We musicians can be our own worst enemy. Our passion causes us to care too much, our perfectionism causes us to avoid practicing, and our unclear career paths stress us out no end. So in order to make sure we actually succeed in this art that we love, we need to take care of ourselves. Here are four self-care tips for musicians to make the most of their passion.
Take purposeful breaks. Procrastinating does not count as a real break. A real break is on purpose, to rest, and feels great! Procrastinating just stretches stress out for a longer time. If you notice yourself procrastinating, sit down and spend five minutes working on something. You’ll often keep going after that five minutes is up!
To take a purposeful break, set an end-time for the day. No matter what, you’re done at 7 pm, for example. Knowing that I’ll have time to screw around later helps me focus on getting stuff done right now. Note: this only works if you actually stop for the day when you told yourself you would! Otherwise you know you won’t follow through with your promise to yourself, and it won’t be as strong of motivation to power through in the moment. That’s the opposite of self-care.
Know your limits. I used to be pretty sure I could do everything I set my mind to. Then I had a semester with 11 classes, a 35-hours-a-week job, a long-distance boyfriend who never drove to see me, and three ensembles.
I don’t remember much of that semester. Now I know that, while I can do anything I set my mind to, I can’t do everything. It’s a big difference! It’s okay if you can’t do a super-high course load. It is also okay to take 5 years instead of four, as long as you aren’t burying yourself in debt. It is okay to not be on the board of four clubs, or whatever is currently making your life incredibly stressful. Know your limits, and say no to stuff you don’t want to do or can’t handle. It is okay to do that!
Surround yourself with positive people. Some people can be very negative. Sometimes it’s temporary, due to stress, and sometimes it’s just their personality. In the long term, I promise that your music career will be MUCH more pleasant if you avoid the people constantly talking about how hard their classes are/how evil their professors are/how much they hate practicing. It isn’t cringy to be excited about music. After all, isn’t that the point of being a musician?
Always have a plan B. Music is hard to make into a paying career. Try to cultivate a couple non-music skills, too, just in case. Getting a student receptionist or IT desk job is a great idea, because it gives you experience in jobs that will probably never really go away. If you have a head for numbers, or enjoy people, consider getting a second major in finance or marketing. Having a wide range of skills, at best will help you improve your career as a musician, and at worst be a fallback in case your music runs into trouble. It’s not shameful to be pragmatic! It will give you some peace of mind that is awfully rare among musicians that I know, and that’s invaluable. Peace of mind (and general health) is the whole point of self-care.
Now go take care of yourself – you got this.