'Sh*t Happens' on live broadcasts. We don't always have time to vent away the tension and clenched up moments of a show...The game is continuing and we need to keep transparently documenting what is occurring... That said.....
Without health we have nothing. You can have a huge house with a bank full of cash, but if you feel ill/miserable it doesn't matter... you just want to fell better, no matter what it takes...
Here is a story in a typical day for a live TV mixer....
The SAP open last weekend in San Jose was a typical live television event. We were televising two different matches one at 1:30 and one at 7. The 1:30 game was progressing along it's predetermined path. Game ends and it is time for the postgame interview. We are preparing for Raj Mattei to interview the winning player. This interview is also going to feed the house PA so all the in-house fans can hear it as well. We have had feedback issues with postgame interviews before (during the sharks) so we use one of the in-house wireless mics (They set it up, we just get a feed of that microphone). We faxed it before the game and it worked fine. ---> Well it didn't work for this interview. The a2 had the mic on but somehow in its signal flow it wasn't reaching me. I have to let the director and producer know it is not working while simultaneously telling the a2 to go to the hardlined backup. We decide to throw to break so I have to track the theme music and close the announcer mics while I am scrambling to get this microphone snafu sorted out. BLAH!!!! Once back from break, the transition to the interview actually went pretty smooth, and I didn't panic, but one can see how this type of event can lead to stress.
So where does all that knotted stomach energy go? Do we swallow it? What then? It has been scientifically proven that stress will shorten our lives. It lowers your immunity and increases our chances of getting sick.
The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Digestive problems
- Memory impairment
- Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema
(from --Stress: Constant stress puts your health at risk)
What we have to do is find individual tools that work for us and help us keep relaxed. (Truthfully, I feel this is the real goal of the world's religions, but that is another story.)
Everyone will be different. Here are some of the methods I use:
- First off notice what tension feels like in your body when you are getting stressed---> (My belly tightens up in a knot.) Once we notice these sensations we can A)Tell ourselves to relax. Then B) Be relaxed. C) Meditate. D) Store what being relaxed feels like inside of you. Remember that feeling later.
- Exercise.... (Check out this link on High Intensity Interval Training. ' How little exercise do we need?' http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/15/how-1-minute-intervals-can-improve-our-health/ )
- Use slogans like...“Where ever you are, be glad you are there.” ...Buddha Quote #118
Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.
- Smile as often as you can ---> “Fake it til you make it”
- Work as few days a month as is financially possible for you.
- At home, find things to practice and repeat them. (Ukulele, Tai Chi....whatever floats your personal boat...)
- For the lunch break, Eat Alone, If you can. (Surrounded by voices it is good to clear your head and ears. Eating alone also lends itself to mindful eating...(not that I always succeed at this...))
- Be prepared!... (Ask for, then read show open formats...find out which truck you will be mixing on...what console is on that truck....who is directing/producing. Don't be caught off guard... Also show up early (this reduces the stress of traffic) and bring food, (in case you don't get a meal...)
- On your days off, go outside away from humans. (If you can)... Look at the stars and/or rivers...
- At home play with your kids/dog/cat...They don't give a sh*t about your crappy day. Be present to them. Give them your time when they want your attention... Also take your wife/partner out on a date once in a while, they take the brunt of our shitstorms, might as well thank them too.
- “You Don't Have to Look Far to See Yourself” Everyone else has stressful lives as much if not more than yours....Be them for a moment.... (I learned this during my two summer stint in the taperoom....)
- Turn down the volume in your sound cave. (as often as possible) Loud sounds trigger stress reactions.... (It is also a good way to check the balances in your mix....)
- 'Hey Mr DJ'... Read the vibe of the truck and yourself, listen to the overall mood. If the truck (and/or YOU) is overly keyed up play mellow/Feel Good music... I like Bill Evans/Vince Guaraldi/Andre Segovia/Bob Marley/Toots and the Maytals.
I have collected some other stress management responses from our friends and co-workers.
What tools do you use?...
1) The first thing that comes to mind is the old mantra: As bad as this PF is, there will be a WAY worse one down the road.
2) Another one is: In ten years, I’ll never remember this day happened. (As I get older, I’ve amended that to “next year” instead of “10 years from now”. I don’t know if it’s my experience telling me that we flush out the bad stuff fast, or my belief that I won’t remember ANYTHING in ten years… not sure which).
3) As a life-traveler with miles of family health issues, putting up with the vicissitudes of raising a kid, and the normal day to day crap we all have to put up with, and though I DO REALLY CARE how the gig goes, it’s just TV…they wouldn’t have made it so a 3 year-old could turn it off if it was that important, despite what we all think about our investment of self worth in this business.
4) Even though we don’t keep the pictures we used to display all over the console, I do have mental images of them and remit my thoughts to those images, when getting into the quicksand that can take you down in a gig…Bob bitching about his IFB (Jim B.doesn’t faze me anymore LOL) or a module going crazy…then the peptic acid releases and panic ensues…then I close my eyes for a nanosecond, and remember holding Avi in one hand on that first day…NOW I can fix the issue.
We work in a job that many people consider stressful. I have on many occasions been racing against the clock to complete complex tasks while someone is trying to accelerate that process by screaming at me. The good news is that I personally do not consider this job to be stressful in contrast to many other professions. In fact, I have begun to reconsider that notion a bit as I cope with high blood pressure and (perhaps) premature gray hair. But I digress.
I think the key for me to keeping work from being overwhelming is understanding my relationship with failure. Whatever stress I feel is usually a result of my being afraid to fail. In these cases, it helps to put things in perspective. It sounds cliché, but at the end of the day, no one's life depends on my being able to build a :30 second rollout in time for the end of the show. I think that it's important to bear in mind that life's journey contains some wonderful things as well as some awful things, and there's no escaping that. I am confident that I will have to live with truly agonizing moments in my life, and also confident that none of these are likely to occur as a result of my inability to perform at my job during a telecast.
I have to be realistic about my relationship with failure as well: too much of it and I can lose my place in what is regarded as a competitive business. But I feel that with a solid foundation of professionalism and knowing that I try to give my best at work, I can tolerate whatever amount of inadequacy I may bring to the table without feeling panic-inducing levels of stress.
One thing I find can occasionally reduce stress is to fine tune my sense of empathy. There are individuals in positions of leadership that we work with who use unacceptable language and intimidation when trying to get their messages across, but by and large I think that is a rarity. Mostly, the leaders (producers, directors, etc.) we work with are highly motivated to get a good show on the air, and when it seems like they are being curt/harsh/impolite with us, it's often because they can't deal with the stress themselves. When someone is "yelling at me," I try to listen for fear, stress, and insecurity in the voice of the so-called screamer. If I can hear that (which I most often do), it gives me motivation to help soothe this stressed person and prevents me from taking things personally.
I would actually say the single biggest factor in maintaining my mental stability in the live TV world is physical health. Exercise is a enormous stress neutralizer for me. Exercising on the morning of a game day has a major effect on my ability to effectively manage the various and many tasks that pile up prior to a broadcast. And once we hit air, my ability to make decisions on the fly is impacted by how clear my brain is when we go "live".
Just as important as getting in a morning run is preparation. The more I prepare, the more I review materials, the less brain power I have to spend on the general "BS" during a show, thus leaving what brain cells I have remaining to soak in the game, and make creative and logical decisions in real time. We all know there is an extraordinary amount of preparation and preproduction prior to a show, much of which never directly shows up on air. However, it is that very work that minimizes stress once the show begins, and allows for the overall greater good of the show.
I think the biggest thing that any of us can do is be prepared. As a Producer I remember many long nights between the end of one baseball or hockey game and the start of the next. If I felt as prepared as possible regarding the building I'd be working in, the crew I'd be working with, and the teams I'd be covering, then I could get to the site, put the plan into action and enjoy the crazy swirl of setup, prepro, and the game itself as it took shape. If any of those areas were not covered it would be a recipe for a stressful day.
It's the same with Directing - knowing the place, the people and the teams gives you the ability to focus on the day and game as it unfolds moment to moment. A well laid plan is going to have hiccups; it's inevitable. But if you're as prepared as you can be then you find them much easier to deal with.
Once you are fully prepared, your emotional approach to the particular day is the next thing. We work for a living watching sports and putting them on TV for others to watch. We really don't have a lot to complain about, as compared, say, to almost anything you could do for a living.
So an optimistic spirit and an ability to let the "difficulties" of the job go by with a smile instead of a gripe is huge.
But trust me I know there are a lot of people out there (Tom Adza? Rick Ratusz? Jim Lynch?) who lived with me having a less than "perfectly positive" attitude at times, and while it's probably too late to issue a meaningful apology for those incidents, I can only hope that the next time we work together I'll take my own advice and prepare, relax, and enjoy.
Don't postpone relaxation....
Good Luck Friends.....
With Love and Aloha (as I understand it),
And Finally a look at job stress from a friend who has a truly stressful job, Doug Young, -- Fire Captain in Santa Clara...
Hi Derek- This is an important subject and if ignored can also lead to unhealthy relationships at home with spouses and kids alike. I think what ever you do in life, stress happens and it's how you process it and recover from it. After reading a bunch of articles over time, this one hits it on the head because it talks about how firefighters either bring it home or leave it at work.
There is definitely a different mentality of firefighters and how they deal with some of the stuff we see at work and how it integrates in our minds and spirits away from work. However, stress, I believe, is the same whether you are firefighting, racing a deadline or raising kids. Raising 3 kids, I must say, can be equally as challenging for body, mind and soul. If you are conscious in raising kids, this can be even more exhausting as it is 'never ending and always changing.' One of our guys who was a Navy Seal before becoming a Firefighter once said that being a good parent was actually more difficult than some of his past Seal work.
I've always told people that emergency work is exciting because, like that company that tries to make the 1/2 hr. mark in delivering pizzas, we try to solve people's emergencies in 30 minutes or less:). What makes it successful for my guys is that we try not to take anything personally. It wasn't our fault that the house caught on fire, grandma had a heart attack or someone got in a vehicle accident. We are just there to fix the problem. This gets difficult with bad kid calls. All my guys have young kids and the kids we see who are in need of our emergency work, all remind us of our own at times. I think we just approach things systematically, and try, try , try to empathize but not internalize. And give our kid a big hug we get home the next day.
I'm pretty lucky, at my firehouse, my guys are all over 40 with no will for making things more dramatic than it should be. They know the importance of working out daily or x2 daily, eating right and finding the humor in each other and life around us. We laugh a lot at work- at ourselves and each other. We know work is tough sometimes so, we figure, we might as well enjoy each others company. Because we are a tight knit group, we stop and help each other when we are down emotionally. We vent a lot about management, family and bad calls sometimes but, like a responsible friend, we vent and then try to find our inner peace because we all know that we don't want to share the day with someone with bad energy. Sometimes, if one of us is having a difficult day, we give the guy more 'room' and less responsibility. As a fire officer, sometimes, my guys want to do more because it keeps their minds off the stressor. I honor that but keep an eye on how they are processing the day. It's easy to say, " Don't bring your home life stress to work, " but life happens and we know if we help each other out, the guy who is stressing will be able to make better decisions on the job. Sometimes it is all about making the guy and the whole crew laugh a lot that day. Sometimes it is about letting the guy vent- we all feel better when we feel we have a listening but not judging ear. A lot of times the guy having a bad day, actually tells us 'Thanks' for the great day . I hope this helps. Sounds like a great topic for an article.