If you’re a worrier like me, the months between February and April are what I like to call the “waiting season.” Aka, the most grueling, hellish, and exhausting months of the year. There is no worse feeling than constantly refreshing your email for a status update regarding your internship applications, or having your heart race every time your phone rings hoping to hear about a new job offer. Not to be dramatic, but it feels like I’m living Groundhog Day, but the Sunday Scaries version.
Now I am an actor, which means that this “waiting season” phenomenon is a constant all-year reality for me. Even when I have a job, I am auditioning for the next one. The silver lining is that I am now an expert at managing the emotional rollercoaster called “uncertainty” that you didn’t even know you were in line for.
We all manifest stress and anxiety in different ways. Some of us get irritable, while others are nervous. Maybe you feel like your chest is tight or even that you are unable to be happy. Whatever it may be, it’s important to understand what’s going on inside that head of yours.
Essentially when we are stressed or anxious, the amygdala (the emotional part of the brain) senses trouble and releases a hormone called cortisol — coincidently nicknamed the “stress hormone.” Cortisol contributes to a lot of things in the body, but the most important is that it sets off our fight-or-flight instincts. The only way to combat this is by acknowledging the trigger: uncertainty
Regardless of your profession, actor or not, there are waiting periods in life. It’s inevitable. Whether you’re waiting to hear back on college acceptances, internship offers, or job promotions, here are some tips on how to overcome uncertainty, and manage stress so your life doesn’t have to come to a complete halt. Of course, if your anxiety is unmanageable and or crippling please seek professional help — it’s worth it in the long run.
- Establish a routine.
One of my mentors, Ryan Scott Oliver, told me the best thing I could do for myself was create a routine … and he was right. Humans love to have control and some sense of stability, whether you want to admit it or not. This doesn’t mean you cannot be a “free soul” or “adventurer,” but some structure will help create a foundation to weather the storm. Essentially, you want to create a routine you can do anywhere no matter the circumstance.
For example, in the morning, I get up, work out, take a shower, eat breakfast, answer emails, and start my day. In the evening, I do some stretching, do my skincare routine, read a bit, and write in my gratitude journal. These are things that I can do no matter where I am, and what my job is, so I know that even if I’m going through a major life change, I can count on some things to always be the same. Think of your routine like an anchor — it keeps the ship from drifting away
- Try some brain-dumping.
This is my personal favorite and something I do on a weekly basis. Brain dumping is a great way to unveil what is really bothering you and, in my experience, allows you to actually come up with a solution. You can brain dump any way you want, but I love to do what I call “The Backward Method,” which is rooted in the question “why?” To do this, pretend you had a bad day and ask yourself why until you get to a solution, like this: I had a bad day because I’m anxious. I’m anxious because I’m waiting to hear back from an internship and feel behind in my career. I feel behind in my career because all my other friends have heard back and know their summer plans.
The solution is to make summer plans that aren’t reliant on someone else. While you’re in a state of uncertainty, make a list of things you can do yourself that will help you continue to learn and grow for your dream job that you’re excited about. That way, regardless if you get the internship, you’re excited about how you’re going to spend your summer. Sometimes, the best thing to do is take control of the situation and remember to never wait for someone else to give you permission to start turning your dreams into reality.
Did you know that your body can produce a “happy drug?” It’s called dopamine, and it’s most commonly released through physical activity. I’m sure you’ve all heard of “runner’s high” and while I love to pretend that I am a marathon girly, running to catch the subway, or make it across the street before the crosswalk light starts flashing, is about as much running as you’ll catch me doing. This doesn’t mean that you cannot achieve “runner’s high” in different ways, though.
Sign up for a dance class, go on a hike, or even head out for a swim. If you don’t live somewhere warm, take a spin class, kickboxing class, or even an adult gymnastics class. When you are physically exerting yourself, your brain is unlikely able to focus on anything else. So while you can ride some happy endorphins post-workout, you can also take a break from whatever is causing you to be anxious.
- Repeat positive affirmations.
Now, you may think reading into angel numbers and interacting with Tiktoks for “something amazing to happen” is silly. And while I hesitate to admit it … I fully believe that speaking things into existence is a real thing. When you write, speak, or even visualize what you want to achieve, you subconsciously focus on those goals, and your habits will develop to support those dreams. Keep speaking your dreams into the universe, and remember what is meant for you will not pass you by.
- Celebrate your accomplishments.
While this seems obvious and silly, it can be hard to take the time to not only celebrate your accomplishments. But, it’s important to fully acknowledge all the perseverance and hard work that got you to where you are today. Take the time to be proud of yourself and soak in the moment — so the next time you are faced with uncertainty, you can remind yourself that it’s all worked out before. Remember: you are more than capable of accomplishing the next big thing in life.