How to Deal with the Stress of Filmmaking

    Working on a film crew and feeling stressed? 

    This article is about learning how to develop good habits to help you deal with stress in a healthy way – even in a busy and stressful context.

    There is much to say about dealing with stress, which is why I will be doing a mini-series on this topic. Dealing with stress involves body (physical), soul (emotions and our relationship with others) and mind (within). This first part is about the importance of taking care of our body.

    You can’t always change your situation, but you can change how you react to it.


    A common challenge for filmmakers is staying physically healthy amidst the busyness on a set or when working towards a film. We can sometimes think taking care of our body is not a priority when we are busy with so many other tasks. The realty is our body, mind and soul are connected.

    When our bodies feel weak, tired and malnourished, then it effects our mind, emotions, stress levels and work.  A healthy body means a healthy mind and a less stressful life. I realize there’s little time when working on a film project. Being a filmmaker myself, I know the challenge.

    Here are a few things I did which really helped me maintain a healthier lifestyle while working on a film or in stressful environments.

    -FOOD- 

    Replace fast food with easily accessible healthy food that can be eaten on your way somewhere. For example, instead of chips or a doughnut, go for apples, nuts, granola bars or dark chocolate. These foods give you energy and are healthier.

    -GET YOUR BODY MOVING-

    I am aware you’ll probably not have the desire to do an intensive work-out program like P90X when you get back from a 16 hour work day. My suggestion is to finish or start your day with a 15-20 minute walk. If your job requires you to be seated, this applies even more so to you.

    In fact, even if you have a more active job, finishing the day with a walk can be very beneficial, as it can help you relax and recenter your mind and body. There are many benefits of walking, one of which is the release of endorphins, which helps easing stress, tension, anger, fatigue and even confusion. It’s an easy way of staying fit, healthy and stress free.

    -WHAT TO AVOID- 

    Reduce your intake of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. I know you are probably tempted to stop reading this article right now, telling yourself, “Which filmmaker in the right mind actually discourages me from drinking coffee when making a movie?”.

    I am not telling you to quit, but simply to REDUCE your coffee intake, which will help you in the long run. Coffee is often discouraged when dealing with stress as it accelerates your heart beat. Try and replace it with food or drinks that will give you energy, but not affect your stress levels. For example, green tea or water with lemon are incredibly healthy options and they will give you even more energy than coffee.

    -REST WHEN YOU CAN- 

    I know this one is a big challenge because it’s something we cannot always fully control while working on a film project. In film, the work needs to be done and you do not necessarily have control over the start and finish of your day.

    I believe the best thing to do is to really make the most of the times we do have to rest. Resting doesn’t always mean sleeping. It means doing something you know will help you disconnect and let your body stop for some time. Even if it means taking a warm bath, watching a movie or reading a book.

    Find whatever works for you, but find ways you can disconnect from work and rest your mind and body. Also, if you do not have a lot of time, use it to sleep and make sure your environment will not disturb you while sleeping.

    -LEAVE WORK AT WORK-

    This one ties into resting. In order to rest properly, it is crucial not to bring your work back home with you. It can be tempting to only talk about your day and job to your family or roommates and to try and get more work done. But by doing so, you are connecting home and work in your brain. This will hinder you from resting, as your brain will have a harder time to make the difference between rest and work.

    It is essential to take care of our body. How we feel physically will effect other components in our life, including our work. Working in film does not mean adopting bad habits and an unhealthy lifestyle. It is simply a question of doing what you can and making the most out of your circumstances.

    Again… You can’t always change your situation, but you can change how you react to it.

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    • Rébecca Alarie is a writer/director/producer with Trois Flèches Productions, an independent film company located in Québec, Canada.

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