The business is winding down for the holidays and actors are booking flights home, pulling money together for gifts, and strategically sending holiday cards to casting directors. The Connecticut school massacre is troubling us all, bringing us to a screeching halt in a rush towards the holiday break. This is a time of reflection. While this time is a welcome change, it’s also a hectic, emotionally charged season that presents some real challenges. So here are some ways to be joyful, sane, and even successful during this holiday season.
1. Acknowledge the big feelings. If you're an actor, you've got big feelings. And this time of year is an emotional rollercoaster. The money you have to spend on flights, gifts, etc. is a source of anxiety. The increased sugar intake jacks up your emotions, only to send them crashing down later. And then there's your family. It's all enough to drive a sensitive person insane. It’s crucial to check in with ourselves amid all the emotional craziness. Ask yourself how you truthfully feel. Write it down. And remember that feelings come and go. Don't react in the moment as you would in your work. Breathe!
2. Be realistic. Everyone’s tweaked. Commercials are in our faces, loudly selling jewelry, cars, and smartphones. The media forces us to examine our lives relative to those they portray and rarely do we measure up. There’s not enough time or money to get everyone what they want. Our family members have conflicting agendas. The kids won’t trim the tree (even though they insisted you get one). So stop. Find your generosity of spirit. Cultivate empathy for everyone else who’s stressed. Now is precisely the time to embrace the people you know and love. And even those you don’t.
3. Let go of expectations. Of giving and receiving the right gifts, what things are supposed to look like, how big the tree, etc. Rather allow yourself to celebrate what’s right in front of you. The best presents are ones from your heart. And you showing up fully will ultimately mean a lot more to your friends and family.
4. Be ready for the questions from family and friends. When you go back to your proverbial village for the holidays, everyone wants to know how far you've come and what you've accomplished along the way. “Been in anything big lately?” “Can you get on that NCIS show?” “Meet any celebrities out there?" The reason we find those questions infuriating is because they assume a narrow definition of success, a definition most of us don't sustain consistently and many of us don't achieve at all. Have your answers to questions of your own - answers you’re happy with, like "I got some amazing feedback from a big casting director in November." "I made a huge breakthrough in my acting class this year." "I wrote, shot, and starred in a short over the summer." Understand that we measure victories in a way that most people who don't know the business won't understand. It’s on you, the person in the family who understands emotions more than most, to accept your family for what they can understand and what they can’t.
5. Don’t get “crunked." Anytime you put food, alcohol, and family together during a three-to-five day celebration, excesses are bound to happen. Food and drink can mess with your feelings, making small things seem big and big things seem small. This is just the time to actually take care of yourself. Do things that are really good for you and moderate the rest. Have a good time, but don't do damage that you'll have to undo when you get back to your real life.
6. Make NO resolutions. Instead, pinpoint the incredible things about you and the people you love, the things you know for sure, as well as the questions you may have. Allow yourself to live in the questions.
7. Embrace the down time. What a great opportunity to turn off the noise, the to-do lists, and let yourself do NOTHING. Get off the computer. Go for a walk. Bake. Sleep. Call a friend. (Did I say sleep?!) Let yourself sit in the quiet. For some of you, it can be like all of a sudden the music was turned off and all you have to listen to is the deafening sound of your own thoughts. It can make you antsy and make you want to fill the silence with bad behavior and negative thoughts. Take a step back and think about your career and your craft. What do you want? How are you going to get there? What's working and what isn't? What really matters to you?
8. Find other “holiday orphans." If family isn’t in the plans, allow yourself to celebrate with friends. Seek out a community of fellow artists to be with. Isolation isn't good — especially for sensitive people — over the holidays. And it's a broad stroke, but actors and other such folk are some of the most generous and accepting people around.
9. Be generous. Do for others. And with recent tragedies aching in our hearts, the way to deal with feeling sorry for ourselves, with sadness or isolation, is to get out of our emotional ditches and help others. There are so many ways to give and volunteer. Find one. You might just feel joyful.
10. Be grateful that you get to do this. That you’ve made it to this place, wherever that is. Congratulate yourself. Celebrate that!
Make the most of the holiday season and new year. If you stay in touch with your inner life, celebrate in moderation, are accepting of others, and connect with generosity, you'll survive anything that the holidays can throw at you. And you'll be ready to get back to work in January, on your own terms.
Happy Holidays! Peace. Joy. Health. Love. Life!
Risa Bramon Garcia has just started up a new Studio in L.A. with partner, Steve Braun, called The Bramon Garcia Braun Studio, dedicated to actors’ whole journey, connecting craft with career. Visit Risa’s website, active and inviting for actors and other artists alike is:Risabg.com.
For the past 30 years Risa has worked consistently as a director, producer, casting director, writer, and teacher, collaborating with some of the most groundbreaking artists in the world. Having directed two feature films ‐ the cult classic, "200 cigarettes," and most recently, "The Con Artist" in Canada - Risa’s also directed for television, including multiple episodes of "The Twilight Zone" for New Line/UPN, and shows for HBO, Lifetime, and Comedy Central. She’s directed dozens of plays in New York (The Ensemble Studio Theatre, Second Stage, Manhattan Theatre Club) and in Los Angeles. Risa’s casting résumé includes more than 65 feature films, classics such as "Something Wild," "At Close Range," "Angel Heart," "Fatal Attraction," "Wall Street," "Talk Radio," "Jacob’s Ladder," "Born on the Fourth of July," "JFK," "The Doors," "Sneakers," "The Joy Luck Club," "True Romance," "Speed," "How To Make An American Quilt," "Dead Presidents," "Twister," "Benny and Joon," and "Flirting With Disaster;" and numerous television shows, including "Roseanne," "CSI:NY," "The Cape," and most recently "A Gifted Man" for CBS and the pilot "Rewind" for Syfy. She’s about to start casting the Showtime series, "Masters of Sex." Risa served as a producer on Oliver Stone’s films "Heaven and Earth" and "Natural Born Killers," movies she also cast.