Image Description: Unfocused image of a fading dancer wearing a dress
by Rachel Epley, LPC, MT-BC
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life in so many ways. Performing artists have been especially impacted by the economic, social, and emotional effects of the pandemic. Young artists who were just beginning their careers were halted in their tracks and progress toward their dreams postponed. Established artists who had come to rely on the security and consistency of regular work found themselves unemployed with uncertain prospects for the future. Performers who find a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose in sharing their art were suddenly stripped of an important part of not just their livelihoods, but their sense of self. In these incredibly challenging times, we can explore what it means to be a performing artist, and what might help fill the void that so many of us are feeling.
Celebrate your many roles: Being a performing artist may be a very important part of your identity, but it is not the only aspect of who you are. Make a list of your other roles by completing the sentence, “I am __________.” For example: I am a musician, I am a friend, I am a daughter/spouse/parent, I am a cook/homemaker/neighbor, etc. Take a moment to look over your list and celebrate the many roles you play in this world.
Focus on what you can control: Worrying about things that are out of your control is not only frustrating, it is fruitless. Instead, focus on what you can control. Try drawing two concentric circles and list all the things you can control in the center circle, then list all the things you can’t control in the outer circle. For example: Things I can control—How much of my free time I spend practicing, What auditions I sign up for, Who I reach out to for support. Things I can’t control: Which theaters stay open or shut down, Whether I get a part I auditioned for, How many other people are in the audition pool.
Connect with others
Isolation can make hard times even harder. In COVID times, it may take extra planning or energy to connect with others. Take a moment to scroll through your contacts or make a list of your closest friends and loved ones, and make a point of connecting with each of them over the next few weeks. You may even think about reaching out to other performing artists to connect about shared struggles, hopes, and sources of inspiration.
Find a creative outlet
If you are not able to perform as much as you’d like, perhaps you can find another way to use your talents and cultivate your artistic interests. Maybe you could perform for your family or friends each week, make a video diary of pieces you’ve been working on, or challenge yourself to learn something new that is related to your art, like composition, writing, or choreography.
Try to remember that this is a difficult time for everyone, and the challenges brought on by COVID-19 are not your fault. Think about what you might say to a friend in your situation, and then say that to yourself. You might try Kristen Neff’s Self-Compassion break when you’re feeling especially low or self-critical. More information at: https://self-compassion.org/exercise-2-self-compassion-break/