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Ep. 12: How can I help myself be more present when I’m feeling overwhelmed?

“With any sort of performance I had, if I couldn’t emotionally get there, then I’d think it wasn’t good. So when I start a performance, and I’m just feeling really blocked…it gets really in my way.” – Jessica Barrett Denison

On this episode of Speaking Of… I’m joined by my friend, actor-writer-photographer-editor, Jessica Barrett Denison aka Jess. Jess asked the question, “When I shut down, how do I come back?” The way I reframed Jess’ question was “How can I help myself be more present when I feel overwhelmed?” Her question is relatable to performers, especially if you ever have a feeling being “stuck” when the performance isn’t going the way you think it “should” be. And it’s also relevant for anyone with any degree of social anxiety. In the episode, we talk about some tools and concepts for helping you get present with what matters, whether you’re in performance or in conversation.

Interview Highlights:

  • The physiological response of overwhelm.

  • How actors’ specific experience (and expectations) around how they think they “should” feel might actually impede their presence in performance.

  • The importance of noticing subtlety in the sensations within your body—instead of focusing on emotions.

  • Why meditation is necessary for living in a modern world, and how it helps create more ease in performance.

  • Why having a training focused on scene-study alone often leaves un-embodied acting.

  • Tools for helping manage nervousness when engaged in conversation.

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