Filling The Void. (originally published in 2015)

So as a single mum and actor one of the things I constantly struggle with is feeling like I have a huge void in my life. I love being a mum, my son is my world, he drives me crazy at times sure but what parent can claim to never get driven a little round the bend from time to time, but here’s the thing, you spend all your time focusing on your child and then they go to school, or bed, or his dad’s for the weekend and you are left with all this spare time you have no idea what to do with, the void. The same is true of acting, you spend all your time preparing for your audition, creating your character, pouring yourself into your performance and then its over, the void appears. So I thought I might share some of my tips for avoiding, or at least lessening the void. I have so much experience battling this and in fact a lot of my depression came from feeling like I was facing an inescapable black hole of boredom, nothing to do, no job, no hope, at least that’s what it felt like. Slowly though, I have started to be able to battle this feeling, here’s how:

1. For the love of all that is holy, stop comparing yourself with other people!

Simple to say, almost impossible to do. Trust me I still have many a day when I’m on social media, or watching the telly and someone I know has an awesome picture of a crazy holiday or is in a brand new show and the green-eyed monster appears. I have to remind myself of my blessings (I know it sounds corny) what do I have in my life? If you’re a glass half empty kinda person maybe just start with the simple things, you don’t live in a war zone, you’re not homeless etc.. Something I do that helps me with this is I have a gratitude book and every night before I go to bed I write ten things that I am grateful for, usually it’s to do with what happened that day, again I know it sounds a little much but going to sleep feeling grateful for life instead of worrying about every little thing makes a lot more sense don’t you think? Also try to accept the fact that you are where you are for a reason, take responsibility for your actions and know that with work and consistency you can achieve almost anything, the wheel never stops turning.

2. Plan for the void.

Sometimes it’s a surprise but most of the time you know it’s coming, you know when a show is coming to an end and without doubt bringing with it the post work blues. I know I am going to have evenings and weekends free, so I try to make plans. I don’t mean you have to spend crazy amounts of money, or go on ‘Lord of the Rings’ adventures every day but, grab a coffee with a friend, deal with the paperwork you keep putting off, go to the gym, go for a walk, catch up on your favourite show. Whatever it is if you have a bit of a plan it will ease the blow as the structure of having something in place makes you feel safe.

3. Do something every day that makes you feel important.

Ok, this ones all about self-love (yeah I know how it sounds and hey if you need to get busy with yourself to feel good, crack on!) The point here is just carve out a little time for yourself everyday, my friend recently told me she has a ‘power hour’ every morning at the same time everyday to create the habit that includes:

10 minutes meditation (there’s a really good app ‘Headspace’ to help if you have no idea how to meditate)

5 minutes visualisation, which is all about visualising your goals, how it would feel to achieve, for example Jim Carrey wrote himself a cheque for ten million dollars for ‘acting services rendered’ when he was broke and kept it in his wallet. He was visualising his success a long time before he had it.

5 minutes affirmations. Affirmations are about creating sentences in the present about where you want to be in the future but writing them as if you had already achieved them for example if you are working on getting in shape you would say;

  • I eat well, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest to enjoy good health.

they are best done in the mirror, you will feel completely stupid doing them at first, embarrassed and like you are lying to yourself but if you keep at it you will break through that and they will help to start to help re-programme the way you think and help you be more positive. If you want to know more about affirmations I suggest you check out the book, ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers, it has a brilliant section on creating affirmations, there is also plenty of information online.

20 minutes exercise, this is obvious in its benefits, it’s great for your health and it clears your mind, stick to the time though and be clear about what you are doing before you start. Yoga would be good for this I think.

Read for 20 minutes. She finishes off by reading for twenty minutes, this can be anything but I would suggest an educational book, whether that be self-help/improvement, a book on acting or anything else that helps expand the mind.

That’s the power hour and my friend says it’s great for helping you find centre and balance. Of course that’s just a suggestion, there are loads of things you could do in your ‘me’ time I just think that sounds like a great way to start your day and increase productivity and positivity.

4. Do something every day that makes you feel like an actor

In this profession 98% of actors at any one time will be unemployed, that’s a lot! Take it from experience when you are pouring pints or inputting data and people ask you, ‘what would have I seen you in?’ its pretty hard to keep hold of your identity as an actor, so do something everyday that keeps you feeling connected. If you have some spare cash, take a  class (‘The Actors’ Guild’ do some brilliant classes at a reasonable cost) or go see a show. A tip my agent told me is to post about things you are doing on social media (keep it positive) as a lot of casting directors, agents, directors will check you out online and if they have seen you are investing in your career and supporting others it looks really good. If you are running a little low on funds, read, educate yourself, this doesn’t have to be expensive, join the library. Write to casting directors, keep a list of creatives you want to work with and list their past jobs so when you get to meet them you have done your research and stand out.

5. Set Goals

Set goals, there is a really great book on how to set goals constructively called (surprise, surprise) ‘Goals!’ by Brian Tracey and its very good to give your ambition structure. Setting goals always makes me feel good, like I can achieve anything, getting it all down on paper and seeing the steps just makes everything seem a lot more do-able.

6. Make sure acting isn’t all you’ve got.

Get a hobby! Seriously, find something you enjoy doing whatever that may be, learn something new because when acting isn’t there you will never feel empty because you have something else to fill your time plus learning new skills is great for your career and life in general.

7. Keep your friends and family close

Last tip and it’s simple, have a support structure, have people in your life you love and trust, most people have at least one person they can go to about anything but if not go out and meet new people, make friends. As I said in my last blog, life is a lot easier when you have a support group cheering you on.

So that’s it and I hope you find it helpful because I know just how lonely and unimportant those ‘off’ periods can make you feel but honestly you can use them to make yourself feel better and be better.

Until next time, stay proactive and love yourself.

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