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Musicians - Is STRESS your friend or foe?

By H. Paul Stanley

Bob Marley said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

I’m a retired psychologist and a stress relief coach. Over the years, I have seen music have a remarkable and positive impact on very stressed-out people.

But what about the impact on you as you are creating the music? Will stress hurt you and your career…or will it help you thrive as a musician?

Optimal stress can enhance the quality of your performance as a musician. It can also make performing more enjoyable. This helpful stress is called eustress, which means good stress.

Here is the bad news. As the stress increases, the eustress can become distress. Distress is anything but beneficial. It results in a host of physical and emotional pain. The symptoms of distress include…

• headaches

• muscle pain

• cloudy thinking

• fatigue

• insomnia

• nervousness

• worry

• discouragement

• irritability

…and others.

If the distress continues, you may develop a serious illness.

Before the pandemic, 1500 musicians participated in a research study. Seven out of ten reported struggling with stress, anxiety, and/or depression. And I can assure you, it has not gotten any better over the last couple of years.

There are many stressors that you face because of the nature of your work.

As you climb up the latter of success, the stress is likely to increase.

A stressor that is unique to those of you who make music is anxiety about performing before an audience. After all, the audience may or may not like what you are creating. This worry is especially intense in the early years of your experience as a musician.

As a child, you can deliver a less than stellar rendition in a recital before family and friends. The performance is unlikely to result in negative consequences. Still, even at that level, you feel the expectation of perfection.

Time passes and your skill develops. You begin your career as a musician. Now audiences do expect 100% perfection. If that standard of perfection is not achieved, your career may be very short.

Enough work is not a given. You must search for gigs.

You are likely to have either financial feast or financial famine. For many musicians, financial famine is more prevalent than feast.

As you become more successful, you experience more stress. You are away from home frequently. Traveling to out-of-town venues takes you away from the support of family and friends. You must adjust to constant changes in your environment and location.

Schedules become more challenging. The long hours that you work wears on you.

Your ever-increasing level of stress takes a toll on your body and your mind. The symptoms of your stress become stressors. And those stressors trigger more symptoms. It becomes an ever-increasing cycle.

So, what’s a stressed-out musician to do?

How can you manage the stress in such a way that it helps you thrive, rather than wrecking your career and your life?

Here are four keys to keeping stress your helpful friend…

First, find some ways of putting the brakes on your stress. As stress levels build up, you will start experiencing harmful symptoms. You must have a few techniques that you can use to bring the stress down in the moment.

Second, get clarity on what a less stressful life would look like for you. You need a vision of the life you want to live. It must be a life in which all your major needs are being met.

Third, identify mindsets or attitudes that trigger, amplify, and prolong your stress. These mindsets must change if you are going to use stress to your advantage.

Fourth, identify situations, circumstances, and actions that are needlessly contributing to your stress. Once you have identified them, plan how you are going to change them, and start working your plan.

I have written a short eBook that tells you more about these four steps. Its title is Prosper in the Pressure Cooker: The 5 Best Ways to Thrive When Life Turns Up the Heat.

I want to give you a copy of the eBook. You can download your copy here.

You may be wondering why the eBook addresses five ways to thrive when life is stressful. After all, here I only told you about four keys to managing your stress. The missing key involves a caution. Get the eBook and find out what it is.


Written by H. Paul Stanley, PhD, CPC

Stress Relief Coach

Lifestyle Transformation Coach

How stressed are you? You can find out by completing a scientifically developed stress scale here. There is no cost. It will take you less than 5 minutes to complete the scale. And the results will be emailed to you immediately. Click here to take advantage of this valuable resource.

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