Welcome to Amplify Productivity. Earlier on in this series we looked at how to deal with challenges to your physical health whilst making music. Often overlooked, but just as important and very much linked to physical wellbeing, is keeping your mental health in order. A recent survey by Record Union concluded that 73% of independent musicians have suffered mental health illness. As musicians, we’re sometimes working long hours, most often alone, so it can be a challenge to keep positive and motivated. Rather than looking at general concepts behind mental wellbeing, here I’ll be looking at specific situations which relate to working in the music industry and strategies for coping. So let’s get into it…
IT’S JUST MUSIC
Facing seemingly important decisions in this industry, it’s easy to forget that this is just music. We’re not saving lives here. Try to relax your mindset and remember that every musician is suffering the same insecurities and doubts as you are, no matter what they project to the wider world. We all wonder why we didn’t get certain jobs and have to accept rejection. These setbacks are part of the territory.
It’s all too easy to get lost in the every day minutia of our industry and forget to stop, take stock and look back at your achievements. Be grateful and proud of what you’ve learned and created so far in your career. Even if you’re on the first rung of the ladder there will still be things to celebrate : Compare where you are now to this time last year. Perhaps you’ve learned new techniques, software or are simply more confident in your own abilities. These achievements are important to remember when you feel like you’re going nowhere.
LEARN TO JUGGLE
Dealing with multiple projects on the go can cause anxiety as you try to please everyone. This is where it helps to have a plan, set realistic deadlines and ask for help if you get behind. I favour old fashioned pen and paper, planning my week on Monday morning so that everything has a timeframe. I even factor in failure, with a couple of hours each day set aside for mistakes, rewrites or just general lethargy. Know the limits of what you can reasonably achieve so you’re not racing to reach unobtainable goals.
For those who find it stressful to separate their work life from family and social time it can be useful to set solid limitations. Structure your work day so that you can start and finish at specific times. Physically separate your work life and home life: Dress differently for your work and have a separate room for your studio with a lockable door. Use a dedicated computer and phone and don’t forward your work email to your personal phone. In fact, set aside a time of day for answering emails and another for music-making with the internet disconnected. All of these things will help stop your working day bleeding into your other commitments.
THERE ARE NO FAILURES
It’s important to cultivate a mindset that spins positive out of negative. Taking rejection as an example, as long as you are prepared to learn from each knock back then really you haven’t failed. Mix things up and change your approach next time, remembering what has worked previously and what hasn’t. Even go so far as aiming to collect “no” responses and celebrate each one. After all, you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. As long as you’re learning something from each failure, then there are no such things as failures.
LISTEN TO YOURSELF
An important skill to cultivate is to listen to what’s going on inside your head. Just like a physical injury, if you keep piling on the pressure, assuming that once the work is done things will get better, then you’re setting yourself up for bigger problems down the line. If you feel as though you need a break then step away from the studio and do something else to reframe your thoughts. Structured courses such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may help with breaking the links between negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings. Although they are general concepts you can apply the techniques to specific challenges faced in the music industry.
Asking for help in times of stress can seem a huge challenge, but mental health issues are becoming more recognised, especially amongst musicians so don’t be afraid to reach out. The very act of communicating your concerns and anxieties is liberating in itself. Whether it’s through reliable friends, colleagues or mental health professionals, find your trusted network and ask for support. Organisations such as Music Minds Matter and MusiCares deal specifically with aiding musicians whereas there are many other general resources available from charities such as Mind, Mental Health America & The Samaritans.
Hopefully that’s given you some specific practical tips to help calm anxiety and deliver a less stressful working day. Join me next time and thanks so much for watching.