10 Tips on How to Deal With Stress

Dear Friends: 

It’s been a busy two months for me.  I spoke on the international film production panel  at (TIFF) the Toronto International Film Festival, worked with my business partner on the casting of our amazing John Lennon project and attached an incredible actor, signed a deal on a TV pilot with Canadian Production Company, went back up to Toronto to meet with the showrunner on that project and then off to Israel for two weeks and came back to Los Angeles to prep for the American Film Market and then optioned another fantastic feature project, and on and on it goes.

You can see why I wanted to write this Blog on how to deal with stress!  Just looking at that paragraph is causing me stress.  I think we are all crazy busy these days.   Multitasking is a given and stress is something that everyone is dealing with… at every age, every level, in every business and in our personal lives.

When we’re experiencing stress, the messages going to the brain are distorted.  So, it’s extremely important that we all learn how to deal with stress.  Here are 10 tips to help. 



  1. BREATHING AND EXERCISE: I know this sounds like common sense.  However, are you really doing it… taking long, slow, deep breaths and taking the time to do this a few times throughout the day?  When I was preparing for a six-week medical procedure I had to do last year I was told I had to hold my breath for thirty-five seconds.  I had no idea that my breathing was so shallow. I could hold it for around ten seconds! So, I looked into a salt spa (more like a salt room at the spa) and bought a dozen sessions. You just sit for forty-five minutes and breath in the incredible air which is infused with Himalayan salt. I also bought Dr. Belisa Vranich’s book “Breathe” which is fantastic!  I increased the number of times I went to yoga and just stayed as conscious as possible throughout the day and took nice deep breaths. Within no time I could see the difference. Even if you’re not facing medical producers, start being conscious of the breathing. The healthy benefits are astronomical. What is your exercise routine?   Exercise is probably one of the most important proven stress reducers.  An article in Better Nutrition magazine recommends a weekly mixture of weights, aerobics and stretching.  For me, it has to be fun.  I love my yoga and Pilates classes.  I get to know the other people there and it becomes a social event at the same time. I especially love Zumba class every Saturday morning since it’s all about dancing!  I have a great trainer who I work with for my heavy weights.  And for me the treadmill is one of my favorites since I get to listen to all the podcasts and audio programs I love. Make it fun!
  2. WHAT YOU EAT MATTERS:  What are you eating?  Try making a list of everything you put in your mouth this week.  Be conscious and awake here.  Sugars and starch can make you feel edgy, depressed and even angry… all leading to fatigue and irrational thinking, which directly leads to stress.  Living foods can help reduce stress, give you energy and help create clarity.  Try reducing the sugars and starch and increasing the greens and see what happens.  
  3. CONFIDENCE LOWERS STRESS:   Years ago I interviewed Master Talent Teacher founder and 30 year commercial audition coach, Carolyne Barry.  Her top tip on dealing with stress was to “make a point of building your confidence.”  Carolyne had worked with thousands of actors and felt that the proper training with the right people combined with dedicated preparation is paramount to helping build confidence.  Feeling confident about yourself and your work will keep stress at bay.   
  4. HAVE A FULL LIFE: It’s important to make sure you have a full life and master being organized so that you can schedule in time for you!  Carolyn suggested that “We dance, lunch with friends, walk, read a good book… release from work.”  “We’re alive to enjoy the ride” she said, “so, how you treat yourself is important.  Surround yourself with empowering people and celebrate and appreciate every success, everyday… big and small.”  
  5. MEDITATION: Meditation is an excellent stress reducer says Transformation Coach and Soul Notes founder Barbara Daoust.  Even a few minutes a day at any time during the day is beneficial.  However, “the optimal times” Barbara suggests “are before bed and first thing in the morning when we are in our alpha state.  These are the best times to generate positive affirmations and new patterns of thinking that you want to develop.”  “Silencing the mind will help you focus,” she says, “and focus leads to clarity and the more clarity we have, the more  conscious we are.  The more conscious we are the more we can distinguish our thoughts.”  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, if you are a beginner or if you feel you just don’t have time check out www.learningmeditation.com.   And to check out Barbara’s site go to www.barbaradaoust.com
  6. THE PIVOTING PROCESS:  Barbara was telling me that of the over 70,000 random thoughts we have per day as many as 75 to 95% are negative! Does that blow your mind?  Seldom do we question our thoughts and yet they determine our feelings.  The more we focus on the negative the more the negative expands.  That downward spiral leads to stress.  Barbara feels that the pivoting process is a great tool to offset this.  “Ask yourself… do I feel powerful or powerless?  When you do this, you can consciously raise yourself into a better feeling thought.  When you’re feeling more powerful, you’re managing your thoughts versus your thoughts managing you.”
  7. TIME MANAGEMENT:  A lot of our stress comes from having too much to do and not enough time to do it.  One of the things that I did back when I started to experience stress was look at how I could improve my time management skills.  I was very weak in this area.  I took a time management workshop and the trainer suggested that we invest in a day planner or day timer.  I love it and I believe it actually reduces my stress.   Here are a couple of tricks that I use with my day planner.  At the end of each work day, I set up my list for the next day.  That way I am not taking work home with me.  It stays in the office.  Also, I list my jobs numerically in order of importance.  And I check them off as I go through the day which feels really good.  If there are items still left on my list I move them to the next day.  Give it a try. 
  8. WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE:  Words have a direct effect on us both psychologically and physiologically so be careful what you say.  My stress specialist told me to stop using works like ‘should’ and ‘must.’  Use preferences instead.  For example, replace “I should have gotten that role,” with “It would have been nice if I had gotten the role and I certainly did my best.”  It really does take the pressure off and you gradually learn to stop beating up on yourself.  
  9. CHANGE YOUR SELF-TALK: What are those voices in your head telling you?  Most of the time we are on autopilot and thinking the worst is a tunnel we tend to go down.  It’s called ‘catastrophizing.’  We predict that the worst is going to happen.  My stress specialist back in the 80s gave me a great exercise for this.  He had me keep a daily list of events that caused me anxiety.  I had to write out a brief description of each item with a parallel category describing “what’s the worst that could happen?”  I was always amazed and relieved to know that even the worse possible scenario was something I could handle and never life threatening.  It’s a great exercise.
  10.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK:  And like the quote says, “Live like your life depends on it.”  Like every topic today there are tons of resources available.  Google stress and you’ll find a wealth of information.   A couple of books that I found extremely helpful are Dr. David Burns “Feeling Good, the New Mood Therapy” and Dr. Albert Ellis’ “Rational Emotive Therapy – Self Help Techniques.”  If you feel that you really need help, make an appointment with a stress specialist.  Don’t let stress interfere with the joy and fun you want and deserve to have from life. 

BONUS: As I mentioned in number six, we have over 70,000 thoughts a day and for the most part those thoughts run our lives.  However, the more present we are and the more conscious we become, the more we can start taking control of our thoughts.   It takes work, but well worth the effort. The less present we are, the more we will be at the effect of our circumstances which leads to unnecessary stress.   As my coach used to say, be at cause in the matter. The best way to do that is to start being present. Stop now and take a few deep slow breaths. For me it helps when I count…. breath in for five, hold for one and out for six… repeat.

Suzanne Lyons is President/Producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. (snowfallfilms.com) having produced/exec produced 12 feature films to date.  She co-founded the Flash Forward Institute which focused on teaching the tools of business needed to market oneself in the entertainment industry.  Her book titled Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking was published by Focal Press  www.suzannelyons.net/indiefilm).  She’s hosted over 125 informational videos for the industry (www.youtube.com/suzannelyons).   When time permits, she does private career and business coaching as well as indie film producing coaching.  Suzanne is originally Canadian and lives with her husband in Los Angeles.