Image Credit: George Coletrain
How do musicians cope with mental health challenges, especially during the pandemic? Check out these suggestions for self-care for musicians feeling overwhelmed by the year of no work and lockdowns.
It’s been a hard year. Lockdown has meant spending a lot of time alone with your thoughts, and some musicians have adapted less well than others. A recent survey by Help Musicians UK found that 90% of respondents said their mental health has suffered throughout the pandemic.
It’s been especially tough for working musicians who were beforehand constantly on the move, performing, perhaps feeling they were just starting to see momentum. Going from a vibrant lifestyle gigging and collaborating with other musicians to a complete standstill was a shock that many musicians are still processing a year later.
All the old feelings, pressure to please, self-doubt and insecurities, are still there but the thing that often drives artists through – performing – is no longer possible. Whereas other professions have been able to adjust, Covid restrictions mean that live events haven’t gone ahead, and there’s no real substitute for being physically in front of a crowd.
There are various strategies and tips that can help musicians cope with mental health challenges. The important thing to always remember is to use your voice and speak up if you’re feeling helpless.
You’re not alone
There’s some comfort in the fact that, though everyone deals with different situations in different ways, the whole music industry has been rocked by the past year. That’s thousands of musicians who are experiencing the same thing you are; a ready made support group.
Talk to someone
Yes, the whole music industry is going through the same thing, but your individual worries still deserve to be listened to. Whether you’re suffering from a mental health problem like depression or anxiety, or you’d just like to hear a friendly voice, in the UK Help Musicians have set up Music Minds Matter, with a dedicated helpline.
Get some fresh air
Even if it’s a brisk stroll around the block, getting out of the house will do wonders, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Try to make sure your diet is good, keep an eye on your alcohol intake, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. It’s wearying to hear it repeated, but mental and physical health are linked and one affects the other.
Make some plans
What can you control? Your next steps once this is all over. Speak to other musicians, venues, record labels, to keep that fire going. Keeping in touch will make sure those connections you formed before the pandemic are still there afterwards, and give you something positive to focus on. They’ll probably be grateful for the optimism, too.
Don’t forget about your home team
In general as a musician it’s good to maintain a supportive set of friends and family who aren’t connected to the music business. Someone who isn’t invested in your career. They’ll keep you grounded, giving you an outside perspective. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that there’s a world happening outside of your industry, too.
It’s not forever
With vaccines being distributed around the world, things are far more hopeful than they were not too long ago. You’re still a musician, and that talent hasn’t disappeared because you’ve had to pick up another source of income, or because people haven’t seen you play in the flesh – it won’t be too long until you’re out playing again.
Wellness techniques for musicians
If your mental health is under strain, it’s worth giving thought to some self-care. Mindfulness and yoga bring the focus inward to a place you can control. Breathing techniques and meditation can help focus the mind and empty it of clutter to help make more focused decisions. It might sound a bit too “flower power” to you, but there’s nothing to lose by giving it a go. It might just change your life.
Give yourself something to aim for, so you stay motivated and emerge triumphantly back out into the world at the top of whatever musical game you’re in. A new style of playing to master, a new EP to record, getting to grips with new software. If that sounds intimidating, just make sure you keep practising to stay supple.
Lost the mojo?
Okay, you might not have spent the forced time in lockdowns embarking on a creative musical odyssey and emerging with a double LP filled with musical masterpieces. So what? Just making it through the year is an achievement in itself.
Worried about life restarting?
Not everyone is raring to go. After a long time standing still, as everything begins to open up again everyone will be unsure and hesitant about navigating society again. There’ll be some musicians who’ll be worried about being out in the world. Go at your own pace.
The year of lockdowns has put a spotlight on musicians who feel lost, having been defined by a job that requires lots of hard work but that other people think of as being all play.
This is a unique time to consider the things that usually there’s no time to appreciate, and you might be reevaluating your lifestyle before the pandemic, which is natural. Use the resources available to you online and seek professional help if you can tell your mental health is suffering.