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Prioritizing Your Mental Health & Wellness During COVID-19 and Beyond

Prioritizing Your Mental Health & Wellness During COVID-19 and Beyond

It’s a known fact that artists, musicians, tour and production teams, and other music professionals experience varied yet generally high levels of stress and anxiety in the music industry. The need to address mental health in music is critical — today and everyday. It’s a grueling industry during the best of times — one that requires an always-on mentality, a lot of time on the road, time spent away from home and sometimes families. 

Over the past couple months, COVID-19 has put shows, artist tours, and businesses on a standstill, including the adrenaline rush felt when on or behind stage. For many, now is a very quiet time, and we want to make you aware that there are support groups to prioritize your mental health and wellness. We spoke to some of our friends in the industry on advice and recommendations, and want to take this time to acknowledge the organizations who can help you, or someone you know, in time of need. 

We all share a love of music. Let’s help build a safer, stronger music community for all — today and for our future. 

Advice From Industry Friends

Recognize your stress energy. 

Elliot Aranow, founder of The OUR SHOW Academy, a conversational and editorial platform that creates connections between the worlds of creativity and culture and self realization and mental health, says that it’s important to first and foremost acknowledge the anxiety and stress. When it’s ignored and we try to push it away, it comes back “harder, meaner, and more often.” Take a moment to observe and say, “Wow, this is really scary for me.” Just saying that piece can be liberating.

A lot of the times we — as humans, artists, professionals — judge ourselves for being stressed. Haven’t you been there? Let’s be kinder to ourselves.

Create some small, repeatable wins for yourself every day! 

You don’t need to be able to do it all. Maybe meditate for a few minutes a day, or a week, for that matter. Set small goals and what would be considered a “win.” Elliot says, “Find something you like, and try to do it for ten minutes a day, whether that is meditating, running, drawing, practicing scales, whatever. The most important thing is to feel good. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Do what feels good to you and try to do it everyday. Make it a fun routine.”

It’s ok to be still. 

Elliot adds, “Conversely, it’s TOTALLY OKAY to not want to do anything and to feel unmotivated. This is a weird time for all of us.” Some days you’ll want to do it all, other days you’ll want to take it slower. And that’s okay. Cut yourself some slack.” 

Nicole Blonder, co-founder of equilibrium, an initiative focused on mental health and wellness in music says, “It’s important not to shame yourself for not making fast changes or being productive ‘enough’.” If you are trying to build a new habit, connect with the habit first, think about it intentionally and what you want to gain from it. 

Marni Wandner, co-founder of equilibrium says that while some may have more time than normal these days — as opposed to essential workers, parents, and caretakers — it’s a necessary time to focus on our mental health and slow down. “It can be a lot more comfortable for most of us to stay busy all the time. Yes, I think it’s an awesome time to tackle those things that we haven’t had the time to do. But I do think we also need to remind ourselves daily to use some of our time and space for stillness the same way we do for projects. They’re both equally important. 

Assign an accountability partner to check in with. 

Find the right partner for you by asking a friend who you think would also benefit from being and having an accountability partner. This person is meant to help you with small steps. You can check in with this person throughout the day, in the morning or evening. Whether you want to set a goal, have a go to person to check in with daily, or share what you’re grateful for each day, an accountability partner will hold both of you…accountable. Plus, it’s an added bonus for the day.

Remember to breathe. Use your body to relax your mind. 

Take deep, conscious belly breaths. We all know the importance of breathing. Marni explains the process: Start by taking a slow inhalation through your nose, visualize it filling up your belly, your back, then your chest. Make sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Hold the inhale for a few seconds and then let it out through your mouth with a whooshing sound. Let out all the air in your lungs and attempt to exhale twice as long as you inhale. Here is the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, which this exercise is based on. 

Similarly to calm down the nervous system, Elliot inhales for 5 counts, holds that breath for 5 seconds, then exhales for ten counts. You can also try counting up to 5 and then back down, alternating between inhaling and exhaling. “I find that giving my brain a job helps me to focus and allow the breathing do its thing.”

If it’s your thing, find a few minutes to exercise.  

Marni and Nicole say they love participating in home workouts. These can be in the morning or mini workshops throughout the day to alleviate stress or get you moving if you’re feeling like you need to stretch and move the body. From free online yoga classes to YouTube workouts and everything in between, exercise releases endorphins and reduces levels of stress hormones in the body — sometimes a little movement is all you need to hit the reset button. 

Take media breaks. 

This is a stressful, unprecedented time in our life. From a few hours to a few days, be sure to take media breaks. Nicole encourages, “It’s important to create space in our brains for things other than this crazy situation we’re living in.” 

Jot it down. 

Marni says, “You know when you’re stressed but you’re not quite sure why and your brain feels like a big bowl of soup?” Yes, we get that feeling. “This is usually when I’ll just start writing, and I will tell you — I never know what’s going to come out until it does. More often than not, I’ll either unlock a little thing I didn’t know was bothering me, or I’ll just feel better having gotten all my thoughts out of my head and onto the page.” 

It’s important to create space in our brains for things other than this crazy situation we’re living in. – equilibrium

Join an online support group. 

There are several online groups out there that focus on recovery, stress reduction, anxiety, and more. If you’re interested in learning more about Elliot’s support group, you can DM him on Instagram to learn about upcoming sessions. “I know how scary it can be to be vulnerable,” says Elliot, “But feeling the fear and talking about it is really the best path to get better.”

Set some sort of routine.

Chris Bullard, the founder of Sound Mind, an organization with the mission to end the stigma that surrounds mental health and mental illness through the power of music, says for him it’s important to set some sort of routine. “I firmly believe routine is helpful in mental health no matter what. This is a new world we’re living in, so now my routine is new. I go on a walk every morning. Because things can tend to blend into one another, I make sure to stop work and go for a run or play music at a certain hour to break up the day. 

Connection and connecting.

It’s important to connect and stay connected with other people. “My family is in Los Angeles and I feel fortunate that I am able to connect with them even more during this time,” Chris says. “We’re all in this together. There’s physical distancing but actually, socially, we are becoming closer through all this. 

Repeat a mantra. Some from our friends include:

Be gentle. Soften. Rest often.

I am safe. Everything is working out for me. It’s safe for me to be seen and take up space. 

One thing at a time.


Organizations For Support

Backline

What The Organization is About

Backline literally is your backline. Backline is an organization dedicated to connect music industry professionals and their family members with a trusted network of mental health and wellness providers. 

This summer the organization had plans to tour festivals and offer mental health support onsite for artists, tour, and music professionals. At these festivals, they would lead workshops on mental health and wellness and take part in other beneficial programming. With the onset of COVID-19, the organization had to shift gears a bit to try to break the mental health stigma and make it a more talked about issue as part of the greater industry. Nowadays, Backline’s mission has stayed the same throughout COVID-19, even though their format and delivery methods have changed. 

For those who don’t know, Backline has a clinical team that works 1:1 with individuals to navigate the mental health care system and connect with the appropriate resources. It can feel challenging to find the right help — they know that sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

Kendall, Chief Operating Officer of Backline, says there is a silver lining — the music industry will probably never have this amount of free time again, which makes it an important time to address mental health. Touring professionals are used to ongoing structure and routine. Between travel, rehearsals, soundcheck, shows, and back on the road, touring professionals rarely have time to check in with themselves.

“This is a rare opportunity to enhance skill sets and learn new practices, especially ones that better mental health and wellness in the long term.” Kendall says that the reintegration period is going to be a shock for many that are able to return to road life when that time comes, which will revert back to long hours and some unrealistic expectations. We need to make sure the music industry returns to work with new tools for a stronger overall workplace.

“This is a rare opportunity to enhance skill sets and learn new practices, especially ones that better mental health and wellness in the long term. – Backline

Tools To Help

If you find that you need some support, fill out Backline’s secure submission form online. Backline will reply immediately with a scheduling link and you’ll be connected to a case manager. The case manager will walk you through next best steps and practices. Backline offers trusted support and clinical providers catered specifically to the needs of the individual. 

As long as the music industry is on pause from producing live events, Backline will be offering free support groups (via Zoom) and wellness offerings ( via Facebook & Instagram  in partnership with like-minded organizations, practitioners, and experts who want to share their platform to further deliver the Backline message.

Kendall says, “In response to these unprecedented times of self isolation, financial insecurity, and industry fallout, we’ve launched the ‘Come Together: Crisis Initiative,‘ which includes bi-weekly support groups, yoga, meditation, and breathwork sessions in partnership with like-minded organizations, including The Tour Health Research Initiative, Frequency, Fit On Tour, and more. Meditation sessions are led by Frequency’s Alexa Alianiello. These meditations will help participants return to the breath and body, release tension and anxiety, and reconnect with community. Frequency Co-Founder Vivian Rosenthal will lead breathwork sessions, which gives participants an opportunity to relieve stress, anxiety, and tension that has been stored in the body. 

All of these sessions are available for free and welcome anyone in the music industry to join. 

Prioritizing Your Mental Health & Wellness During COVID-19 and Beyond

The OUR SHOW Academy

What The Organization Is About

When Elliot Aranow, magazine editor, writer, creative director and fashion designer, started his journey, no one was really talking about mental health the way it is talked about right now. The OUR SHOW Academy was started, after many years of deep work, as a way for creatives to understand their minds and get mental health support.

Elliot says that when we feel safe and supported, our best ideas can flow and we can tap into our inner genius. He believes this period of time may result in a shift in prioritizing mental health for the music industry — or at least he hopes so. “I think that there needs to be a big overhaul at the label, manager, and administrative levels. We need more handlers and overseers being educated in mental health and what signs to look out for, resources for addiction, etc. It’s a great time to level up before everyone hits the road again.” 

Tools To Help

  • Elliot offers daily content on Instagram and a weekly newsletter (sign up here!) that talks all about the relationship between creativity and mental health.
  • Sean Hotchkiss and Elliot host a weekly support/community group for men on Zoom every Thursday at 8PM EDT. For an invite to join, message Elliot via Instagram.
  • Elliot also leads meditation and support groups, and one on one coaching sessions.
  • To learn more about Elliot, he writes daily for LinkedIn.
  • Follow him on Instagram, start up a conversation, and DM him with any questions.

Sound Mind 

What The Organization Is About

Sound Mind founder Chris Bullard, says the year and a half old non-profit builds community and opens dialogue around mental health, while leveraging the power of music to catalyze social change. 

Sound Mind’s mission is to end the stigma around mental health through the power of music. For them that means building community and open dialogue by bringing together a coalition of artists and mental health organizations to really build community and ongoing dialogue. “It’s important to speak about mental health, as it’s something we don’t speak about often in society. Music has this unique ability to connect with others, bring people together, and open up hearts and conversations.” Sound Mind leverages the power of music to create better empathy around mental health, and through that, provide access and awareness of organizations who are providing more direct resources. 

Music has this unique ability to connect with others, bring people together, and open up hearts and conversations. – Sound Mind

Already there are musicians predisposed to mental health issues. Now with tours being cancelled, financial strain and isolation, mental health issues can be sparked more easily. 

“When that kind of strain happens, even if you’re not having a health crisis in this pandemic, you’re likely to experience mental health issues. That can be isolation, predisposed mental health diagnosed conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, that can be a cause for these things to spring up as well.”

Tools To Help

  • On Thursday, April 16, Sound Mind presents their first Closer in Crisis Benefit Concert at 5pm PT / 8pm ET. The event will stream on Relix Magazine’s YouTube Channel. All donation proceeds will benefit mental health resources for musicians and the music community.
  • Hosted by Chris Gethard, the Closer in Crisis Benefit Concert will feature performances from artists and words by various mental health organizations. Set a reminder here to tune in. 
Prioritizing Your Mental Health & Wellness During COVID-19 and Beyond

Never Broken 

What The Organization Is About

Singer-songwriter Jewel has been topping the charts since 1995 with honest and raw lyrics. She’s sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Writing songs and poetry saved Jewel’s life in more ways than one, having been thrown many obstacles her way in life. Jewel founded Never Broken, “an emotional fitness destination” that gives participants the tools and road map to help settle anxiety and some key practices to making happiness a habit and choice. Jewel says that we all have stories, we all have been on a journey. And while it’s tough and we’ve endured a lot, we are never broken; we have the choice to choose happiness. 

“Anxiety has been a teacher to me. It has caused me to learn there are only two basic states of being: dilated and contracted — and that every thought, feeling, and action led to one of those two states. Fear, anxiety, jealousy, anger, greed all led to contraction. Joy, curiosity, observation, love, gratitude all led to dilation. I learned that if I was headed into a panic attack, I could hack my way into a dilated state by focusing very hard on a different feeling. I chose gratitude. It’s amazing how profound such a single thing can be if you feel it deeply enough. It’s a practice I still use today.” 

Tools To Help

  • To sign up for Never Broken, click this link to start your happiness journey. From learning the power of paying attention to gratitude, to reframing your brain, outrunning pain, de-shaming, and more, Jewel offers video modules and discussion forums to help guide you. 
Prioritizing Your Mental Health & Wellness During COVID-19 and Beyond

TourSupport (LightHopeLife)

What The Organization Is About

LightHopeLife is a nonprofit suicide prevention foundation that was created to fulfill the need for people to be able to talk to others who are in crisis. Tour Support is a division of the organization that targets music touring professionals that may be in need of support services on the road. Due to the efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, many touring crew members are out of work with no immediate solutions. Tour Support is doing everything possible to help these professionals during this difficult time. 

Tools To Help

  • The organization has partnered with BetterHelp to provide independent touring contractors with free online therapy for one month if you’ve been employed by a tour that was postponed or cancelled. If you feel that you qualify for such service, be sure to apply here.
  • Reach Link is a tele-therapy service that accepts most insurance plans if you are currently covered. This option is great if you are seeking therapy sessions from home. 

Help Musicians / Music Minds Matter

What The Organization Is About

Help Musicians is the UK’s independent music charity that has been helping, supporting, and empowering artists through various stages of their lives since 1921. The organization’s mission is to create a sustainable future for all musicians.

Tools To Help

  • Here is a central source of support and advice for all musicians in the midst of COVID-19. Some of the information curated on this site includes advice from the UK government, mental health support, information about financial worries, creative development and working online.
  • Help Musicians has also compiled advice relating to COVID-19 that may be helpful for many musicians. 
  • Music Minds Matter offers a free, confidential, 24-hour helpline run by Help Musicians that reaches the entire music industry. There will always be someone there to listen and speak to you if you are seeking help in any way. The helpline is available on the phone and through email at 0808 802 8008 and [email protected]

Additional Organizations For Resources

Sweet Relief

What The Organization Is About

The mission of Sweet Relief Musicians Fund is to give financial assistance to all musicians and music industry professionals who feel like they are struggling at any time. 

Tools To Help

The Sweet Relief Mental Health Fund provides assistance to musicians who are struggling with mental health issues. Grants are for therapeutic services and emergency services. 

MusiCares

What The Organization Is About

The Recording Academy’s non-profit arm MusiCares was created as a safety net for music people in times of need. The organization provides financial assistance to those facing unexpected financial burdens. 

Tools To Help

In addition to creating a fund for those affected by COVID-19, MusiCares has also compiled a list of resources of mental health and coping resources. The list includes links to mental health organizations, resources, and tools, along with a Facebook group and Zoom groups for industry professionals to find support within the community.

Music Industry Therapists Collective

What The Organization Is About

The Music Industry Therapists Collective is a group of psychotherapists and counselors with a broad range of music industry experience and therapeutic training. The therapists have experience working at labels, studios, publishers, and with artists and producers, as well as treatment centers, rehabilitation centers, and private practices. All in all, the therapists are experts in mental health in the music industry and can offer real advice for industry professionals and musicians. 

Tools To Help

The collective has prepared a guide to anxiety relief and self isolation that is available for download on their website. For more information regarding workshops, research, and courses, visit their website and join their mailing list to stay up to date. You can contact the therapists individually through email or social media here

Music Support

What The Organization Is About

Music Support is founded and led by people who work in the UK music industry. The organization is for people who live in any area of the UK and experience mental, emotional, behavioral health challenges. 

Tools To Help

  • Music Support offers an ear to listen during these challenging times. This is not therapy, but rather a shoulder to lean on.
  • A vetted network of qualified service providers including therapists
  • Helpline available during core office hours

equilibrium

What The Organization Is About

equilibrium was created by Marni Wandner and Nicole Blonder, both certified holistic health coaches who share a mutual passion for making the music business a healthier space for both artists and industry. 

Tools To Help

  • equilibrium’s main offering has been panels and workshops that have focused on everything from ways to be well on the road and on the business side of things to stress relief and creating healthy habits. They were slated to reprise their Serenity Now! workshop at SXSW this year, so look for that as a virtual session at some point in the near future.  
  • They’ve also partnered with Swedish distribution company Record Union to promote the company’s newly-launched Wellness Starter Packs – more on that to come soon as well, check the website or sign up for the email list.
  • And check their Instagram: @thisisequlibrium for holistic wellness tips, including the recent Immune Health series they posted at the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

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