As I stand on the precipice of adulthood (yikes) I’ve been trying to focus on the life I want. As actors, our bodies are everything. They are the vital instrument to our success. We need to take care of our brains, our lungs, our stomachs, our muscles, and every vein and vessel that come with it. Typically, people don’t think about taking such in-depth care of their bodies. As actors, I’ve found that we are more in-tuned and sensitive to what our bodies need.
It’s taken me almost four years of college to become more mindful of how to nourish my mind and body. Having been a vegan for six months now, I’ve been changing my perspective on food and my own personal relationship with it. Food is fuel and that’s a fact; science agrees that we need this delicious, delicious fuel to live. So great, we’ve got that out of the way. But every now and then, I love to eat bags of chips and fresh salsa at a time. Give me a loaf of bread and it may or may not be gone by the end of the day.
And then comes the inevitable regret. Which is where taking care of our brains comes in.
I’m not ashamed to admit I suffer from an eating disorder and body issues. I’m certain I’m not alone in saying that I’ve had a very damaging relationship with food for much of my life and I still struggle each day even if it doesn’t seem I do. I can be positive and “you are enough, you are so enough” one hour and the next I am hiding out in my room asking “why God why?”.
Taking care of one’s mental and physical health, especially as an artist, benefits you personally and professionally. Therapy is an incredible outlet and exercise only increases the positives (exercise gives you endorphins, after all). Medicine, of course, is a very personal decision and if you feel you need it, don’t be ashamed. There are others in your position and I guarantee that artists you love and dearly admire have taken medication to aid their mental health at one point or another.
Mindfulness is a practice I’ve been playing with other the past four years and, as much as I sometimes hate to admit it, it’s the way to go. Taking out your headphones or turning off the TV when you eat forces you to stay in the moment and be mindful about where you are in that point in time. It’s so easy to fall into the cycle of mindless eating and eventual regret when you’re listening to some sort of media. When you’re making your food, try to focus on what you’re putting on your plate and how it’ll make you feel. Your relationship with food will become more kind and, in turn, promote self-love and care. It might not be as fun as bath bombs but you’ll see over time how your body thanks you for getting enough protein, vitamins, and minerals as well as the other nutrients that fuel your instrument.
I know not all of us are privileged to have a gym membership. Try stretching in the morning or doing that plank or pushup challenge your friends have been talking about. It’s easy to do in your room for as long as you want per day! Walks do a wonder of benefits for your mental and physical health. My university offers a movement for the actor course and my professor has given the class basic strength training exercises and, over the past week, I have noticed a difference from only 1-5 minutes of practicing these exercises.
Your body is a gift and a job simultaneously. We are given this awesome responsibility as actors to be the vehicles for stories and points of view. Taking care of ourselves ensures a long and prosperous future in the field we love so dearly. Properly fueling our bodies and caring for ourselves mentally as well as physically sets you up for a healthy and long life as well as a prosperous career.
Photo: National Theatre School of Canada