A Transition Toolbox

"It was the music of something beginning..." ("Ragtime," Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty)

Whether you are just starting out as an actor, thinking of leaving the business, or changing roles within the business, going through a transition can be complicated and emotionally draining. But it doesn't have to be. Here are a few tips on how to stay sane, strong, and focused.

"I am changing. I'll be better than I am." ("Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen)

1) Remember why you are doing it. You may feel like this isn't your decision to make, but it always is. If you are considering changing careers within the business, remember what's bothering you about your current career and what you want to change. If you are shifting from ingénue to young mom, remember the decrease in calls lately and the potential increase in possibilities when you go out for roles that are better suited to you. Always keep your reason for the change in mind, as it will help you get through those moments when you question whether or not you are making the right choice.

"Bit by bit, putting it together...." ("Sunday in the Park With George," Stephen Sondheim)

2) Break down your goals. Transitions come with lots of additions to your to-do list. And that can be overwhelming. Try breaking them down into smaller, more manageable goals. First write down the larger goals. Then consider each of those goals as a category, and break down tasks for each category. For example, if a goal is to "establish a new look, going from high school student to young professional," your tasks could be something like "Go shopping for new wardrobe pieces, get a new haircut, schedule a headshot session, take headshots, get headshots printed, bring new headshots to agent," etc. By breaking down the goals, you not only get the satisfaction of crossing off each item as you complete it, but you also avoid being completely overwhelmed by what can seem like an unreachable goal.

"Don't nobody bring me no bad news." ("The Wiz," Charlie Smalls)

3) Be realistic. When reality kicks in and your new world presents its challenges, it will be easy to glamorize what you left behind. Don't. This goes back to No. 1: Keep your reasons in perspective, and don't forget what wasn't working as you are busy wistfully remembering what was. It is also important to be realistic about how long it will take you to get to where you want to be in your new role. Having the courage to take that leap into this new world is wonderful, and you should be proud of that. But expecting all your past problems to be solved overnight, just by the mere action of making that change, is not helpful. The more realistic your expectations, the more productive and less frustrated you will be.

"You may know what you need, but to get what you want, better see that you keep what you have." ("Into the Woods," Stephen Sondheim)

4) Find a through-line. Just because one major area in your life is changing doesn't mean everything has to change. Hold on to the people, things, and activities that you love, and use them as your constants during this tumultuous time. They can help you remember who you are, and that just because things are changing around you, it doesn't mean that you are changing. At least, not in the ways that matter the most.

"What pleases me is what I'll do." ("The Pajama Game," Richard Adler and Jerry Ross)

5) Be kind to yourself. A time of transition is hard enough without you also forgetting to take care of yourself. Make self-care a priority during this time. Take long walks, meditate, play golf, treat yourself to a spa day—whatever works for you. Find the time to care for yourself even while keeping your eye on the prize. You will thank yourself for it later.

Lisa Gilbar, LMSW, ACSW, is a clinical therapist (supervised by Jill Buchwald, Ph.D. Psy 20748) with a private practice in Los Angeles specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy for actors and other creative professionals. www.lisagilbar.com.