With the dizzying lights of new cities every night, the many hours spent sitting in a car, the late night stops at pizza joints, and the constant movement before nights spent sleeping on couches and floors, being a musician is exhilarating and exhausting at the exact same time.
There is nothing like the connection you feel with an audience – the feelings you get when you lock eyes on someone mesmerized by the words you are sharing with the world. If you are a musician, you know exactly what I am talking about. You probably also know that all the things we love about the industry can also be our vices and leave us feeling empty with a unique sharpness.
As someone who loves this industry with her whole heart but also has her own mental health struggles, I’ve learned that taking care of my mind is as important as any other part of my being. If I want to have a long career, I need to take care of my mind and body, and those things are not mutually exclusive. Here are a few of the tips I’ve found that help me prioritize what matters most: my wellness.
Know that Financial Wellness Is Wellness
This is one issue that artists can tend to hide away from. Somehow, if we prioritize money, we are selling out or bowing down to the system. The truth is we have to eat just like any other industry, and our art has value. is worth money, and it is worth payment. It’s become a popular attitude in society that art should be free. As artists, I think we can internalize that if we charge for our art, we aren’t true artists. Financial wellness is wellness, so negotiate your pay for gigs, and keep track of your finances. This will directly impact your stress and anxiety levels.
Move Your Body
Moving your body is important, regardless of your profession. I find it especially so as a musician, whether you’re on the road driving from city to city or you are at home. When you are your own boss, it is so easy to get caught up in the to-do list and let exercise fall to the wayside.
When I’m on tour, it can be hard to feel grounded,so I look to nature and I look to the land. Hiking down new trails brings me a sense of calm among the beautiful business of the day to day. Movement is one of my saving graces that keeps me present.
Take Your Meds
This might sound like a simple one, but it’s also a simple one to forget. Our lives are often shifting to move around what that day has presented us with – meals, the times we go to sleep and wake up are rarely the same. It can be easy to forget the medications that keep our brains functioning. Taking your medication is a form of self-care. Make sure you have enough, and make sure to take it as directed. Taking medication doesn’t make you weak. You’ve got this.
Manage Burnout From Your Day Job
This is something I never really thought of until it happened to me, but burnout from your job can and does happen to artists. You can go fifteen hour days when you are doing something you love, but when working a job in-between music gigs for something you aren’t as passionate about can get exhausting. Setting boundaries for yourself with work is vital. Make space for your art, but also know that you are not a failure if you have to work a second job or you can’t do music full-time. If you make art, you are an artist. Give yourself the chance to breathe whether it’s when you are on the road or when you are working another job.
Have A Hobby
My final tip is one I never hear talked about – the fact that when music becomes your job, sometimes you lose your hobby. When all of your time becomes music, without knowing it you can lose the thing that brought you a clear sense of downtime. I didn’t realize how important this was until I took up hand lettering. Getting lost in a project purely for joy is important and healthy. Making that a priority should be on the top of your list.
I don’t have everything figured out, and I am still learning about my brain and my wellness everyday. If this year has shown us anything, it’s that unpredictability is the only constant. Building routines that support our wellness in all aspects is important for the longevity of our careers. We can only do this as long as we are well enough to. Take a step back and look at your career, whatever phase you are in, and make a priority to cultivate skills and habits that support your mental wellness your whole life long.
If you are experiencing crisis in your mental health, call CMHA’s Reach Out line at 519-433-2023 or chat online at reachout247.ca.
Feature Photo by Phoebe Say