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FOCUS: Mental health in the music industry

A recent study revealed that the majority of musicians suffer from mental illness (in the age group 18-25 it's the highest number of 80%!), and that only 19% of the participants feel like the music industry provides healthy working conditions.

I'm sure that we all can do a tiny bit at least to make things better (until bigger structural changes will come).


On this page I'd like to share my ongoing video series about different topics which tackle the wider issue of mental illness in the music industry. I'm always happy to receive comments, either in personal messages, via email or on the social media channels, where I will post new videos regularly.

Below you can also find a list of links to different sources which are about mental health in the music industry!


#5 5 tips to improve your mental health in difficult times

Welcome to a new episode of my video series about mental health, meant to focus on people working in the music industry, but honestly, most of this is not limited to a defined group of people, so if you are not a musician or working in music, this might be something for you as well! I think we all need to help each other out and take care of our mental health, especially as this current situation around the corona virus is shifting our lives for a while and being a huge additional anxiety factor.

What I experienced over the past two weeks is that I’m feeling anxious and stressed in my body, which I think has to do with the constant news flow and the uncertainty about this whole situation. I’m sure that many others feel the same, so I thought of putting together a few helpful tips on how to get through this a bit better.


Tip 1: start your day with meditation!

Meditation is proven to have huge health benefits and to be a very good way to decrease anxiety and stress. To find your inner calm and give your mind a little break of everything can give you a surprisingly big amount of extra energy and well-being. There is not only one way of meditating, so I think you have to try out a bit what works for yourself. The main idea is to be calm and give our mind a break from all your thoughts. Often after a meditation session, I like to stretch my body for a few minutes, or another really great thing to me is a head massage. This is proven to relieve stress and reduce tension, it can also help when having migraines or a headache, and I personally feel very refreshed after a few minutes of head massage. Try it out yourself and see what it does for you.


Tip 2: Create a daily schedule and routines!

I think what is very difficult in difficult situations like now is that our normal daily routines are a bit messed up. Right now, we probably create really bad habits like constantly checking the news or getting lost in time by scrolling social media. I think it’s worth it to sit down and think of healthy daily routines, e.g. checking the news only twice a day for a limited amount of time, planning the day with positive things like talking to friends and family over the phone, doing creative works, cooking, taking a bath, going out to get fresh air if you are still allowed to do so. Otherwise some exercises at home might be good, you can find plenty of Youtube videos for yoga or workout exercises. And now that we have a bit more time, why not put some effort into cooking healthy meals and doing everything without a rush? It also helps to have a good laugh, so maybe watch a funny movie or some cute fail video on Youtube, whatever makes you laugh for a bit.


Tip 3: Create, build, do - be active!

The new routine should include something productive - now I think it’s the perfect time to work on something creative or ask yourself what if there is something you always thought about doing, may it be writing or producing music, learning something new, writing a concept for a future project, creating artworks or videos, putting effort into creating a promotional plan and do proper brainstorming about creative ways of promoting your music, getting into storytelling or creative writing, doing research about something you’d always wanted to know more about, listening to educational podcasts, or anything else you’d might have in mind. Get your mind onto something meaningful! Maybe you can set up a challenge and make a certain goal to work towards?


Tip 4: Replace anxious thoughts with positive affirmations Experience the power of affirmation!

I’ve learned how incredible this can be and how doing this changes everything! If I think about how many of us are doubting ourselves, feeling insecure and not good enough, or if there is a bad situation like we have now, our thoughts go 100 times a day like “This is a really bad situation”, this is easily creating anxiety and strong negative feelings. It’s so easy to get lost in this negative spiral, but it’s absolutely possible to turn it around, if only we start putting effort into telling ourselves that everything will be okay and we will work it out, that we will make the best out of the situation. Positive affirmations are replacements for anxious thoughts.


Tip 5: write a journal before going to bed!

This is a very effective way of helping yourself to fall asleep. I found that writing a journal helps so much to process all the input we get every day, our feelings - good and bad ones - and to put our thoughts into a construct which makes sense as a whole. Rethinking our day and putting all the thoughts which usually fly wildly around in our head into written form helps me a lot to feel calmer afterwards, and to avoid laying in bed and thinking about all these things and not being able to sleep.


#4 Monotasking - a way to increase creativity and mental health

I wanted to talk about this topic because I myself noticed so many times over the past years that I created a very unhealthy way of working on things – usually having my phone next to me and many tabs open, so i am constantly disturbed by notifications and messages. But not only these very obvious things, it’s also about creating myself a few bad habits, like replying to emails whenever they come in and generally reacting on anything right away as soon as something comes up.

To be honest, in the last year i worked more and more on avoiding this and structuring my days or tasks more, but it’s still really difficult. Which is weird, because whenever I do this, I feel much better and get so much more done. So why is it so difficult to change the habits?


Actually when googling a bit about this topic, I found an explanation –  scientists found out that multitasking is highly addictive. When we do it successfully (or we think we do), basically always when we complete a task, dopamine is released in our brains, a chemical which is highly addictive, so our brain always wants more of it. That’s why we easily find ourselves in something scientists call a dopamine-addiction feedback loop.


The problem is that at the same time multitasking causes lots of negative issues, e.g. making more mistakes and a decrease of short-term memory. A study of the American Psychological Association shows that switching between tasks reduces productivity by 40%! Studies even showed that constant multitasking causes a decrease of grey matter density in parts of our brain which are associated with empathy and emotional control.


In general I have to say that I was surprised to find so much material of hundreds of studies which all show more or less the same results and make very clear that multitasking has many negative impacts and isn’t healthy after all.


So, what can we do about this? I think that we should practice a beautiful thing which people call monotasking or singletasking. This simple concept shares the idea of dedicating ourselves to one task at a time and think about how we can avoid interruptions.

When we multitask, we are actually not doing multiple things at once but rapidly shifting attention between different activities, so monotasking is all about sticking to one task and getting deeper into it without drifting off after a short time. This way, we don’t only calm our mind, but also get into topics in a deeper and more meaningful way, give it more value and often feel much more satisfied. By giving something attention for a longer period of time, we’ll create a bigger energy for it, and only after a longer time, we’ll think about aspects which we wouldn’t touch really if only giving it a quick thought


To do this, I have a bunch of tips of how we can change our habits and make this happen. Of course everybody might have a bit of a different way, but I really recommend trying out the following things:


  •  I would recommend to make a work schedule for each day, either in the beginning of a day or for example on Mondays and then for the whole upcoming week, to map out your tasks. Important is not only to do this, but also to respect it and to stick to it. Often when we do freelance or creative work, we tend to skip something if something else comes up or somebody asks us to have a coffee or to help with something else. But also creative and freelance work is work, and both you and others should respect this as your working time, and as an important time to do what we need and like to do.


  • Instead of having short periods of times for this and that, it makes sense to create longer working blocks, for example choose only one or two big topics for a day and schedule 2-4 hours for each. Then for all the smaller tasks which you constantly have in between, I recommend just scheduling 2-3 times a day a shorter time to do this, e.g. answering emails – this can easily be done for example in the beginning of a work day, maybe once after our longer break, and before we leave our office or desk. There is really no need to constantly check the inbox and always reply right away. I am myself a person who does or did this, but I also find this crazy and found out that it’s usually only myself thinking that I should reply immediately. Others usually don’t mind waiting some hours, a day or even several days. It’s just something we have learned especially in the decades of social media, that we feel like messages need to be answered right away. I really, really would like to tell anybody that this is not necessary, and also that we should stop expecting it from others. There is this phenomenon of just quickly sending a short message on Facebook about a simple question, and then getting mad if people don’t reply right away, but we should all remember that others also have other things to do and the right to reply whenever they can, and that we don’t know in which situation they are at the moment. Really, we all should stop doing this, so I even try to have work-related issues as much as possible only on emails, where at least there is a bit less craziness about instant replying.


  • There is something else which is really simple but helped me a lot to work more concentrated: turning off notifications of apps, so that I don’t get distracted when something happens on Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp or on my emails. This sounds so basic, but simply not seeing a light on my phone or hearing a sound or vibration helped so much and calms down my mind a lot. It’s even helpful sometimes to use the flight mode or to put the phone into another room.Even for social media you could choose certain times to check them instead of doing that several times an hour. The interesting thing is that we always check everything because we think we are missing out on something, but I tell you that this is usually not the case. Checking Facebook or Instagram only twice a day won’t make you missing anything, but for sure give you more peace and less distraction. If you would like to do this but have troubles changing your habits, there are also several apps to use to block your social media or even emails for a certain amount of time or for some hours a day.


  •  Then another very important thing of course is to also schedule break times. This is touching very much what I was talking about in my first video, the simple way of giving yourself proper breaks, to remember to eat and get yourself away from the work devices, get some fresh air, or simply do nothing. Breaks are so important to stay healthy and sane and will also most likely make you more productive. Next to one or two longer breaks each day, you can also add a few minutes in between for short-time meditation. Sometimes even 2 minutes of closing your eyes and concentrating on your breath does a lot.


  • In general, it’s good to give yourself working hours, to make sure you’ll not work 24/7 but to find a both a beginning and an end. I would recommend to think about what is the most productive time when you feel especially fit mentally. This is for some people in the morning, for others it might be late in the day or whenever. Try to use this time for one of the bigger or more important tasks, and build your work day around that. Listen to yourself and what feels most healthy and good for you. It’s really good to have a plan about a work schedule, rather than ending up working random hours and sit down for important things when it’s actually during our tiredness or sleeping times.


  •  Think about your work environment. Maybe a certain type of music helps? For a good reason, concentration playlists go really strong on all streaming platforms. But also think about your surroundings, if there is anything to make you less distracted. Sometimes a change of scenery from your normal work space can also help.

These are a few ideas and I think most important is to know that it’s never too late to change habits, no matter how addictive they seem or how difficult it is. It’s really worth it to try out a bit and look what feels good for you, and then to stick to it and create new habits. In the end there are so many areas in our lives in which we can’t choose if we multitask or not, like when we talk while driving or similar activities, but for some things like work and self-care times, we have the power to control and manage this ourselves pretty much, so why not trying it out?


I hope this video helps you and gives some inspiration. As always, I’m really happy to hear your feedback or experiences, so feel free to comment on the video or to send me a message if you feel like it.

#3 The role of alcohol in the music industry


Is the music industry an alcohol industry?
If we feel like talking about mental health is something like a taboo topic, then talking about the following subject is even less popular, and something which can evoke very strong opinions. But I think it’s vital when opening the discussion about how we can improve our mental well-being in the music industry, so here we are: I’d like to talk about the habits of alcohol consumption and the role of alcohol in the music industry.
Before getting into it: I decided to make this only about alcohol and not other drugs. This goes often together if ever there are talks about this, and any substance abuse is definitely something we have to think about in the wider picture, but I still think that there can lay worlds between alcohol and drug abuse. What I’d like to focus on is more the normality of our every-day life when working in the music industry, and to this normality counts often alcohol.
I also want to make clear that this is not about saying anything against general consume of alcohol or telling people to go straight edge. I want everybody to be able to decide freely what and how much to drink. In the following I’d rather want to reflect on the current situation, on the problems connected to that and what we all could do to create a healthier environment around artists and people working in the music industry.
Late working hours, m...


#2 Surround yourself with supportive people

This time I'd like to talk a bit about how surrounding ourselves with the right people can change everything - how we feel about ourselves, if we keep our passion about what we do and even how good we can live out our creativity and work in an innovative way.


It's not about surrounding ourselves only with people who praise everything we do, or to run away from every person we don't connect with immediately, but more about making a conscious decision on how close we should be with somebody, and about accepting that it's totally normal that we don't click with everybody and that this doesn't mean that anybody did something wrong, or that we failed. It can be difficult to put into words why we feel insecure or not good enough around certain people, but it's good to notice it as a normal thing and then to decide that we can distance ourselves a bit more from those and rather give the closest spots around us to those who give us a feeling of security and support, and around whom we feel like we can truly be ourselves.


In the music industry we sometimes meet people who make us feel rather uncomfortable and who communicate in a very rough and impolite way.

Even though contacts are a key factor of success in music and we often feel desperate for any connection we can get, we don't have to work with everybody and if your guts and intuition tell you that something isn't right for you, you should definitely listen to that and trust that you feel like that for a good reason. This might lead to decisions which won't look right from the outside, but I believe that it's worth it to follow your feelings and rather not to work with people who would make you feel anxious, stressed, or as if you couldn't be yourself.

We should still be diplomatic and friendly towards those people of course, but not necessarily work too close with them.


Sometimes we can still not avoid working with people who give us negative feelings, but by surrounding ourselves with supportive people, we’ll learn not to take the negative encounters so personal and to trust more in ourselves. I think it’s so important, especially in the whole artistic field that we build communities, collectives and relationships which are supportive, to find people who are like-minded.


This industry contains so many stigmata, so many weird ideas of how everything has to work and how people in the music industry have to behave and treat each other, but I think it’s time to break it, to be more human, to support each other and to develop a healthy way of communication and openness. Find people you can talk about every problem or doubt, people who are encouraging and who really believe in you and who like you the way you are. These people will make it so much easier for you to stay inspired, to stay creative and to keep your life and work mentally sustainable.


#1 Allow yourself to have breaks

I decided to start a little video series, sharing some ideas on how to stay mentally healthy if working as a musician or in the music industry. This first video will be about the very simple and yet so difficult task of taking breaks!

There is so much more to be added to what I say in the video. I think we really should see taking breaks much more as part of the work we do, and I really believe that we'll do better in what we do if taking care about ourselves and feeling like having a good balance between getting work done in some parts of the day, and taking time off to socialise with others or just take time for ourselves and non-work-related activities in another part of the day. I have had times when it was difficult to stop thinking about work, but it's really a matter of practice and creating new patterns and habits.

I also find meditation a great way to calm down, to lower your heart rate (which can rise a lot when feeling stressed) and to feel generally more grounded and stable to deal with any circumstances around us.

I'd be happy if you share your thoughts, how you personally manage to give your mind a break of your music work or if you have any questions.

PS: Forgive the auto focus, I couldn't turn it off 😂

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