Karen Gillan has been a part of the Marvel Universe since she first appeared as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. But even after years in the spotlight, the actress still struggles with imposter syndrome, explaining that she’s finally learned to deal with the anxiety.
“It was easier to ignore my body than to face the situation,” she told Women’s Health. “I suppressed the feeling instead of taking it seriously and listening to my body. I’m turning that around now.”
Although the 34-year-old says “some days I don’t feel anxious at all,” she explains that on days when she experiences self-doubt, she feels like she can’t get her work done.
“I think, ‘I can’t do this. This is crazy. This is a huge movie, and I have to do this in front of people. There’s no way,’” she said. “I really don’t think I can do it. That’s how bad it’s gotten. When they’re in that mindset, you can’t really reason with them.”
While filming Guardians of the Galaxy. 3, Gillan admits she had to do something to address those emotions to help them subside. “I invite all anxiety,” she says of her new technique.
“With anxiety, our instinctive response is to suppress it and tell ourselves not to be afraid and to stop feeling it,” Gillan continues. Instead, she now lets herself sit with the anxiety and lets her body adapt to it. “It may sound strange, but I’ve been working on the psychology of it.”
Another thing she now recognizes as part of her mental health routine is exercise.
“I didn’t move any muscles,” she says of the breaks she took when the industry shut down at the start of the pandemic. “I just couldn’t bring myself to work out. I felt like a slug. I’m usually a very motivated person.”
It was then that she noticed the huge impact physical movement was having on her life.
“It wasn’t until I stopped that I realized how much better I felt mentally,” she says. “If I exercise regularly and eat well, I don’t feel on top of the world as much as I usually do. I was dizzy and emotionally drained. When I’m depressed, the anxiety gets worse.”
Although Gillan doesn’t commit to comic-book level training every day, she says that moving her body in some way is “non-negotiable. When it comes to other ways of taking care of herself, she has also learned the importance of taking up space and talking about her concerns and her desires.
“I’m starting to talk more freely now. The fact that I’ve had to suppress that is very concerning,” she says. “When you don’t communicate, you get resentful.”
She adds, “It’s crucial in terms of self-care.”