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Depression, Anxiety, and Hope from a Roadie In The Age of Covid

Dear Everyone, you are not alone.

 

**TRIGGER WARNING: This blog contains personal content surrounding issues of mental health including depression and anxiety, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Reader discretion is advised.**

The alarm on my phone went off at 6:30 a.m.

I rolled out of my bunk, carefully trying to make as little noise as possible as I gathered my backpack, clothes, and tool bag before exiting the bus.

The morning air felt cool against my face as I looked around me trying to orient myself in the direction of the loading dock to the arena. Were we in New York? Ohio? Pennsylvania? In the morning before coffee, those details were difficult to remember.

Passed the elephant door, the arena sprawled out before me, empty and suspensefully silent. I looked up with a mixed sense of awe and critical analysis as I noted the three tiers of the arena, the red seats forming distinct geometrical shapes between each section. As I made my way out to the middle of the deceivingly large room, I looked toward the ground in hopes of finding that tell-tale button marking the middle of the room, if I was lucky.

As I set up my tripod, I heard the footsteps of the rigging team as they began stretching out their yellow measuring tapes across the cement floor. The clapping of their feet echoed in the room and soon the sound of their voices calling out distances joined the chorus in the reverb tails.

I turned on my laser and pulled out my notepad, the pen tucked in my hair as I aimed for the first measurement.

Then I woke up.

Up above me, all I could see was the white air-tile of the basement ceiling while the mini-fridge hummed in the corner of the room.

For a few seconds, or maybe it was a full minute, I had absolutely no idea where I was.

I wanted to scream.

I lay in bed for what could have been 15 minutes or an hour, telling myself I had to get out of bed. I couldn’t just lay here. I had to do something. Get up. Get UP.

Eventually, I made my way upstairs and put on a pot of water for coffee. When I opened my phone and opened Facebook, I saw a status update from a friend about a friend of a friend who had passed away. My heart sank. I remembered doing a load-in with that person. Years ago, at a corporate event in another city, in another lifetime. They didn’t post details on what had happened to them. Frankly, it wasn’t anyone’s business, but the family and those closest to them. Yet my heart felt heavy.

Six months ago, or maybe more, time had ceased to have any tangible meaning at this point, I had been sitting in a restaurant in Northern California when the artists told the whole tour that we were all going home. Tomorrow. Like a series of ill-fated dominoes, events were canceling one-by-one across the country and across the world. Before I knew it, I was back in my storage unit at my best friend’s house, trying to shove aside the boxes I had packed up 4 or 5 months earlier to make room for an inflatable mattress so I had somewhere to sleep. I hadn’t really expected to be “home” yet so I hadn’t really come up with a plan as to what I was going to do.

Maybe I’ll go camping for the next month or so. Try to get some time to think. I loved nature and being out in the trees always made me feel better about everything, so maybe that was the thing to do. Every day I looked at the local newspaper’s report of the number of Covid-19 cases in California. It started out in the double digits. The next day it was in the triple digits. Then it grew again. And again. Every day the numbers grew bigger and notices of business closing and areas being restricted filled the pages and notifications across the Internet.

Fast-forward and the next thing I knew, I was packing all my possessions into a U-Haul trailer and driving across the country to be with my sister in Illinois. She had my baby niece a little over a year ago, so I figured the best use of my time would be to spend time with my family while I could.

I was somewhere driving across Kansas when the reality of what was happening hit me. As someone who loved making lists and planning out everything from their packing lists to their hopes and dreams in life, I—for once—literally had no idea what I was doing. This seemed like the best idea I could think of at the time.

Fast-forward and I was sitting on the phone in the basement of my sister’s house in the room she had graciously fabricated for me out of sectioned-off tapestries. I looked at the timestamp on my phone for how long I had been on hold with the Unemployment Office. Two hours and thirty minutes. It took twenty calls in a row to try and get through to someone at the California Employment Development Department. At the three-hour mark, the line disconnected. I just looked down at my phone.

I remember one Christmas when I was with my dad’s side of the family at dinner, I tried to explain what I do to them.

“So you are a DJ, then?” my aunt asked enthusiastically, believing that she had finally gotten it right.

“No,” I said.

“Do you play with the band?” my uncle asked.

“No, I’m the person who tries to make sure everyone in the audience can hear the band,” I tried to laugh.

Everyone laughed that sort of half-laugh when you try to pretend you get the joke, but you don’t actually get it.

Across my social media feeds, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and everyone in between, were all sharing updates of how they had to get “real jobs”, how they couldn’t get through to unemployment or their state had completely failed to get them any unemployment at all, how they were angry, desperate, and how they needed to feed their families. Leaders in the industry grew from the motivation of trying to speak out on behalf of the live events industry to the government, pleading for financial relief for businesses, venues, individuals, and more, and my feeds flooded with initiatives and campaigns for awareness of the plight of the live events industry.

Yet when I talked to people who were not in the industry, they seemed to have no idea that the live events sector had been affected at all. Worse yet, I realized more and more that so few people had any idea of what people in the live events industry actually do. Organizations struggled to get news channels to do exposés on the subject, and perhaps it was because there were so many people across every sector of every industry that were struggling. In one conversation with a friend, I had explained that there were nearly 100 people on a tour that I had worked on between the production, tech crew, artist’s tech crew, everyone. They couldn’t believe so many people were working behind the scenes at one concert.

Yet the more I talked about my job and the more time that passed, the more I felt like I was talking about a dream. This fear grew inside me that there was no end in sight to all this and the stories started to repeat themselves and it started to feel like these were stories of what had been, not what was. It was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate when talking to people about “regular” things in our daily lives because it was not work. Talking about the weather was not talking about rigging plots or truckloads, so my brain just refused to focus on it. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about the industry: watching webinars, learning new things because I just wanted so desperately to go back to my career that I fabricated schedules and deadlines around other obligations to feel like work was still there.

Then the thought that underpinned all this rose up like a monster from the sea:

Who am I without my job?

I read an article Dave Grohl wrote [1] about performing and playing music on-stage for people, how there was nothing like that feeling in the whole world. I think he hit on something that, in effect, is really indescribable to anyone who has not worked in the live events world. There was a feeling unlike any other of standing in a room with tens of thousands of people screaming at deafening levels. There was a feeling unlike any other of standing alone in a room listening to a PA and crafting it to sound the way you wanted it to. There was a feeling unlike any other of hearing motors running in the morning while pulling a snake across an arena floor. There was a feeling unlike any other of complete, utter exhaustion riding a bus in the morning to the next load-in after doing 4, 5, 6, however many gigs in a row. I tried to explain these feelings to my friends and family who listened with compassion, but I couldn’t help but feel that sometimes they were just pretending to get the joke.

Days, weeks, months floated by and the more time passed, the more I felt like I was floating in a dream. This was a bad dream that I would wake up from. It had to be. Then when I came to reality and realized that this was not a dream, that this was where I was in my life now, it felt like my brain and the entire fabric of my being was splitting in two. It was not unbeknownst to me how fortunate I was with my sister taking me in. Every morning I tried to say 5 things I was grateful for to keep my spirits up and my sister was always one of them.

The painful irony was that I had stopped going to therapy in January 2020 because I felt I had gotten to an OK point in my life where I was good for now. I had gotten where I needed to for the time being and I could shelve all the other stuff for now until I had time to address them. Then suddenly I had all the time in the world and while shut down in quarantine, all those things in my brain I told myself I would deal with later…Well, now I had no other choice than to deal with them, and really this all intersected with the question at hand of who was I without my job.

And I don’t think I was alone

The thing people don’t tell you about working in the industry is the social toll it takes on your life and soul. The things you give up and the parts of yourself you give up to make it a full-time gig. Yet there is this mentality of toughing it through because there are 3,000 other people waiting in line to take your spot and if you falter for even just one step, you could be gone and replaced just as easily. Organizations focusing on mental health in the industry started to arise from the pandemic because, in fact, it wasn’t just me. There are many people who struggle to find that balance of life and work let alone when there is a global health crisis at hand. All this should make one feel less alone, and to some extent it does. The truth is that the journey towards finding yourself is, as you would imagine, something each person has to do for themself. And my reality was that despite all the sacrifices needed for this job, all I wanted to do was run back to it as fast as I could.

Without my work, it felt like a huge hole was missing from my entire being. That sense of being in a dream pervaded my every waking moment and even in my dreams, I dreamt of work to the point where I had to take sleeping aids just so I would stop thinking about it in my dreams too. I found myself at this strange place in my life where I reunited myself with hobbies that I previously cast aside for touring life and trying to appreciate what happiness they could offer. More webinars and industry discussions popped up about “pivoting” into new industries or fields and in some of these, you could physically see the pain in the interviewees’ faces as they tried to discuss how they had made their way in another field.

One day I was playing with my baby niece and I told her we had to stop playing to go do something, but we would come back to playing later. She just looked at me in utter bewilderment and said, “No! No! No!” Then I remembered that small children have no concept of “now” versus “later”. Everything literally is in the “now” for them. It struck me as something very profound that my niece lived completely in the moment. Everything was a move from one activity to the next, always moving forward. So with much effort and pushback against every fiber of my future-thinking self, I just stopped trying to think of anything further than the next day ahead of me. Just move one foot in front of the other and be grateful every day that I am here in what’s happening at this moment.

Now with the vaccination programs here in the United States and the rumblings of movement trickling across the grapevine, it feels like for the first time in more than a year that there is hope on the horizon. There is a part of me that is so desperate for it to be true and part of me that is suspiciously wary of it being true. Like seeing the carrot on the ground, but being very aware of the fact there is a string attached to it that can easily pull the carrot away from you once more.

There is a hard road ahead and a trepidatious one, at that. Yet after months and months of complete uncertainty, there is something to be said about having hope that things will return to a new type of “normal”. Because “normal” would imply that we would return to how things were before 2020. I believe that there is good change and reflection that came in the pause of the pandemic that we should not revert back from: a collective reflection on who we are, whether we wanted to address it to ourselves or not.

What will happen from this point moving forward is anyone’s gamble, but I always like to think that growth doesn’t come from being comfortable. So with one foot in front of the other, we move forward into this next phase of time. And like another phrase that seems to come up over and over again, “Well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

References:

[1]https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/05/dave-grohl-irreplaceable-thrill-rock-show/611113/

Make Room for Mental Health

 

 

Summer is almost here. For some of us, this means we are one step closer to a long-anticipated return to our work. For others, it means learning that gigs we thought would be there when things reopened will not be. For a lot of us, it’s a mix of both.

I am working my first load-out post-vaccination this week, and I know for me, it has been an odd transition back. It’s relearning to do this work both physically and mentally. It’s bringing everything we have learned during this time away back with us, and redefining what we think of as “normal.” Because it turns out that what we called “normal” in the Before Times was kind of a mess, and for my part, I was barely holding it together and had no idea.

By a coincidence of timing, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’ve had a lot of chances these past weeks to reckon with my feelings about reopening, diversifying our workforce, and eliminating toxic practices in every way that I can. For me, the first step of this is just to give each other a lot more space to be ourselves and bring our whole selves to what we do. We are human beings, and just as our bodies need food and rest, our emotional systems need care and attention. For too long we have learned to shut our emotions in or leave them at the door for the sake of the gig, when in fact this is the OPPOSITE of what we should be doing. Theatre is a business that prides itself on being a community, and communities take care of themselves and the people within them. That is what a healthy workplace is all about.

There are a lot of resources out there that are tailored to helping those of us working behind the scenes to focus on our mental health better. The “I’m with the crew” conversations are a great place to start.

 

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to take a course in Mental Health First Aid training that was offered by Behind The Scenes, a nonprofit focused on helping entertainment industry professionals who need financial assistance due to an injury. In the past years, they have expanded their resources to include guides on ways to talk to your coworkers about mental health and resources on where to seek treatment for yourself or a loved one. The course I took taught us how to spot when someone may be having a mental health issue at work, and how to use the ALGEE method (Assess/Approach/Assist, Listen, Give Info, Encourage professional help, Encourage self-help) for rendering aid to a colleague who has begun behaving in ways that are, to use a term from theatre, “out of character” for them. While we tend to shrug off things like being late, looking tired, unkempt clothing, or not meeting work deadlines, in some people these behaviors can be early signs of a worsening mental health or substance abuse issue.

While I thought that this course was going to be much more technical and difficult, a lot of it was just about listening. Simple as that. Learning to listen without judgment to people, and without forcing them, encourage ways that they might seek additional help. As a society, we are not in the habit of answering the question “How are you?” with anything other than “good…” but what if we did? Maybe even this small act of showing vulnerability would help to open others up to what we are going through and create a safe space where we can discuss our issues and feel less alone. Listening patiently and without judgment is the key to making those safe spaces, and especially in this age of social media, we need to say once and for all that it is okay to not be okay some of the time.

This brings us to the next step in Mental Health First Aid: giving reassurance and, where applicable, encouraging the person in need to seek more help, possibly through therapy or with a Certified Peer Specialist (someone who is trained and shares the lived experience of the people they help, similar to a sponsor in a Twelve Step Program). The idea of going to therapy is so stigmatized, especially here in the US. And of course, for a lot of freelance folks, there can also be a massive cost barrier, or it can be hard to find someone whose schedule can work with yours. A trained therapist or counselor can give you informed feedback on your situation and teach you ways to cope with the ever-changing world. Especially during lockdown and quarantine, I have seen my old anxieties and nervous habits creep back into my daily life, and one of the things that have helped to keep me sane and organized is my weekly video chats with my therapist. If you are wanting to learn more about this, a great resource is the Entertainment Industry Therapist Finder. They specifically list therapists who either have worked in show biz themselves or specialize in working with clients who are in entertainment.

The Entertainment Industry Therapist Finder is a great resource to find a mental health professional who “gets” what we do!

 

The other word besides “Mental Health” that gets stigmatized in our society is “Trauma.” This came up in a public session I attended as part of the TSDCA Annual Meeting called “Re-entering the Workforce in a Time of Trauma.” It was facilitated by Taryn Longo, who is a trauma therapist and part of the team that puts together the “I’m With The Crew” webinars. The word “trauma” may sound extreme to describe what this past year-and-change without work has been like, but it really is exactly what we’ve experienced. In Mental Health First Aid class, we defined trauma as an event that is physically and emotionally harmful and can have long-term effects in functioning and well-being. By that definition, the entire world population has no doubt lived through a trauma. Between the devastating illness and deaths that have resulted from Covid, the racial justice uprisings that punctuated last spring and summer, and now the anxiety surrounding live events finally reopening, we need to acknowledge the insane time that we have just lived through. We will not be able to heal unless we learn to nurture ourselves and treat our emotional wounds the same way that we would a physical injury, and acknowledging the trauma is the first step to helping us move through those difficult emotions and towards a better state of being.

This is where self-help and self-care comes in. For some people, this mental health strategy can be easier to wrap one’s head around than seeking professional help, and it too can be a great tool for healing! I know that for me, developing a daily routine to deal with not having a show schedule was a huge part of getting through the pandemic. Some of the things that have gotten me through have included committing to a consistent sleep schedule (and getting 8 hours of sleep no matter what!), practicing yoga every morning, meditating (I use the Headspace app), going outside at least once a day, and socializing with my friends on Zoom. The best part is that these coping strategies can still be a part of my day even when theatre jobs do come back! I really do plan to do this, because incorporating self-care into my day just makes me feel better. And when I feel better, I do even better work, I can do a better job of being there for others, and I find that I simply enjoy every aspect of my day more. Even the boring stuff like washing dishes!

The more you can take care of yourself and give yourself the space you need for mental health, the more you will be able to show empathy for others. Modeling this behavior for those around you also plays a big part in destigmatizing talking about mental health and seeking treatment. Just taking a few deep breaths before starting your work for the day can help to ground you and set an example for others that taking care of yourself in public is not just okay, it is welcome without judgment wherever you are. And that can go a long way towards helping others recognize that it’s okay to need help and that seeking help before an issue worsens can lead to more positive mental health outcomes.

As Taryn Longo said in the TSDCA session, “it’s not about making things ‘nice’ or ‘okay’ cause sometimes they’re not okay.” If we can learn to unlock what is going on in our emotional selves, ask for help when we need it, and create a safe place for others to be open about what they are going through as well, we will create a new “typical” workplace that is far less toxic and closed-off than the one we had in March of 2020.

Download the self-care action plan Self-Care Template_R

If you are thinking about suicide, or worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline Network is available 24/7 across the United States. 

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE 

1-800-273-TALK (8255) [24/7 Hotline] 1-888-628-9454 (Spanish) 1-800-799-4889 (TTY)
This hotline is available 24 hours a day.

CRISIS TEXT LINE 

Text “MHFA” to 741741 to speak with a compassionate, trained crisis counselor, a volunteer who has been trained to help with problem-solving and will address the caller’s situation.

More Resources

Musicares – https://www.grammy.com/musicares – MusiCares provides a safety net of critical health and welfare services to the music community in three key areas: Mental Health & Addiction Recovery Services, Health Services, and Human Services:

Backline – https://backline.care/ – Backline exists to connect music industry professionals and their families with a trusted network of mental health and wellness providers

The Roadie Clinic – https://www.theroadieclinic.com/ – The Roadie Clinic exists to empower & heal roadies and their families by providing resources & services tailored to the struggles of the touring lifestyle. The Clinic is committed to providing a safe space for roadies and their families to heal while off the road, and to advocate for – and empower them to obtain – a healthy work environment

Mental Health Awareness Month

 

Keeping Afloat with Postpartum Depression

Content Warning: Discussion of mental disorders and suicide.

April Tucker has written some great articles on pregnancy and working as a mom in the Audio Industry, however, I want to focus on something specific:  Postpartum Depression (PPD).  Currently in the United States parents have been hit hard by the lack of affordable childcare, parental leave options, other childcare support infrastructure, not to mention the earthquake in the Entertainment Industry from the COVID pandemic.

PPD is a mood disorder that affects parents after childbirth.  Symptoms can occur regardless of gender and type of birth and start during the first year after birth.  While it is not possible to know for sure if you will develop it, there are several risk factors: family or personal history of mental and mood disorders, addiction, lack of support, complications with pregnancy, and childbirth.  Symptoms are low self-esteem, doubt, mood swings, irritability, emptiness, exhaustion, lack of concentration, inability to make decisions, poor memory, fear of the baby, thoughts of self-harm or suicide, thought of harm to baby or partner.  PPD is more than just “baby blues,” it is a real and serious disorder.

You are not alone

It is estimated that 15% of women have PPD, and I am part of that 15%.  My pregnancy and delivery on paper were healthy and tame.  I had a great medical team assisting me, and my husband had enough medical savvy to calm any worries leading up to and during the big day.  My family is full of healthy and supportive people.  However, I had no local support network of friends or family, had no close “mom friends”, I upended my career to become a mother, and my birth experience traumatized me.  PPD can happen to anyone, and there is no shame in that.

First consult your team: Doctor, Midwife, Doula, Lactation Consultant, Therapist, Psychologist, your child’s pediatrician.  Ask whomever you already have on your side.  They have the medical knowledge to help you, they want you healthy.  Strength lies in knowing when to ask for help.  I used the depression questionnaire as the opportunity to bring it up at my postpartum follow-up.  Even with a diagnosis, life goes on and appointments don’t happen every day.  Being a parent is more than a full-time job, and often parents have another job on top of it.  Sometimes it can be hard to keep your head above water.

In those moments there are little things that can make life bearable:

Find me on the SoundGirls Audio Moms group, reach out.  Also check out our video Breaking Norms: Moms in Audio and The Music Industry.


Mental Health and Attachment

I started this month with some work on the books, a one-off awards show. It was a wonderful feeling to be back at it, while at the same time trying to remind myself that I haven’t forgotten how to re-string a guitar. However, it was short-lived. The crew was cut back due to Covid restrictions and I was back in my sweat pants before I could say load in.

It got me to thinking about how we attach ourselves to our jobs. I started walking taller knowing I was working again, I had a purpose once more. Seeing other people’s posts about feeling a loss of purpose during this lockdown, I’ve been thinking how potentially unhealthy it is that we have such an attachment to our jobs. We are not wholly our jobs. Yes, we may have dedicated years to trying to get the job in the first place, but it does not define us. Just because we have pivoted to driving a delivery van or working in a coffee shop, it doesn’t make us a different person, or at least it shouldn’t. We should focus on our qualities and what we bring to the world that way. Can you deliver a package in the same way you would tend to an artist? Do you take pride in being on time every single day for your shift just like you would need to for a bus call?

You can still be super passionate about your career, but it doesn’t need to be all-consuming. Do you take breaks between tours? Are you able to maintain relationships off the road? As much as we want to believe that people are looking out for us, our artist cares about us, at the end of the day it’s a business. They will no doubt do whatever is best for their business, so you should also think of yourself as a business. Nurture yourself, put yourself first.

What is your identity outside of work? I have been taking this forced time off to start learning to surf. I have always wanted to learn, I have put myself in the best location (Southern California baby!) and now there are no excuses for not having the time. In fact, I am becoming quite knowledgeable on how the waves are during all the seasons (or should I say the one season we have here!).

The one commodity you can never replace is time. Enjoy being handed some time off, or at least having time to do something different.

 

Get Your Head in the Game

Gamify your mental health to get through the tough times

For any number of reasons, our mental health can take a hit from time to time. It can sap all our motivation, and toxic productivity culture (What Is Toxic Productivity and How Do I Avoid It?) and social media crafting (Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy) can exacerbate our feelings of inadequacy. Just keeping on top of daily tasks can feel impossible. However, there are ways to readjust our approach in order to help us feel better about ourselves and still achieve plenty without being overwhelmed.

Mental health is health

We have come a long way in being able to talk openly about mental health, but the attitude that it is separate from physical health, or not real because “it’s all in your head” is still out there. Your brain is an inextricable part of your body. Mental health is health, and there are varying types of illness, levels of severity and various ways to treat it. I like to think of the advice in this post as similar to physiotherapy: it might cure mild symptoms, alleviate more serious ones, or just take the edge off. It can work in conjunction with medication but is no substitute for professional help. I am by no means an expert. These are just methods that help me and hopefully will help you if you need it. Much like physiotherapy; if it makes you feel worse, stop and speak to a medical professional.

We’re all a little disappointed that we aren’t Beyoncé

The most important thing to bear in mind is, as the above Wait But Why article outlines, happiness = reality – expectations. When your mental health is suffering, you need to strip everything right back and start again. The key to happiness (or at least contentment in this context), much like the unofficial motto of some venues I’ve worked in, is to “lower your expectations”. If you’re trying to take over the world but you can’t even bring yourself to get dressed, you’re just going to make yourself feel awful. Be honest with yourself about what you can achieve. Yes, you have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé, but you haven’t had a small army of people working for you since you were sixteen. Shut that hustle culture noise down, now is not the time for it.

Stop comparing yourself to others altogether. Your hyper-productive friend won’t know if you mute their Facebook feed about the qualifications they’re getting, the sourdough they’re baking and the Arabic they’re perfecting. Most social media feeds are biased towards the better aspects of life, so you’re comparing your every day to their highlights, and it’s toxic. However, being kind to yourself doesn’t mean you should take the rest of your life off. If you truly can’t get out of bed, ok, try again later. If you can and you just don’t want to, you’re only cheating yourself. Self-care doesn’t always mean indulging yourself. It also means doing the challenging things that you know are good for you.

Plan ahead

Being told to plan ahead might not sound like the most useful advice if you’re already struggling, but if you can, do it. Humans are bad at making good decisions in emergencies. Paradoxically, a cocktail of hormones shut down the brain’s higher functions during the fight or flight response and 80-90% of people freeze or carry on like nothing’s happening during life-threatening situations (What not to do in a disaster and How to survive a disaster). It’s very difficult to form new neural pathways during this response, so the people who do the best are ones who have visualized a plan for what they would do in case of emergency and can fall back on that memory. “Typically, survivors survive not because they are braver or more heroic than anyone else, but because they are better prepared.” This is why I always, always, consciously think through the path to my closest emergency exit every time I board a plane, and why it’s good to have a plan for when you might struggle with your mental health.

Of course, bouts of mental illness are less immediate and longer-term than something like a plane crash, but we are still undergoing stress and operating at reduced capacity. Add in the decision fatigue that our always-on, infinite-choice culture causes and our willpower can disappear. Putting coping mechanisms in place beforehand can help you to deal with it better from the start. I highly recommend everyone read up on cognitive behavioural therapy, whether you experience mental health issues or not. It can really help you understand your mind’s processes and take control of your thoughts and beliefs and could help you to help someone else who is unwell.

You can put together an emergency kit, with vitamins, healthy food with a long shelf life like tinned fish or frozen prepared vegetables, mementos from happy times and anything else that will get you through the day. If you can, automate your recurring payments and put plenty of reminders in your calendar for appointments, deadlines etc. so you don’t have to worry about remembering it all. Knowing you have everything you need to get by will leave you with more energy and focus for the important stuff when things get difficult.

Come up with a list of default decisions, so you don’t have to agonise over inconsequential things when brainpower is at a premium. If you don’t want anything in particular for breakfast, it will be cereal. If you don’t know what to wear, make it jeans and the t-shirt that’s at the top of the drawer. You don’t have to go full Steve Jobs on this (Steve Jobs Always Dressed Exactly the Same. Here’s Who Else Does), but if you don’t have any strong feelings about something, just do the default until you do. There are more important things to think about.

Make a Scotty schedule

“Find something small that you can control, and put steps in place for a positive outcome that you can look forward to. Artist: JM Nieto”

I’m a big fan of the Scotty Principle, especially when it comes to dealing with clients at work: named after the engineer from Star Trek, the idea is you generously overestimate how long a task will take, for example finding a fault in a signal chain. This allows extra time for any unforeseen complications or further issues, and if it is a straightforward fix you seem like a miracle worker. I don’t see it as dishonest, just realistic. People are much happier about a twenty-minute delay if they thought it would take half an hour than if they were promised ten minutes. You can even do it to yourself: instead of trying to smash through your entire to-do list in a day and feeling like a failure when you don’t manage it, really think about how long each item takes, then allow 50%-100% more time. If you finish early, great! More time for something else. If not, you’ve still achieved what you set out to do. If you continually find yourself falling behind, just increase your estimates next time.

Following on from the default decisions approach, make a loose default day plan, but don’t worry if you don’t stick to it. If something comes up you can still be flexible, but it’s much easier to do something if it’s already scheduled in than if you have to think about what you should do and persuade yourself to do it. You’re more likely to go to the gym on a Wednesday morning if Wednesdays are gym days than if you wait until you spontaneously feel like working out. If you’re anything like me, that day might never come.

Break it down

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you can take each day as it comes. Treat it like a game to keep yourself motivated: give yourself points for every single thing you achieve. Start with the absolute basics. Are you still here? Good. You’ve already won the game for today. Anything else you do is a bonus. If you ever feel that you might not be here tomorrow, talk to someone. I know it’s hard, but it will help. Take your friends who keep posting those “I’ll always listen” statuses up on their offer. You might think that they don’t mean you, or you’d just be wasting their time, but I guarantee you they do mean you and you are worth their time. If you don’t know anyone you can reach out to, call, or message a mental health charity or suicide helpline. Talking to you is exactly what those people want to do, that’s why they’re there.

Next are the bonus rounds. There’s a technique in weightlifting called “training to failure” you keep doing reps of a challenging weight until you can’t lift anymore. Used in moderation, it’s one of the most effective ways to build muscle and improve strength. Using a weight you can lift comfortably will only ever maintain your current strength, you need to keep pushing yourself to grow. The nice thing about this technique is that failure is not only expected but an integral part of the approach. You just see if you can do one more rep, and if you can’t you’ve completed the exercise successfully.

So when it comes to your daily life, break everything down to the smallest components possible. Getting started can be the hardest part, but it’s much easier if the task is tiny. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to do all the admin that’s been building up, don’t even aim to clear all your emails. Start with sorting one email. Then see if you can do another, and keep going until you reach your limit. You might be surprised by how much you can trick yourself into doing. Break your time into smaller chunks too. If you wake up feeling terrible, don’t write the whole day off straight away. Leave it an hour then try again. If you can’t face a task, do something else and come back to it maybe twenty minutes later. If you find your energy dipping, put on some inspirational music like this playlist, look at some cute kitten photos or whatever you need to give yourself a boost, then try again.

When you’re done, don’t berate yourself for not doing more, congratulate yourself for how much you did do. I find keeping a “done” as well as a “to-do” list much more motivating than just deleting stuff from my to-do list. It helps to keep track of everything you’ve achieved instead of it disappearing into the ether, leaving you disappointed by how much is left on the list. Much like training to failure, you shouldn’t push yourself to your limit for every single task. Use it in moderation and combine it with rest periods where you go a bit easier on yourself. You’re in this for the long haul, you don’t want to burn yourself out. Don’t forget that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help, too. Your loved ones will probably be glad to have something practical that they can do for you.

Points mean prizes

Ms Pac-man, by NES–still-the-best.

Gamification is a very effective tool for making things more fun and engaging. Earning points can give you little dopamine hits throughout the day and motivate you to make progress you might not otherwise have made. Apps like Zombies, Run! and Superbetter turns exercise and mental health improvement, respectively, into games to help users, but you can make your own one up tailored to your situation. Set yourself small short-term goals and larger long-term ones, while remaining realistic about your capabilities. When you reach a goal, reward yourself accordingly. If you finish your day’s tasks on time, give yourself an hour playing a video game. If you get a month-long project done, treat yourself to a night at the movies. Try to base your rewards around things you have healthy relationships with. If you have an emotional dependence on spending money don’t promise yourself a shopping spree because it will just make you feel worse in the long run. Pre-portion your incentive (one ice-cream, $20, one hour watching TV), and then enjoy it guilt-free, because you know you budgeted for it and you’ve earned it. Having something to look forward to is a great motivator too, and can make you feel better about the future.

Keep going

When you’re playing a game, it’s tempting to compare your current score to your personal best and try to beat it. If you have the drive to do that today, that’s great, but you shouldn’t expect to earn a higher score every single day. Rest is an integral part of growth and just as important as pushing yourself. Getting fewer points than usual doesn’t mean you aren’t progressing. If a car slows down it’s still getting closer to its destination. Don’t get overwhelmed by the situation and give in. You don’t have to be better than yesterday, you just have to be better than now. And if you can’t do that now, you can try again later. You will get there just the same.

Speak Out – Reach Out

2020 still has no end in sight. There’re glimmers of hope that normality might come back here or there as we see imagines for physically distanced events and people being allowed to gather in crowds, however, we know the live events landscape has been forever changed.

During these hard times, we first need to make sure we reach out to each other for support and second speak out so people outside of our industry might understand the life-changing issues we are facing.

Reach out to each other, your family and road family, friends and neighbors. Find
support, a place to talk through your struggles and successes. 2020 has been quite the roller-coaster with many things out of our hands. If you reach a point where you cannot deal with it anymore reach out. It’s extremely important to support one another.

With no end in sight, our day-to-day lives can be daunting and hard. If you find you are struggling ask for help. If you do not have people you can confide in here are two options for online therapy Talkspace and Therapy Conductor.

If you are feeling really low and not sure where to go or what to do please reach out via a
suicide hotline. Here are the US line and an International directory as well.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

International Suicide Hotline

Another option is to check with your location state or country resources as well. Most states have set up reduced or free therapy options for people affected by everything occurring.

Look into educational programs to pivot your career for the time being, along with food and financial support. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help so if you need help, please do so.

If you have the energy or are able it’s important to tell our story; how everything going on has upended our lives, careers, and finances.

Speak out – Stand up and speak out. Tell your story, tell our story. It’s more important today than ever. We need to speak up for our industry and craft. The effects that 2020 has had on our lively hoods, dreams, and goals are astounding. This can be done in many ways, protests, individual conversations, petition signing, data collection and more.

Whatever energy you can muster, speak your story to help educate whomever we can about the long-lasting struggles in our industry that are affecting our personal lives. As many of us and our counterparts have said we were the first to be unemployed and will likely be the last to be employed again. Supporting one another needs to be a priority and expanding the global outlook of these issues will assist in that support.

Some opportunities to speak out and tell our story are

Roadiecare.com – they are organizing events across the globe to raise awareness.
LiveEventsCoalition.org – they are lobbying for support for live event professionals.
Change.org – A federal petition for the industry.
ExtendPUA.org – A source to reach government folks to tell our stories and petition for support. #Wemakeevents – they are also raising awareness through events.

Here are also two other resources for general information and industry resources.
ILEA International Events Association – Resilience and Recovery information
Events Industry Council – Standards, practices and research to elevate the events industry.

In the meantime: Stay well, Stay Safe, Stay Motivated.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Recently the music industry has started talking about mental health. After many tragedies losing incredibly talented people in the music industry due to mental health issues, artists and the music industry people are finally talking about very stigmatized issues. I feel like you can never talk too much about mental health, and very often those of us who work hard behind the scenes are often forgotten, and I believe that we also need to start talking about our general and mental health.

Health in general:

In an ideal world, we would always sleep eight hours per night, eat nourishing food five times a day and exercise four times a week, but unfortunately, the world is not always ideal.

Sleep, food, and exercise are three critical factors when it comes to our mental health. It is easy to neglect all of these three things when working long hours when you have a tight schedule or if you need to meet a deadline.

Some periods in life will be busier the other, but you will be handling stress a lot better if you prioritise at least one of the three things.

Setting new habits can take some time, but if you start with one thing at least, the rest will follow eventually.

Unsocial working hours:

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t make it, I’m working’ – You hear yourself saying this often?

Having unsocial work hours can take an extreme toll on your mental health. Although a lot of our work can be incredibly social and we meet loads of fantastic people, nothing beats spending time with your absolute best friends and family.

The guilt you might feel when you are unable to attend family gatherings, birthdays, baby showers or drinks at the local pub can weigh you down. Often we have to choose work before friends and family because we all need to pay rent and feed ourselves. But hopefully, we also love what we do!

But don’t neglect your loved ones either. Set aside a day or two a month to catch up with your people. Make a phone call or send a message, reach out! Especially if your mental health is not tip-top or theirs for that matter — support one another.

Stress:

Someone described me as ‘Olive is 24/7’ and when I first heard it, I felt pride. I thought that makes me dependable and that I can sort out any situation at any time of the day at anywhere in the world.

But I quickly realised that no one should have to be available 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Not even Olive.

Setting boundaries are essential; if you’re not supposed to work, then don’t. Of course, there might be an emergency, and we have to step in, but how many times has an actual crisis occurred? I can count mine on one hand. Trust me; most things can wait.

Having some time off is crucial. Otherwise, it will lead you to be burned out. If you do not give yourself space, you won’t be able to evaluate what is going on in your life, and frankly, we all need to deal with what is going on, no matter how uncomfortable we are with it.

Alcohol:

Alcohol is a big part of the live entertainment industry.

As a musician or a sound engineer, it is not uncommon to receive free drinks, in a lot of cases sometimes that is the only payment that you get.

Sometimes after you worked a 15-hour shift, you feel like you deserve a drink, especially as it might have been a challenging day and all of your patience has just run out. Or you’ve had a fantastic show or completed a full tour, and you’d like to celebrate with a couple of drinks, of course, you deserve that!

However, when consumed several days a week we need to step back and look at our consumption.

If you did not already know, alcohol is a depressant. So if consumed too often it will affect your mental and physical health.

These are only a few aspects of one’s life that can affect your mental and physical health, but more importantly, most of the above are things we can control ourselves. Change starts within yourself.

Care about yourself as much as you care about your work.

If you are not doing well, then take a step back and take a day off if you can. There are also plenty of help to get, both online and through counselling.

10 Mindfulness Practices from Powerful Women

Mental Health America

Top 25 Best Mental Health Apps: An Effective Alternative for When You Can’t Afford Therapy

Tips for Staying Healthy on the Road