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Lifestyle & Wellbeing

Tips to ensure you get the rest you need, and why it’s important for your body, mind and acting career

The word ‘rest’ is thrown around constantly in the performing arts industry. With busy schedules, intense rehearsal hours, and extreme training demands, finding moments to rest often feels not only impossible, but counterproductive toward reaching our goals. However, the opposite is true. Rest is arguably the most important ingredient for progress, growth and success in both our personal and professional lives.

Why is Rest so Important?

How rest impacts the body
Resting enables our bodies to heal and refuel. It gives our bodies and minds the chance to respond to our training by adapting, repairing and regenerating body tissue (like muscle); forming mind-body connection and muscle memory; and furthering us towards our goals. If we train without resting, we not only risk burning out, but we won’t see the progress or results of our hard work either. If we don’t prioritise rest, we could regress in our training and overall wellbeing.

How rest impacts the mind
Rest is also crucial for our mental wellbeing. If we are mentally, emotionally or socially exhausted, it’s impossible to perform our best as performers, or as people. Adequately resting provides the space to decompress, take a breath and recharge.

This is essential for mental processing (like formulating memory and reflex), improving mind-body connection, processing new information (like choreography, lyrics and lines), managing a range of emotions, maintaining interpersonal relationships, learning, growing, and adapting.

All of these are vital processes in progressing, reaching our goals and performing at our very best.

How rest impacts your acting career
Think about being at a first rehearsal. That first day can be overwhelming but coming back the next day is always much easier. Why?

Because you’ve given yourself the chance to rest, and allowed yourself to effectively process, recover and rejuvenate (mentally and physically).

That essential rest provides new perspective, fresh eyes and clarity. In this way, rest is not only integral in improving and progressing toward your goals, but also in ensuring that you have the capacity to continue training and performing optimally.

As an added bonus, rest helps with immune function, sleep cycle alignment, digestion and general health and wellbeing, too.

6 Ways to Incorporate Rest into Your Life

1. Think of resting as a part of your training
Rest is as important as rehearsals, classes or audition time. Actively schedule it in each day to make sure that there’s time for mental and physical recovery. This can be short breaks that allow you to unwind and rejuvenate

For example, take a 30-minute break between class and revision time – or schedule in an hour of wind-down time before bed to allow your mind and body to relax and re-set.

2. Schedule in weekly rest
It’s advisable to include two full rest days each week. This means two days where you don’t train, perform or exercise at a high intensity.

In this industry, including two full rest days isn’t always realistic, so if that isn’t an option for you, try including at least one low-intensity, restorative training day to help your mind and body recuperate. Consider yoga, gentle stretching, Pilates, or practice mindfulness.

3. Listen to your body
Your body knows when it needs rest – whether mental, physical or both. Listen to it, trust it, and honour it.

4. Sleep
Good, restful sleep is crucial for both mental and physical recovery, and for progression. When we sleep, our bodies and brains are given the chance to replenish, filter, heal, process and form memory. As well as sufficiently resting in the day, make sure that you’re prioritising enough good quality sleep and getting in that crucial, healing, rejuvenating rest at night.

The amount of sleep recommended for adults above the age of 18 is roughly seven to nine hours per night, however, for many people, sleeping well can be difficult. Because we are all unique, it’s recommended to seek advice from a specialist if you’re struggling to sleep – whether that be an exercise scientist, sleep scientist/specialist, psychologist or a GP.

A few simple interventions that you could try yourself are limiting light exposure before bedtime (including screens); ensuring that you have a comfortable, safe sleeping environment; taking time to destress before bed; and, where possible, implementing consistency into your sleep schedule. You could also try listening to Spotlight’s podcast meditation on deep relaxation for sleep.

5. Make space for mental rest
Allow your brain to relax and stop thinking about your career or training for a moment. This is a great tool to help clear your mind and ground yourself after a long day of training or performance. Use it to reconnect to yourself and your life outside of your career, gain perspective and recuperate.

Practical ways to do this would be reading a book, doing a hobby that you love, listening to a podcast, practising mindfulness, or meditating.

For more ideas, take a look at our guide to finding joy in your acting career.

6. Seek help
The balance between training and resting is individual-specific and can be difficult to navigate alone. If you would like personalised guidance, look into working with a specialist like an exercise scientist or bio-kineticist to help you find the right balance for you.

Now you know why rest is critical to success, and why managing your wellbeing, investing in career longevity and creating a good quality of life are so important for you as a performer. By following the above tips to incorporate rest into your daily life, you can ensure that you reap the rewards from your hard work and training for years to come.

Take a look at our website for more tips and advice about wellbeing.

Ariella Barnett is an exercise scientist, sports physiologist and performing artist. Combining her experience as a professional performing artist with her expertise as an exercise scientist, Ariella guides industry professionals to reach new heights. Specialising in working with performing artists, Ariella optimises overall performance, manages well-being, embraces individuality and prevents injury to ultimately build long, sustainable, successful careers.

Headshot credit: Justin Munitz / Headshots Cape Town

Image credit: Daniel de la Hoz / iStock