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Shake it Off

When she was two, my daughter LOVED Taylor Swift. There were basically two songs on repeat at our house, Baby Shark (of course) and "Shake Shake Shake," as we called it.

Now that she's older (and has a younger sister), our listening habits have changed, but Shake it Off still has a soft spot in my heart (that perhaps Baby Shark will never have). It also has an interesting place in my coaching practice.

Think back to the last time you got stuck in a mood, ideally a grumpy or bad one (both of which are usually fear-based in some way, depending on the situation). Your body likely tightened up in all the familiar places -- your chest or heart, shoulders, gut, maybe even your face. And you wore that mood like a too-small jacket, chafing in the armpits, bunching in the elbows, and overall making you even grumpier.

I'm willing to guess you weren't even aware of the jacket because the experience of the bad mood was so much stronger emotionally than physically. But one thing actors know - and that can be super-helpful here - is that there are two ways to understand a character: from the inside out (letting the character's psychology inform the way they walk and talk and breathe) and from the outside in (letting the way they walk and talk and breathe inform the ways they think).

One thing I distinctly remember doing when I was acting and couldn't quite understand why a character was making specific choices was to try the scene in different shoes. Would the choice make sense barefoot? In heels? In sneakers? I'd try something and if it didn't work, I'd shake it off. Try again; shake it off. Try again; shake it off. Eventually, I'd find a way into understanding what was going on for my character by exploring the physical world and letting it inform the mental one. (And then I'd have to have an awkward conversation with the costume designer as to why my character needed knee-high platform boots. But that's another story.)

Fast forward to coaching (which is like acting, but there's no script), and the technique of trying something on and shaking it off still works. When I get stuck in a mood, my first plan of attack (once I realize I'm stuck) is to go to the gym or go for a walk. If that doesn't work, I try taking a shower. In desperate moments, I dance with my kids (our new favorite is a song called "The Frogs" by Caspar Babypants, which will be difficult to write a whole blog post about so I'll just link to it instead).

Unintentional movement sometimes shakes the mood jacket off, but intentional movement -- trying to shake it off on purpose -- makes the most difference. Realizing where the jacket pinches and itches and relaxing or stretching those spots.

Give it a try. And why not listen to some Taylor Swift while you do it?

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