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Lifestyle & Wellbeing

Yoga therapist and movement coach Sarah Perry offers tips for self-care this winter

Movement hydrates you… It enables you to shift blockages, whether these be physical, mental or otherwise.
Sarah Perry

Self-care is vital for everyone no matter who you are, what you do or where you are at in your life. It’s something that is often neglected and taken for granted. Being an actor or working within the creative industry, although richly rewarding, can be challenging on many levels. You can swing from career highs to financial instability, tackle emotional challenges, and have health ups and downs.

Over the next 14 days, my work as a Movement Director will take me to Bournemouth, Bristol, Norwich and Devon, not to mention London, and I have just been told to pencil in a two day trip to Moscow and possibly Stoke – phew, exhausted already! It sounds glamorous but the truth is it can really take a lot out of you moving from base to base, location to location, project to project.

I’m not complaining, I truly adore what I do, but I have learned along the way the importance of self-care. There are many tips to offer actors and other busy creatives which can be applied very simply, focusing on the importance of better and more conscious self-care. Here are a few that have supported me along the way:

1. Keep hydrated

Don’t underestimate the power of water and frequent hydration – for both physical and mental health. Our bones, muscles, fascia, organs, and brain need nourishing and it’s important to note that tiredness, illness, negativity, anxiety, depression and stress all get fed and fuelled by dehydration. I always start my day with a hot water and lemon – a great morning boost.  

2. Keep breathing

Actors are constantly switching from character to character, body to body, personality to personality. Before we can even consider becoming ‘another’, we need to first connect with ourselves. A great way to connect and feel supported by ourselves is through the breath. Take at least 5 minutes a day to just sit or lie back and breathe.

Here is a simple exercise: close your eyes, turn your attention inwards. Place your hands on your upper chest, feel the subtle movement of the chest rising and falling as you breathe in, and as you breathe out. Feel the body supporting the breath and the breath supporting the body. Take a few breaths in this way. Then place your hands on the ribs, the sides of the body, and with light pressure feel the expansion of the ribs as you breathe in, and the release as you breathe out. Take a few breaths in this way. Then place your hands on the belly, feel the gentle rise of the belly as you breathe in and the fall of the belly as you breathe out. Take a few breaths. Then release your arms by your side. Take a few breaths, really noticing the chest, ribs and belly all working together. Not only will this exercise facilitate the idea of feeling more self-connected, but it should inspire a sense of calm too.    

3. Keep inspired

Remember when you first fell in love with your craft. The moment things get monotonous or tiresome, think back to what initially inspired you. Was it theatre, film, plays, reading, attending workshops, being in the rehearsal room, playing dress up? Whatever it was that has got you to this place, remember it, and during those times when you feel creatively stagnant or stale, re-inspire and re-energise those creative juices.

Read a play, see a show, watch your favourite film, meet with positive, like-minded individuals who share your interests. Stay fresh, stay inspired. When we feel stuck and unhappy, it can lead to ill health and a weakness in mental strength. Do more of what you love, keep positive, and find more things in your life that make you feel good and that are good for you.

4. Keep moving

Of course I’m going to recommend you to move! Appropriate movement is highly beneficial on many levels. Movement hydrates you, stimulating synovial fluid – hydrating the bones and joints. It enables you to shift blockages, whether these be physical, mental or otherwise. Again, when we feel stuck or low in energy, movement helps us to unstick, re-energise, and the changing of our physical dynamics helps in turn to change our minds in a positive sense.

Choose a movement practice that you love and one which resonates with you, whether it be yoga, pilates, spinning, martial arts, dance, or gymnastics! A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. I would urge you to try movement practices that perhaps you haven’t tried before too. Challenge your abilities and interests, keep inspired. We all know that when we move we feel better, so at the very least put on your favourite track, dance around the living room and notice the moody blues turn into groovy moves. 

5. Keep rested

Getting enough sleep is crucial. How can we be well and give ourselves the best physical and mental support we need if we are tired and running on empty? With intense work schedules, last minute self-tapes to make, and travelling here, there and everywhere, it is easy to burn out. If 8 hours of recommended sleep is impossible to achieve, ensure that you at least have moments of rest and rebound within your day. Between activities, jobs, castings, rehearsals or whatever it is you are up to.

Before moving on too quickly to the next activity, take a moment to rest or rebound from the last. Have a cup of tea/hydrate, snooze, meditate. Just pause and take a needed moment to transition from one activity and head space to the next. Be sure to pause, rebound, release, quiet and rest. Find that balance between exertion and recuperation.

Thank you to Sarah Perry, Movement Director, for this piece. Sarah’s initiative Shapes in Motion helps promote wellbeing for actors.