'A source of purpose and healing': Will Centurion’s Creative Wellbeing

Will Centurion is a counsellor and life coach who specialises in helping performing artists with their mental health and wellbeing. As a dancer, singer and actor with extensive experience in musical theatre, Will realised that even though the performing arts are highly stressful, there was limited wellbeing support for performers in the industry.

Will studied Applied Psychology and began providing mental health services to Australian performers. We asked Will to take part in our Invitation to Wellbeing series last term to educate our community about how to harness your creativity to enhance your wellbeing. He generously provided three sessions which were insightful and helpful to everyone in our community – not only those who are engaged in the performing arts! You can still access these sessions on Canvas.

We had a chat with Will about his perspective on creative wellbeing.

What inspired you to dedicate your career to helping others to improve their health and wellbeing?

Throughout my 20-year career as a performing artist, I navigated many highs and lows. There were many times when I needed emotional and psychological support, but it was difficult to find someone who understood what it is like to live and work in the arts industry. I finally located a psychologist who was also an opera singer. Her capacity to empathise helped me to feel understood both as a person and a performer, and, as a result, I was able to do the work that I needed to do in order support my wellbeing both on and off the stage.

A part of our work together consisted of discovering my passion outside of performing and this led to an interest in mental health, psychology, counselling and life coaching. The rest is history – I graduated from the Australian College of Applied Psychology and opened a mental health service in Melbourne that focuses on the need of performing artists and creative minds.

What are some of the self-care activities that you recommend the most?

Start by making your bed every morning – even if the rest of the world is in chaos, you can still manage to keep your own house in order. Starting the morning right will help you to maintain a good mindset throughout the day. Take some time for yourself each morning to do some yoga or meditation, read a book, journal, listen to a podcast or go for a walk. It’s so important to make sure that your own tank is full before opening yourself up to the needs of others.

Another strategy is to create an Inspiration Hour. A couple of times a week, draw, paint, doodle, play, listen to music, read poems, tell stories to the family – do anything that taps into the creative side of your brain. Our creativity is not just for the sake of performance or productivity, it is also source of self-care.

What was something that you got out of the Invitation to Wellbeing?

In putting together the Carey Creative Wellbeing Series, I learnt so much about myself and others. In order to create content that was useful, I had to research quotes, insights, strategies and resources from some of the world’s most incredible thought leaders. Understanding their ideas on creativity and the ways in which it can be used was inspiring and invaluable.

I also had to make myself vulnerable and be open to trying a new way of conducting a workshop. It was both rewarding and challenging as it meant I would need to confront my inner critic. I let go of perfectionism and did my best to be able to offer the Carey community something insightful and immersive. I’m so grateful for such a unique experience and to be able to provide and walk away with a new set of skills.

What is the main message you hope to leave with the Carey community?

I would love for my message to be that no matter how challenging times are or how much change you are forced to manage, creativity will always be a source of purpose and healing. These COVID restrictions have been tough on all of us, but you can still find ways to escape that chaos and find fulfilment. Creativity is strength, it is hope, it is inspiration and, most importantly, creativity is a form of repair.

Is creativity something you can learn or something you are born with?

In a nutshell, it’s both. Creativity cannot be defined as one singular thing or as coming from a particular place of origin. It is what whatever it is for you. There is a creative mind inside all of us – it’s in the cubby houses you built as a child, it’s in the clothes you wear everyday, it’s in the way you construct your words and sentences or in the details of a project or performance.

Creativity is a muscle and as such it needs to be used in order to grow. So don’t be afraid to use it, have fun, be childlike and give yourself permission to see where it takes you. 

‘These COVID restrictions have been tough on all of us, but you can still find ways to escape that chaos and find fulfilment. Creativity is strength, it is hope, it is inspiration and, most importantly, creativity is a form of repair.’

The performing arts can be an extremely high-pressure industry – what are your main strategies to help artists to stay mentally healthy?

As a counsellor and life coach for creative minds, I use a lot of evidence-based strategies to help artists stay mentally healthy. The REWIRE–REPAIR–REBOOT model is actually a series of workshops I created to help emerging professionals and seasoned actors manage challenges such as performance anxiety, negative self-talk, career stress and overwhelm.

REWIRE is about understanding how your thoughts and feelings can influence your beliefs, your attitudes and your experiences. It’s important to let go of beliefs that no longer serve you or that block you from being the best version of yourself.

REPAIR is about finding ways to self-care before and after challenging experiences, as suffering impacts your wellbeing greatly. We all have triggers that affect us, so it’s important to have practices and habits that allow you to recalibrate.

REBOOT is about reconnecting with your purpose, as we can easily get lost in the pursuit of success. Before long we become motivated by junk values such as perfectionism, fame and instant gratification. Remembering your ‘WHY’ and focussing on your goals as a process not an outcome, means that your motivation is authentic and you will find satisfaction in anything you choose to pursue.

And finally, it’s important to stay in your own lane, because you are on your own journey, so focus on your timeline, your process and your approach. You are you, that is your power and that is more than enough.

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