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2012

I just read this article and thought it might be of help to those of you that we in the trade call "civilians" (non actors).  I see many parallels to the kinds of things people are going through on this site and thus the article seems applicable to all of us in whatever walk of life.  (I've never seen Nurse Jackie, so can't comment on the show.)  Bonnie's  methods to control stress are very good, I believe.   Bold and underelined material is my emphasis relating to stress and quitting.

 

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by Bonnie Katz, MA

At the center of Showtime’s Nurse Jackie series is a woman whose life resembles a pressure cooker nearing explosion. As a drug-addicted nurse struggling to survive the demands of a frenetic job at a New York City hospital, she walks a tightrope balancing her way through a nasty divorce, parenthood and being a reliable rock to her friends, colleagues and patients. imageAs if that wasn’t enough, the episode finale finds her managing not one but two existential crises. After witnessing her tyrannical boss trying to unsuccessfully save his son from a drug overdose, she runs upstairs- to find her best friend, Dr. O’Hara, has just given birth to a baby boy. One life ends as another begins. Hats off to the brilliant writers of Nurse Jackie for illustrating so beautifully the roller coaster that is life. Emmy award-winning actress, Edie Falco’s portrayal of Nurse Jackie encompasses strength, struggle, vulnerability, weakness and above all courage to feel it. Nurse Jackie is just trying to survive. Sometimes she makes it and sometimes she just makes mistakes, but she puts one foot in front of the other and keeps going.

Dramas that portray human struggle are valuable, they show us that we are not alone, others have gone down similar paths and survived; knowing this helps us carry on. As actors, you are part of a vital creative process reassuring humankind that we are all in this together. Support and reassurance can ease our way through tough times. If you were lucky, as a child, you can remember the powerful effect of your mother or father saying “Don’t worry everything will be all right.” An old Indian proverb says: - “Joy is doubled by others and sorrow is halved.” We need each other to get through the ups and downs of life. Art helps us through our confusion and it is our community of family and friends that hold us up when life knocks us down.

One way actors can prepare themselves to play deep, complicated roles, like Nurse Jackie, is to have access and control over all their emotions, especially the difficult ones that make them feel vulnerable. Acting class can teach you how to act, but it is your responsibility to know and handle your inner life. As an artist, emotions are the palette you use to breathe life into the characters you are portraying. Knowing and accepting all your emotions gives you an abundant palette to work with. Why limit yourself to black and white when there are so many other colors available? Here are some steps to harness and master your difficult emotions so you can be more comfortable with them and access them for your roles:

imageStep one: Change your view. Rather than viewing your vulnerability as an emotion you need to get rid of or run from, view it as a treasure that holds important insight about yourself. See difficult emotions as great teachers. Remember, even when you feel powerless in a situation, you always have the power to choose how you want to view it. You can transform an audition that does not pan out into a job as an audition filled with an opportunity to experience growth; the choice is yours. If you view your difficult emotions as something you need to run away from, you will promote fear. If you view them as something you need to get to know better, you will promote strength. Which seeds are you going to water, seeds of fear or seeds of strength? Remember views are powerful, so be aware of yours and know that you can always change them to your benefit.

Step two: Learn how to feel your feelings without getting lost in them. Feelings are sensations in the body, that come and go just like the weather. They shift and change moment to moment. imageWhat you feel now will change in five minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or a day. Knowing this can help you build tolerance for uncomfortable feelings when they arrive and enjoy the good feelings before they leave. Reminding yourself that feelings are not facts lessens the power you unconsciously give them. Get tools to relax yo`ur body when you feel strong emotions. Add exercise, yoga, meditation or Tai Chi to your daily routine to get into the habit of calming your body down. Some simple methods to gain control when anxiety strikes are:

      
  1. Breathe a little more slowly and deeply. This sends a message from your lungs and your heart to your brain that you are not in danger. Your brain then turns off the chemicals that were stimulating your body’s fear response.
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  3. Relax your tongue and your mouth. By relaxing your tongue and jaw, this also sends a message to the brain that you are okay and it engages the parasympathetic nervous system (part of the nervous system which calms us down) to work by soothing you.
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  5. Imagine increased warmth in your hands. When you are stressed, your sympathetic nervous system directs blood flow to your legs for the fight or flight response. This directs blood flow away from less important areas, like your hands and fingers. Visualizing warmth in your hands sends another signal to your sympathetic nervous system to relax and take it easy.

imageStep three: Stop self-critical thoughts.
Having self-critical thoughts while you’re going through a tough time is like pouring salt on a wound. It’s painful enough to go through difficult emotions; you don’t need to make it worse by beating yourself up for having them. Instead, give yourself a break, by learning to accept whatever it is that you are feeling without any judgment. Don’t see yourself as flawed, but full of potential no matter what you are feeling. Create friendliness towards yourself by softening the harsh inner-critic, this will help you to be with yourself in a genuine way. Stop exaggerating your thoughts by catastrophizing. Remember the mind believes what you tell it. If you want to control your anxiety, become aware when you are exaggerating your thoughts by making little things bigger than they need to be.

An important goal of an actor is to stay open to life experiences without shutting down. When you learn to navigate through and tolerate difficult emotions, then those emotions no longer have control over you and you have more access to your emotions for your art. The experience of staying open in difficult times creates the strength one needs in order to be with whatever emotions show up. You can only take an audience as far as you have been in your own life. Every week we are right on the edge of our seats with Edie Falco’s Nurse Jackie as she jumps through every obstacle thrown on her path, triumphs through her heartaches, addictions and mistakes to come out of the storm in one piece. No doubt Nurse Jackie is a heroine, but underneath it all, Edie Falco is the courageous one. She has the courage as an actress to bring the depths of all of her emotions to her role.

 

Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice.  She understands the unique demands and challenges of the acting profession because along with her experience as a psychotherapist, she has been a part of the acting community for the past 39 years.  This unique combination enables her to have a deeper understanding of the struggles of actors. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice, visit her website. I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Click here for a free brochure on mindful meditation.
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.

Giulia

Stress

Posted by Giulia Champion Jun 26, 2012

I just put this in the STRESS TRAP (https://excommunity.becomeanex.org/thread/1862-the-stress-trap)  section, but thought most people would never see it since it usually reads as "river annotate" when anybody posts in a group blog.  So I'm putting it here too.  Don't know who wrote it.  Why is it that all these wonderful things that we receive as forwards have no authors?  You'd think they'd want to take credit for it.  Ah well..

A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience; with a raised glass of water, and everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?'..... she fooled them all... "How heavy is this glass of water?", she inquired with a smile.
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."
"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night... pick them up tomorrow.
."

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Don't let stress ruin your beautiful quit.  Find some way to relieve it.  Go for a walk.  Sip a glass of water.  Take slow deep breaths.  Look at a leaf.  Imagine a soft cloud.  Get out of that stresshead.  Change your focus.  You CAN.

Giulia

Having a Craving?

Posted by Giulia Champion Jun 16, 2012

Click on the following link - it'll take your mind off it.  (And drive you totally insane!!!!) 

I've gone all the way through the color spectrum.  Can you?

Click on the ball to change the color of the ball. 
It will change. How coordinated are you???

 

Ball on a String     or go to:  http://thedogpaddler.com/RandomUploads/Ball/ball.htm
http://thedogpaddler.com/RandomUploads/Ball/ball.htm

Giulia

Please Don't Smoke

Posted by Giulia Champion Jun 3, 2012

Read more after the picture. 


Kinda cute, huh? Kid trying to put out his dad's cigarette.   Well, think about this:


I just spoke with an old friend of mine.  Her brother died yesterday of Lung Cancer..  Also had COPD and Emphysema.  He smoked up to last 48 hours of his life.  He was on hospice care.  She would go and spend time with him.  Get up with him at 2:30 and 5:30, to go outside while he smoked.  Had to go outside because he was oxygen 24/7  and might otherwise blow up the house.  She spoke of huddling under the eaves with him when it was raining, as far back as they coud get. 

His son got married (for the second time) later that afternoon.  The afternoon he died.  What kind of a wedding was it, I wonder?  My friend, who went to that wedding said that for her it was most bizarre.  The juxtapostion of events.  It's a pity the father couldn't have been there too.

Please stop smoking if you haven't.  And if you have and are struggling, let this little lesson sink in as it may to give you strength to continue another day.  Your children, your parents, your friends and we,  here on this site want you around as long as possible.  'Cause you're imortant to us all. 

Need a laugh - click on the following link.  Those who are old enough will remember Bob Newhart.  If you're not old enough - then enjoy him for the first time.  If you've lost your sense of humor during the craving period, regain it here. 


(f the link does't work, copy and paste this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO1nCuVQIeg)

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