No, it’s not that you’re unlucky or that you deserve what’s happening to you right now—hitting hard times is just a normal part of existing. Rather than wasting energy whining, “Why me?” get hold of yourself, find your feet, stand up, and move through it. Sometimes you just can’t make sense out of crazy. You do all the right things, invest in becoming the best you can be, show up, take your career seriously, pay your dues, do your homework, take responsibility—and things still don’t go your way. It’s just the way of the world. I hear you, it’s hard and it’s unfair. But when you hit difficulty and it feels like an arrow pierced your heart, do you really need to put another arrow in by ruminating and obsessing about it? No, you don’t. Try this fresh approach:
1) Don’t suppress feelings, especially the bad ones.
Fighting feelings gives them more power. Think of trying to push a beach ball underwater, you push and push only to have it pop up more powerful. Feeling your feelings won’t kill you. It’s usually what people do in order not to feel their feelings that is most harmful. Appreciate every experience—the good, the bad, and the ugly—by focusing on the treasure it will reveal in time. Instead of running from unpleasant situations by denying them, put some space around them—it will help to make them feel less claustrophobic. Befriend, don’t defend difficulties. By inviting unpleasant feelings in for a cup of tea, they will feel less threatening. In fact, confronting feelings makes them hang around a lot less longer. Build mental muscle by cultivating the attitude that you are going to be with whatever shows up today. Remember that all feelings come and go, just like the weather. As bad as you may feel, remember nothing in life is fixated.
2) Make your destination personal growth, not materialistic things.
When you’re focused on personal growth, you don’t mind hard times because they become valuable lessons. Avoid the negative loop of continuously thinking about how things should be, and get into the mindset of accepting the way they are. The short version of this is called acceptance. That doesn’t mean that you let go of trying to make your life better and being the best version of yourself that you can be. It means that you are going to stay in the reality of things and deal with them accordingly in the most productive and beneficial way possible. Always make sure that the way you are living your life aligns with your values. If they are not in sync, you will end up feeling badly about yourself. Remember, at the end of the day you have to like who you are. No amount of money, fame, or success will erase that person looking back at you in the mirror. Attaching your happiness to materialistic things, including relationships, will keep you a prisoner to external things needing to happen before you allow yourself to feel good. Take your power back by practicing self-love everyday. The payoff is not only walking through life with ease and grace, but an anchoring in self-confidence that won’t wane in turbulent times. At the end of the day, knowing that you are worthy of love and respect no matter what went down is a priceless gift.
3) Get hands on with your anxiety.
Stop wishing you were someone else—they’re all taken. Instead, learn to work with what you have. Work with your anxious mind. In my 17 years of practice as a psychotherapist, I have seen courageous people make great strides while facing the most debilitating anxiety. It’s all workable, nothing is fixated. Work with your mind by learning what is helpful and what is harmful to your psyche. The good news is that the brain has neuroplasticity, the ability to change till the day you die. For example, if you suffer from panic attacks, there are five simple things you can do to hit the brakes instead of the accelerator:
- Breathe a bit more slowly and deeply. This sends a message from your lungs and your heart that things aren’t dangerous out there. Your vagus nerve carries that message up to your brain stem, and the cascade of chemicals that were stimulating your body’s fear response are turned off.
- Relax your tongue. By relaxing your tongue, you are sending a message to the vagus nerve that everything is okay, getting your parasympathetic nervous system ( the system that calms you down) to get to work soothing you.
- Relax your jaw. Another valuable message to the vagus nerve that you are okay, can relax, that there is no danger.
- Imagine increased warmth in your hands. When there is a threat or you are under stress, your sympathetic nervous system kicks in to direct blood flow to where you’re likely to need it most – running or fighting—into the big muscles in your body. Think of the sympathetic branch of your nervous system as the gas pedal that makes you zoom into fight or flight when there is a threat. And the parasympathetic branch is the brake pedal, its activations creates a state of relaxation. It automatically redirects blood flow away from less important areas like your hands and fingers. By imagining warmth (increasing blood flow) in your hands, you’re sending another signal to your sympathetic nervous system to take it easy and relax.
- Touch your lips. Parasympathetic fibers are spread throughout your lips, thus touching your lips stimulates the PNS and activates soothing.
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.”- Einstein.
My website is filled with free tips to help you stay calm and focused during turbulent times. Handle your thoughts and feelings so they work for you, not against you.
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.
The Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.