A bubble bath and a glass of red wine. This is what we typically think or hear when we talk about self-care, which has become a huge buzz word in the last few years. The concept of self-care has become more popular but there is still a large misunderstanding of what self-care is and how to do it effectively.
It is hard to imagine an industry that is in more need of comprehensive self-care than the entertainment industry. The scene is full of vices and damaging behaviors involving drugs, alcohol, sex, and food, just to name a few. In no other field are these vices so widely accepted, or at least tolerated. The reality is that the demanding lifestyle of touring, performing, and writing and recording music are ones with such high pressure that healthy self-care should not simply be an option, but a requirement. Record and management companies should see structured self care for artists as essential in protecting their investment (here is a link to the previous article I wrote about this).
Self-Care Baby Food
Nobody likes baby food. Not even babies. And the way we have been approaching self-care over the last decade has been the equivalent of accepting baby food rather than the wonderful feast of options available to us. We have been under the impression that self-care is something we do at home, so we can go to work and get burned out, only to go back home to practice self-care again, so we can go back to work and get burned out. This is obviously not sustainable, nor enjoyable. Many of us think “If I can make it through today I can go home, deal with my children, handle things around the house, and maybe enjoy a few minutes of peace and solitude before waking up and doing it again.” Baby food.
Self-Care with all the fixins
So, we know what the issue is. How do we solve it?
We need a paradigm shift in the way we think of self-care. It is not something we simply do outside of our regularly responsibilities, but in the midst of them. Imagine being able to find ways to enjoy yourself throughout the day while handling your business. This mindset means we no longer live getting through the day but experiencing it. Which leads to the next point, mindfulness.
I wrote a more thorough summary of mindfulness in another article (On Tour with Obi Wan Kenobi, Mindfulness for Musicians). Here is an overview of mindfulness from that article: “We can practice mindfulness in the ways that some people think of meditation. But it is more than that. It is about being present in the here and now and fully experiencing the moment. If we are trying to get through the day simply to get a few minutes of peace and quiet at the end of it, well, that is the opposite of mindfulness (more on this in the next article on self-care). When we fully experience something, we typically manage our emotional well-being better, and can often enjoy it more. You may be saying, ‘Well, you wouldn’t enjoy my job/life/spouse/kids/etc’. The beauty of mindfulness is that even if we are not enjoying the moment, we can experience it and learn more from it than we would if we were not mindful.”
In order to have comprehensive self-care we need to have a comprehensive self-care plan. Not simply getting a massage once a year or going out to eat every Friday night. The one I recommend and use is from the Sanctuary Model of Care (http://www.sanctuaryweb.com/TheSanctuaryModel.aspx), a trauma informed model used in programs around the world to combat the effects of trauma and working in traumatized systems. It includes several categories;
The goal is to have several activities in each category that are attainable AND measurable. So, not just drinking water but drinking 32 ounces per day. This way the goal is not nebulous but something you can measure and feel like you have accomplished. The beauty of this plan is that you also create self-care activities that you can engage in in all areas of your life.
Here is a small example: I struggle with being on time. When I have to leave my office for a meeting I only factor in the time it would take to drive to the meeting if conditions were perfect, and for me to sit right down in the meeting and be ready to go. I typically work until the last minute, then as I am walking out someone grabs me to ask a quick question (there is hardly ever a “quick question”). Traffic on the road causes further delays which leads me to start feeling anxious. I attempt to compensate by driving faster and making riskier driving choices to try and make up the time (a speeding ticket or accident would only add to the stress level and tardiness). Then I walk into the meeting stressed and anxious, not prepared to be engaged, and often have to go to the bathroom, which I did not have time to do. Now one part of my self-care plan is to always leave 15 minutes earlier than I think I need to. This helps make up for all of the unexpected stuff that happens, and I arrive to the meeting early and stress/anxiety free.
Here is another example from a previous job of mine. I had a co-worker named Josh. Josh loves coffee. So much so that he started his own coffee business (eqroasters.com). At the time we were working together in a residential group home with refugee youth from Central America and Mexico, some of whom had grown up working in coffee fields for incredibly low wages and poor work conditions. We obviously did not want to support the exploitative part of the coffee business, so we committed to only buying fairly traded coffee. Josh was working at the time to master the artform of roasting coffee, which I learned is pretty difficult, especially since he was doing it in basically a small toaster. So as part of his job he was able to buy fairly traded coffee, roast it at work, and give the staff and residents incredible coffee that was also responsibly produced and traded. Josh became the coffee guy, learned how to master roasting, provided a service to all of us, and went on to open his own coffee business. He found a way to do something at work that was life giving for him, which did not make the job perfect, but helped keep him motivated, present, and engaged.
For those about to rock, we <self-care3 you
Back to the entertainment industry. It can be incredibly difficult for artists to practice healthy self-care if we go with the old, baby food way of thinking. It is challenging practicing mindfulness with constant distractions. Living on the road makes it difficult to eat healthy and exercise, and the industry is full of vices to pull artists away from reality in order to cope with depression and anxiety.
Creating a comprehensive self-care plan in line with the one listed above is a great first step towards a more healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. Positively reinforce yourself for practicing the plan by giving yourself small rewards for doing a certain number of activities from your plan each day or week. After a while you can slowly eliminate the positive reinforcers and hopefully, after creating the habit, it will stick.
To all the artists; remember, create healthy activities you can engage in in the midst of your lifestyle. Each person’s self-care plan will look different.
To all the labels and managers; encourage your artists to create a self-care plan. There could be a huge benefit to having each of them complete one as part of the process of signing on, especially for those going on tour. It can potentially sound cheesy, but the costs and risks in terms of addiction, suicide and other mental health issues are too high to not try this. Consider self-care, coupled with counseling, your insurance policy on a major investment you have decided to make in artists and entertainers.
Edited by Jeannie Regan
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