Why Every Actor Needs a ‘Zen Toolbox’ + How to Build Yours

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Photo Source: Photo by Samuel Austin on Unsplash

I work with a lot of actors in my practice and being an actor myself, I can relate first-hand to a lot of the issues and symptoms identified by my actor-clients: weight loss (check), skin flare-ups (former eczema-sufferer here), and anxiety (ding ding ding!).

Anxiety, nerves, self-doubt—a ton of actors deal with these feelings on a daily basis. These are normal feelings in an industry that can be so subjective and where emotions often run on the world’s craziest roller coaster.

Anxious thoughts and nervous butterflies are completely normal; they will come and go throughout your life and should never be judged as “bad.” The trick is not letting them overcome you and take hold for hours on end. What every actor needs, in my humble opinion, is a “zen toolbox,” a resource they can access when the mind races more than normal, like before auditions, performances, or everyday life.

Below are some of my top recommendations on what to keep in this toolbox for a calmer state of mind. Find what works for you, including items in this list and beyond, and keep them on hand for when times get a little tough.

Box breathing: This magical breathing exercise activates your parasympathetic nervous system (your rest and digest state) and is an incredible tool to get present and relax quickly. To do: breathe in deeply for a count of four, hold that breath for a count of four, breathe all the air out for a count of four, and hold that out breath for a count of four. Repeat for a couple of minutes. This can be done anytime but I love doing it as I’m walking and using my steps as the counts.

Holy Basil Tea (aka “tulsi”): This is a wonderful calming tea and is known as an adaptogen—it helps the body cope with stress—meaning it’s a wonderful grounding tea to have on the way to auditions.

Avocados: Avocados are a great source of B vitamins—also known as the stress-vitamins—which help convert the food you eat into energy for your body. They’re also rich in good fats that help balance your mood by stabilizing blood sugar. Half an avocado sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt makes the perfect midday snack to keep a calm mind and a steady supply of energy.

Lavender essential oil: This is a great oil to keep in your backpack or purse as it has been shown to reduce anxiety and calm the body. You can sniff directly from the bottle when stress is high, dab some on your wrists, or even add a drop to your pillow for a more restful sleep.

Magnesium: This is known as an anti-stress mineral and one a lot of people are deficient in. The best way to eat more magnesium for a calmer state is by eating as many greens as you can. You can also add a supplement (after consulting with your doctor) if your diet is green-poor or if you are under more stress than normal.

Smiling: It sounds simple, but smiling for two minutes straight is free and it really does work to lower cortisol levels, the dreaded stress hormone. In fact, it’s been shown that smiling can actually help you recover from stressful events more quickly.

These are only some of the many tools you can keep on hand in your toolbox for instant zen. Some free, some are not, but all are worth looking into. Stress happens but it’s how we respond to it that determines how we feel. The trick is being prepared for when stress is high and having this toolbox is a superb way to start.

*This post was originally published on Aug. 14, 2018. It has since been updated.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Kyle Buchanan
Kyle Buchanan is one of the acting industry’s top health and nutrition experts. Being an actor himself, he works one-on-one with actors and performers across North America. Through nutrition, health-hacking and personal development coaching, his clients are able to look their best, feel their best and subsequently perform their best, booking more along the way.
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