any news that might impact me or piques my interest.  I give myself a 45 min walk and about 15-20 minutes of journaling.  I keep it all on a big, neon, poster board to keep myself accountable, along with my long list of to-dos.

In giving myself about ten percent of my day back “just for me”, I’ve learned things about myself–some of them joyful, some of them not.  So many of us have guilt about putting ourselves first and we absolutely need to.  When we lose our internal compass, we often make decisions that teach us not-so-fun lessons.  When I don’t have my morning practice, I get un-centered and reactive faster than I care to admit.

One of the traps of a regimen, though, is that we can get regimented, and that’s no fun.  I try to re-evaluate my morning practice monthly.  The key to this, for me, has been setting an intention.  What needs healing?  What needs encouragement?  What needs to be confronted?  To me, a good morning practice shifts you in the right direction, so it needs to be re-intention-ed to be effective.  As I shift, my intention shifts, so my practice shifts.  I make sure that the changes I want are small, manageable and actionable.

If you are doing-oriented person like me, a healthy dose of compassion may be in order too.  You may not get it all done.  Life happens.  Sometimes regimens and reality clash.  It’s okay not to get all the self care tasks done in one day.

white cup filled by coffee

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My morning practice gets a little too ambitious, even for me at times.  It’s okay.  I remind myself I can always adjust.  It’s one thing to stretch; it’s another thing to burden and break.  

If you have a morning practice, I’d love to know more about what works for you!

 

Keep it Simple

Take a deep breath…and now another….and another…another.  Now, tell yourself how you really feel.

It may surprise you.  Too often, we have a lot of external markers of being a “good person”, a good wife, a good business partner, a good…whatever.  There’s a lot of expectations that we take on and try to accommodate and negotiate.  It’s painful when those expectations are in conflict with each.  How often, though, do we acknowledge when those expectations are in conflict with what we really want or need? We make a lot of dirty bargain to get ahead, to get closer and those pile up, until the weight of our decisions, a pattern or self-neglect and self-abuse, becomes habit.

Does life feel dry?  Does it feel like things aren’t moving, no matter how hard and consistently you push?  The problem may be YOU, but not that you’re inherently flawed or unworthy or unequipped.  The problem may be that you’re repeating effort just to repeat effort and get your gold star for the day.

If life is feeling dry, ask yourself when was the last time you did a little self care, whatever that is for you.  So many of us are excellent caregivers, good friends, listeners, helpers, and we fail ourselves in the self care department.  It’s time to turn some attention back on you.

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of body positivity (1) The notion of “self care” has become very Instagram-able.  Self care, though, doesn’t have to be expensive, hedonistic, excessive or even complicated.  If the idea of self-care stresses you out, that’s not self care.  Can you get a few moments with yourself today, where someone is not asking you for something?  Would listening to your favorite music as you work be a viable option for you?

Self care is a great idea; it’s a necessary idea.  As ideas popularize, we are asked to “buy into” them.  If money is a stressor, you don’t have to buy your self care.  In fact, you should try not to.  Spend a few minutes identifying areas of your life where you don’t feel whole or nurtured or perhaps you feel frantic and unsettled.  That’s where you probably need self care the most.  Then, find the smallest ways possible to bring some care of yourself to those areas.  Start small.

Sometimes, we discount the smallest, simplest solutions because they seem too easy or not big enough to be consequential.  Experiment, even if it seems silly.  At least with silly experiments you might get a good laugh.  Keep your self-care simple, actionable and look forward to your discoveries.

 

Not Every Day Has to be a Big Day

Not every day has to be a big day.  I’m learning that, seemingly over and over again.  Sometimes, the smallest progress is the hardest gained.  Sometimes, the small details add up to something much bigger, like a pointillist painting or a mosaic.

I love thru-lines and themes and big picture thinking, but I am finding what is most healing and most grounding right now is to take a careful, close look at the day-to-day.  Some patterns smack us in the face and often those hurt, but what about the patterns we’re missing, simply because we’re not taking a close enough look?

When things and situations hurt, the temptation is to paint the wrong and the wrongdoers in very broad, caricature-like strokes.  It takes a lot of love and patience (mostly for and and with yourself) not to gloss over the painful details.  That’s why I recommend trying to check in with yourself daily.  one line a day journal

Some of us don’t have the time to journal several pages today, although that’s a wonderful practice that was made popular by Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way.  When you have a lot going on, you may not be able to “steal” an hour away from work, which is why lately I’ve found that this One-Line-a-Day journal can snap you back into the present.  If you can’t steal an hour, steal a few moments just to check-in.

 

Feed Your Body & Your Spirit

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of body positivityDo you have plans to do something nice for yourself today? Self care is an important part of well being so be sure to take some me time . So often we lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle and daily routine that we can’t hear that small inner voice that keeps us fresh, creative and ready . To be your best you,  you must honor that voice!

Self Care Ideas:

  1.  Explore a new neighborhood in your city.
  2. Give yourself 10 min away from the computer, turn your phone off, light some incense and just listen.
  3. Give yourself a facial or pedicure.
  4. Float in a pool. Just float.
  5. Buy yourself some flowers.
  6. Color!  There’s so many age-appropriate (aka adult) coloring books now!
  7. Grab some bubbles and blow bubbles.
  8. Dance to your favorite music, without or without friends.
  9. If you have a pet, cuddle with them!
  10. Try yoga nidra. (You’ll thank me!)

Remember, there’s only ONE you.  You are irreplaceable.

Take care yourself today & every day!

The Mask: Acting when in Mourning

“To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” HENRY VI, PART III

It’s true that actors suffer for their art.  We go to countless auditions, get told no more often than yes, among many other grievances.   Actors are bettors.  They gamble on themselves constantly, each day, in the name of their art and their talent.

As someone who’s experienced this twice, there may come a time in your acting life where you may be on stage or on set and someone you love dies.  The thespian’s motto is “The show must go on.”  Yes, it does, but sometimes it may not be in your long-term best interest for it to go on with you. Sometimes, though, the time on stage or on set may be healing.

The first time this happened to me, I was 17 years old and performing in a community production of Othello  Though it wasn’t a professional production, I treated acting as my profession.  My grandfather died a week before opening night.  My mother spoke to director on my behalf and his response to her was, “Is she still going to be in the show? She’s really talented.”  It was about the show for that director, not necessarily what could be done to keep me in a safer space.  When I came back to rehearsal, it was weird.  Fellow cast members didn’t know what to say to me or how to act.  I didn’t hold that against them.  It’s hard to know what to say when someone close to you has someone die.  I was very close to my grandfather and though legally almost an adult, I had a hard time coping with all the feelings.

The second time this happened to me was six months ago.  My godfather, whom I held in high regard, died unexpectedly.  We had been talking on the phone a lot in the six months prior.  He was going through stuff.  He was in mourning himself and then took a sudden turn for the worse.  I was in the middle of filming a short film when I heard the news of his death.  I let my director know what was going on via email and he was very kind and compassionate.  He let the cast and crew know that I had a death.  Everyone was very kind.  He worked around my schedule so that I could leave the state to go to the funeral.  He was a true professional.

Both times, at least to me, there was no discernible impact to my performance.  I got on stage and set and executed the director’s vision to the best of my ability.  However, I can tell you that the earlier experience with the death of my grandfather has followed me in some not-so-healthy ways.  When I saw another production of Othello five years after my grandfather’s death, I was in tears most of the play.  I had this deep association of Othello with my grandfather’s death.  I saw Othello two years later and I was just angry the whole time.  I had to go because of the drama academy I was enrolled in required me to go.  I am hoping time will help me shed my baggage with Othello.

Here’s some advice to you if you are acting and lose a loved one:

  1.  Don’t feel pressured to do or be more than you can handle.  Ask for an understudy if you need one.
  2. Evaluate where you are in the processes.  Are you in first rehearsal?  Final dress rehearsal?  Are you filming for one day?  Thirty?
  3. How much responsibility do you have to your family?  If you are in charge of making funeral preparations for the loved one, take a long look at what you can handle or sustain.  Funerals are very messy to plan, even under the best of circumstances.  You may be able to take a week or two off your production or have the producers change a shooting schedule, but there’s not really a do-over on a funeral.  If you have responsibility to your family, focus on your family first.  Above all, the funeral is to help you find closure and if you have any doubts, choose to focus on the funeral.
  4. Reach out to your director and/or producer.  If it’s to hard to talk about it, send an email about what has happened and what you may need.  If you have a manager, ask them to help you work out the issues with production.  Focus on your healing.
  5. Do not push for emotion.  You are likely maxed out.  You are an instrument.  Don’t break your instrument.  If you’re not feeling it, don’t force it.
  6. It may not be a good idea to bring a recent death into your scene work.  I’ve seen this really mess folks up.  It’s going to be time before you go through those stages of grief and bringing something in that’s too fresh and too raw may harm your psyche more than it helps your scene.  It’s not brave to dredge up something that you are unprepared to handle.  It is brave to assert your healthy boundaries.
  7. Care for your body and care for your spirit.  Acting is already hard, with a great deal of little disappointments.  Having a death cloud you doing what you love is a real downer.  Take extra care of yourself.  Enlist a friend to check in with you from time to time.  An actor friend who you trust is a great choice.

As actors, we constantly search for emotion.  We study emotion.  There will be times when our life on stage and screen  may be impacted by a death or other tragedy.  Above all else, “…to thine own self be true,” and care for yourself in your time of loss.  As an actor, you are your instrument, you are your truth and you owe it to yourself to care for yourself as best you can in your time of loss.