Irecently had the good fortune of booking a TV gig on a major network television show. I was elated and so stoked to have booked anything right now. To be surrounded by creatives, on a set, and acting again was such a joy.
It was a great experience overall, for which I am deeply grateful. I never take work for granted, pandemic or not.
That said, working during a pandemic is not without stress. My anxiety was sky high. I was just sure I’d become infected with COVID-19 (despite all my best efforts), fail the test, and be unable to do the job. I wasn’t that worried that I’d become seriously ill, but worried about passing the virus on to the cast and crew. It became almost an obsession; I was super-paranoid about it. My thoughts, left unchecked, ran wild.
Over the past year, I’ve been certain I had COVID-19 no fewer than ten times. I don’t think I’m alone in interpreting every symptom as a sure sign of infection. But off I go to get tested and the result is always negative.
There may be some people who are unaffected mentally, emotionally, and physically. But for most people I know, and certainly for me, I’m not functioning optimally, particularly when it comes to feeling emotion. I don’t let myself cry or feel the full range of human emotion. I just keep a stiff upper lip and slog through my responsibilities. I don’t think many of us have allowed ourselves the time and space to process what is happening, or not happening, especially to performing artists.
This particular job came at a stressful time. My day job has been busy and I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff, so together with the infection fear, it felt like a triple threat (and not the good kind!). I even experienced chest pains, which turned out to be anxiety, not respiratory failure connected to COVID-19, as I initially feared.
In desperation, I Googled “how not to worry.” It seemed silly, but I am so thankful I did! One of the first things to come up on my search was Dale Carnegie’s slim volume from 1948, Stop Worrying and Start Living. At just 99 cents on Kindle, I instantly bought it.
I want to share some of the takeaways with you, dear singers, because God knows, we all need to worry less.
I WILL NOT WORRY. Could it really be that simple? Can we choose not to worry?
I believe the answer is yes.
When you feel yourself spiraling, projecting into the future, and imagining worst case scenarios, just stop it.
Be firm and tell your brain, “I will not worry.” It works!
Carnegie also tells us to live in “day-tight compartments” of 24 hours. If you feel yourself beginning to worry, you just have to stop until bedtime. “Tomorrow,” as Scarlett O’Hara famously said, “is another day.”
Mentally, I have begun to build iron-clad doors between today and the past and the future. It helps me to visualize an actual door separating this day from yesterday and tomorrow. I focus only on today.
When I find my thoughts spilling into tomorrow or yesterday, I STOP. I can control what I think about. As Oprah says, “Choose a different thought.”
So when you feel worry overtaking your thoughts, do the following:
Tell yourself, “I will not worry!”
Live in Day-tight compartments
These two principles have radically altered my daily experience of life. I find myself letting go of audition outcomes sooner and easier. I am also dealing with rejection with greater calm. I’m less quick to jump to the worst answer to: “What if?” I’m even letting go of old grudges and resentments, because I’m so much more focused on the present.
The artist’s life is low on control even in normal times. During a pandemic, we can control even less (when theaters open, when concerts get the green light). But we can still control our thoughts. What’s more: we have to. Mental discipline is a crucial part of success as an artist. And it’s something we can choose to strengthen, like a muscle.
I find myself saying, “I will not worry” up to 20 times a day. I will say it 100 times a day if it means less anguish, anxiety and heartbreak.
We will not worry. We got this. We will prevail. We will.