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Karen Gillan on experiencing impostor syndrome, anxiety: 'You can't really reason with someone when they're in that state of mind'

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Karen Gillan has been a part of the Marvel Universe since she first appeared as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2014. But even after years in the spotlight, the actress struggles with impostor syndrome and explains that she's finally learning to face that anxiety.

"It's been easier to ignore my body than it has been to confront the situation," she told Women's Health. "I've repressed the feeling instead of taking it seriously and listening to my body. And I'm just now turning that around."

Karen Gillan is taking a new approach to mental health. (Photo: Getty Images)
Karen Gillan is taking a new approach to mental health. (Photo: Getty Images)

Although the 34-year-old said that "some days I don't feel anxious at all," she explained that on days when she experiences self-doubt, it can feel impossible to do her job.

"I’m like, 'I can't do this. This is insane. This is a big, huge movie and I have to do this in front of people. There's no way,'" she said. "I literally think I can't do it. That's how bad it gets. You can't really reason with someone when they're in that state of mind."

While filming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gillan has acknowledged that she has to do something to address those feelings in order to help them subside. "I invite all of the anxiety in," she said of her new technique.

"With anxiety, our instinctive response is to suppress it and tell yourself not to be scared and to stop feeling it," Gillan continued. Instead, she now allows herself to sit in the anxiety to get her body comfortable with it. "It may sound weird, but I've been researching the psychology of it."

Another thing that she now recognizes as a part of her mental wellness routine is exercise.

"I didn't move a muscle," she said of her off-time when the industry had 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 driven person."

It was then that she noticed what a big difference physical movement made in her life.

"I didn't realize how much better I felt mentally until I stopped," she said. "I didn't feel as on top of the world as I normally do if I'm regularly working out and eating well. I was foggy and down. And the anxiety is worse when I'm in a down state of mind."

Although Gillan isn't dedicated to Marvel-level training on a daily basis, she said that moving her body in some way is a "non-negotiable." When it comes to other ways of taking care of herself, she's also learned the importance of taking up space and speaking about both her worries and her aspirations.

"I'm starting to talk more freely now. The fact that I ever had to dampen that is quite concerning," she said. "If you don't communicate, you'll harbor resentment."

She added, "It's vital in terms of self-care."

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