Seven Tips to Survive the Holidays for Musicians

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Survive the holidays

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For musicians. the holidays can be extra stressful. Not only is there the pressure of the social aspects of the holidays, but this is when we work. Our holiday gig income tides us over what can be a very lean January. I learned the hard way what can happen if you aren’t careful.

The only time I ever had a back spasm was on a Christmas Eve. I was still in college, but I had been practicing and performing non-stop for the entire time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After my fourth service on Christmas Eve, I came home and couldn’t do anything but lie on the floor until it went away. That was the only time I ever experienced a back spasm, but the cause was clear: I was working too hard and not being smart about it. After that I promised myself to find a better way to work as much as I could, preserve my health and sanity, and keep the fun in the holidays.

First two tips for the personal side of the holidays:

1. Schedule one small social time each week. I put this first because it’s important to me to enjoy the holidays. Just a quick lunch or even a cup of coffee with a friend or two provides me the break I need. I feel reconnected to the people who are important to me. For me, that’s the real warmth of the holidays.

2. Make it an e-Christmas. If the Christmas chores seem too heavy, use the internet to lighten the load. When you can shop, create and send cards, even buy holiday meals online on your schedule, why stress yourself trying to park at the mall?

And some tips to keep the gigs from driving you crazy:

3. Check your schedule regularly! Even those of us who never forget an appointment can have trouble when things are crazy. A quick look at the calendar morning and evening can save you from disaster.

4. Organize yourself for the entire week. Each Monday morning, I look at my schedule for the week, making sure I have no conflicts and that I have allowed enough time to get where I need to be. Then I set out the music I will need for each gig, along with the address, directions, contact information, and contract for each. And I write down what I plan to wear for each event. No last minute looking for music or shoes! With all the traveling I do, planning like this has become second nature and it gives me peace of mind to know that I have everything I need ready to go.

5. Keep your fingers in shape. Just because you’re playing a lot, doesn’t mean you are keeping your technique in top form. When I am extra busy, I always start my day with 15-30 minutes of slow, relaxed technical work. Sometimes I use scales or exercises, sometimes I use portions of the music I am preparing to perform. I have found this to be a great way to focus and regroup my thoughts as well as refresh my fingers.

6. Write it down! This is the one time of year I can count on forgetting something important. So more than ever, this is when I write everything down. Whether it’s my list of errands (which I number for efficiency!) or my practice plan, I write it down on a  yellow legal pad that is too big to misplace.

7. Stretch. At least twice a day, I  do some easy stretches. This time of year I often don’t take the time to exercise, but I find if I at least stretch regularly, I can stay relaxed and keep from getting injured. I can get back on my exercise schedule after the holidays.

This is going to be another fantastic holiday season. I’m ready, and now so are you!

What are your favorite holiday survival tactics?

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