2 Ways Actors Can Manage Their Mental Health During COVID-19

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Photo Source: Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

What a year 2020 was! If you’ve felt stressed or depressed, you’re definitely not alone. Last year pushed most of us to lengths we haven’t previously experienced. It’s important to remember that we haven’t done this pandemic thing before and there is no “right” way to get through it. Hopefully, the last two articles in this series that offered advice for performers on nutrition and physical health during COVID-19 have given you some areas of health to think about and take action on. Now in this article, I want to cover mental and emotional health. 

With theater closed for close to a year now, it can be hard to feel motivated to do much of anything that used to spark passion (I’m definitely feeling that way). Yet, art goes on even in the darkest of times. So let’s look at some ways to up your mental health game so you can step back into the light. 

1. Develop community.
While COVID-19 keeps us physically distant (please follow the CDC guidelines), we can still create some semblance of normal rehearsal life. Find a rehearsal buddy to run scenes, songs, choreography, or workouts with via video, or outside in a park with masks. I’ve seen people get really creative with Zoom productions and edited videos where the actors are not physically in the same location, but it’s edited to look like they are. Others are table-reading plays and taking dance lessons online or outside. 

2. Find healthy coping skills.
When we went from being busy to isolated overnight, a lot of people learned they don’t know how to be alone with themselves. This presented to my clients as new or worsening eating disorders, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors. There is a difference between being alone (distracted) and being alone with yourself. 

If you haven’t found healthy coping skills yet, I encourage you to try something new today. There are so many options! Here are just a few to get you thinking, I have a list of many others in my book, “Permission To Eat.”

Emotional awareness: Journaling, art, therapy, meditation, celebrate small accomplishments

Distraction: Art, crafts, games, talking to friends, watching or reading

Self-soothing: Grounding exercises, body-scan meditation, getting off social media (even for a day)

Physical: Movement, eat a balanced meal, rearrange a room, get out in nature

Opposite action: Read positive affirmations, watch something funny, gratitude journal, pay it forward

Practical self-care: Make a grocery list, declutter, get on a sleep schedule

Act: Another favorite is to “act” like you are motivated, energized, or whatever you need to get done at the moment. Your character can do it!

At the end of the day, don’t overwhelm yourself with what you “should” be doing. It’s OK if you’re not as productive right now. The world is on a collective time-out and you can use that time to just be. After all, we are human BEings, not human DOings. Give yourself some grace and be OK if all you did today was breathe. You’re still a worthy human being. You’ve got this!

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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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Libby Parker
Libby Parker, MS, RD, CDN, is an actress, registered dietitian, and author of “Permission To Eat: a practical guide to working yourself out of an eating disorder during college, while celebrating the awesomeness that is you!” Libby works with individuals and groups to recover from eating disorders and have their best health on, and off, stage.
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