Acting is a challenging and rewarding art form, but it can also take a toll on our mental and emotional well-being. Sometimes, we may find ourselves feeling nervous, anxious, or overwhelmed by the intensity of a character or scene. We may even experience symptoms of a panic attack, such as racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, or nausea. How can we cope with these feelings and still deliver a convincing performance?
In this post, I will share some tips and techniques that can help you calm down and ground yourself in the present moment. These are based on some of the methods that therapists use to help people with anxiety disorders or trauma. They can also help you detach from the negative emotions of your character or scene and return to your normal state of mind.
One of the most effective ways to calm yourself down is to focus on your breathing. Breathing exercises can help you regulate your nervous system and lower your stress levels. Here are some examples of breathing exercises that you can try:
- The 4-7-8 technique: This is a simple but powerful technique that involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 4 times or until you feel relaxed. This technique can help you slow down your heart rate and relax your muscles.
- The box breathing technique: This is a technique that involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 4 seconds, exhaling for 4 seconds, and holding your breath for 4 seconds again. Repeat this cycle for 4 times or until you feel calm. This technique can help you clear your mind and focus on your breathing.
- The alternate nostril breathing technique: This is a technique that involves breathing in through one nostril and exhaling through the other nostril, alternating between them. To do this, use your thumb to close your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Then use your index finger to close your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat this cycle for 10 times or until you feel balanced. This technique can help you balance your energy and calm your nervous system.
Another way to calm yourself down is to ground yourself in the present moment. Grounding exercises can help you reconnect with your senses and reality. They can also help you distract yourself from the negative thoughts or emotions that may be triggering your anxiety. Here are some examples of grounding exercises that you can try:
- The 5-4-3-2-1 technique: This is a technique that involves naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This technique can help you focus on the present moment and reduce your anxiety.
- The object technique: This is a technique that involves picking up an object that is nearby and observing it closely. You can notice its shape, color, texture, weight, temperature, smell, etc. You can also describe it out loud or in your mind. This technique can help you divert your attention from the negative emotions and anchor yourself in the present moment.
- The body scan technique: This is a technique that involves scanning your body from head to toe and noticing any sensations or feelings that arise. You can also tense and relax each part of your body as you go along. This technique can help you release any tension or stress that may be stored in your body and increase your awareness of your physical state.
By practicing these techniques regularly, you can improve your ability to cope with anxiety and stress as an actor. You can also enhance your performance by being more present and authentic in your role. And most importantly, you can take care of yourself as a performer and avoid getting stuck in the dark emotions of a character or scene.
Remember that acting is not only about expressing emotions, but also about managing them. By learning how to calm yourself down and ground yourself in the present moment, you can enjoy the creative process more and avoid harming yourself mentally or emotionally.