How does Inside Out’s Tony Hale deals with anxiety and panic attacks?

Actor and comedian Tony Hale, known for his roles in shows like Veep and his voice work in Inside Out, has been candid about his ongoing battle with anxiety and panic attacks, despite his successful career and accolades. The two-time Emmy winner shared that he often resonates with his character Fear from Inside Out, particularly when he faces the daunting prospect of performing on stage.

Hale revealed that the anticipation of stage performances frequently triggers anxiety, leading him to fear having a panic attack in front of an audience. To cope with these overwhelming feelings, he has adopted a unique strategy involving mindfulness and sensory awareness. When he feels his thoughts spiraling into the “What if?” zone, he employs a technique where he actively engages his five senses. For instance, he focuses on tactile sensations like touching the table, sights around him, tastes, sounds, and other sensory inputs to ground himself in the present moment.

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Reflecting on his experiences, Hale recalled moments before going on stage for his one-man play Wakey Wakey San Francisco in 2020, where anxiety was particularly intense. He humorously recounted preparing himself each night with the expectation that a panic attack might strike, highlighting the unpredictability of his condition.

In his journey to manage anxiety, Hale has also adopted a compassionate approach towards his emotions. Rather than resisting or ignoring anxiety, he acknowledges its presence and appreciates its intention to protect him. This shift in attitude, where he thanks anxiety for its concern while continuing with his activities, has proven to be a “game changer” for him. He emphasized that attempting to suppress anxiety only exacerbated its impact, whereas acceptance and understanding have been more effective in reducing its grip.

Drawing parallels with Inside Out, Hale connected his personal struggles with the film’s depiction of emotions. He noted how the characters Fear, Joy, Sadness, and others in the movie serve to protect and guide the protagonist Riley, mirroring his own perspective on anxiety as a well-meaning but sometimes overwhelming companion in his life.

In sharing his story, Tony Hale not only sheds light on the challenges of managing mental health in the spotlight but also offers a refreshing perspective on embracing vulnerability and finding strength in self-awareness and acceptance.