An Actor's Guide to Surviving February

Katie Redford gives us her tips on staying focused when the shine of the New Year has started to fade... 

Me on January 1st: I am going to be patient. I am going to succeed. I am going to meditate. I am going to be positive. I am not going to eat sugar. #NewYearNewM

Me on February 1st: JUST GIVE ME A CAKE.

If you feel like you’ve lost some momentum since the new year, here are a few suggestions to help you try and get back on track in February.

Consistency

This is key if you want any sort of success. If you started the new year off like me, then you’ll have had something you were keen to learn or improve. Mine was learning how to play the piano. (I like to think by having something else creative that we can put our mind to can simply help our sanity.)

I’ve had the desire to learn how to play ever since I watched La La Land. I had this romantic idea in my head that whatever my mood, I’d come home and just ‘bash it out’ on the piano. At the minute, all I can play is ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ which isn’t quite what I had in my mind but all in good time. It was only when I had a lesson at the beginning of February that I realised by practising a little bit every day, I’d come quite far without really noticing.

What tends to happen around this time is the new goals people were so set on achieving fade slightly into the background due to a lack of momentum. All you need is some consistency. Just by doing a little bit of whatever it is you’re aiming for, once a day (or as frequently as you can), will make a big difference.

Find a balance

I’m assuming the majority of you reading this are self-employed and if you are, you’ll know the general juggling act, when there’s no set routine, can be tricky. On a weekly basis, we’re encouraged to push forwards with our careers, whilst also making enough money to pay our rent, whilst also making sure we’re taking care of ourselves (physically and mentally), whilst also socialising, whilst also trying to keep our toe in by seeing theatre, networking aaaaand I’m exhausted.

I’ve seen so many friends in this industry, including myself, struggle with finding a balance because they haven’t got a place of work to actually physically be at for a certain time of the day, they haven’t got a boss breathing down their neck about their progress, but then equally, they haven't got that same boss telling them to stop. It’s easy to be a workaholic in an industry like this because generally we love what we do, but there has to be time to shut off from it too.

The other week, I was babysitting for my friend’s 8-year-old son, and I asked him how school was going. He sighed and said, “It’s alright. The homework’s pretty hard though.”

“Oh no, are you getting any help with it?” I asked, genuinely concerned that my 8-year-old mate is being over worked in the classroom. He leaned back on the sofa, put his hands behind his head and said, “Nah, I just get on with it. And then I’ll chill out and have a donut.” That, my friends, is my sort of balance.

Enjoy the little things

I got a tea pot for my birthday last year and it is the prettiest little teapot you’ve ever seen. When I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the things I’m meant to be doing, I stop and crack the tea pot out. Some would call it procrastination, but I prefer to think of it as just enjoying the little things. If you’re not feeling something, brighten up your day with these little things. Call a mate that you know will make you laugh, buy some daffodils (they’re £1 in M & S - £1!), download an audio book that’s been recommended to you, walk a dog, do whatever it is that brings you a bit of warmth.

We’re living in a society where success seems as though it’s an absolute must and therefore, I think it’s becoming harder to focus on simply finding the joy in things anymore. There are so many self-help books, TED talks, productivity planners and live seminars available to us, encouraging us to be ‘high achievers’ and to ‘strive’ on a daily basis, which is great. But we’re human and sometimes, we don’t feel like it. And sometimes, if we’re feeling low, we might just fancy wallowing in it instead of chanting affirmations at ourselves in the mirror to pick ourselves up.

I think it’s great that we have so many things available to us to help us succeed but I also think it’s equally as important to remember a life without it. My nan is 88 years old and I don’t think she’s meditated, filled in a productivity sheet or done a HIIT session in her life, and she is about as strong, optimistic and resilient as they come. She never gets bogged down with thinking she’s not enough as she is. When I asked her how I could be just as wonderful as her when I’m 88, without any form of hesitation, she replied, “Just enjoy the little things.” (Sheila can take the credit for this one.)

Find a mentor

In December, I went to meet a friend at her offices. She was running late as she was having a review meeting with her boss. As I waited in reception, a few employees walked past, carrying bags of alcohol. As they were waiting for the lift, I made awkward conversation; “Christmas party?” One of them looked at me, confused, and said, “…No. It’s Friday…?” Apparently, a fridge full of booze on a Friday helps ‘boost morale’ for everyone. When my friend came out, I asked about her meeting. She shrugged it off and said it was just a ‘monthly thing’ where her boss would check in with her, see if she’d like any guidance with anything and set her targets for the next month. How great is that?! AND she gets free San Miguels.

No wonder we all feel a bit deflated from time to time. We haven’t got anyone ‘officially’ stocking up our fridge, literally or mentally. I’m not getting the violins out for the self-employed here (I am a bit) but we don’t have someone who is employed to check in with us. So, it’s down to us to find someone who will happily do so. Make sure it’s someone you trust but also who you know won’t just tell you what you want to hear. If you need a push, let them know and make a monthly review session happen. Tell them what you’d like to achieve over the next few months and ask them to check in with you at the end of every month to see how you’re getting on. And if that sounds dull, throw something else into the meeting to make it enjoyable. (If donuts are your thing, I know just the man.) 

Katie is an actress and writer originally from Nottingham. Since playing the role of 'Carrot 2' in the local amdram's version of Jack and the Beanstalk, she's never looked back. She currently plays Beth in BBC 1's Still Open All Hours and Lily Pargetter in BBC Radio 4's The Archers. She was also a member on the BBC Comedy Writersroom.