Great big job, great big feelings
April 29, 2017 3:51 PM   Subscribe

I recently got a job I'm super excited about. The nature of my work is freelance and tenuous at best, and this job, while big and exciting, could disappear at any moment. Help me chill out.

I work in TV as an actor, so I need to be relaxed and available to do a good job. I've never had a problem with this before, but on this one the stakes seem high (the storyline my character is involved with is dependent on my (as yet untested) chemistry with another actor, and hasn't been written yet). This job also arrived in the middle of a mess of other work with hard deadlines, of course.

I'm struggling with pretty high anxiety about this, and would love to hear your strategies for grounding and remaining calm in the face of potential panic.

I'm playing a confident, quirky character, so my usual tack of "use the fear to fuel the work" doesn't seem particularly applicable here.

I've got some background in CBT, vipassana meditation, and I exercise hard a lot. Anybody have any other ideas to try?
posted by lizifer to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
Try journaling to deal with The Feels.
posted by Michele in California at 6:18 PM on April 29, 2017

Well, the standard advice I have heard is to<Yÿ imagine the other person in their underwear. Not so sure that that is helpdul in your situation.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:44 AM on April 30, 2017

I'm not an actor, but I've been in a few stressful, high-performance situations, and my best advice is to focus on the process, not the result. Any time you find yourself thinking about things like "I have to nail this, my future career depends on it" or "the stakes are high, this could be my big break" or anything at all to deal with what this could mean, nip that thought right in the bud. Concentrate instead on living fully in whatever moment you're living in, and in doing the best job in that moment that you can.

So, the way you nip it in in the bud is you replace it with a thought about what you are doing right now. "Okay, in this scene, I really need to show my character's vulnerability" - "Gosh, my colleague has nice eyes, this should be easy to pretend to find him attractive" - things like that (I am obviously not an actor based on these pathetic examples but I hope you get my point). And when you're not at work, concentrate on what you're doing then -- feel the taste of your food, look around and notice the day, ground yourself in the now.

It's the best solution to anxiety I've ever found, and if you successfully do this -- focus on process, I mean -- then you can be confident that even if it doesn't work out, it's because of something outside of your control. You were focused on the process every step of the way so you did everything you could. Nobody can ask for more, including yourself.
posted by forza at 5:22 AM on April 30, 2017

I'm a classical musician and forza's advice above is exactly my process to deal with the same kind of "oh shit my career is going to take two different roads depending on the next 15 seconds" kind of extremely-unhelpful intrusive thoughts.

However, it would be foolish to not point or that many high-stakes performers do all those things AND reach for a medical solution as well, which is typically very low doses of beta blockers in the form of propranolol. It's sold over the counter in many countries but if you're in the US you'd need a prescription. It for sure has the ability to remove you a bit (emotionally) from a performance depending on dose, which depending on your process could be fine or super duper bad. Because of that it's wise to try it out in advance. There is a potential to increasingly lean on beta blockers as a crutch that your have to look out for, too.

In my case I have found my real nemesis to be making the first impression - so I find myself using a beta blocker for the first rehearsal with an orchestra but then having no problem playing the same solo unmedicated in front of a couple thousand people later that week.
posted by range at 6:05 AM on April 30, 2017

Response by poster: UPDATE: I did the job! With some VERY conscious deciding-not-to-attach-to-outcomes I was able to drop my anxiety on the day. Thanks for your advice, it helped me feel less freaked out. As always, anticipation was the worst part.
posted by lizifer at 7:27 PM on May 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

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