Has the “not enough” bug bitten you in the behind? Are you suffering with symptoms of running around, and feeling like you don’t have enough time, money, energy, or talent? Stop for a moment and ponder the wise words of Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” If you’re going through life meeting obligations in a trance and operating on automatic, you may be turning into a human doing instead of a human being. Making productivity priority over presence can be a source of great unhappiness. Busyness can keep you in a constant state of overwhelm and distract you from living life to the fullest. It can also deplete the creative fuel necessary for your acting career. To have more control over the quality of your life, you’ve got to know how to find balance.
Ponder these two simple ideas to help you master the art of living.
Time is a valuable resource – don’t squander it.
Material things are replaceable, time is not. You will never have August 5th, 2016, 9:00 AM again. Once it passes, it is gone forever. Ironically, people work hard to protect material possessions, which are replaceable, yet don’t think twice about protecting their precious time. It is vital to think about how you are using your time. If a rude driver cuts you off, do you really want to squander your whole day being angry and upset? People end up wasting time being stuck in unhappy mind states. Doesn’t it make more sense to protect your time by letting it go and moving on?
Mortality can be a great motivator. Although existential issues, like death, can be uncomfortable to think about, it can be a great asset to help remind you that you don’t have forever. Let go of the pettiness and stay with the bigger picture. Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher (4BC-65AD), writes, “Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present. But the man who […] organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day[…]” Being the gatekeeper of your time is also important self-care. When you neglect thoughtful time management, you neglect yourself.
Overwhelm is overrated.
Unfortunately, feeling overwhelmed is very familiar to most people. It feels as if you’re in a race, trying to get to the finish line. Focusing on the future instead of the present can make you ripe for anxiety. The culture feeds the frenzy. The Internet never sleeps. Having an enormous amount of information at our fingertips, every minute of every day, is too much data for our bodies and brains to process. Regrettably, the addictive nature of accessing this information gets the better of us. Most people know Facebook can have a negative impact on their mood, yet they can’t seem to stay away from it. Discipline and self-control are great steps towards self-care. When you protect what you are putting in your head, you are taking good care of your emotions. If you want to feel more happiness, don’t go about doing the things that will cause you to feel unhappy. what you put in your head.
You can help transform your state of overwhelm into a state of peacefulness by practicing these two techniques:
Dr. Andrew Weil recommends a breathing technique called the “4-7-8 breath” that is very successful for reducing anxiety.
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
- Exhale completely from your mouth making a “whoosh” sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely from your mouth, making a “whoosh” sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times, for a total of four breaths.
Dr. Weil also advises that you do this cycle only once when you’re first starting out, and if you feel light-headed it will pass.
- Get your feet back on the ground.
Feelings are not facts. When in overwhelm, your mind usually jumps to the worst case scenario. Come back to Earth by discerning feelings from facts. “I’m feeling like it will be the end of the world if I don’t get this done by 5 o’clock, but is that really true?” Stick to the reality of the consequences rather than the made up stories you are telling yourself.
Get grounded in your body when your thoughts are pulling you in a million directions. This technique will help you to refocus on your body by using the five senses. Name:
- 5 things you hear
- 4 things you see
- 3 things you feel
- 2 things you smell
- 1 thing you taste
Staying in the here-and-now is a wonderful way to be more present for your life. Get grounded. You always have access to feeling what is happening in your body and finding your breath no matter where you are. It is an effective tool to handle performance anxiety as well. Taking care of your anxiety, so you can be more in control of yourself, is a hands-on process. Begin by making the decision that you no longer want to be bullied by fear. For more free techniques on handling anxiety, visit my website http://bonniekatz.com.
Life is a time limited gift. Practice good self-care and think wisely about how you want to show up in your life.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
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
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.