By Judy Moore -
The film industry needs to put more emphasis on mental health. Everyone who works in the industry knows that it’s a high-stress business with erratic work schedules and unemployment periods that can last for months.
This past year the pandemic has shown just how unpredictable working in the film industry can be. The industry shut-down stretched our mental health and well-being to the limit, not to mention our finances. Let’s acknowledge that we can all use some self-care in terms of our mental health.
Our mental health is essential to our overall well-being. It includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental state affects how we handle stress, make choices, and relate to others. Positive mental health allows you to cope with high-stress situations, which most of us in the industry experience every day.
Here are seven practices that studies have shown are vital for maintaining good mental health:
- Get enough sleep.
Yes, it sounds like a cliché, but adequate sleep is necessary for the health of both our bodies and our minds. Getting enough sleep is challenging with the long hours we work in our industry. We’re often sleep-deprived all week and try to catch up on sleep on the weekends. Unfortunately, you can’t make up lost sleep. All we can do is try to get as much sleep as possible every night.
- Enjoy the little things every day.
We often film at some beautiful locations in our industry, but we’re too busy to appreciate where we are. I’ve filmed in magnificent gardens, beachfront mansions, and peaceful wine country settings. You may have, as well. But even the most spectacular locations can’t make up for the stress of continuously being tested for COVID-19 while working and having to wear a mask all day. Unfortunately, there’s just no way around that right now, so we need to try to relax and appreciate the fact that we’re working.
Enjoying where you are has been shown to increase contentment. Even a brief 15-minute walk in nature has benefits for your mental health.
- Exercise regularly.
We do get exercise working on set, but it’s not the same as a good cardio workout. Improving our cardiovascular health leads to reduced anxiety and more emotional stability. In our industry, those are benefits that will only help our careers.
- Practice deep breathing.
Slowing down and taking a deep breath has real health benefits. It’s especially helpful now, as we deal with mask-wearing, testing, and social distancing on set.
Practicing deep breathing every day can lower your heart rate and recharge your body. Even wearing a mask, we can still take deep breaths at work if we move away from others. I couldn’t have gotten through some days at work without deep breathing. Try it and see if you can feel your heart rate lowering.
- Volunteer or practice simple random acts of kindness.
Volunteering and being kind to others has been found to boost self-esteem and increase social connectivity. Higher self-esteem improves mental wellness. Studies have found that being of service to others also lessens depression. The daily demands of working in the film industry can take their toll on our self-esteem and relationships. Increasing our social connections is a plus for our peace of mind and well-being.
- Practice yoga.
Yoga has benefits beyond simple fitness. Studies have shown that it reduces anxiety and depression and calms our stress response systems. And there’s certainly plenty of stress and anxiety in our industry these days. I’ve practiced yoga for decades and can attest to its powerful benefits. We must practice ways to reduce the stress we experience daily in our high-pressure industry to maintain our mental health. It’s no coincidence that so many people in the film industry already practice yoga. If you’re not one of them, give it a try.
- Pet a dog.
Yep, Fido has health benefits besides just being cute. Dogs provide loyal emotional support and companionship. Therapy dogs are known to provide comfort and improve our emotional state. Simply petting a dog is calming and has been shown to improve mental health.
The therapy dogs you may have seen at hospitals and clinics are performing a vital service. We could use emotional support dogs on set. Every time you pet a dog, you’re improving your emotional state. That’s worth a few doggie treats.
Conclusion and Resources
We’ve all suffered from isolation this past year. This list isn’t a cure for mental illness. However, according to studies, these activities are proven tools for healthy mental health and overall wellness.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health problems, help is available. See the resources below.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat
Trained workers answer calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls are confidential and go to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network.
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727)
Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person Monday through Friday, 8 am – 8 pm EST.
Editor's Note: JUDY MOORE is a DGA assistant director. She has more than 25 years of experience working in films, television and commercials in both L.A. and Arizona. She's the most recent Past President of the APA and is on the Board of Directors. You can find other film industry-focused articles in her blog "Magic Hour" at MagicHourBlog.com.