I have a present for you in this stressful season. It’s the best gift ever for busy musicians. And it starts with a story. It’s about a client I’ll call Jane. An accomplished musician, educator, and administrator, Jane was killing herself working 5 part time jobs teaching, performing, and doing PR work.
Jane was over-stressed, under-appreciated, and under-paid.
Sound familiar? What Jane wanted was a more stable and less frantic work life. And more than that, she wanted to feel better about herself and find more creative fulfillment in her work.
So together we overhauled her promo materials and her networking skills. All that was good, except that there was an underlying issue that wasn’t getting addressed.
Jane was so stressed out and her self-esteem was so low that when it came to networking and interviewing, she was clearly not presenting herself at her best.
The missing piece? Self-care
I asked Jane what she did for herself during a typical week.
“What do I do for ME? Nothing! I don’t have time for me,” she answered.
So I asked Jane what gift she could give herself in the coming week—as in a small kindness, an act of self-compassion. Whether it was calling a friend, taking a bubble bath, going for a walk, sitting down with a favorite cup of tea or coffee, or listening to a recording you love.
Self-care isn’t a luxury and it isn’t selfish: it’s a survival skill
Self-care is putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. You need to take care of yourself in order to bring your best to others. But self-care is often the first thing that disappears when we’re overwhelmed.
There are many ‘Janes’ out there. As musicians, we tend to be perfectionistic over-achievers, and many of us put in 60-80 hour work weeks for pay that’s more appropriate to a 20-30 hr. job. It’s a recipe for burn-out.
The best gift ever is the one you give yourself
The gift I have for you isn’t anything that can be bought or wrapped with a bow. It’s something more elusive and precious, something worth working toward and investing in. And it’s one you actually need to activate yourself: a self-care habit.
Even if you have an over-packed schedule (and every busy musician I know does), believe me, you can still find time for a daily act of self-care.
There are many ways to build a self-care habit. The best gift ever for busy musicians is to find at least one action that works for you and then stick with it. Here are a few favorites of mine (and I’d love to hear what others you recommend!)
1. Adopt a daily gratitude habit
Focus on what you are specifically thankful for, the small things you can honestly say you’re grateful for in the moment. List these out loud and/or write them down in a journal. I do this in the morning and before bed. To help, check out the terrific tool, Grateful Flow.
2. Take 10 minutes a day for yourself
Adopt a meditation practice to quiet your racing thoughts and get centered. If sitting meditation is a struggle, try yoga, tai chi, qigong, or another form of “moving meditation.” It could also be prayer or stress-management visualizations. If you do 10 minutes every day for 30 days in a row I promise you’ll see a difference. Here’s help for getting started.
3. Get outside in nature—unplugged
Give yourself the opportunity to clear your mind and take in the natural beauty around you. Try what the Japanese call “Forest bathing.” What if you designated time in your busy schedule for even a short walk in a nearby park or other green space every morning or afternoon? Again, I can promise you if you build this into a habit it will shift your state of mind and lower your stress.
4. Read for inspiration
Find books that help you on your journey to a more fulfilling, compassionate life. There are two books I highly recommend for getting past our own inner challenges and learning to dwell in an abundant mindset. They are Loveability by Robert Holden and Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny. My business coach assigned these to me and they have been transformative. And a third that you may want to check out is The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer.
But what about Jane?
The good news is that Jane incorporated gratitude journaling and daily walks into her regular routine and this improved her mindset and her work/life satisfaction. And because she started valuing her time and prioritizing herself, Jane ended up quitting 2 of her part-time jobs. She also changed the hours for her studio teaching and raised her rates.
This was all on the way to building that better next chapter in her life—the one where she leaned into self-worth and truly valued her health and the future she was creating for herself.
So the best gift ever for busy musicians may just be the one you give yourself.
If you’d like help creating the next chapter in your career, check HERE.
Here’s to your brighter future,
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well