"If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, change your mind. If you don't, you're simply ducking your responsibilities." -- Ann Richards
If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of others. That is why airlines tell you that in case of a drop in cabin pressure you should put on your oxygen mask before assisting others with their mask. If you are a caregiver for somebody having health problems you can't meet their needs if you let yourself get too exhausted.
If you don't take care of yourself, you can't entertain others. About twenty years ago many instructors taught that clowns should not eat while in make up and costume because if children saw a clown eating it would ruin the fantasy that the entertainer was a "real clown." I knew of several clowns who passed out while performing because they tried to follow that rule. An unconscious clown being administered first aid definitely destroys the fantasy. I never passed out, but I know avoiding eating negatively affects my ability to interact with audience members. Personally I have trouble concentrating and am much less patient if I get too hungry. By making sure I eat when I need to, I do a much better job performing. If I am booked to perform during a period that overlaps a meal, I make sure that I have a break scheduled that will allow me to eat, and that I bring some kind of a snack with me.
I worked at an amusement park in Southern California for eleven years. I often worked in high heat. I learned the importance of remaining hydrated by drinking water. However, I also learned that just drinking water is not enough. If you only drink water you can dilute your blood stream which causes problems because your electrolyte concentration is too low. So, I learned to have small snacks, like some salted peanuts or crackers and cheese, available when I drank water to replace the fluid I was loosing to perspiration.
Over the years I also learned the importance of taking care of yourself by doing a physical warm up before performing an act with lots of movement. I know from experience that pulling a muscle limits your ability to move during a performance.
Taking care of yourself is not limited to being physically healthy. To be an effective entertainer you have to be mentally and emotionally healthy as well. Looking back over my career I can see that when I was going through circumstances that were emotionally challenging I had a difficult time connecting with audience members. I performed the same routines as always, but the relationship with the audience wasn't as satisfying for them or for me.
I heard one time that the difference between introverted and extroverted people is that those who are introverted find their energy is drained by groups of people and those who are extroverted find their energy is replenished by groups of people. I would describe myself as introverted, and that explanation has helped me when I teach at conventions and workshops. When I was on staff for the week-long Laugh-Makers Conferences in the late 1980's, I found that I was exhausted by the end of the week and not able to interact with participants as well as I had at the beginning. I've learned since then that I need to find time to be alone during a convention to recharge my emotional batteries. Often the easiest way is to take a walk by myself. I am not a hermit. I have made many dear friends by attending conventions, and I treasure the time that I have spent with them. I would not want to always be alone, but I need it once in a while to prepare me to spend more time with others. I know extroverted people who are drained by being alone. A solution they found when traveling is to join the large variety arts organizations and check the roster to see if they know any body in the area that they can spend time with. The key is to discover what you need and do what works best for you.
What do you need to do to take care of yourself? How can you take better care of yourself physically? How can you take better care of yourself mentally and emotionally?