Written by David Templin
“Are you nervous?” he asked me.
“That’s good! That’s a very good sign” he replied.
To me, at the time it didn’t feel that good. In fifteen minutes the curtain was rising. I was about to step on stage for the first time as an actor in a play and I was more scared than I had ever been in my life.
“Think of that anxiety as energy. You simply have to channel into your performance. It will charge your performance and make it more real! It is why we do this.”
My friend had been in three high school plays and to me he was a veteran and a mentor. His words encouraged me to step out onto to that stage and enjoy it. He was right, the anxiety I felt in anticipation of stepping out on stage turned into something more akin to energy. Once the lights hit my face and I could sense the presence of the crowd behind those lights I felt very alive. It was a revelation. It was only a high school play, but it was life changing for me.
More recently I have been trying to see if his advice can be applied to other types of anxiety. A few years ago I was diagnosed with work related anxiety. It was ever present and very hard for me to pin down. Rather than energize me, it dragged me down and made it more and more difficult to go into work each day.
Since then, I have retired. It is a little over a year now. I have been feeling very relaxed until recently. In the last couple of weeks, anxiety has returned. Once again it is ever present, and a little difficult to nail down what is the cause. I do have a few key suspects however.
I have recently been involved in a few volunteer projects to occupy my time, and I have started writing. The projects and the writing do not pay me. That is likely a source of some of my anxiety. I am sure at some point I will have to take on a project or two that does pay in order to supplement my pension, and that concerns me. But there is something else. I am starting to really care about these projects and I am getting excited about them all.
I do not think it is a coincidence that anxiety comes when I have started to care about these projects. The fear that I will not do a good job only comes when I care about the job I am trying to do.
At first, I was very worried that the anxiety had returned. Did that mean that I had to quit everything and step back again? But then for some reason I remembered my first play, and the advice of my acting mentor. Maybe it is a good sign. Maybe I can use it as a source of energy.
So far, I think it is working. Yesterday I used it as an inspiration to write two scenes for a screenplay and to prepare a draft budget for another project I volunteered for.
Today, it is the inspiration for this blog entry, and I will also use it to straighten out some of my personal financial records.
I am still aware that anxiety is not always a good thing. I still do self reflection each day to discover what it is that I am afraid of, so that I can address it directly. As Eva Watson advises in her recent blog entry, I identify, evaluate and reduce. In addition, I am trying to tap the anxiety as a source of energy and channel it into the areas that I care about.
Not everyone has ever stepped on stage to act in a play. But everyone has experienced anxiety in anticipation of something exiting in their life. Whether it was a first date, the first day of school, a new job or a sporting event, we all have felt anxious in a good way. In each of those circumstances we have used the anxiety and the adrenaline rush that accompanied it, to give us that extra spring in our step, as energy to apply towards what we were anticipating and as a way to feel more alive.
So, every morning when I wake up and I feel anxious, and I do not know why, I try to remember one of those occasions when the anxiety felt good, when it was energizing and helpful. I try to think about those things that I really want to do that day and I channel the energy towards those things. I try to harness the adrenaline both physically and psychologically to give you energy for the tasks at hand and to feel more alive when they are accomplished.
Image credit: David Templin
He keeps busy by volunteering to help seniors and helps organize an annual dinner to feed well over a thousand less fortunate people on Christmas Eve.
His greatest joy in life is when he successfully makes people smile and laugh.
He is a regular contributor and editor at MHT.