As the weeks rush toward the busy holiday season, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. So many performances, so much music to learn, so little time to relax. At times like this it’s easy to feel…well, grumpy.
But feeling grumpy does not help you make beautiful music.
So before the grumpiness takes hold, take action. Follow these seven steps, and enjoy the busy times!
First, a couple of basic rules:
1. Eat right and get enough sleep. This same advice that our mothers always gave us is really the best way to avoid stress and burnout. When your schedule won’t accommodate a sit-down, home-cooked meal, try packing some power snacks like cheese, nuts, fruit or veggies so you can avoid the fast food trap. And there is no substitute for a good night’s sleep when it comes to restoring your energy, spirits and stamina.
2. Move it! If you can make time for exercise, that is ideal. A regular routine, whether it’s yoga at home or weight training at the gym, will release those endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters. Even better, it has been shown that if you exercise in the morning, you will sleep better at night. If that’s still not enough to get you into your trendy exercise clothes, then follow these guidelines: stretch your body often during the day and take breaks while you work, especially during those marathon practice sessions!
And now on to some more musically oriented strategies:
3. Make 15 minutes each day to clean up and calm your technique. When we are playing too much or get too busy, our technique suffers. It may seem that constant playing would keep you in shape, but that is simply not so. Instead, our technique gets sloppy and our fingers lose the discipline that we have worked so hard to instill. A short, relaxed daily exercise or warm-up routine will refresh your skills and keep you at peak performance.
4. Get organized. Keep your contracts, programs, music, directions in one place. If you can be firm with yourself in this one habit, you will find that no matter how insane your schedule, you can be calm knowing that you have everything you need. Are you a list maker? Keep it on your music stand where you will see it every day. And don’t forget to keep track of your car keys…
5. Listen to some music you love. Remember? You love music, right?
6. Don’t hang around negative people. I’ve played in professional situations where the break-time conversation was essentially a litany of complaints. It was easy small talk to complain about a conductor, a colleague, the music we were playing, the parking, the traffic, the weather, the pay scale and anything else. I learned that this was a great way to feel burdened, oppressed and depressed. So I looked for the people with a better attitude and not surprisingly, my outlook improved too.
7. You don’t HAVE to. You GET to. Does this sound like something you’ve said once, or maybe more than once: “I have to play this wedding.” Or “I have to play this recital.” What if you considered those performances as opportunities to share something you love, rather than impositions on your time. I truly believe that it is a blessing to be able to play, and every time that I start to grumble about one of those places I HAVE to play, I try to remind myself that I am privileged to be doing something that I love, and to be able to share that love with others. And each day that I GET to play the harp is a good one!