How Actors Can Stay Healthy During the Cold Months

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It’s hard to believe but November has arrived and with its frigid temperatures (dropping lower every day) comes what could be considered the actors’ Everest: cold and flu season. Getting sick sucks no matter what your job is, but for actors, you are your product and when you’re under the weather, that product is impaired. That’s why, during these next few months, you’ll have to take even better care of yourself than usual, and Backstage Experts are here to help with their most useful tips for health and wellness.

Yes, you are actually what you eat.
“Here’s how good nutrition can fuel your potential: You take a fish oil supplement daily, boosting your brain health so you memorize lines faster and retain them with ease. You drink green tea daily. This provides your instrument with the amino acid L-Theanine, proven to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of zen. Hello, grounded auditions! You include a handful of pumpkin seeds in your diet every day, offering your system a super source of zinc that can reduce breakouts and boost the health of your skin cells.” —Kyle Buchanan, actor, health and nutrition expert, and Backstage Expert

Be your immune system’s best friend.
“Keep your immune system happy. To prevent seasonal sickness, you need to keep your lymph circulating properly. Lymph is your body’s garbage system; it is tasked with removing germs, viruses, and bacteria from the bloodstream. Unlike the circulatory system and the heart, the lymphatic system has no pump; it only moves through breathing and exercise. Dedicating yourself to a regular workout regimen is also essential. I’m especially fond of yoga due to its emphasis on breath and movement. You can also learn how to do release your own lymphatic ducts here.” —Andrew Byrne, voice teacher and Backstage Expert

Seriously, mind that immune system.
“Limit your sugar intake. It’s easy to reach for sweets when you’re tired, but try to resist! Sugar suppresses your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to any bugs that might be going around.

“Make sleep a priority. Sleep deprivation also has an immune-suppressing effect. For the healthiest sleep, get seven to nine hours, wear a sleep mask so it’s completely dark, and try to sleep in a cool room.

“Take vitamin D. Vitamin D modulates your immune system, wards off infection, and keeps your bones strong. Aim for 2,000–4,000 IU (two to four drops of liquid vitamin D) every day.” —Kyle Buchanan

Yes, actors do call out sick from set.
“Movie sets are a lot like other jobs; it’s inevitable that people will get sick and miss work and the executives are usually equipped to handle such extremes, should they arise. Simply knowing this can take the pressure off of you and allow you to take care of what matters to you and the production: your health.

“If you get sick and are too ill to perform, your focus is to get back to 100 percent as soon as possible. Don’t worry; trust that everything will work out for the best—it always does. Never lose sight of that, especially when your health is concerned.” —Shaun Grant, actor, writer, coach, and Backstage Expert

Be a fierce protector of your vocal health.
“As actors, we’re sometimes asked to do things that we aren’t comfortable with and when this happens, it’s important that we’re our own advocates.

“This is often easier said than done when your job is on the line, and the challenge for the voice actor is two-fold. First, there’s tremendous pressure on the actor to say “yes” to every direction or suggestion. Two, we can’t see the voice. Unlike staged combat where it’s clear someone is going to get hit by a sword, we can’t see damage to the voice.

“I find that asking a question is a great way to start a conversation before resorting to an outright no. When you know what the director’s vision is, you may be able to work collaboratively to find what’s needed to tell the story while allowing you to be safe and get the job done. Here are some common situations you may find yourself in and how to deal.” —D’Arcy Smith, associate professor of voice and speech at the University of Cincinnati, CCM, and Backstage Expert

Invest in supplements.
“If you are eating a balanced diet, you may not need supplements. However, a gummy vitamin each day can’t hurt. During cold season I use Airborne Cold Eeze, and echinacea, an herb that encourages the immune system and reduces many of the symptoms of colds, flu, and some other illnesses.” —Denise Simon, New York-based acting coach, career consultant, and Backstage Expert

Be (very) mindful of pre-set nutrition.
“The morning of your shoot avoid having a ton of carbohydrates by themselves. Things like cereal, toast, or even a fruit salad are no-nos. When you have all this sugar, you send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster that will increase your appetite and lead to a mid-morning crash.

“Instead of those excess carbs, include some good fats in your breakfast. Add coconut oil in your tea or coffee. Have soft boiled eggs with sauteed veggies. Make a shake that includes fat (coconut oil, MCT oil, nut butters), a protein (protein powders), and some veggies and berries.” —Kyle Buchanan

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