Musicians today have more on their plates than ever before. With the increase in social platforms popping up left and right there is an overwhelming pressure to promote all of the time which is unnatural in an artist’s life. Artists need time and space to create. And without it, their art, inspiration and mental health can suffer.
Now that the music industry has handed all of the development and marketing back to the artist leaving a topsy turvy to do list it in their laps, the endless list of things to do and the lack of support and resources to get them done is overwhelming. The industry pretty much said, ‘You figure it out. We’ll just sit back and roll in the royalties, while you do all of the work’.
More and more, artists are talking about the increasing overwhelm and anxiety that stems from the constant pressure to “perform” as well. The artistic side of writing and making records is an important and sacred part of the process, and when that process is interrupted, it’s hard to get to the creative juices flowing that need time to stimulate and find.
Maggie Rogers spoke with the 92 Street Y about quality vs. quantity — “We have a lot of emphasis on output, especially in culture right now when everyone’s releasing a single a month. I don’t think we spend enough time having reverence for the process. What I want in my life and from the artist that I adore more than anything, is to give me something that is finished. When they think it is at the best they think it can be. I want something that takes time, because I want something that is going to last.”
Add to that, that artists and creatives make a living from putting their emotions on display for everyone to see which can be crippling. They also have to front end their projects with little real support and face the possibility of rejection. It takes a lot of courage and strength to actually succeed, or to make a living at.
It is the nature of most artists to be sensitive. To view the world with greater sensitivity than other people. That sensitivity usually (but not always) comes about in their life from some difficulty or trauma which generally leads them to music as a path to express those feelings.
“Most mental health disorders originate in childhood experiences and originate as a coping mechanism.” Dr. Gabor Mate
“Anxiety is the cry for a desperate childhood part of themselves for help from what actually happened to them. And to learn to get help with that part.” ~ Dr. Gabor Mate excerpt from interview on Human Window: “What the Real Cause of Your Anxiety Is”
As a survivor-thrivor of childhood trauma myself, I am hopeful with the advent of recent research and experts coming to new discoveries and understandings about trauma, the brain and mental health. They seem to be connecting the dots, and for the first time in my life, I can hear a clearing in the path to healing, possibly for millions of people who suffer with mental health.
Here’s a quick overview of what I’m picking up from these recent discussions. I hope it helps you to find some grist for the mill.
5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health for Musicians and Creatives
For those out there struggling with their sense of identity, self worth, with anxiety or depression, on top of dealing with the sensitivity that accompanies the artistic, creative path, I HEAR YOU. I hope this brings some light to you.
1. Inventory Your Life, Your History and Your Beliefs
Ekhart Tolle said something in a recent YouTube video that nails it. He said “In order to be free, you have to connect to the part of you beyond your history or life experience/s”. That there is a place in you that is beyond is something to contemplate and inquire about. After hearing that, in my meditation today, I had a little glimpse into the inquiry. It felt really beautiful, like I was calling out to my soul. I got the feeling that more of this is important for true personal development and a lightening of one’s perspective.
Expert doctors such as Dr. Gabor Mate, and neuroscientists such as Dr. Caroline Leaf are identifying important discoveries in how our brains process trauma and maintain (or not maintain) mental health.
Dr. Caroline Leaf in an interview with Lewis Howes recently said: “Your depression or anxiety has a story behind it… First you’ll want to reconstruct X = the situation in your past. Locate the incident/s… Next identify Y = how you want to function… X + Y = mental health and peace”. She has a lot of critical pieces to share with us as to how.
Listen to this interview where she shares her perspective on this with Lewis Howes “Neuroscientist REVEALS How To COMPLETELY HEAL Your Body & Mind!”
She’s right. We can find a way out of the darkness in our minds by first identifying where it’s coming from. I experience that quite often when I am in an A & R session with an artist digging into their emotions. We have to first locate where they are in their lives. What is going on under the surface. Pema Chodron calls it “starting where you are”. One of her books is “Start Where You Are”. We can’t move forward without acknowledging the truth about where we are and that means looking at the suppressed emotions of the past. Not to linger, but to release them.
Another brilliant author, and speaker, the beloved Dr. Gabor Mate says “Almost all anxiety and addiction based behaviors are rooted in childhood trauma.” His Youtube videos absolutely speak to the vicious cycle of despair and anxiety in our lives, and how to
Homework: Start by asking yourself In what circumstances did I feel anxiety as a child? Make a list. The first step is to clearly identify those circumstances and events. When you get triggered, something in your current world is triggering those old suppressed feelings. The more you realize that, the more understanding and ultimately control you will come to have.
2. Tune Out the World, Tune In to YOU. Tune into the YOU-NIVERSE
At the start of this article I talked about the distraction of social media and how it steals time and important creative energy from us. Notice how much time you actually spend on socials? Maybe set a clock next time you start scrolling or check the “screen time” on your phone. Is that really how you want to be spending your time?
Until we tune in to our inner self, which unfortunately is not valued much in our world as an accomplishment, we are missing out on the rich universe that comes from being in touch on the inside. Listening to your body and instincts you can discover much about yourself and the present moment.
Next, cultivate a practice. There are many ways to do this.
- Reading personal growth books
- Watch spiritual leaders on Youtube, videos that put you in touch with your inner dimensions.
3. Practice Honesty + Compassion
Whatever you do, don’t lie to yourself. Honesty is your integrity – it’s your authentic self and it’s important that you listen and always try to hear the truth. If not you can easily fool yourself or lose your way. Similar to listening to your intuition, being honest with yourself will guide you more solidly towards the life you are meant to have, instead of to the life you think you want to have.
Sometimes it’s hard to be honest. And when you are in one of those periods of time in your life when everything seems so raw, be gentle with yourself. You won’t always be feeling this way. But you are feeling this way for a reason. Go back to #1 above. When did I feel this way before? Is there some message from the past that is making me feel this way? Getting clarity on what you are feeling and why, gives you an opportunity to practice compassion with yourself. In a way, understanding why you feel the way you do, opens the door to releasing it.
Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage your energy states, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that are acceptable and produce positive results such as well-being, loving relationships, and learning. Self-regulation starts when children are babies. It develops most in the toddler and preschool years, but it also keeps developing right into adulthood. For example, babies might suck their fingers for comfort or look away from their caregivers if they need a break from attention or are getting tired. The source of the problem is the body’s nervous system. It has trouble regulating itself when something around us overstimulates one or more of our senses.
Adults can learn to self-regulate their emotions which helps improve mental health with the following techniques:
- Talking with friends;
- Writing in a journal;
- Taking care of yourself when physically ill;
- Getting adequate sleep;
- Paying attention to negative thoughts that occur before or after strong emotions;
5. Seek Positivity
Being around positive people is one of the single most important things you can do to improve your mental health. You cannot hang out with negative people and expect a positive life. We all go through difficult times. We all experience loss, unkind people, rejection, depression and traumatic experiences. It’s important to have people in your circle who you can lean on in these times. People who will listen and be there as a source of strength for you. Seek out these people and once you find them, never let them go. They are members of your soul family and can lift you up when you feel down or lose your way. Everyone needs a strong soul family of friends, colleagues and mentors. Life is not meant to be lived alone.
“We need to learn to manage our emotions and achieve inner peace. Our education should include an understanding of how to achieve peace of mind. Education should teach us how to live properly, how to balance our wish for physical comfort with mental comfort.”
~ Dalai Lama
- Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, by Dr. Caroline Leaf
- Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycle of Worry and Fear, by Judson Brewer
- The Body Keeps Score, by Sean Pratt
- The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron, PhD
- What Happened to You, by Bruce D. Perry MD, PhD, Oprah Winfrey
- This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More
- It Wasn’t Your Fault: Freeing Yourself From the Shame of Childhood Abuse with the Power of Self-Compassion, by Beverly Engle
It bears repeating again, surrounding yourself with positive people is one of the single important things you can do to improve your mental health. That means finding an inner circle and community of people who have a similar vision for the world as you. And being an artist can often be an isolating path. I invite you to join our amazing artist community – one of the strongest on the planet! Like-minded, kind, knowledgeable artists who want to change the world with their music. Just like you. Join our Step Up to the Spotlight Community Today for FREE (no hidden fees ever). We can’t wait to connect with you.