BWW Blog: Externalizing the Stress
The pressure of a Conservatory program can be intense and at times, relentless. Understandably so, a training program is trying to compact as much knowledge, wisdom, and growth into as short of an amount of time as possible. This then begs the question, "what do you do when the pressure can get to be overwhelming?" On one hand, you don't want anyone to think that you're incapable of handling the work load, but on the other hand, there are only so many hours in a day and so much to do. This balancing act of course work, homework, rehearsals, performances, and basic human duties seems to be superhuman and yet, expected.
As a sophomore musical theater major in the Conservatory of Theater Arts at Webster University, I've had my fair share of busy days and sleepless nights. There are mornings where I've woken up and thought "if I can make it through today, I can make it through anything." I recognize that dealing with stress and learning to manage my time efficiently are a major part of my education and I am extremely thankful for those skills, but it doesn't change the fact that times get tough. So, what should you do when you start to feel overwhelmed and out of time? In my experience, the best way to work through a problem is to externalize it by discussing it with someone I trust.
One of the many great aspects of Webster University is the positive, personal relationships the students have with their professors. Whenever I am concerned about my ability to complete a task to my fullest extent, I set up a meeting and discuss it openly with my teachers. This act of verbalizing my stress helps demystifies the stigma of whatever it is that's bothering me and compartmentalizes it into digestible, approachable pieces. This open communication also allows me to identify and analyze the thought process that resulted in stress and helps me redefine my process of handling a demanding schedule so that further down the line, I've developed the skills needed to maintain productivity. Not only that, by defining the psychological process through which I went gives me an inside look at the human condition, which I can then use when I'm acting.
Often times, when I get overwhelmed with issues that pertain less to my school work and center around more personal issues, I go straight to my parents. I'll sit on the couch, put the phone on speaker and just unload. I don't know why my parents weren't psychiatrists because their ability to unpack a frantic midday freak out is honestly the only thing that has kept me on track all these years. They help me rationalize the problem, humanize the situation, and determine an appropriate course of action. Similar to my professor meetings, these conversations allow me to take a step back emotionally from what's going on and look at what's happening objectively. It's amazing how much easier sticky situations are once you've analyzed it from an unbiased perspective.
The act of talking through issues and communicating with others is an extremely therapeutic way to handle the pressures and expectations of a conservatory training program. Whether your arbitrator is a professor, a parent, a friend, sibling, etc., externalizing the stress and pressure of daily life allows for a freer and more capable student. However, this skill isn't limited to just conservatory students. The act of externalization and analysis can be beneficial to students in other majors, working professionals, parents, anyone really. So, before getting sucked into a black hole of stress, find someone you trust, externalize the problem, analyze the situation, and find a way to keep moving forward.