Covid isn’t just a threat to your physical health – there’s an even greater, longer term need to look after your emotional health.
It’s scarcely believable, when we look around and see the new ‘normal’ – masks worn in shops, on public transport, socially distanced bars and gigs, sports venues devoid of roaring crowds – to think that the Covid-free world existed less than a year ago. These have been strange times and everyone has faced their own unique challenges and had to find ways to adapt.
It’s been an especially tough time for freelance musicians, many of whom have seen their best season for work – the summer months – turned on its head by restrictions. And with the government’s delayed, and inadequate, financial support, money worries can be added to the list of threats to emotional wellbeing – along with isolation and a lack of Vitamin D.
And now, the future is uncertain.
On the one hand, the live music industry, in the UK at least, is beginning to pick up again, with small gigs gradually appearing across the country.
On the other, countries all across the world are still struggling with the effects of the first wave or facing second lockdowns. The fear is that freelance musicians’ other money-maker – the Christmas season – will suffer the same fate as its summery cousin.
We’ve all been told how we can look after our physical health and the health of others – wearing masks in public, washing hands (remember those hand-washing & song lyric videos?), social distancing, and so on…
But with the uncertainty over the short and long-term future of the music industry, what can you be doing to look after your mental and emotional health when you’re stuck at home for long periods?
At Music For Mental Wealth, we have collated or Top 5 Wellbeing Tips during Covid:
Plan regular catch-ups with others
When you’re stuck at home all the time, it can be easy to give yourself too much time and space to think (or overthink). For those of you who get easily distracted, this can be a huge advantage – more time to work on songwriting and growing your online fanbase.
We know that human interaction and strong social ties – with family and friends – is a hugely important factor in your physical health. A lack of good relationships has been shown to increase the risk of premature death by 50% (source: Harvard Health).
But regular, human interaction contributes to good emotional wellbeing, by giving you perspective and making you feel like you’re not the only one struggling at the moment.
Pick a few friends (musicians or non-musicians) that you can open up to and plan a weekly or fortnightly chat – just so you can check in on each other and give that perspective.
It’s really easy to forget to do this if you’re stuck at home working all the time, so it’s really worth actually planning specific times and sticking to them as much as possible!
Do unusual things to vary your days
Time is a confusing thing. We take it for granted that ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, but this applies more to shorter time periods.
More generally, if you examine your life when you’re busy – moving around a lot, seeing lots of different people and spending time in lots of different places – and look back on your time, it feels longer because a lot has happened.
But what people have realised with Covid is that, when every day looks the same (if you’re stuck at home all the time doing similar things), time runs faster, and seems to run away from you… This can add extra emotional strain on you because you feel like you have less time to achieve your goals and might worry more about procrastination.
If you can find small ways to vary your days – taking a walk somewhere you’ve never been, reading a new book, learning a new skill – it really helps to stretch out your time and stop it running away.
Create a simple morning routine
Having said that, the flipside is that, if you’re working from home all the time and managing your own time, it’s easy to feel completely lost.
A morning routine is a hugely valuable way to set up your day so that you can flow seamlessly into your work and not start the day staring at an empty notebook.
Try to choose a few things to repeat every morning when you wake up, whether it’s a short yoga flow, eating a healthy breakfast, doing some writing first thing, learning a new language (e.g. 10 mins on Duolingo every day), or meditation.
‘The most common elements of the most successful morning routines are their ability to be simple and easy to follow.’
Benjamin Spall | interview in Forbes
Split your day into ‘work’ and no-work periods
It’s easy to feel like you should always be ‘on’ – there’s always something to do. This is partly because there are hundreds of things musicians could be doing to improve your music and grow your audience, so you feel like you should be trying all of them.
But it’s really important that you set out a large section of your day when you don’t force yourself to work, and enjoy a good relaxation, completely guilt-free. How you spend this rest period is up to you – and when you spend it should depend on what times of day you work best. If you find that you work best later in the day or in the evening, why not make your mornings completely free-from work and spend them however you want?
Write a Diary
The value of writing a diary – or ‘journaling’ as it’s often called – cannot be understated!
Have you ever had a deep, dark secret you’ve kept to yourself for a long time, only to feel so much better once you’ve told someone else about it? Diaries work a bit like that.
A diary is a great space for you to get your thoughts out onto a piece of paper (or your laptop if you prefer typing) so that they don’t just form a confusing mess in your head.
It especially helps you to identify any regular ‘NATs’ (‘negative automatic thoughts’) which can really affect your mental wellbeing over longer periods. One of the reasons mindfulness is so effective is that it allows you to identify and observe what you’re thinking, without trying to judge those thoughts or immediately change them. Journaling works much the same way. You can write a diary entry and then never read it ever again.
Our final tip: reach out to us if you’re feeling really low
If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed or struggling emotionally at the moment, please drop us a message and we’ll help to get you the right support.
No-one should have to go through these challenges on their own and no struggle is too small not to justify our help!
We know the Covid epidemic has been especially tough on self-employed musicians, many of whom have lost a summer of paid gigs and missed many other opportunities.
We’re here to help in any way we can – so please get in touch.
And please comment below if you have any tips of your own for our community of musicians!