BWW Blog: Self-Care for the Theater Student
Due to the forced new coronavirus stay-at-home routine, this past spring opened my eyes to the idea and process of self-care as an actor and artist. Obviously I have taken care of myself in the past, but being forced to stay at home and not see friends, my professors, and family members, and being separated from making theatre definitely allowed me to look at myself and ask questions like, "What do I need to do to make myself feel better? How can I find extra motivation in a time where motivation is lacking? How can I spark creativity in a time of uncertainty? So here are some tasks and activities that I tried during quarantine to lift my spirits and care for myself at a stressful time.
The first activity is exercise, whether that is riding a bike, going for a run, or doing some sort of home workout. These activities are all easier said than done, especially when laying in bed and watching Netflix is a usual college student downtime routine. I recommend that you take that first step and just get up and get going. Once I overcame that lack of motivation, I felt a lot better; this was specifically the case with riding my bike. Bike riding allowed me to not only travel around my community in a new way but also see my friends while socially distant. One day in particular I ended up riding my bike 20 miles from my house to a neighboring town; I didn't really think twice about it, I was simply flying down the road with my friends. Obviously, I was exhausted by the end of the ride as any normal person would be, but I never would have thought that I could ride a bike for that amount of miles without questioning it. Quarantine gave me the time to find this new hobby.
This past semester also showed me the pros of yoga, specifically yoga that helps train the voice. This is a very important thing for young student actors to do right now as it really is the only form of vocal training a lot of us can get. My professor sent out diagrams of the stretches we learned in class and every few days I could run through them on my own. I found that yoga was extremely calming and centering, and when my anxiety heightened as the number of coronavirus cases rose and I had to move back home from school, I found that laying on my yoga mat, breathing, and then stretching was an incredible distraction from the world around me. In my voice class, my fellow classmates and I learned how to tremor, which is basically multiple forms of stretches that allow our body to shake and release tension. It's a strange concept if you aren't familiar with it, but it allows for reconstruction of all of our habitual tendencies that occur when we speak or move in real life. For example, some human beings naturally slouch, but when performing on stage, actors want to be poised and noticed by the audience, so tremors allow us to be able to form our bodies into high-functioning performers with great posture. Believe it or not, my posture improved within a few weeks of tremoring, and I found that my breathing strengthened when I would perform a monologue or scene in Zoom class meetings. I highly recommend trying some form of yoga, it may just sneak into your daily routine.
Reading plays has also been a frequent activity of mine. Normally it's much better to see a play live, but given the current circumstances, reading a play is captivating and stimulating. I also participated in a local online play reading. It's incredibly helpful for actors to read plays as it allows them to find pieces to work on; I've already found a few monologues to develop and prepare for auditions in the future.
Lastly, there is a big question mark looming over America right now, people aren't really sure what is going to happen come fall, or even into 2021. We do already know that Broadway is shut down until at least January. So my last piece of advice is simply to try and do what makes you happy, or even better, do what you feel you need to do in the moment. With uncertainty comes discomfort, but discomfort can sometimes be managed by doing the little things in our lives that make us happy. So, watch that movie, play that instrument, do some yoga, eat, read, or sleep until noon. Self-care is one of the most important necessities in an uncertain time and it shouldn't be ignored; so take the time and ask yourself how you're doing and what you can do to make yourself feel better, if needed. That's the way we will survive this pandemic and be able to come through as better artists.