6 October 2021

How musicians can help look after their mental health

By Lark Music

Wellbeing is important in any sector, but for musicians it is particularly so. A study published in 2017 revealed that musicians are three times more likely to experience anxiety or depression than the general public, caused by issues such as uncertain working conditions, unpredictable pay, antisocial and unsympathetic working environments, and even a higher likelihood of suffering sexual abuse and bullying. Fast forward to 2021, and musicians have been facing unprecedented uncertainty since the pandemic began, with poor financial support throughout. So now, more than ever, it’s vital that musicians take steps to look after their mental health. Let’s take a look at how.

Be aware of your physical limits

Mental health and physical health are interwoven. To look after our minds, it helps to first look after our bodies and for musicians this is particularly apt. From long hours practising, to the physical exertion every instrument (including the voice) demands, to the strain we put on our hearing, musicians ask a lot of their bodies. So the first step is to be aware of how you use your body and notice any areas of tension or pain, so you can take breaks to relieve it. Make sure you know the safe limits for volume exposure and invest in some high-quality ear plugs to bring your daily decibels down – this will help reduce headaches, ringing and hearing loss. And always remember to warm up and down properly before you practice or perform.

Look after your body

This may sound obvious but it’s true: eat well, drink lots of water to stay hydrated and get plenty of good sleep. You’ll need at least 6-8 hours a night to feel properly refreshed, and a diet that focuses on vegetables, fruit and protein will help keep you healthy both physically and mentally. Activity is also important with exercise proven to help mental health. By taking a 30 minute walk a day and aiming for 150 minutes of moderate activity such as cycling or swimming per week, you can help to boost your mood and energy levels, reduce anxiety, protect against injury and enhance the quality of your sleep.

Take time for yourself

Many musicians follow a relentless schedule of rehearsals, performances, late nights, early starts, plus the pressure to maintain jobs such as teaching to support their income – all on top of the admin that comes from being self-employed. But if you don’t take time to give yourself a break, you will burn out. So, occasionally, let the music stop and do something that’s solely for yourself, whether it’s reading a book, having a bath, visiting friends or striking out on a walk. The mental break will help.

Try not to compare yourself to others

The music industry is competitive and musicians are perfectionists – often connecting their identity to their ability to create. However, relying on feedback from fans, artists and industry representatives can undermine your wellbeing, especially when coupled with the psychological strain of trying to be perfect in an industry that sometimes simply relies on the right networking connections. So an important mental discipline is to stop comparing yourself to others, whether online or in real life. Instead focus on your own performance. Notice something that you think you did well. Take time to appreciate simple pleasures and small accomplishments – it will do more for your confidence than pitting yourself against others.

Never be afraid to reach out

While you can make lifestyle changes that will help your mental health, sometimes you just need to talk to someone. Whether it’s keeping in touch with friends and sharing how you’re feeling, or reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, human connection is essential to our wellbeing. But if you’re still feeling low, you should never be afraid to speak to a professional for support, whether it’s your GP, counsellor or a specialist organisation like Music Minds Matter – a charity that supports all musicians through challenging times. Because however overwhelmed you may feel, you’re never alone.



Do you or someone you know need to speak to someone? Music Minds Matter can help.

If you work in music and are struggling to cope, or know someone who is, you can talk to Music Minds Matter. It doesn’t have to be a crisis, or about music. The Music Minds Matter Counsellors are here to listen, support and help at any time.

You can contact them on 0808 802 8008 (free from the UK) or click the button below to find out more.