I’ll let you in on a little secret: in the music industry, we’re all a bit stressed out. Okay, maybe “a bit” is an underestimate – we’re all very stressed out. Now, stress is in no way unique to those working in music (my friends in medicine, finance, and advertising are also stressed!), but there’s no denying a career in music brings its own stressors.
In a way, there’s a badge of honor in saying we’re “busy” and “stressed out”. I mean, don’t we sound (and feel) important if we’re spending every minute working, networking, and pursuing new freelance opportunities? Many of us juggle freelance work on top of a full-time job, or balance multiple part-time or freelance gigs – not to mention, when we’re not “on the clock”, chances are we’re doing something work-related. I have a 9-to-5 office job in music and I’m a writer and photographer, as well as working events for a non-profit. Outside of this, I feel like I need to spend every spare second emailing, editing, making a new business card, or otherwise being “productive”. This mentality makes us feel like we’re always working and that we’re never really “off”. Couple this “always on” mentality with the fact that many jobs in music don’t pay all that well, even in expensive cities, and it’s no wonder we’re stressed!
What happens when you don’t deal with stress? It’s different for everyone, but for me, it means headaches, an upset stomach, muscle tension and soreness, and trouble sleeping – and when I can’t sleep, I’m anxious and everything feels worse. Unhealthy coping mechanisms – like drinking, drugs, eating junk food – may seem to help in the short term but long-term, they’ll only make things worse.
Here are some things that have helped me deal with stress in the music industry – and that may help you, too.
Learn to compartmentalize work – only work in work areas, and only work during work hours
My office job lets me work from home one day per week, and while it’d be tempting to sit on the couch all day, I sit at my desk instead. This way when I’m done for the day, I don’t associate the couch (which is supposed to be for relaxing!) with “work”. This goes for technology, too: I don’t have my work email on my phone, so I’m not worried about work when I’m out and about doing errands or even texting my friends. Removing your work email from your phone and / or turning off push notifications will mean you’ll feel less pressure to respond to an email before the work day even begins, or late at night.
Find a non-music hobby or interest, and don’t make it about work
Yes, we often feel pressure to spend every minute of our lives dedicated to our music careers, but guess what? It’s okay, good, and very healthy to have outside interests that aren’t about furthering your career. I love to cook and do random arts and crafts, and I’ve chosen to keep those as hobbies so that when I do them, I feel relaxed – not pressured to create a certain amount, or quality, of output. I like watching movies, and I don’t review or write about them – they’re simply entertainment.
Keep some music, and shows, for yourself
The tough, but wonderful, part of working in music is that something that was once a hobby has now become work. I love what I do for a living, and I love that I can pay my bills doing something that brings me joy. I love writing about music and taking photos at shows – but when I was shooting every show, I never felt a real break from working. Last year I began going to more shows for fun and now when I go to a concert, I enjoy myself much more. You don’t have to review every album you love, and you don’t have to photograph every show you attend. It’s okay to be a fan sometimes (and I don’t only mean those times an industry connection got you on the guest list!).
Create a de-stress ritual
Every Friday after work, I do a yoga video, make dinner, then go to the movies in my PJs. It’s wonderful and so relaxing.
Know your threshold
I may have the hours in the day each week to write three features, photograph a show, and attend two networking or non-profit events, but realistically, that’s not going to happen. One or maybe two features is much more doable and allows me to maintain a healthy life outside of work. I wish I could do more, but my mental health and sanity are important! Some people – due to their work schedule, commute, family responsibilities, and time management may be capable of producing much more or much less – and that’s okay. Your worth is not determined by your productivity!
Take care of yourself
Get enough sleep, drink lots of water, eat healthy, and rest; take breaks when you need it. If you skip going to the doctor when you’re sick or hurt, you don’t get a prize for being a martyr, and if you neglect your mental health, you’ll just end up burning out.
Please reach out to a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling with mental health! If you take care of yourself physically and mentally, work feels much more manageable. At the end of the day, you are all you have.