By Adrienne Lake
Here in the US, most of us have had the privilege of never having to weather any true national crisis that had a widespread impact on our daily lives. In some countries, bombings, food shortages and epidemics are endured on a regular basis, but we have been able to watch from a safe distance and have not had the chance to learn the coping skills or sacrifices that need to be made in these situations not just to survive, but persevere. As a result, it’s not surprising that now that we are in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are a bit lost and having a tough time navigating this new frontier. We are all feeling the fallout of this, not just in the music industry, but on a national and global scale.
Consider this your own personal guide to physically and mentally surviving in this strange new era we have found ourselves in.
1. Make to-do lists.
Even though you may not have an office to go to or even a job to do, there are always a ton of productive things you can fill your time with that will not only make the best use of your sudden windfall of free time, but will also help ward off depression. Not only are there always endless chores that one can do around the house and yard, but think of all the times you said, "If only I had time off, I would do this." Add these things to your list. Have a file of all of the short stories that you have conceptualized but never finished? Get on that. Unfinished songs sitting around gathering metaphorical dust? Dive back in.
Give yourself a period of time to work on these tasks. For example, "I will write for 2 hours between 3 and 5 PM." If you are a person that does not do well without structure, write yourself a daily schedule allotting yourself time for exercise, chores, job searches and leisure time.
Recently while on a walk, one of my favorite sound engineers said, “After all this is over we will all know if we really just needed time for those bucket list items or if it was all BS.” Rewire your brain to think of this as an opportunity instead of a disaster. You never would have had the time to paint that Wonder Woman triptych, write that novel, write that blog, write that rock opera, make that giant giraffe out of dryer lint, etc. You now have the time to do it!
Write it all down and when you complete the tasks, cross them off. As you complete each task, it will give you a sense of accomplishment, which is one of the best ways to fight depression.
2. When you get up, take a shower and get dressed.
It's great to stay in your pajamas all day on a weekend or after say, a very taxing music festival (ahem). However, when we are homebound for the unforeseeable future, lounging in sleepwear, unkempt and unwashed, well… that can lead to depression, not to mention not being as productive as we would have been otherwise. Create a schedule and tell yourself you need to get showered and dressed to complete the first task on your list, even if that's just making a doctor's appointment or calling in for unemployment. It makes a big difference.
3. Reward yourself.
Rewarding yourself is important but it's also most important to do it when you've actually earned it. Give yourself a goal of crossing a certain amount of items off your to-do list and then when you complete them, go ahead and watch Star Wars. Now, don't watch them all at once. Give yourself the reward of one episode a day. Go ahead and eat that Sweet Ritual Rocky Road that you've been saving, but make sure you do it after you have mowed the lawn and completed your job search, not before. If every minute of our waking hours are essentially rewards, ie watching Netflix and eating bonbons, that quickly becomes a source of depression. Make the rewards special so they are more satisfying.
4. GET OUTSIDE!
This might be the most important of them all. It's a scientific fact that holing up inside all day in a dark room is bad for your physical and mental health. There is zero health risk to you in getting in your car and heading out to one of the many gorgeous hiking trails we have around town. You don't have to go to Town Lake where there are big crowds, there are plenty of other options. If you don't have a dog to walk, borrow one. There’s no such thing as too many dog walks.
And there’s no reason why we can't use the situation to take the opportunity to get into the best physical health possible and also make our doggos happy. Make them long walks, hikes or bike rides. You have got the time, so set yourself some goals and make it a 2-hour bike ride or walk instead of the usual 20 minute one. Get RIPPED!
5. Don't isolate.
The vast majority of us are social animals, and just because we can't jam ourselves into a booth with friends at Yellowjacket for Sunday brunch or get sweaty at Cheer Up Charlie's Saturday night doesn't mean we cannot still have our social needs met.
Think about the people that mean the most to you. Is it really keeping in touch if you're just linked on social media? No. Re-discover the majesty of the phone call. Give your old best friend a call. Call your parents and have a heart-to-heart with your sister. And you can kill multiple birds with one stone by meeting a friend somewhere on a roomy walking path and chatting while exercising (6 feet apart, of course). I've been scheduling one of these a day and it does wonders, just limit the gloom and doom and keep the conversation as positive as possible. Seriously… life savers.
6. Don't obsess, AKA limit news/social media.
If you are coping by gluing yourself to your phone or laptop, STOP. You are spinning yourself a sticky, never-ending web of potential depression. Yes, it's good to stay in touch and know what's going on in the world, but if this is how you spend the majority of your time, you will be unhappy. Look for fulfillment outside of Facebook or Instagram, it’s less fleeting and more real. Make sure you are picky about your news sources and don't send yourself into a panicked frenzy because of something somebody said or posted on Facebook. Social media is full of misinformation and inflammatory posts. When you do communicate online, make sure that your intent is not to spread negativity or fanning the flames of panic. We are all human, but the world would be a better place if we shared information responsibly. Instead, reach out to others about exchanging info about possible jobs, making plans for those aforementioned walks, offering helpful information for others. If you see social media exchanges as an opportunity to help ourselves and others, then you're likely to keep yourself away from those digital downward spirals.
Here's another important one that’s universally relevant, if you are spending time with friends, put down the phone. There's nothing worse than interrupting somebody who is attempting to make a real life connection with you by letting them know that you aren’t paying attention because you are too busy scanning your phone for bad news.
It's understandable that we all might feel a bit helpless in our current predicament, but there are still ways that you can make sure you are taking care of business. If you are foreseeing difficulty making your bills, research deferment plans and possible financial support. If you hit a wall trying to apply for unemployment, before you burst into tears and give up... stop, take a deep breath, and think. Reach out to peers for input. There is usually a workaround.
8. Work around obstacles.
Speaking of workarounds, we are going to be hitting a lot of obstacles in our path to navigating and recovering from this pandemic, but never give up. Stay crafty. Big lines at HEB? No problem, there are a ton of other options. HEB is not the only grocery store in the world. If you go to health food stores, Asian markets, Mexican grocery stores you will find that there are no lines and you can still get close to what you need. Just take time to think outside the box or bun. These workarounds apply to just about any problem you may face. You’re smart, you’re strong. Figure it out. This brings us to the next big one...
You've got your heart set on those H-E-B Texas shaped chips. You're willing to make yourself miserable standing in line and dealing with the paranoia of dealing with the hacking guy who is standing too close. It's worth it, right? It's not.
In this Amazon Prime era, we are very used to getting what we want whenever we want it, however this is a global emergency and we all need to adjust. We will still be well fed even if they are out of Nate's Soyrizo Taquitos. Make your own. They might even be better and you'll be happier because you made them. Miss your Sunday ritual of going to the car wash? Wash the car in the front yard. You'll save money and get some fresh air and exercise. Adapting makes us stronger and smarter.
10. Keep music in your life.
Music saves lives. Us music community folks know this better than anyone. While it’s easy to give into the temptation to stream High Fidelity all day and while that’s good (though a little forced in it’s execution until later episodes), it doesn’t compare to the experience of listening to The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars closely from beginning to end. A Hulu series won’t make your spirit soar like an eagle into the futurrre. Watching RuPaul’s Drag Race while searching Indeed will just distract you and slow you down (because it’s awesome), but job hunting to Songs In The Key Of Life will not only keep you motivated, it will keep a smile on your face.
This is also an opportunity to make this a time of discovery, both in terms of finding and falling in love with new music and churning out your own creative content. Blogs are not going away and neither are podcasts, books, all the many streaming services, etc etc. Make a list of all the music you have heard about but never had the chance to dig into. Now is the time.
You’ve probably noticed the ever-adaptable music community has stepped up in the face of this crisis and is working to give you the next best thing to a live performance. Live streams are popping up all over the place, seek them out and get your live music fix. Or if you are an artist, create an experience for current and future fans. This is an opportunity for outreach.
Don't you feel a little better now?
11. Don't lose heart.
When you feel isolated and alone, pause and think about what everybody else is going through and all the people who are in tougher situations than you. Chances are, you are still pretty lucky. And remember, this is a shared experience and we are all in this together. It may be difficult, but experiences like this can make us even stronger and smarter. This too shall pass.
Don’t stop believin’.
~Adrienne Lake is a 20+ year music industry veteran who loves dogs, pizza, helping people and dogs and helping herself to pizza. She was recently laid off from her position as a Music Festival Programmer at SXSW and understands what you are going through.