Balancing Music & Mental Health
Today I want to briefly write about a BIG topic for me - mental health. And even more specifcally, mental health in relation to playing music, especially when doing it at a professional level.
I've always been adamant on finding a healthy balance between playing drums and living life as a whole, but it's only recently that I've started to actually make some progress in that area. For the most part of these four years since I first launched my drum career, managing everything has not been easy - constantly aiming for improvement, comparing yourself to others and essentially working around the clock really starts to take a toll on you after a while. When your biggest interest is also your job, it's easy to get snowed in. That's why it's so important to get to know yourself in and out, and learn to manoeuvre the mental obstacles that will appear with time.
I've learned a few things from my journey so far, so today I want to share those things with you:
1. Learn how you function as a person
Only in the last year or so have I really started to figure out how I prefer to do things, not just in music, but in life as a whole. I like to be spontaneous, but I can also be a real planner - it just depends on the context. Realizing this, I've worked hard this entire year to build a lifestyle for myself that lets me operate in this way.
I like to have some form of routine to keep my days in check - going to the gym in the morning, trying to come home and relax no later than 7-8pm in the evening, completely shutting myself off from social media a few times during the day, etc., and then in between all of that I try to not plan a single thing and just let myself be creative and spontaneous in the moment. "What do I feel like doing today? What video do I want to make? What new project do I want to start working on?" These are questions that will have different answers on different days, so I've learned to accept that and just let myself go with what feels right in the moment.
2. Find the right balance
Continuing on the topic of planning and simultaneously being spontaneous, I've learned that things like these are never going to be black or white. It's never going to be either one thing or the other - I'm never going to be 100% spontaneous, and I'm never going to plan and execute everything to perfect detail either. It's all about finding the right balance.
An example of how I do this is the way I approach weeks where I have gigs. If I know I have a full weekend of gigs coming up, that usually gets me pretty stressed out even at the start of the week, since now I have a sort of deadline that I need to keep in mind. I'll want to finish the projects I'm working on before the weekend, and I'll want to make sure I film a couple of videos to stay active on social media, and maybe even to post while I'm out gigging. To manage a week like this, I start planning it much more meticulously than I would with a gig-free week. I'll write down a to-do list with all the things I need to get done before the weekend, in what order I need to do them, etc., just in order to make sure I finish everything I've intended to finish before heading out.
If there's a week where I don't have any gigs, I'll be the complete opposite - I won't plan a thing. I'll just live in the moment, and work on the things that grab my attention that week. It's all about balance.
3. Don't be afraid to take breaks
Since my career is so heavily based on social media, where momentum is a huge factor, I've always been scared of taking breaks. Even taking a day off from posting has in the past felt like something I just couldn't afford doing. So I didn't. I worked every single day without ever really taking a day off, and as you can imagine, sooner or later your mind and body will just say enough is enough.
These days I know the importance of taking breaks, and I make sure I do it frequently in order to stay healthy and inspired. Sometimes just a day, sometimes a full week or two without any social media or anything, just to clear my head and reset my stress-meter. Even just taking short breaks every day can make a huge difference. Don't be afraid to!
4. Keep it fun
Above anything else, this is what matters most to me. This is why I started playing music in the first place - because I enjoyed it. The moment I stop having fun, I lose interest. Of course, not everything about playing drums for a living is fun - for example, I can think of a million things more fun than sending invoices and filing taxes. But as long as the big picture remains fun to me, I'll keep doing it.
This is why it's so important for me to keep a healthy balance in my life, take breaks and listen to my mind and body. All of that has an impact on the joy I get out of playing music, so if I don't keep those things in check, everything starts falling into a downward spiral really quickly.
There is SO much more to write about this topic, but hopefully the things I've covered here can help you stay healthy in the same way that they have helped me. I also hope this gave you some insight into what life as a professional musician can be like. It's not all glitter and glamour, it's honestly far from it. But at the end of the day, I love it. I'd never want to do anything else.