When this is done, then I'll finally get a chance to relax...
How many times have I heard myself or others say this? How many times has this turned out to be a lie? Every single show, every single time. There will never be time to relax if you don’t prioritize it and give it to yourself. We all know self-care is important, but it can feel impossible to achieve. Our industry is one that can be challenging to leave at the door, because we don’t have office hours, we only get as much out of it as we put in, and we work for ourselves. Taking time away can feel selfish, and as if we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
I took a year away from acting at one point in my career. I heard from many people that I was hurting my career, losing the traction I was finally gaining. What I discovered at the end of the year was that nothing had changed. The auditions hadn’t dried up, I was still getting cast, things were exactly as I had left them. The only difference was my own attitude toward the work, which had shifted during my time away. I had needed the break to reconnect with myself as an artist.
I’m not suggesting that everyone take a year long break from their work, but allowing and giving time for rest, even if it’s twenty minutes in an otherwise packed day, is essential. This is not only true when it comes to wellbeing, but also to being creative. Being bored, daydreaming, and zoning out have all been linked to creative breakthroughs. Our brain needs time to percolate and flip through the countless amounts of information and ideas we feed it. We need rest, we need to recharge, and we need to give ourselves the permission and time to do it, because no one else will.
How do you take time to recharge? The other day, when I had a day off from my joe job, and knew I should have been writing or submitting to auditions, I said, ‘screw it’ and spent the day reading a novel. It was amazing. It was what I needed. If you gave yourself a date with yourself to do whatever you wanted, what would you do with it? Free time is not meant to be constantly filled with work; that’s why it’s called free time. What does your adult recess look like?
Don’t wait until whatever you’re working on is finished; find your free time now. I dare you to do something fun, something boring, and totally not useful with it. If it makes you feel less guilty, write it into your schedule and give it an important sounding name: Essential R and R.
Being tired and miserable is not a badge of honour, it doesn’t prove that you work hard, and no on is impressed by it, so why accept it? You’re right, it’s not easy to find the time, or quiet the mind; it’s hard to treat ourselves gently. At risk of sounding like an inspirational poster, I challenge you to treat yourself with the same kindness you would treat your best friend. Go on, take that bubble bath, the email can wait.