self care

Coming Soon: Self Care September Instagram Challenge

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September always feels like a fresh start to me, so that's why I'm hosting Self Care September, a free 30-day challenge with daily prompts to share on Instagram. We can collect new ideas, and know that we're in it together - you’re all invited!

⁠There will be a daily prompt that you can post on your Instagram page or Stories...and maybe even a giveaway!⁠

I'm really passionate about self-care as a way of life, not as something we earn as a reward, but as a basic human right. Sometimes it's pretty and Instagrammable (like a bath bomb or a candle), sometimes it's boring or even unpleasant (like dentistry), but there are always accessible ways to care for ourselves better, and plenty that don't cost anything except a little bit of time! ⁠⠀

Next week I'll post the prompts and exactly how to participate, but you can also hop on my email list below to make sure that you get a reminder before September starts, and in the meantime, follow me on Instagram at @rebecca_hass, and the hashtag⁠ to use is #cfcwselfcareseptember!

Being A Whole Person Podcast Launch!

TODAY’S THE DAY - OUR FIRST FULL EPISODE IS LIVE!

It’s an exciting day: Episode 1 of the Being A Whole Person podcast is out! This episode is just Lexie and I, introducing ourselves and our businesses, self-care rituals, and spiritual practices. We also talk about what inspired the creation of this podcast.

Starting next week, subsequent episodes will each feature an interview with a different creative entrepreneur, exploring the intersection of business, self-care, and spirituality in real and honest conversations.

Tune in to hear Episode 1, and click here for show notes.

 
 

If you like what you hear, please consider subscribing on iTunes or becoming a patron on Patreon - for $5/month, subscribers get exclusive content like videos, deals on our services, and behind the scenes content!

Season 1 episodes will come out every Thursday through the end of June.

To stay up to date, you can subscribe to emails below, or follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Thanks for listening - we can’t wait to share more with you!

Balancing Spring Energy Checklist

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HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING!

(No, it doesn't feel like spring outside yet, I live in Minnesota.)

After a pretty rough winter, the spring equinox is long-awaited, even if it’s only a ceremonial beginning. Despite the fact that it’s not warm yet for many of us in Northern climates, we’re still feeling the energy of spring already - we’ve gained lots of daylight in the last month, and the sun angle is now much higher.

Coming out of dark, hibernation mode into bright, active mode is more of a shock to the system than we realize, though, so if you feel unsettled or anxious around this time of year, that’s normal. If you're having a hard time adjusting to the changing seasons, there's nothing wrong with you - it's probably because transitions are hard and take a lot of energy (even long-awaited, positive ones). ⠀⠀

I usually forget this every year, but this year I finally remembered to mentally prepare for my increased anxiety and restlessness - spring comes with more stimuli and energy. I've heard others say that spring is a tough mental health time of year for them, too, but it seems like “YAY SPRING” is the more mainstream narrative, so it doesn’t get talked about as much. ⠀

Balancing Spring Energy Checklist

If you've been following along with me for any length of time, you might know that my most critical daily habit is taking a walk, and that's been a potent strategy for dealing with the excess of energy I've been processing, and on one of those walks this week, my overactive mind came up with an actionable checklist for what to do when you feel this way. (Thanks, brain!)

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If you're feeling the same way about spring, you can download that right here (and it's also good for anytime you're feeling scattered or anxious).

I hope that this resource ishelpful for you - it certainly has been for me, and I’m revisiting these strategies constantly (because self-care is a practice!)

If you need extra support to keep yourself feeling like a full and healthy human during this season, I offer a few different ways of working with me through Coaching for Creative Wellness, including email coaching for people on a budget or with less time to schedule a call.

I also have some free resources available here, as well as my weekly newsletter which is chock-full of supportive real talk about staying well while doing creative work. Sign up at the bottom of the page!

If you're having a tough time right now, you're not alone, and it will pass. Treat yourself well in the meantime, you deserve it! ❤️⠀

What do you do to take care of yourself during the transition into spring? Let me know in the comments!

Holiday Self-Care Roundup

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Somehow it’s December again? I don’t know what happened.

I also feel like it’s already been winter forever (since I live in Minnesota and it actually did snow on October 14 this year). So, you know what that means:

Time to up our self-care!

(And we probably need more than we normally give ourselves, anyway!)

Here’s a round-up of useful blog posts and podcasts that I hope will help you stay more grounded and present this holiday season:

This is one of my most popular posts ever, and it has plenty of applicable stuff for creatives of all types, not just musicians.

Tracy Benjamin from Shutterbean has some great quick tips, and I love the visual style of her blog, especially her handwriting!

Angela Beeching, a career consultant for musicians, highlights gratitude as a way to not only de-stress, but ultimately to help your career. I love how she focuses on mindset.

We always talk about what to do during the busy lead-up to the holidays, but Lauren Cummins of StarHaus Psychotherapy, who created the Self Care Solitaire decks that I really like, wisely focuses on how to take care of yourself afterwards, as well. She also has some good ideas about how to embrace winter here.

PODCAST EPISODES

If you’ve been following along with my posts for any length of time, you probably know how much I love Mara Glatzel’s work and podcast. In my opinion, the most important factor in taking care of ourselves is knowing what we need and giving ourselves permission to go after it.

I loved this episode because it focused not just on being over doing, but also talked about rituals as a way of connecting to the winter season (I’m all for trying to make friends with winter!)

This episode with physician Beth Ricanati focuses on baking as a ritual for self-care (since that’s what her book is about), but encourages us to give ourselves permission (there’s that word again, why is it so hard sometimes?) to take time for self-care.

EDIT: I also did a Facebook live about holiday self-care, which you can watch here!

I hope that these resources are helpful for you - they certainly have been for me, and I’m revisiting them this season (because self-care is a practice, and wellness is always a moving target).

If you need extra support to keep yourself feeling like a full and healthy human during this season, I offer a few different ways of working with me through Coaching for Creative Wellness, including email coaching for people on a budget or with less time to schedule a call.

I also have some free resources available here, as well as my weekly newsletter which is chock-full of supportive real talk about staying well while doing creative work. Sign up at the bottom of the page!

What do you do to take care of yourself during the winter and/or holiday season? Let me know in the comments!

Currently: April 2018

I'm on spring break, so it’s time for another Currently post!

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  • Taking it easy in general (#springbreakselfcare). 
  • Nourishing myself however it feels right. Acupuncture this morning. 
  • Riding that line between doing nothing (which I don't do very well) and accomplishing things. Pondering why it feels so important for me to DO rather than be. 
  • Walking daily (despite the 8 inches of snow we got earlier this week!) 
  • Trying not to let the neverending winter get me down. (First snow in Minneapolis was on Oct. 27, last snow: ???)
  • Visiting Como Conservatory for a burst of humidity and color. I love the Tropical Encounters room and Chloe the sloth! 
  • Catching up with friends and family. 
  • Taking daily afternoon reading breaks and naps with Rusty the Cat
  • Reading: Binti: The Night Masquerade (so good) by Nnedi Okorafor, Syllabus by Lynda Barry, and a variety of graphic novels I picked up at the library. 
  • Watching shows that have come back recently like The Americans (last season!), Silicon Valley, and I plan on starting the new season of A Series of Unfortunate Events soon, too. 
  • Weaving a blue/gray/white wall hanging, slowly but surely.
  • Filling out my Story Mapping worksheets as I prepare to work with Laura Holway again next week. 
  • Thinking about cleaning out my office closet (weighing the importance of getting this done vs. just relaxing...)
  • Playing music for me! 
  • Taking today as a work day to plot about my album and Kickstarter (coming in May/June!) 
  • Booking my lodging for New Music Gathering in May, and thinking about other trips happening this summer. 
  • Feeling a little overwhelmed as I think about how many things are happening (and need to happen) this spring and summer. 
  • Not doing a 100 Day Project this year, which feels weird, but putting one more thing on my plate seems unwise. 

Tell me what you’re up to right now, big or small - write it in the comments below!

Let's Talk About Anxiety

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ANXIETY.

So many of us deal with it, especially since the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2016 election. So many of us in creative fields deal with it. And many of us you would never suspect (especially stoic Midwesterners). When I mentioned my anxiety to some good friends last year, they were shocked because they had no idea, but the more people I talk to, the more I realize that so many people I know have also dealt with it - this is not an exclusive club!

I’ve alluded to having a rough time with anxiety last year in previous posts, and since it’s been about a year since things really started ramping up, I’ve been reflecting on all that’s happened, the changes I’ve made, and I want to share my experience, in case it’s helpful to anyone (you’re definitely not alone!) Plus, I really think that our society just needs to be more open about talking about mental health in general. #endthestigma

Looking back, I’ve dealt with anxiety most of my life - I worried about lots of implausible stuff as a kid, got stomachaches on sleepovers, etc. I was also somewhat depressed in college (gray, gray upstate NY winters didn’t help), and didn’t realize it at the time. For me, anxiety and depression are kind of 2 sides of the same problem, but I personally see the anxiety manifesting a lot more.

In 2010, I experienced my worst bout of anxiety, during a stressful work situation involving the launch of untested software, while simultaneously flying around the country to audition for graduate programs in collaborative piano (3 trips in 1 month) - basically, having a quarter-life crisis. That anxiety really blindsided me because it was the first time things had gotten that bad. On the outside, it looked like I was functioning, but things were pretty bad - I almost always felt like I was going to puke and ate little more than bananas many days, while waiting to hear back from schools.

At the time, I wasn’t taking care of myself well. I ate whatever sugary snacks showed up in the office, didn’t sleep enough, and rarely exercised. I made some changes, and with the help of a great therapist (there’s zero shame in therapy, and I think that everyone should get to go), I was able to recognize that all of my negative thoughts were not automatically true - what a game changer! It took almost a year, but I finally started to feel better, then my dad had a stroke and was in the hospital for the better part of the summer (he’s much better now), so naturally the anxiety fired up again.

After my dad got home and things stabilized, I learned to manage the anxiety pretty well (the most important thing for me is not missing more than one day of exercise in a row), but it’s really sneaky and can creep up without you even realizing it!

2016 was an intense year with personal/family stuff (all is fine now) and the election/state of the world, while my constant pace of work was also catching up with me. (Thanks, music school culture and American workaholic values!)

I started to question whether I should really be teaching so much - I thought that I would feel like I had “made it” when I had a studio of 30 students, but it turns out that for an introvert, that’s just a recipe for burnout, especially when you add teaching 3 group classes of 5-7 year olds, extra gigs, blogging, and composing daily.

In March of 2017, I was starting to feel the burnout, so I signed up for a class on rest with Mara Glatzel (which was great, but it turns out that you have to actually take the advice for it to work…) I spent half of my spring break in California visiting friends and family, and seeing Hermeto Pascoal in concert, which was totally worth it, but left me very exhausted (especially since I had terrible insomnia from anxiety 2 out of the 3 nights I was there). Then, I launched into a stretch of working over a month with no days off, because I need the income from accompanying during recital season to carry over into summer, when I don’t teach as much. It was no surprise that on my first day off after that stretch, I had a panic attack (on my birthday!) on the way to an acupuncture appointment. (Yeah. It’s kind of funny now.)

I thought that my lighter summer teaching schedule would allow me some space to rest and the anxiety would subside, but it didn’t - it kept getting worse, even as I tried a huge list of tactics: I was already exercising daily, eating almost no refined sugar, drinking almost no caffeine, getting acupuncture regularly and a massage monthly, and meditating occasionally, and then I also tried CBD oil, meditation daily, changed my diet (started eating meat again after 14 years without, and low carbs), examined if any foods or yeast were causing inflammation in my body, went back to therapy, used positive affirmations, essential oils, tried EFT (tapping), epsom salt baths for added magnesium, reducing stimuli (no podcasts or music on in the background, wearing sunglasses), Rescue Remedy, tulsi tinctures, kava stress relief tea, and probably more things that I’m forgetting.

So, I’d tried literally everything I could think of, short of medication, and nothing seemed to be making a dent in the anxiety. I was very resistant to the idea of trying meds, partly because I hoped I could control it on my own, and partly because I typically take a more holistic approach to my health as much as possible, but I was so miserable that I finally considered it.

When it came down to it, I was tired of my life feeling so hard, which feels ridiculous to say, considering the privilege that I have, but my brain was making every little activity difficult. If you’ve dealt with anxiety, you know what I mean - your brain is overreacting to everything, including normal stimuli. I felt triggered by sounds, light, seeing moving cars when driving on the highway, being out with friends (ambient noise), scrolling on my phone and computer, and had a hard time planning normal things like cooking meals or remembering what to bring with me to work - it felt like there was just no extra space left in my head. On the outside, I was fulfilling all of my obligations, so I looked like I was doing okay, but I was actually in survival mode for months (avoid this!)

In August I started taking Celexa, which gave me horrible insomnia on alternating days for 2 weeks and made me into a total zombie. I was cautiously optimistic that things were getting better at that point, when I left for California to visit family and go to California Brazil Camp, but flying and leaving my normal surroundings gave me a lot of anxiety. Halfway through the week at camp, after 3 weeks on meds, I suddenly didn’t feel anxious all the time (being off the grid from phones/wifi certainly didn’t hurt), and it finally felt like there was leftover space in my head. I am very grateful that the first medication I tried was the right one - not everyone has that experience, and it’s so difficult to wait for weeks while one’s body adjusts, not knowing if it will work.

How did the anxiety get better?

The Celexa definitely gave my brain a boost (bonus: I now have really vivid dreams that I usually remember in detail), and the lifestyle changes I’d started over the summer began to help, but I think that the main reason I feel better is that I started a personal spiritual practice, something I didn’t realize was missing from my life. My daily walk is essential - I use it to focus on a mantra or my breathing, or use it to gently untangle my brain if something is upsetting, asking myself what I need (and hopefully actually giving myself that). Doing self-compassion meditation has also been huge - we can be so hard on ourselves about performing well in all aspects of our lives, while also doing way too many things at once. We often don’t think twice about pushing ourselves to keep working, but would probably hate a taskmaster boss that did that to us!

Notice that I said “get better”, not “cure my anxiety” - I have no illusions that being on medication cures the problem, and I know that this is a lifelong issue that I will always be prone to. If my life gets more stressful and/or I don’t keep up my healthy habits, I definitely feel it, and it’s a learning process of awareness that I have to commit to. I’m certainly not perfect, and I’m still prone to workaholic tendencies, as much as I try not to fall into that trap (that Midwestern farmer heritage dies hard, as does the stereotypical musician lifestyle). Lisa Congdon talks about her experience with workaholism and anxiety here, and I relate to all of her takeaways. 

I felt my anxiety ramping up again this week, as I’m nearing spring break (starting after my concert tonight!) and have gotten a bit fried from a busy month, but I am now MUCH more sensitive to the red flags of increased anxiety and impending burnout (feeling crabby/unable to handle work/stressful situations as well as normal, heart racing, feeling fearful for no good reason, feeling exhausted rather than energized after a walk, etc.) So, I won’t let things get as bad as they did last year, if I can help it.

How to deal with anxiety

If you deal with anxiety, too, here are the most helpful tips I’ve learned along the way*:

  • Don’t be afraid to seek professional help

Most of us don’t get a whole lot of emotional training in our upbringing, so going to a therapist or counselor is SO helpful for gaining these tools. They can also guide you as to whether medication is a good choice for you. And, of course, if you’re thinking about hurting yourself or others, call for help immediately: the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

  • Figure out what your triggers are

Sometimes as anxiety is creeping up, we don’t even realize that something is bothering us, especially when we’re too busy to process all of our daily experiences. When the triggers are happening, speak kindly to yourself, as if you were taking care of a child (this takes practice). Find ways to ground yourself, like breathing deeply, or petting a furry friend. If you feel easily overstimulated, try reducing stimuli with sunglasses, earplugs, avoiding screens, or whatever you need to do. I also feel really comforted by having weight on me via heavy pillows, blankets, or cat sitting on my chest. 

  • Find an anxiety buddy

Have a few friends or family members who either know what it’s like to struggle with mental health, who you can call or text when you’re feeling panicky. Here’s how you know that someone doesn’t understand anxiety - they ask you, “What are you so anxious about? You should just chill out.” To which I reply, that’s kind of the definition of anxiety: it often happens for no good reason - anxious brains aren’t reacting properly to normal stimuli. It can feel so alienating when you feel like you’re going crazy and no one understands.

  • Get regular exercise

Even a daily 20-minute walk makes endorphins that anxious brains like! Or, try a dance break?

  • Don't work through exhaustion for too long

Of course, working through exhaustion is often unavoidable, but I know that continuing to push through without enough of a chance to rest will lead to burnout and increased anxiety, so I have to be really careful (and even schedule rest days/parts of days on my calendar).

  • Try journaling

Doing a brain dump can help get these swirling feelings out of your head, but I also know that it’s hard to think clearly when you’re in a state of anxiety. Going back to read it later might be helpful, or maybe just the act of writing will make you feel a little better.

  • Look to your diet for clues

Cutting out sugar and caffeine are both immensely useful in managing anxiety, and maybe low blood sugar is exacerbating it, too. I highly recommend getting assistance with this process - Lucia Hawley of Essential Omnivore helped me SO much (and you can work with her online, wherever you may be!) Her recent blog post about anxiety + food (the first in a series) also has some really good considerations.  

  • Remember that seemingly negative qualities also have a positive side

This has been a hard one for me to come around to, but dealing with mental health challenges has forced me to be much more self-aware and to take care of myself better. Also, the sensitivity that makes me susceptible to anxiety is actually a superpower that makes me a good musician and collaborator. As many times as I’ve cursed my brain for its difficulties, making friends with it is much more helpful. And, I wish it wasn't this way, but giving birth to the next, upleveled version of yourself usually comes after a period of struggle.

  • Remember that seemingly fun or easy activities also require energy

If you’re an introvert or HSP (highly sensitive person) like me, be careful of overloading your schedule - even fun things take energy, so you have to weigh the fulfillment of that experience against the depletion of your energy and need to recharge. So...

  • Create white space in your schedule

I know, to overworked musicians, this one sounds hard, if not impossible, but you must! If you don’t have enough space in your schedule, you won’t have time to process all that’s going on in your life (which I’m betting is a lot!) I think that people with anxiety need even more time to process, as do sensitive people. Also, it takes a lot of energy to support others through teaching and performing, and we don’t give ourselves enough credit or leeway for that.

  • Give yourself a break

I mean this literally and mentally/emotionally - I’m sure that you’re doing a great job at so many things and pushing yourself pretty hard, so you deserve that little break for an extra cup of tea, a walk outside, or just to say kind words to yourself.

  • Figure out what works best for YOU

There are a million tips for managing mental health, but we’re all individuals, so ultimately it comes down to experimenting until you know what works for you personally (which can be frustrating, but necessary).

* Please note, this post is not medical advice, just a means of support. Seek qualified medical advice if you need it!

💗💗💗

If you struggle with anxiety or other mental health issues, I'm holding space for you - you’re not alone. I sincerely wish you the best in managing it, and hope that this post is helpful to you.

What are your best tips for managing anxiety? Let me know in the comments!

My Creativity Manifesto + Amazing News!

As I ponder my new projects (one of which has to do with the amazing news at the end of this post!), and ways that my work might pivot in the coming year, I’ve been pondering big questions like, “What do I stand for?” and “What do I know to be true?”

I’ve had this document going for a couple years now, but I kept postponing posting it because it never felt done. I realize now that, of course, it didn’t feel done because a personal creativity manifesto is the kind of thing that’s always evolving!

I also feel like I need to elaborate on each point, but each one could probably become its own post (some have already, and some will in the future). So, I’m sharing the current version, in list format. (See #35: Done is better than perfect, plus I’m all about sharing my process!) These are the things that I know to be true for myself (and many of these statements are pretty universal):

Everyone is creative (even you).

No one needs permission to create, or to call themself an artist, writer, musician, composer, etc.! We decide how (or how not) to label ourselves.

It’s valuable to think of myself as creative - we miss out on some ways to be creative if we don’t think we are.

Creativity has much less to do with talent than with consistent effort (supported by healthy habits).

I have time to be creative, even if I think I don’t. I just also have to be creative with my time.

People are also doing amazing creative things without realizing it - creativity shows up in so many places besides art.

Don’t worry about creating something completely original that’s never been done before - work is original because it comes from a unique individual.

Just make lots of things, some will be better than others - we have to make some bad stuff to get to the good stuff (and if we persist, we definitely will).

Since creativity is a practice, different types of creativity feed the others, and the whole person (don't forget about physical movement).

Draw inspiration from other disciplines and creative careers. The creative process is endlessly fascinating, in any format.

CREATIVITY IS SELF-CARE.

I need to play and write music, or I start to feel a bit depressed and drained of life.

Self-care is essential - not taking care of oneself is like slash-and-burn agriculture - nothing will grow if there are no nutrients left in the soil.

Creating a sense of ease/flow around my creative habit helps “fertilize the soil”.

Wellness and creativity depend on each other. I will continue to explore this interdependency.

I don’t always have to know what I’m doing, in fact, maybe sometimes it’s better not to!

I need enough white space in my schedule to support and make time for creativity. The “hustle” can make creativity (and my life force!) dry up.

I need more time to process things, whether daily events, things I’m writing about, big successes/failures, or how to approach a project.

Even though being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) can be difficult, sensitivity is also a super power for my life as a musician.

Creativity can happen in small bits at a time. Small bits add up to large things.

Even if I feel fragmented (because the variety of a “mosaic of jobs” is a reality and a survival strategy), pieces can be rearranged to make something new and profound (or, the path may not be clear, but it sorts itself out, bit by bit).  

Prioritize joy - it’s most worth doing work that I’m excited about - creation is hard work but hard work can feel easy.

It’s important to me to share music, and hopefully bring others joy in the process (especially Brazilian music!)

I love working on my own, but also love making music with other people. As an introvert, I have to balance the two wisely.

I need to be disciplined (as in forming a daily composing habit) but keep it fun enough that the work has room to breathe (also a balancing act).

I will support peers in their creative projects (especially women) - by going to shows, sharing info/links, etc. (I'm doing weekly Sunday Shout-Outs on Instagram.)

It’s really important for me to create a welcoming space for others to share their work, and to encourage others’ creativity.

I will never: make someone feel bad about what they’ve created, discriminate based on style of music (or anything else), or pressure or guilt people around their creative habits.

I want everyone to be able to feel: welcomed, inspired, capable, excited to make things, nurtured by keeping a creative habit, fearless (or fearful but doing it anyway), open to sharing their goals, and encouraging of others (a rising tide lifts all boats).

We are all works in progress - art AND life are experiments. We all have permission to figure it out as we go (because that’s actually how it works).

Action > inaction (especially via overthinking and “research” as procrastination.)

There’s no shame in utilizing external accountability if needed (yes, I’m an Obliger). 

I will share my process and journey openly, in hopes of helping others feel less alone.

I would rather make something more slowly to remain in accordance with my values BUT...

Done is better than perfect.

Where I am currently is right where I’m supposed to be in my career/life/etc.

Creating the work is ultimately more important to me than any self-doubts or fraudy feelings, so I have to work through those by focusing on my mindset.

I am committed to my personal evolution as a human and a musician (human comes first). This list will also keep evolving!

COMING SOON: MY FIRST ALBUM!

And now for the amazing news: I am thrilled to announce that I've received a grant through MacPhail Center for Music (one of the places I teach), funded by the McKnight Foundation, toward recording my first album this summer! All three of these original compositions in Brazilian styles will be included, in addition to a bunch of my arrangements of Brazilian songs, and the whole album will include Tim O'Keefe on percussion, among other guests. I'll be raising additional funds to complete the project, so look for that crowdfunding campaign in the near future, to pre-order the album!

I invite you to think about what’s in your personal creativity manifesto AKA what you stand for as an artist. I bet you have more thoughts on this than you realize!

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Let me know in the comments!

Habits that Support My Creative Work

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As someone whose career is built on having a personal practice (music), and helping others do the same, I am endlessly fascinated by habits and routines, and I’m always trying to start new ones. I’ve come a long way from a past version of myself, who would decide, “This is it - today’s the day I’m going to overhaul my whole life!”, draft a long list of things to start doing, do most of them the first day, do far fewer of them the second day, get overwhelmed/slightly ashamed of myself, and promptly quit doing most of them. That’s clearly a terrible way to start habits, and I now take a different approach - much more gradual, usually one thing at a time. (I also have some tips on keeping up a creative habit here.)

But it’s not just keeping up with my piano practice that affects my career - it’s also all of the habits that contribute to my general well-being. Here are my personal routines and habits that form the underpinnings of my creative work:

Daily habits/routine:

  • Meditation - I do this first thing in the morning, still in bed, and usually do a guided meditation in the Insight Timer app, which varies depending on what I feel I need that day. (I have a daily reminder set each morning that asks that very question!)

  • Daily walk (or the gym if it’s too cold, but I promised myself that above zero-degree windchills are walking days, and it's made me hate winter much less!) My walk has really become a form of meditation where I gently untangle my brain, maybe repeating a mantra to myself, or just asking myself questions about what I need or what’s bothering me that day.

  • Cook a solid breakfast, usually scrambled eggs with a pile of veggies and some avocado.

  • Vitamins/supplements

  • Drinking enough water - I use the app Plant Nanny to track this, because gamifying works! I’m still amazed at how I gain energy (or lose moodiness, hah) within minutes of drinking a glass.

  • Piano practice and/or composing time in the morning. I try to treat this as a non-negotiable, but if I’m not feeling it, I can employ one of these strategies.

  • Sleep - I try to be asleep by 11pm.

  • Non-work hours - no work after I get home from teaching (~ 8pm) if I can help it. Rest is more important, so that I can replenish my energy to be productive the next day.

  • Taking more breaks for stretching, snacks, water, or a mini-walk if it’s warm enough.

Other regular habits:

  • Acupuncture once or twice a month - this is as relaxed as I ever get!

  • Massage once a month - so worth budgeting for, to keep my hands, arms, and neck from getting too sore.

  • Scheduled rest days after big events, and I try to observe Caturday as often as possible!

Batching activities together:

  • Batch cooking on Sunday so I have food ready to go for the week, otherwise my energy levels will tank and I become hangry - that’s never good!

  • Plan all lessons for the week on Monday.

  • Weekly admin check-in on Monday (organization, financial, website updates, etc.) All of those things don’t always happen each week, but having it on the calendar ensures that those things don’t get neglected for too long.

  • Writing on Thursdays.

Staying organized:

  • Trello - I use the app Trello to house all of my to-do lists, structured in columns (Today, Working On, This Week, Next Week, Waiting On, Planning Ahead, Done. I’m a really visual person, so I like being able to drag each card from one list to the next.

  • Reminders - I have many set on my Phone, so that I can avoid forgetting about upcoming important activities, but also not think about trying to remember them.

  • Scheduling to-do list items - I try to write my to-do lists in chronological order, and utilize the Due Date function on Trello cards, so that I can visualize when things need to get done.

Habits I’m still working on adding:

  • Yoga - I keep thinking I’m going to start, then I don’t! I need to take my own advice, and start really small, like 5 minutes a day.

  • Journaling - this is something I do at least weekly, but would like it to at least be a part of my workday morning routine. It really helps me sort out my thoughts, hopes, dreams, goals, everything!

  • Better evening routine - I want to have screens off at least an hour before bed, in favor of an analog activity like reading, drawing, or taking a bath.

In case you’re thinking, “Whoa, I could never do all of that stuff,” I’m not perfect, I don’t do all of it every day, and it’s taken me years to develop these routines, which are also always changing. I think that the most important change I’ve made is committing to practicing self-compassion when I don’t accomplish all that I want to, for whatever reason. Sometimes we have less energy (here are some strategies for those days), and it’s just not realistic to think that we can perform at a high level all of the time.  

I’m trying to shift to an attitude of saying, “maybe that was not a realistic expectation” instead of beating myself up for not making whatever change or doing whatever task. For me, committing to taking care of myself better (both physically and mentally) has at least raised the baseline of my energy level and ability to handle the often overwhelming life of being a self-employed musician. Self-care is a buzzword right now for good reason - we could all use more of it!

So, if you have lingering new year intentions that you’ve lost track of, no matter - whatever habits you want to start or improve, just start today with one thing! If you have multiple things you want to track, I have a free tool for you: Musicians’ Habit Tracker Worksheet!

What habits are you trying to add to (or remove from) your life? Let me know in the comments, and I'll cheer you on!

Let Something Go - Roundup of Posts for Busy Times

The last couple weeks have been pretty crazy, what with writing and submitting a grant to make my upcoming album, family events, extra gigs, rehearsing for a faculty recital at MacPhail tonight (look for video of that soon), rehearsing for our Brazilian Carnaval next weekend (yes, it’s later than the real one in Brazil), and health insurance fun. 

Naturally, I wanted to make my life a little bit easier by not writing a new post this week, AND I want to promote the idea that we can let something go every once in a while, in support of giving ourselves what we need (in this case, a bit more rest). Nothing terrible will happen, because there’s no such thing as a blogging emergency!

If you’re feeling frazzled, I invite you to consider what you might let go of, just this once (or completely, if needed).

So, here’s a quick roundup of posts for surviving (and thriving, if possible) during crazy times:

I hope these are helpful to you - wishing you a restful weekend!

Self-Care for Musicians Caught in the Holiday Hustle

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December is a notoriously busy month, especially for musicians. For me, the beginning of the month was pretty busy, with two big concerts that included pretty demanding repertoire, but now my obligations (involving others) are winding down. Compared to many musicians I know, I don’t have a lot going on this December (I don’t have a church gig or many holiday gigs), which in theory feels good, but then the thoughts pop in: “I could use more money,” or “Shouldn’t I be doing all of that stuff, too?”

The problem is in those two little words: “compared to.” Way back in music school, it felt like we always had a never-ending parade of things to do, which, of course, led to complaining about how many hours you spent in the practice room, how many credits you were taking, how little sleep you got last night, etc., which is kind of a series of unrewarding humblebrags that say, “LOOK, I AM DOING SO MUCH!” (Ugh.) These habits get ingrained, though, so this is the culture we still find ourselves in, often ending up in survival mode rather than thriving. First of all, I definitely don’t have the energy I had 15 years ago, and most importantly, I don’t want to live like that!

It’s so easy to get sucked into the feeling that we need to do ALL THE THINGS, in terms of teaching, gigs, promotion, creative projects, and even our personal holiday preparation, parties, etc. This is the point where you’re probably thinking, “I thought this was about self-care. When is she going to start talking about epsom salt baths?” Don’t get me wrong, I love those, and they play a helpful part in my self-care, but we need to go deeper.

What’s stressing you out?

Besides the general feeling of overwhelm (I hear you!), step back and figure out what specifically is stressing you out: Is it money? Too many gigs? Not enough gigs? (That balance of time vs. money is always a work in progress.) The wrong kind of gigs? Students that don’t seem motivated? It feels like we have to take all of the students and all of the gigs (and believe me, I’ve been there), but if you really hate some aspect of your work life, you don’t have to do it anymore, or you can do less of it.

If you’re an introvert who teaches way too much, think about dropping a day of teaching and find some other work to fill in that gap, or, for something you can do right away, take a couple extra bathroom breaks that allow you to take some deep breaths.

If you hate driving to far-flung gigs, set a personal radius that you will no longer take gigs outside of.

If you’re financially stressed, look at what you’re spending money on that doesn’t make you happy. (Sarah Von Bargen has a great free bootcamp about this! )  

If you’re teaching/gigging/whatever-ing too much, you could consider getting a part-time non-music related job (that takes less energy) to fill in the gaps.

Realistically, we can’t always make changes as quickly or drastically as we dream about. Maybe that looks like doing a little bit less of that thing and decreasing it over time, but there are always other options to shift the mosaic of jobs that most of us have.

Hit delete!

So, in the short term, what can you delete that’s not that important? We have so many expectations on ourselves this time of year (and all of the time) - what can you let go of? For example, I traditionally have made holiday ornaments for my students, but this year I made prints of a piano drawing that was already done, and didn’t make holiday cards, but just cut up red paper to write on. Easy. It’s amazing what I do without thinking about it, because I’ve assumed that I HAVE TO.

When all of those “requirements” pile up, you’re headed toward the land of burnout. For me, it was the worst when I continued to be busy for the sake of being busy, without questioning why I was doing all of that. (Because it’s way easier to distract yourself from big questions by being so busy!) Megan Ihnen wrote a great article about avoiding burnout by taking time to set really meaningful career goals, including a really actionable goal-setting exercise. Take a look at the article, and schedule some time to think about your big goals, the work that makes you feel the best. (Seriously, put it on your calendar right now.)

Resources!

But, you probably don’t have time for deep thinking right now - it’s December! So, back to self-care in the traditional sense. If you’re in the trenches trying to survive the next couple weeks, you might be looking for some actual (and quick) self-care strategies. I have 10 survival strategies for busy times right over here, some inspiration for when you’re feeling unmotivated here, and some wellness resources for musicians here.  

Self-care isn’t all about bubble baths and spa days (although it could be if you want it to) - it’s about doing things that make you feel better, and it’s incredibly personal, so you have to figure out what works for you. For some excellent resources in this department, check out Christy Tending’s offerings. 

So today I invite you to take 10 minutes (or more, but we can all find 10 minutes), and decide what one little action you can take to lighten your load and make things feel a bit easier. Do something, anything that FEELS GOOD. If even figuring that out takes more mental bandwidth than you have, pause for just 2 minutes, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths - I guarantee you’ll feel better, and you’re going to make it through December, too!

What’s your biggest challenge during this busy month? Let me know in the comments!