Too often as actors, the messages we get from our classes, coaches, casting directors and even each other, encourage a hustle culture that never seems to pause for breath. You should always be working harder, auditioning more, studying more, producing more. Any free time you have is wasted time that could be spent being productive.
But while there is value in self-motivation and drive, the danger of burnout is also very real. We are not machines. We cannot be programmed for perfect productivity. Burnout can lead to a lack of motivation, depression, anxiety and disinterest in the very work we’re trying to accomplish. So how can we avoid it?
Identify the signs.
Knowing yourself can be the best way to prevent burnout. Start identifying behaviors that signal fatigue and burnout. These are different for everyone, but some common ones include irritability, lack of resiliency (how quickly do you go from 0 to 60 when something goes wrong?), lack of motivation or enjoyment surrounding your work and increased negative self-talk.
Cultivate habits of self-care.
The trick is, you don’t want to wait till things get bad to implement these habits. Self-care should be part of your regular mental health maintenance. Figure out what helps you recharge — emotionally, mentally and artistically. Ideally, this should be a balance of things related and unrelated to the industry. It’s great to take in some live theatre and hit up film festivals, but you also want some interests and habits that help you completely unplug from your work.
Physical self-care is just as important and emotional recharging. Often, we don’t realize the physical toll acting and hustling can take. Building in regular physical self-care is essential to your career stamina. If it feels overwhelming, start with the basics. Regular hydration, nutrition, sleep and even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference.
Maintain an attitude of forgiveness.
It’s no good to go through the motions of self-care only to beat yourself up for it and feel guilty about it later (trust me, I’ve tried many times). Not every day is made the same. There will be days when you have endless amounts to give and limitless inspiration. And there will be days when even phoning it in seems overwhelming. Be patient. Learn to listen to your body and spirit and take care of yourself.
At the end of the day, learning how to regularly recharge and take care of yourself isn’t just about making sure you maintain stamina and output in your career. We are all whole and complex people who deserve care and rest and uncapitalized joy. Advocating for your needs is essential, not just to make you a stronger, more well-rounded actor, but also to ensure a fuller and more enriching life.