The Three Stages of Excess Mental Stress

man squeezing headWhat is Your Stress Barometer?

Stress is part of life. Short-term it can rev you up for an audition or a performance. Unfortunately, many performers tend to ignore stress until they are mentally and/or physically exhausted. The trick is to catch the early warning signs of excess stress and find ways to recover before you burn out.

The first stage that something is wrong often begins with feeling overwhelmed by too many demands on your time and energy. Symptoms range from fatigue to physical problems, such as headaches, back pain, or gastrointestinal problems. You may also find it more difficult to focus on your work and blank out during a dance combination, monologue, or song.

Performers who push themselves to work harder in spite of these early signs move into the next stage, as the constant onslaught of stress hormones begins to take its toll. Your eating, mood, and sleeping habits frequently change for the worse. You will also be more likely to try to conserve energy by procrastinating, showing up late, cutting classes, and withdrawing from friends.

The final phase of excessive and prolonged stress is complete exhaustion. Your immune system is impaired, making you prone to chronic colds, low grade fevers, allergies, and depression. To keep stress in check, it helps to use weekly rejuvenating activities like meditation, yoga and massage, take several 15-minute breaks during the day and an hour off from technology (including your cell phone), and plan a vacation instead of another gig. If you’ve developed a serious case of burnout, you may need three months of downtime to recover. The best remedy is prevention.

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