Coping Strategies for Creatives - Abbey Road's Dr. Claire Renfrew | Coping in Lockdown Mini-Series

18th May 2020
Dr Claire Renfrew is a Chartered Psychologist who specialises in Music Psychology and is a member of the Abbey Road team. She has written many articles about the positive impact music can have on mental health and wellbeing and has hands on experience working with songwriters, composers, performances and musicians across the industry. Claire spoke to us to offer guidance to the creative community during this difficult time.
 
Artists are often a barometer for the emotions of society and, thankfully, in recent years it’s become increasingly common to talk about it. The negative emotional impact of lockdown on individuals is inevitable and something that is widely felt within the music industry. Yungblud stated what a number of the artists are feeling “Everything’s been cancelled left right and centre, and we can’t leave where we are right now. It’s been pretty crazy that the world has put the brakes on. It’s almost as if we’re in a glass box and someone’s playing a trick on us that we can’t get out of. When my shows were cancelled, I was gutted. It’s genuinely why I do it — not even the show, just meeting everyone afterwards gets me going. To have that taken away from them, as well as me, was gutting; I was upset, I couldn’t fathom it.”

Pressures within the music industry is not a new experience. Over the past few years there has been a dramatic rise in the number of musicians who are opening up about their mental health issues and sadly we have lost some of the creative family (Keith Flint, Avicii and Mac Miller) to different mental health issues. Artists including Stormzy, Liam Payne, Selena Gomez, Frank Carter and Billie Eilish have opened up about the problems that they have faced and have encouraged others to discuss their own experiences.

Those who already experience anxiety, depression and stress in their lives may feel overwhelmed by all that is surrounding us. We are being overloaded with lots of information and are constantly having to adapt to what we are being guided to do by the government and media. Even if we do not usually experience any form of mental unease, then we may be feeling elements of it now due to the lack of control that we have in the lives that we have built for ourselves.
 
 
Those who already experience anxiety, depression and stress in their lives may feel overwhelmed by all that is surrounding us. We are being overloaded with lots of information and are constantly having to adapt to what we are being guided to do by the government and media. Even if we do not usually experience any form of mental unease, then we may be feeling elements of it now due to the lack of control that we have in the lives that we have built for ourselves.

It is essential to recognise if you or if others around you are experiencing negative feelings and try to maintain some form of emotional regulation. And to realise that you are not alone. Social connections are vital as they give us a sense of belonging, which in turn gives us emotional support and maintains our identity. We are by nature social creatures, so when that is taken away from us it can be difficult.

To respond to that Record Union have recently launched ‘The Wellness Starter Pack’ which is an online mental health resources kit for musicians https://thewellnessstarterpack.com/. This pack was created by a group of experts to help musicians maintain positive mental health and wellbeing. One frequent question that people are asking is ‘how do we gain control?’. We are unable to control the world around us and even control our own movements outside of the home. However, we are in control of what we do within the home and can attempt to focus on our own self-care and the importance of it. Self-care strategies are pivotal during this time as they give us routine and structure.

 

Exercise & Nutrition

If it is possible to get out of the house, then make sure that you take the opportunity for some fresh air and a chance for a change of scene. Exercise is essential for the body and the brain as it releases endorphins which trigger positive feelings within the body. Exercise is also a good distraction from what is currently happening in the world and it can help improve your overall confidence. Try https://yogawithadriene.com/ for some free yoga for all levels. In terms of nutrition there are both positives and negatives of being at home more frequently. The temptation to always be looking inside the fridge for your next snack is there more often than before. The main key to healthy eating is self-discipline. Try to stock-up on healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables and lean proteins. Take time out to make some healthy meals and snacks, try https://madeleineshaw.com/recipes/ for nutritional recipes.
 

Breathing & Mindfulness

Incorporating mindfulness and focused breathing into your day can drastically reduce stress and anxiety levels. It also increases physical capacities and enhances cognitive functioning – improving general health. Additionally, it can enhance the ability to deal with illness as it can help patients to focus less on pain, therefore improving quality of life. There are numerous free apps out there that can help take us on our mindfulness journey:

https://insighttimer.com/
https://www.smilingmind.com.au/
https://www.stopbreathethink.com/
https://www.uclahealth.org/ucla-mindful
https://www.tenpercent.com/

 

Meditation & Mental Visualisation

Meditation can promote emotional health, enhance self-awareness, lengthen attention span and lessens stress, anxiety depression and pain. Musicians such as Kendrick Lamar and Katy Perry have taken to meditation for their own individual wellbeing and as a source of extended creativity. Try www.calm.com to get started. Meditation and mental visualisation are common techniques used for those who may suffer from performance anxiety. It enables one to ease tension and focus on any possible stressors that may exist for your creative self. https://www.headspace.com/meditation/visualization offers a great app that focuses specifically on mental visualisation techniques.
 

Music Lessons

Engaging in musical activities contributes to feelings of social inclusivenes in individuals. Taking part in shared musical activities can enhance communication skills and offer a collective identity for those who share the musical activity together, e.g. belonging to a choir or a band. Many musicians around the globe are offering free music lessons during our time in lockdown, such as Foo Fighters’ Tayler Hawkins who is giving free drum tutorials online and violinist Nicola Benedetti’s Benedetti Foundation has announced daily music lessons https://www.benedettifoundation.org/resources.
 

Songwriting

Songwriting aids emotional processing and regulation. It can increase learning, self-expression and create connections with past experiences and present feelings. Like many artists, Ed Sheeran has previously described his songwriting as a form of therapy “Anytime I’ve felt low, the one thing that picks me up is writing a song about it. As soon as it’s out of me in a song, I kind of move on.” Songwriting is not only for musicians; anyone can use writing as a method of expression and a form of emotional release. Try https://www.wordpalette.io/ to get started and if you are feeling confident enough to share your writing then https://songspace.com/ is a useful tool.
 

What other support is available for the creative community?


Although we are ‘socially distancing’ this is in a physical sense and we can take this as an opportunity to come closer together emotionally. Know that you are not alone, and we are all sharing this experience together. If you are feeling isolated, then it is essential to communicate and talk about how you may be feeling to others.

We have condensed some of the information that is out there and outlined some companies that may be able to help you emotionally, professionally and financially during this time. Below is a list of companies that offer support to individuals across the creative community:
 

Help Musicians UK – Music Minds Matters

Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Music Minds Matter is a support line and service for the whole UK music community. If you want someone to talk to, or even explore avenues for ongoing support, get in touch, anytime. They're here to help: 0808 802 8008. Read more at their dedicated website: musicmindsmatter.org.uk
 

Music Support

Music Support is a registered charity founded and run by people from the UK music industry, for individuals in any area of the UK music industry suffering from mental, emotional and behavioural health disorders (including but not limited to alcohol and drug addiction). You can contact them on 0800 030 6789 and helpline@musicsupport.org. Read more at: https://www.musicsupport.org/
 

Musicians Union

The Musicians Union is a globally respected organisation which represents over 32,000 musicians working right across the music industry. As well as negotiating on behalf of musicians with all the major employers in the industry; they provide advice, services and assistance tailored to each individual member. They are behind every musician – whether you are full time, part time, self-employed or a student musician. Contact them on 020 7582 5566 or info@theMU.org. More information is available at: https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/
 

PRS for Music – Emergency Relief Fund

PRS for Music has announced the launch of the PRS Emergency Relief Fund, created in partnership with PRS Members Fund and PRS Foundation. The fund is designed to help those facing significant financial pressure as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and will be available to all writer members who have earnt over £500 in the last two years. Grants will be awarded based on assessment of individual need and applicants will receive support up to a value of £1000. More information can be found here; https://www.prsformusic.com/c/emergency-relief-fund
 

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine

The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) is a healthcare charity giving medical advice to people working and studying in the performing arts. BAPAM help individuals overcome (and preferably avoid) work-related health problems and are dedicated to sharing knowledge about healthy practice. They supple free clinics, resources, a directory of practitioners, healthy performances events and training alongside performing arts medicines training for health professionals. BAPAM also support research into all aspects of health and wellbeing in the performing arts. They can be found here: https://www.bapam.org.uk/index.html and contacted by phone 020 7404 5888 or email info@bapam.org.uk.
 

Bectu

Bectu is the union for creative ambition. They represent over 40,000 staff, contract and freelance workers in the media and entertainment industries. Their members work in non-performance roles in broadcasting; film and cinema; digital media; independent production; leisure; IT and telecoms, and theatre and the arts. They will support members when something goes wrong at work and will stand up for their members rights and protect their jobs. You can find them at www.bectu.org.uk or info@bectu.org.uk.
 

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)

The ISM is the UK’s professional body for musicians and a nationally recognised subject association for music. Since 1882, they are dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession. The ISM support almost 10,000 members across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Their members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds. As well as working musicians, their members also includes part-time and full-time students and retired musicians. They campaign tirelessly in support of musicians' rights, music education and the profession as a whole. They are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows them the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians. More information can be found here: https://www.ism.org/ and they can be contacted on 020 7221 3499 or at membership@ism.org.
 
If you are experiencing any difficulties there are numerous companies who are able to help. Reach out to them, they are there to support you.