Info

Posts tagged improv for anxiety

If, like me, you’ve been sucked down the stream of raw sewage that’s social media, I feel you. It’s hard not to, frankly, when the freedoms we thought we enjoyed turn out to be smoke and episodes of Black Mirror.

But if clicking emojis till your thumbs bleed has left you numb, doing it more won’t help.

tumblr_noijbi18bx1uvdl2wo2_r1_400

In 2005, when iPhone was still a gleam in Steve Jobs’s eye, Cameron and I were detached from the rest of the world. Back then the isolation was caused by his Generalised Anxiety Disorder. We holed ourselves up in our apartment and fretted inside a prison of our own making. The Internet’s a bit like that; we can see and talk to people, but there’s a wall of glass between us.

How we crawled out of that black hole and reconnected with humanity was the same way you can now: by taking an improv class. (And if you sign up on your smartphone, I won’t tell anyone.)

“We approach improvisation as a constant examination of the moment before us.” – Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ & Dave Book

The first time I studied with David Razowsky, he said, “I’m hiding a class on mindfulness in this improv workshop.”

Improv teaches us to be present, to observe and listen to our scene partner, and respond by committing fully to our emotions. Focusing your attention takes practice, as anyone who’s meditated knows. But the more you do it, the easier it gets.

The other great thing about improv is, it’s fun. Laughter, like crying, is a form of release. Which makes it a powerful antidote to anxiety, depression, and fear. As Stephen Colbert says, “You can’t laugh and be anxious at the same time.”

There’s nothing more satisfying than taking your feelings of rage and channeling them into a scene about failed spaghetti sauce. Improv gets us in touch with our imaginations again. When you create something out of thin air, it’s a powerful reminder of our ability to effect change.

There’s a lot of scary stuff happening right now, and the problems are very real. But staring at a screen for hours won’t help. If you’re feeling disconnected, the answer isn’t stewing over Snapchat, Periscope, or Twitter. It’s listening, responding, and connecting with others in real life.

Now turn off your phone, go out and create something new.

So glad we got to spend this time together. (Photo © Steve Hobbs)

There are dozens of different classes available, for Beginners to Advanced, from Improv for Actors to Improv for Anxiety, Business, Singles and more. Just Google “improv classes” and your home town or city to see what’s available near you.

More and more people are discovering the power of improv to help them overcome anxiety, that it’s OK to make mistakes, and in fact, life’s way more fun when you laugh and embrace them instead of striving for unattainable perfection.

If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside the Improv For Anxiety classes Cameron teaches at Second City, here’s a look courtesy of CTV. Click here to view.

Imperfect photo by Sally Smallwood

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 9.48.59 AM

For ten years, I watched helplessly as Cameron spiralled downward into anxiety, agoraphobia, and depression. Just the thought of doing stuff outside his comfort zone made him physically ill – and everything was outside his comfort zone.

So how did he go from sick and scared to an improv ninja who now teaches others how to overcome anxiety?

Find out, in this funny and inspiring series of posts he wrote for his blog. If you’ve ever thought being anxious was a life sentence, this is for you:

How I Got Over My Anxiety Part 1: Deciding To Change

How I Got Over My Anxiety Part 2: Seeing A Therapist

How I Got Over My Anxiety Party 3: Meditation

How I Got Over My Anxiety Part 4: Self-Help

How I Got Over My Anxiety Part 5: Improv!

How I Got Over My Anxiety Part 6: Facing Fear

How I Got Over My Anxiety Part 7: Accepting Myself As I Am Right Now

Cameron was a guest on SiriusXM’s Canada Talks Speak Easy with Carla Collins yesterday.

While he was waiting to be interviewed, he noticed another man sitting alone. Cameron introduced himself and asked the man, whose name was Scott, what he was there to talk about.

“Oh, I’m with Commander Hadfield,” Scott replied, indicating the studio.

Cameron’s eyes widened.

“You mean I’ve gotta follow him?”

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 10.21.05 AM

They laughed, and Scott asked what Cameron did. He explained that he was there to talk about improv, and how it helped him overcome his anxiety.

They chatted for several minutes, and Cameron forgot all about any nerves he might have had. When the studio door opened, Scott told Cameron, “You’ve got to meet Chris!”

As Cameron told me this story, he said, “The ‘old me’ would have sat by myself, concentrating on not being nervous. Instead I was focused on what was happening now. Laughing with Scott was so much better than focusing inward.”

(Improv analogy, anyone?)

If you’d like to learn more about improv for anxiety (and being here now), check out Cameron’s new website at playwithfireimprov.com.