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Feeling Stressed Today? Deadlines, Competition
- It All Adds Up. Until You Learn How To Cope ...

By Paul Strikwerda
Voice Actor, Coach & Author

Stress doesn't come out of nowhere. Quite often, it's a self-inflicted wound.

I think we can all agree that there are at least two types of stress. Positive and negative stress.

Positive stress happens on a first date, the first time you go paragliding, or when you do something you love in front of a lot of people. Positive stress is exciting. It lifts you up. It can make you feel exhilarated, like you're on top of the world.

Negative stress is paralyzing, and it brings you down.

Positive stress feeds your self-esteem. Negative stress tears it apart.

Positive stress makes you perform even better. Negative stress makes you less motivated and effective. It's easier to make mistakes when you're stressed, stressing you out even more!


I used to be very hard on myself because I thought that this would push me to the next level.

I always focused on what I could have done better, instead of looking at how much I had grown.

Looking back, I was often angry at myself and disappointed. When things didn't go as expected, I saw myself as a complete failure.

Living like that is exhausting and painful. And more importantly, life isn't playful and fun anymore.


After I had had a health crisis, I decided I didn't want to live like that for one more minute. Life was to be enjoyed and cherished.

I gave myself permission to take the pressure off, and that's when my healing really started.

Today I feel like I don't have to prove anything to anyone. There's no need to please people I don't even know. All I want to do is put my best foot forward.

On some days my best isn't going to be as good as on other days, and I'm okay with that. It's part of being human.


I no longer see myself as being in competition with my voice over colleagues. Their wins don't make me a loser.

Did you know that originally, the Latin root from which the word "competition" was derived, means "to play together?"

To me it's not about winning, but about the enjoyment of playing the game as best as you can.

We're all in it together, whether we realize it or not.

I compare it to making music. We're all performing on our own instruments, and your violin does not compete with my trumpet. The only difference is our level of competence and confidence.

I still take my work seriously, but not to my detriment. If I don't get that audition in before the deadline, so be it. Let someone else have that job!

If I don't publish a new blog post at exactly 7:00 AM EST, why worry? I'm not a robot, and people can be patient.


One day I got all worked up about not meeting a deadline. I decided to contact the client and share what was happening.

The next thing she said was:
"Don't worry about it. We're experiencing a slight delay with the video editing, so we don't need your VO until next week. I'd rather you do it right, than do it fast."
I'm not saying you shouldn't honor what you have committed to. BUT if you level with the people you work with, they're often a lot more flexible than you might have expected.

When I thought about writing a blog about stress, an image came to mind that perfectly represents my shift in thinking.


I used to go to a huge museum and look at as many painting as time would allow.

It was a mad dash until closing time. When I came out I was totally overwhelmed and exhausted, and couldn't remember a thing.

These days I go in and take an hour to look at only one work of art that intrigues me. I breathe it in like an entire symphony.

And you know what? It's a much more fulfilling and lasting experience when you take the stress out of it.
Paul Strikwerda is a 25+-year veteran of the voice over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He is also a voice over coach, author of the book, Making MONEY In Your PJs: Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs, and writes an informative and entertaining blog.


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