Last week we looked at a few ways to take some of the stress out of the very difficult job we have as animators, and today we’ll tackle a couple more! Check out these tips for taking the edge off, animation style.

Where It All Began

Sometimes a shot or design just isn’t turning out the way you’d like, and it can be tempting to throw in the towel. Instead consider taking some time to remember why you do what you do in the first place. Most of us have a defining animation (movie, show, short, character) that made us decide that animation was the career or hobby for us.

I know for myself it was The Great Mouse Detective. To be honest I can’t remember where I first saw it, or when, but as clear as day I recall in my head that by the time the big clock chase scene was in full swing I knew that THAT was what I wanted to do. It was pure magic.


Think about what that launching point was for you, and if you can go watch a snippet of whatever it was that sparked your passion. While sometimes that can become a bit depressing (wanting to do something that great and not quite having the skill set yet!) use it as a springboard to get you fired up again. Consider two things:

1) The animator behind the scene or film you were inspired by probably ALSO struggled before achieving the greatness on the screen before you.

2) It’s entirely possible that, no matter how big or small, it could be YOUR scene that’s the one that propels someone else into the world of animation! That’s pretty big stuff!

Holding Hands

As human beings, we use our hands as much as any part of our body. As artists we abuse our poor hands to no end. Studies have shown that the hands are one place where we carry the most tension day to day. They deserve a break!

It doesn’t take much to really feel a powerful result with relaxing your hands. The key is to be conscious of it. Start by placing your hands in your lap. Let them just rest there loosely for a moment. Concentrate on FEELING them relax, from the wrists into your palms and all the way to the fingertips. Stare at them and really think, don’t be distracted with something else.

Next make a tight fist and then extend your fingers out into a full stretch. Get the blood flowing to the muscles of your hands and then let them drop relaxed again for a moment. It doesn’t have to be a long time, just enough to really feel “Ahh, it’s good to just not be tense there.”


There are a few other spots, should you dedicate the time, that can really store up tension. Try taking a moment to relax

  • Your jaw
  • Your eyes and forehead
  • Your shoulders

All these parts work around the clock while you’re plugging away in Maya or a sketchbook, and they need a real, focused break now and then!

The DO NOTS

In the same way that some things are going to be helpful to you when you feel a bit of a slump coming on, some other things are likely the opposite of what you need. Be very wary if you find yourself in any of these spots:

  • Checking email, twitter, Facebook, tumblr, YouTube, or any other site that will likely suck you OUT of work and into a long-term distraction. While it can SEEM to “only take a minute” changing gears away from a creative endeavor (and yes, that includes looking at hilarious kittens getting stuck in boxes) can hurt you long-term.
  • Waiting “until you’re feeling more in the mood.” This is a big trap because yes, that mood DOES exist, but sometimes you need to get yourself INTO that mood, not wait for it.
  • Thinking about how far you would be if only you hadn’t wasted the last hour/day/week/30 years of your life. The past is gone, learn from it but don’t live in it. It can quickly spiral out of control.
  • Doing all the stuff you need to do that ISN’T the one thing you’re putting off. Nothing gets boring chores done like avoiding a difficult project to accomplish them, but now isn’t the right time. Think instead of how great it will be to get a good chunk of the work right in front of you done and over with rather than moving to another task. The good/bad news: The laundry will still be there when you’re done.
Partner Up

When all else fails, it really pays to have a friend, coworker, or loved one that can grab your hand and pull you out of the muck. Some people are better at it than others, but don’t discount asking for some help. And here’s an interesting bit of data too: If you act on the pulling end for the person when THEY are the ones who seem to be at wit’s end, you just might find that gets you more motivated than anything else. So be there for others as much as you can!

So what do YOU think? Do any of these tips resonate with you personally? Are there some other things you do to get into a groove and stay out of stress-ville? Leave a comment below and let us know. Perhaps your tip will show up in an eventual Part 3 of this series! Until next week, don’t forget to have some fun with your work!

EDIT: Part 3 is here! Read on for more de-stressing tips.