A life lesson in stress…

There comes a time when we have to re-evaluate our lives and our plans. Take a close look at what is working, what isn’t, what is possible and what is not possible. For a number of years now I’ve been throwing myself head-first into project after project – I’ve been incredibly busy working with many different hats on. It’s been hard work but great fun and very rewarding.

I’ve achieved an amazing amount of things that I feel incredibly proud of and as I always say I strongly believe that every experience we have, whether bad or good helps to in some way shape who we become. Every decision we make has a knock on effect to other parts of our lives.

For the longest time I’ve drifted straight from one project to another with a new one always arriving at just the right moment. There’s always been a certain synchronicity¬†about how my life has worked out so far and it has always suited me just fine.

For the last year or so I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been with more different projects going on than I knew what to do with.

To give you an idea here is a rough breakdown of some of the areas I’ve worked in over the past year. I currently work part-time for Bath Spa University as Assistant Events Manager & Duty Manager of Burdall’s Yard looking after the running of the venue and helping with Arts Administration and Marketing. Over the last year I’ve created and implemented the lighting design for at least 10 fairly large productions for local companies as well as working as a general technician for a whole host more across many different venues in the South West. I’m also currently on the Executive Group for the Cultural Forum for the Bath Area attending regular meetings for that and running Theatre Bath which involves lots of regular meetings, attending conferences, writing funding applications, organising events, running social media campaigns and responding to an increasing volume of email enquiries from different people ranging from parents wanting advice on which college courses to get their kids to apply for in this area to local companies wanting audition info posted and a whole host of other bits and pieces that fall in the middle of that. We’ve also just joined forces with the Bath Chronicle to help with arts coverage and reviews for productions in the Bath area. To coin a theatrical phrase, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes as well that not a lot of people know about (and I’m certainly not about to publish all of that here) but I figured everyone has stuff going on right? That’s just life so we all deal with it and carry on.
So I’ve been trundling on and on. Taking on more and more things and not really appreciating how much the workload had been effecting me. Until last week in the middle of the Bath Fringe Festival where we were hosting 30 events over a two-week period. I began to realise that something wasn’t right. I thought at first it was just because I was completely over-tired and exhausted by the organisation of the whole thing and the amount of hours I was putting in to it on top of everything else that was going on. I was struggling to answer simple questions and reacting irrationally and emotionally to the simplest and strangest things. For no real reason I felt very emotional and teary and I had no idea why. And I have no problem admitting it scared the hell out of me. On one occasion I finished and went to catch the bus home. I missed the bus by a couple of minutes and there wasn’t another one for half-an-hour. Sounds simple enough, if slightly irritating. But it really upset me for no apparent reason so I figured instead of waiting for the bus I’d walk along to the next bus stop, which I did. And all was ok until for no reason I just felt completely over-whelmed with emotion and began to feel really anxious. I’ve suffered from anxiety attacks in the past but managed to beat them and control them but this was like nothing I had ever experienced before – it was so emotionally over-powering that it completely shook me up. I didn’t know what to do or how to overcome it. It was the longest and most uncomfortable walk to the next bus stop I had ever experienced. I’m pretty good at snapping myself out of things these days but I really struggled to stay calm and just get to the next bus stop. By this time I was in no-mans land, drifting somewhere equidistant between the two stops. So I had no choice I had to press on.

I eventually got to the stop and sat on a bench and that’s when I knew I needed to do something and get help. So I text a good friend who happens to be a life coach and she agreed to meet up with me, which immediately made me feel better. I’d taken the first step.

As it turns out I was completely over-stressed with everything that was going on but couldn’t see that myself. I was so wrapped up in the mind-set of getting things done and making other people happy that somewhere along the way I forgot to focus on my own needs and my own happiness. Once this had been pointed out to me it felt like a cloud had lifted and I was able, with the help of my friend to begin implementing tiny things to enable tasks to still get done but without completely over-working myself to do them. We had a plan and it worked.

So, it’s because of this that I’ve decided that I need to make a few changes to stop this happening again.

The biggest one is that I’ve decided to take a step back from technical theatre for a while. For anyone who has read any of my previous posts you’ll know that finding well paid work in this area has been an issue for a while and unfortunately it just isn’t a secure way to live anymore. There are too many people under-cutting jobs or doing them for free and I can’t compete with that. So for those reasons I’ve decided to back away. I’m not completely leaving it behind, there are a few shows that I have agreed to do but I’ve had to back away from some to give myself some time off.

What I need is a bit of time to reflect and figure out what I really want to do and how I can make that work. I know this is the arts and we all enter into it with the knowledge that creating a career from it can be incredibly difficult but it’s never been quite this tough before.

So what will the future hold? I’m not sure, but I can safely say being brave and making the decision to walk away for a bit has lifted a massive weight from my shoulders. I feel liberated and ready to face new challenges. Yes, change can be scary but sometimes it really is worth the risk. I want to be able to live my life and not simply pass through it and I now feel that I can find a positive way to do that.

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