Spaß Ist Verboten!
ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash
Are We Getting the Work-Life Balance Right?
ONE of my biggest faults in life is…
spending too much time on the laptop and not really venturing outside. Maybe that is where I am based at the moment - better designed for relaxation than fun and sociability. That is all well and good because, when things get stressful and busy, it is good to step outside and take in some fresh air. I am looking around music and seeing so many people burning out and stressing about things. This is another topic I have written about before but I feel, more and more, we are not cutting loose and giving yourself some time off. The reason I chose the photos I did to lead the article – the thumbnail and main image – is because it is, obviously, quite arousing and eye-catching. It denotes a mixture of relocation and sex; a chance to let things go and close the eyes – I could have chosen a boring stock photo, but I felt the one above better represents what I am trying to say! Maybe a social life is more expensive than previous years but so many people in music are spending their time working and unable to switch things off. Even those who love music are spending their free time listening to music. I do it myself but wonder whether that is the best advice. Should we always be isolated or busy working; when do we really get a chance to step away and actually have a social life?
The more stress levels rise and mental-health problems exacerbate; the harder it is to discover a common remedy and guidance. So many of the musicians and creatives I know are single or in a challenging relationship. Their sex lives are quieter or non-existent and they are getting out into the world a lot less. My average day – whilst I am not working full-time – consists getting up and switching the laptop on at 7 A.M. I will work until 9 P.M. and have few breaks in that time. I am typing a lot and remaining quite distant from other people. There are a lack of young bodies in close contact with my home but I could get away and take a trip to London or somewhere else – drive down to the beach and amble there. I keep writing about issues like social and work balance because we are becoming more and more enslaved by technology and jobs. Musicians are among the hardest-working and most obsessive people out there. So many are turning to dating apps/sites – such as myself – and we are less confident getting into bars and busy areas and talking with people. Maybe it is a symptom of the digital age but music demands so much time of their faithful. Is it easy to switch from an open-all-hours approach and creating a finer balance?
It is hard to go from that full-throttle dedication to music to stripping it back to a part-time basis. Many people are working full-time jobs and doing music on top of it. The reason for this is simple: keeping the money in and being able to do what you love. I respect that sort of loyalty and passion but I wonder whether there is a human toll that is taking too much out of us. Can we quantify the psychological and physical cost of working endlessly and putting pressure on our shoulders?! Not only are we all self-critical and hard on ourselves; the music industry itself sets ideals and guidelines that we struggle to live up to. Many artists are touring every moment they have spare and, aside from the chance to drink after the show, they are moving to the next town and barely resting. We are watching screens and social media figures; work is dominating our lives and any free space we get involves watching T.V. or spending it at home. I have written about musicians and dating: how many have little time to date and there are few spaces/websites where likeminded artists/creatives can find one another. It is a topic I want to revisit because I feel a lack of physical connection and relationships is having a damaging effect. It does not necessarily mean sex or something casual: how many of us think we have time and energy to commit to something real and long-lasting?!
I am among many who struggle to create any sort of peace and fulfilment away from music – which has its benefits and fulfils me in a different way. A piece written back in 2015 is relevant in 2018 – music and its demands are as pressing and obvious:
“While many may envisage the life of a touring musician to be that of a glorified jetsetter, the reality is far from idyllic. A recent study by charity Help Musicians UK found that over 60% of musicians have suffered from depression or other psychological issues, with touring an issue for 71% of respondents.
Singer Alanna McArdle recently announced her departure from Cardiff punk band Joanna Gruesome for mental health reasons, her statement hinting that the strain of touring may have been a factor in her decision to quit.And when Zayn Malik broke the hearts of millions by pulling out of One Direction’s tour of Asia – leaving the boy band shortly after – a source close to the band told the tabloid press: “Zayn went because he’d had enough. Have you ever been on the road for four years? ”
“The classic image of a touring musician would seem counterintuitive to all we know about well-being,” says Isabella Goldie of the Mental Health Foundation. “Drinking in moderation, avoiding drugs, getting sufficient amounts of sleep, and having a support base of close friends and family nearby. These are the bonds that help keep you grounded ... It’s no surprise that some musicians struggle”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Nash/PHOTO CREDIT: Kelsey Hart/Little Ghost
Musicians are spending hours a day in vans and small spaces and being shuttled between airports. There is that transitory and nomad lifestyle that means there is no stable home and many get time to embark on relationships. It can be hard maintaining bonds with people who work different schedules and do not understand the demands of music – I know more musicians who are single than those in relationships. Artists like Kate Nash have spoken about her early career and how she was overworked and did not give herself a break. She has spoken about body-shaming and how she was called unattractive or overweight online or in the media. The need to ‘conform’ and look a certain way, coupled with the pressures of performing and keeping in the public eye could have had a devastating impact on her. She eventually stepped aside and gave herself a break – she is back in full swing now but a slightly less hectic schedule after that early burst has been a life-saver. Nash, in her early career, was living with her parents and did not have much time and space for a relationship. Many have that problem: not earning enough to be independent or, if they are, they feel they need to be working non-stop and ensuring people do not forget about them. The more competitive and open music becomes; the more artists have to push and promote their work.
Touring and having to play so many gigs – either because they do not pay much or you need to put that graft in – can create routine and give an artist a safe headspace. They know where they need to be and there is some sort of order involved. There is, as the aforementioned article says, a danger of the touring lifestyle:
“For many, the contrast between the highs of a successful show and the anti-climactic low that often follows can be hard to adjust to, a phenomenon that has been termed “post-performance depression’, or PPD. Mental health professional John C Buckner writes: “When the body experiences major shifts in mood, it is flooded with several different neurotransmitters, resulting in a biochemical release that leads to a feeling of ecstasy. After these moments the nervous system needs time to recalibrate itself to prepare for another release. After an exciting performance the body starts to balance out the level of neurotransmitters, and therefore it is not releasing the same level that caused the exciting feelings, resulting in the lingering sadness. In normal day-to-day life, biochemicals are released and rest/recovery follow, causing the typical ups and downs of life. In the case of PPD, the process is more extreme with higher highs and lower lows”.
There is a lot to digest and ponder when it comes to the modern musician. We can widen the remit and apply these considerations to others in the industry – from D.J.s and producers to journalists.
There are dark psychological traps and perils that face artists. They have little stability and work fiercely; relationships are lost/not started and there is that odd danger of stopping touring and having that brutal comedown. I have not even spoken about depression and how anxiety can be heightened when you feel you always have to be out there and working. We know the dangers and drawbacks but I wonder how many people are brave enough to take a stand and lead a fight – whether such a rebellion will ruin a career or be met with silence? I know there are artists who get out and socialise; many have healthy relationships there are many, you’ll be relived, who are happy and would not change things. I know many more who have staggering amounts of work to do and tour every day but like what they do. I guess, if you are satisfied and not feeling the strain, there is no real need to worry and change that habit. One of my biggest fears is we are sublimating true feelings to create that façade of content and happiness. I realise I work too long on the laptop and have that desire to put out a lot of good articles a week. My inbox is always busy and demands come in by the shed-load.
I used the image of a pouting, beautiful woman at the top – and a scantily-clad one below – to lighten the mood and, yeah, highlight the sort of fun, relax and sensuality we need to embrace. I am not going all Zen and Buddhist – even though I am sporting some pretty colourful healing gemstones/chakras. Are we all suffering social malabsorption and becoming anaemic? It can be hard finding contact and sociability if you live outside the city. Even if you are there, the cost of a night out can be quite daunting. I am not suggesting we all spend every night on the piss – a more pragmatic and mature approach to fun needs to be adopted. There is so much talk around mental-health and the wellbeing of musicians. Mental Health Awareness week kicks off on Monday there will be discussions around the rise in mental-health issues and its detriment to the industry. It seems like a perfect place to promote wellbeing a better work-life balance. Look at other nations and the way they approach the working week: fewer days being spent at the office and a more organic and healthy life. I feel we should all find a few hours a day to step away and completely disconnect from all technology. We need to find time during the week to go out and not feel the need to be involved with music and working.
Getting into that addiction where we forsake pleasures and fun and spend all of our free space working is not a good thing. Sure, we may love touring, recording and writing. If we detach and suddenly stop that; you will get that cold turkey approach and rapid detox – realising how dependant we are and what a shock to the system that transition is. I suggest a gradual easing which means the mind is focused on music but more time is found to explore the outside world, social elements and a general relaxation. It does not have to be anything as committed as a relationship or a regime/hobby: dedicating some valuable time to bond with others and not feel chained to your world not only benefits the mind but the body too. It is easy for me to say all of this – and will probably ignore my own advice – but I am worried about the plight of artists/creatives and how much is expected of them. They put so much pressure on themselves and feel guilty of if they give themselves a night off. It is understandable but, the more and more we get into that rut; it will cause long-term problems and make it harder to detach from. Make sure, whatever you do in music, to think about the time you put into work and ask yourself this question: do you really allow yourself…
ENOUGH time to breathe?