The loss of Robin Williams and how to deal with stress in a stressful field.

Posted by Mark Hedengren on

There is a tremendous tragedy with the loss of Robin Williams. He was an astonishingly creative man. Now clearly there are a lot of biological factors and others, but I’ve seen a lot of tragedy in my short time in the arts and I do feel it’s extra important to try to take care of yourself in this field. I am always encouraging fellow artists to take care of themselves. To paraphrase Woody Allen, “In art there is talent, work and the rest is psychotherapy.” I do feel that arts, and film in particular, are stressful field. They are both highly competitive and there is a deep personal element on the line. Also film has the uniqueness of very high highs and very low lows. In a way the highs have the side effect of make the lows seem all the lower.
So here is a brief list of things you can do to fight stress in your work.
Exercise is the excellent way to fight stress. Richard Branson’s top two pieces of advice are “exercise and to do list”— pretty simple but hard to do. I like to run. I run 3-5 miles a day and really enjoy it. At first it’s difficult and you have to stretch out after every mile. But after a few weeks you feel like you are flying.  Other options are walking. To quote Ozzy Osborne, “Walking is excellent exercise and most anyone can do it.” Another thing I do when I’m downloading/rendering files or something I do a few pushups. My brother put a pull-up bar by his computer and does the same thing. He’s in better shape than I am because he is an economist and it takes longer for the computer to process his data sets.  An excellent book on how exercise can help you think better and be more creative is Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
Think of the worst thing that can happen…
A good way to not worry about things is to think of the worst thing that can happen… come to grips with that and then move on. For example when applying to a job the worst thing that can happen is you will not get the job.  If you are ok with that, then you don’t have to worry. This principle is in the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. (
Social connections and having a good relationship with your family
Social connections and family relationships are of course complicated ,but can improve you ability to deal with stress and are worth maintaining. A good book that covers all of these aspects is The Science of Happiness: How our Brains Make Us Happy and What We Can do To Get Happier (
Of these three things I think exercise is the simplest and has the biggest pay off. You can do a pushup right after you finish this email and go for a walk this evening.  But being ok with the worst thing that could happen and maintaining positive relationships will make coping with stress easier as well. In life we have things that cause us stress and things that help us cope with stress. Some stress you can’t get rid of and we all have chosen a pretty high-stress field so we should all try to introduce as many stress copers into our lives as possible.

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