Pursuing a career track as competitive as one in the music industry, many people adapt and subscribe to the mindset that there are always ten people above and below you working just as hard, if not harder than you are to reach the same goals.
And while that mentality positively drives the competition and creates spectacular artists and performers, it also makes it nearly impossible to take a guilt-free break. There are more workaholics in my music industry network than anywhere else.
The thing is, if you want your music career and practice to be sustainable, you have to be healthy, both physically and mentally. Most importantly, you always put yourself first, and learn how not to succumb to the pressures around you. Let’s talk about how to do that.
First, I want you to take a look at the excitement you have for your own work. Are you starting to lose that excitement about the aspects that used to be your favorite? Are you feeling generally uninspired, tired, or lethargic when you sit down to make music?
Chances are you’re experiencing the beginning stages of burnout. Burnout is a psychological condition caused by physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. This article from Psychology Today states that it is most often caused by work, and can be most easily identified by a sense of dread at the thought of doing everyday things.
Burnout is a sure sign that you need to take a significant break from what you’re doing. Not only will everything start to feel like pulling teeth if you continue to work through the mounting mental pressures, but if you try to push through it without resting or setting new boundaries for your life, the burnout will persist, and perhaps even get worse.
Fear not, almost all of us experience burnout at some point in our journey. One way to break the cycle is allow yourself to take frequent breaks and impose limitations. Another thing you can do is find ways to reward yourself when you stay diligent and accountable to those limitations and breaks.
Whether it’s with a nice bottle of wine or a splurge purchase of another kind, or any other small prize you can give yourself, figure out what has the power to drive you to respect your own boundaries and gamify it a bit. That’ll help you stay on track for sure.
Listen to your body
The great thing about the human body is that it responds to stress, exhaustion, and overexertion in very noticeable ways.
If you start to feel fatigued, rundown, ill, or even just a little bit off on a daily basis, it’s probably a good indicator that your body could use a break. Now, I wouldn’t recommend immediately cancelling all of your plans and going off the deep end—it is still work after all—however, taking the morning or afternoon off for a little mind reset might help ease you off the precipice of burnout before it even begins.
Life happens. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
I know how hard it can be when there are days where nothing seems to be going right. You feel overwhelmed and powerless, like the circumstances of your life and career are completely out of control. Maybe you’ve got other things going on in your life that are emotionally taxing, you’ve been triggered, or you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
Taking those days off instead of feeling guilty about them will actually make things better in the long run.
I know it’s really tough to cancel your plans, but if you’re not your best, chances are your work won’t be either. And the more you push yourself through things like this when they don’t feel attainable, the more likely it is that they’ll keep catching up to you.
Practice the same advice you’d give a friend!
This tip is one of my absolute favorite tools; it’s super simple and I actually use it all the time, myself.
If one of your friends was going through what you are going through, what advice would you give them? Try to take a healthy step back from your situation, stress, or any guilt you might feel, and mull over your thoughts like you were having a conversation with your bestie.
If they were experiencing the same problems would you tell them to treat themselves? Or take the afternoon, or even the rest of the week, off? Then you absolutely should take your own advice, and be as kind and forgiving to yourself as you would to them.
Strive for balance
One of the most important methods for taking care of oneself is to consciously try to find a true balance between work life, social life, and creativity.
It’s not easy, but constantly checking in with yourself to see which areas you might be lacking in, and which you’ve been oversaturating, can always help right the ship back towards a balanced middleground.
Especially with regards to that “music industry mindset” we talked about earlier, it’s much easier to say no to a project, or not exhaust yourself trying to accomplish it plus everything else at once, when you’re allowing yourself more time to enjoy other aspects of life that have nothing to do with music. That opportunity you’re afraid to miss out on will go even better than it would have if you’d done it exhausted. Hence, balance.
Find your own forms of self care
There are thousands of different methods of self care in the world right now. We happen to live in an overwhelming time, with so much vying for our attention and energy at all points in the day. At some point, you owe it to yourself to relax and retreat.
Make sure you try out a few different things to help you gain peace of mind, clarity, and rest—whether that comes in the form of yoga or exercise, sketching, puzzles, walks, cooking, or doing a full day at the spa—it helps to know which ones to which you naturally gravitate.
The key thing about self care is that word self, meaning you have to decide which kind of care works best for you. So go ahead and buy that paint set or face mask you’ve been holding off on and give it a try. Maybe it’ll be that thing that calms your mind.
These methods can be implemented on good days and bad days to keep you going. And the more you do them, the more routinely relaxed you should feel. Give a few a try and make the best ones part of your routine for achieving a healthy balance.
This post has a lot of information coming at you all at once, but don’t feel like you need to actionize every one of these tips immediately. You can slowly try these suggestions one at a time, and add them into your mental health routine if and when they fit your needs.
Until then, here are a few of my most important takeaways to remember to help you get started.
ALWAYS put yourself first. Music, work, friends, and the rest of the world will wait until you’re ready. So always put your mind, your body, and your needs first.
ALWAYS listen to what your body and mind is telling you. Your body and mind are designed to protect themselves. So when they tell you something: listen.
There’s ALWAYS tomorrow. There will always be another chance to do what you need to achieve your goals. Take a deep breathe, rest up, and know that tomorrow is a new day, and it’s right around the corner.
Comment below and let us know what techniques and methods you use to take care of yourself and relax your mind. Sharing is important, your self care tips might help save somebody else.
Sammy Hakim is an up and coming young songwriter based in Los Angeles. In May 2018 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Major in songwriting and a focus in music business. These days she spends most of her time in songwriting sessions with artists all over the country.
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