This post is prompted by some sad news – the death of a musician I was a big fan of over the years. (Indeed I foisted a CD of my own music onto him upon a brief encounter in Stoke Newington many moons ago.) Most shockingly he was around my age, and the only thing I’ve been able to learn around the circumstances of his death is the rather oblique fact that he didn’t look after himself very well. I touched upon how musicians can be affected by the stress of their profession in my last post so won’t repeat any of that here – especially given that it may not be relevant in his case – but as the issue of self-care has been cropping up repeatedly in recent months, I wanted to say a few words on it.
In fact, I did a talk at a lovely local networking group a couple of weeks ago, and the conversation turned to exactly this. The group of women there had all set up small businesses – in many cases, remarkably juggling such commitments around bringing up small children – and some commented that the brief guided visualisation I conducted as part of the session was the first time they had relaxed in months! Not unusually, some of them felt guilty when they took time out for themselves, and I suggested that if they didn’t do this, how could they best serve their clients?
Unfortunately we live in a culture where hard work is fetishised, with predictable consequences – burn-out is endemic, people spend less time with their loved ones, and everyone suffers. You are not being selfish if you take time out each day to properly nurture yourself – and by that I mean things like taking time to cook a nutritious meal instead of grabbing a take-away, spending quality time with people (preferably with phones off!), talking a walk in nature, meditation (there are plenty of guided visualisations on Youtube if you’re not sure where to start)…these are just some examples, but basically anything that encourages you to slow down, breathe, and properly interact with the world around you. Do you ever notice how much calmer you feel around someone who is calm themselves? Well, you can be that person!
And if you need a little support and encouragement along the way, there are many therapists – including myself of course – who are ready to help you. Many therapy centres have open days if you’re not sure where to begin, possibly enabling you to try a few different things before deciding what works best for you. Many therapists (again including myself) offer free consultations, so you can ask questions and decide whether they are the right person for you. Some people are put off by the potential cost, but when an hour with someone who can help you costs about the same as a night down the pub, it may be better to consider this an investment rather than an expense. A good therapist can not only help you work through issues which may be holding you back, but will teach you skills and strategies you can take away and use to better the rest of your life – and who can put a price on that?
I’ll end by sharing my favourite form of self-care – sitting in my lovely garden with headphones on, listening to music I love. And so it seems appropriate to close this post with a track by the wonderful musician who prompted me to post it. RIP Ben.