World Mental Health Day is a day that takes place every year on the 10thOctober. This important occasion is organised by the World Health Organisation, the World Mental Health Federation, and member organisations, aiming to raise awareness of mental health issues and promote good mental health practice around the world.
In the music industry, mental health problems are a growing concern. A 2019 report from Swedish digital distribution platform Record Union showed that 73% of independent musicians struggle with mental illness. The many pressures of the music business can affect musicians emotionally and psychologically so to mark World Mental Health Day, we’re going to share five top tips to look after your mental health and well-being in the music business.
1. Reframe your thoughts and circumstances
Firstly, it’s important to recognise that mental health problems are not caused by one particular thing – it could be a chemical imbalance or a past experience. The Record Union report identified numerous factors that impact musicians’ mental health: fear of failure, financial insecurity, pressure to succeed/deliver, loneliness, and being evaluated by others. While some of these are unavoidable (e.g., finances, critics’ reviews), it is possible to rethink your attitude towards your music career. So…
Practise positive self-talk everyday
Central to how we view ourselves as musicians is how our thoughts or “self-talk” shape us as a lot of being a musician is interwoven with your personal life. Research shows that 80% of our daily thoughts are negative but negative thoughts tend to be unrealistic, making us feel fearful, destructive and self-absorbed. So much in the same way as a plant needs to be fed good things to grow and survive, it’s vital to feed your mind with thoughts that will allow you to enjoy your work and music creation.
So replace your mental chatter with positive affirmations, recalling evidence that will allow you to move forward and find enjoyment in your music. Instead of saying “I can’t do this gig,” say “I can do this show because I’ve played in front of people before.” Say “I will pay my bills because there is financial help.” Would the things you say to yourself be the same things you’d say to a friend?
By saying positive affirmations to yourself each day, you’ll not only feel better mentally but physically, meaning a more productive, fulfilling and creative outlook as an artist. Use the self-compassion scale at self-compassion.org to help you determine the kind of self-talk you think.
2. Don’t compare your insides with people’s outsides
The goal of success the music business drives inevitably creates feelings of jealousy, insecurity and self-doubt when other musicians learn that their colleagues are doing well. This easily manifests as feelings of self-comparison.
While competition and comparison does have a place in this business, as it gives us something to work towards and push us artistically, they’re also prone to feeding a vicious cycle of negative thoughts. What’s more, constantly comparing ourselves to other musicians reduces our passion for music and to be creative as we’re self-absorbed and striving for unrealistic goals (i.e., perfectionist thinking). Therefore…
Aim for realistic goals focused on you, not someone else!
What people in the music industry see as the ultimate goal such as getting signed or doing the “big gigs” isn’t necessarily the most rewarding work – it might be for one person but not for someone else. In fact, frontman of Franz Ferdinand Alex Kapranos recalled,
“The denial of mental health issues […] is the norm. For the most part, managers and labels push their acts as far as they can with no support beyond a proverbial crossing of the fingers. Major labels are much worse. Especially American ones. A real jock attitude. The model is: ‘Push them, push them, push them — ah, they’ve broken. Which one’s next?’ ”
So by focusing on yourself, and by setting manageable goals personally, artistically and career-wise, you’ll learn how to create less pressure, burnout and a better work-life balance. And you’ll have work that is realistic and unique to you(not anyone else!), meaning a more content musician long-term.
3. Take breaks from social media
Research has shown that social media reinforce negative feelings in users as they’re constantly comparing themselves to other people’s “seemingly perfect lives.” What’s more, as seen in the recent BBC Three documentary with Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson, the rise of cyberbullying and trolling has a huge impact on people’s self-esteem and confidence.
But there’s always a motivation behind people’s posts. More often than not, it’s because they’re envious of other artists’ success, and feel the need to have a go at them. Or they’re actually insecure and struggling themselves, so they put on an online persona to make themselves better than they are. Asking yourself why someone is posting the things they say and do online will help you distance yourself from your own mental chatter.
Also, a lot of what you see on social media is edited. It’s part of a musician’s job to do social media marketing and many artists work with a PR firm that runs their socials in order to present themselves in the best possible light. Often, people take many selfies and choose the best one to post online. Moreover, social media apps like Instagram encourage users to put filters on their photos to make their lives seem happier and brighter than they really are.
You Choose What You See Online
Remember that you can control your settings on your socials to choose what content you view – positive, motivational, educational content will stimulate you whereas negative comments and complaints will make you feel worse. And using an app like Hootsuite allows you to schedule all your posts in advance so that you can have a social media amnesty. Taking regular breaks from social media will help you to see life “unfiltered,” that you are like everyone else and that no one is perfect or superhuman, even if you can sing! But this will benefit you physically as the negative emotions created from social networks and the blue light from smartphones impacts concentration and sleep. This makes it more important today to…
4. Look after your physical health
How you look after yourself physically will affect you mentally and vice versa. The Record Union report showed that the top activity musicians enjoy doing to boost their mental health is exercise so why not go for a run, go to the gym or even do some chores to a motivational playlist? Think about your diet as well – are you mostly feeding yourself junk food and drink or fresh, healthy meals? If you can, try to get between 7-8 hours sleep a day but catching up on sleep while travelling to/from gigs or throughout the day is better than nothing.
Much of a musician’s life is spent indoors in a studio, in front of a computer or waiting around while travelling from one venue to another. So where possible, it’s essential to spend some time away from your devices and socials, and get some fresh air outside to reduce fatigue and low mood (i.e., cabin fever).
5. Talk to other people
Making the first step and asking for help can be hard if you’ve kept your feelings to yourself. But by talking to a trusted friend, family member, band mate or colleague about what you’re thinking and feeling, you’ll find that usually they’ll be more than willing to listen to you. Make sure that you surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who will support and encourage you in your music career rather than people who will drag you down and don’t understand how the music profession works.
Also, many musicians have similar experiences so there are people you can talk to in this industry who will definitely relate to you and will only be too happy to offer advice. And more artists are using social media to have an honest and open conversation about their struggles with their fans so creating a support network online is one way that you can benefit positively.
Additionally, there is a lot of professional support we’d recommend such as seeing a doctor, individual counselling/therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (in-person and online), talking therapies, telephone hotlines, services and online resources from national mental health organisations if you urgently need help (we will include links to these at the end of this blog). Music Minds Matter is a 24/7 support service for everyone in the UK music industry, launched in the aftermath of the passing of Linkin Park’s frontman Chester Bennington.
Looking after your mental well-being, together with your physical health and everyday thought patterns, will help you be a happier, healthier and stronger musician, all things that will allow you to work smarter, perform better and stay interested in music. If you’re struggling with your mental health, please ask for help and talk to other people as this will not only affect you but those around you both in your musical life and personal life. Remember to take one day at a time, try not to compare yourself with other “seemingly perfect” musicians and stay hopeful as the vast majority of people want you to succeed in this industry!
If you are affected by any of the issues in this blog, please consult the following services:
Infoline open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).
0300 123 3393
Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Call 116 123 anytime for free.
Open 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year
Nationwide helpline: 0800 58 58 58
London helpline: 0808 802 58 58
24/7 support service
0808 802 8008 musicmindsmatter.org.uk