That wonderful musical cocoon you have been in while participating in whatever summer program you have chosen has or is about to wind down. It has been an amazing experience and you have been nurtured and surrounded by fellow musicians who are for the most part, of like mind. You have been allowed to leave the real world behind and immerse yourself in nothing but singing, performing, learning and music. You were probably in some fairy tale place, or at least someplace different than where you normally live and work. Maybe you are learning another language, and are for sure eating different food and getting acquainted with a whole new culture even if you haven’t gone to Europe. You have been able to leave behind the real world of paying bills, going to work each day to be able to pay those bills, scheduling lessons and coachings into your already busy schedule, buying groceries, living perhaps in the cement jungle with all that that implies, or a rural area that feels like a wasteland as far as classical music is concerned. You have not had to be the entrepreneur which requires your constant attention if you want to move yourself forward on your career track. Time has stood still and put you into a spectacular bubble. It has not been the real normal everyday world and it went by all too fast. It’s almost like you have been whisked away from the hard responsibilities of everyday life by giving yourself a reprieve, an opportunity to do nothing but express and expand your artistic self.
How do you get back to normalcy after having had such a bright and colorful adventure? Do you have a plan in place once you are home and have given yourself a few days to recover and catch up, that allows you to jump back into your regular routine?
If you don’t have a plan or perhaps never thought about how to successfully pick up your normal life where you left it off and move on, here are some thoughts that might help you recover faster while applying any new skills and abilities you have gained during the summer to your current and future endeavors’ while still leaving some of that new found enthusiasm and sparkle in place.
“I think depression and despair are reasonable reactions to the nature of life. Life has its ups and downs. It is unreliable and conditional and provisional. It can be, as we used to say in my youth, a real bummer. Failure, disease, death: standard life events. Is it any surprise if some of the time, some of us feel like hell? ”
~ Chase Twichell, “Toys in the Attic”
- Depression – Slump - Melancholy Often times once the glow and excitement of “what was” starts to wear off, whether it is a summer program, apprentice program, or even a performance of some type, one might experiences a period of feeling unmotivated and possibly depressed. It may not be a major bout, but it makes you feel dull and flat like you no longer have a purpose to your day; you have nothing to look forward to. It can be very debilitating. I can’t think of any industry where this does not happen after having achieved a high of some kind. It can even happen after coming home from a long awaited vacation. The getting back to your real life often feels like it is in black and white compared to revisiting your memories of the place you just were. Those memories are usually in bright, vibrant colors.
The first thing I suggest, is to allow yourself to feel this way, just be there. Your job at this point is to really notice and appreciate just how you are feeling. So feel these feelings. How often do we take the opportunity to do this? Once you have looked at, heard and experienced the feeling, think about how you want to let that particular one go. You do this with each and every unproductive feeling that shows up. This is a game your imagination will love. Will it float off on a small puffy, white cloud, will you hear it as a word and let it slowly slide off you minds screen – or perhaps you let it get hit by a bus exploding into a puff of pink bubbles. Let your imagination go wild. And I can tell you from my own experience and the many notes I have received from other singers who have used this technique, it does work. It works because most times we don’t take the time to consciously notice each specific feeling, feel it and then consciously let it go.
- Physical Adjustment This is also time for physical rest so your body’s saccadic rhythms can readjust to where you are now. So when you feel tired, rest if you can. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Eat well. Drink plenty of water. Exercise even if it is just a short walk. Add any interesting ideas you may have learned while being gone to your normal everyday routine and get on with living your life as soon as you can.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
- Mental Adjustment This will probably be the biggest challenge. Your mind starts thinking about all the catching up you have to do with everyday non artistic activities. It’s the mundane tasks like going through the mail, paying bills (somehow), washing clothes, taking things to the cleaners, buying groceries, etc. It’s this real part of everyday life that brings you back to reality with a jolt. And it seems like everything needs your attention all at once which can be overwhelming. It’s not where you want to be or what you want to be doing. So, how do you reclaim your enthusiasm and motivation to move forward in the real everyday world?
Routine is the answer. Either jump back into your tried and true personalized morning routine with any added goodies you have just learned and incorporated which will motivate and inspire you, or put one in place. Starting each day with a personalized routine puts one in a good mood, ready to participate in the day with enthusiasm. If you don’t believe me, build a morning routine that works for you and see if doesn’t make a huge difference in your energy level throughout your day. You might want to change it up for the weekends or perhaps not have one at all on whatever days you have off.
Here is an example of how a personalized morning routine might work:
- Wake up at the same time each day and shake off the cob webs. Have a full glass of clean, cold water which will help rehydrate your body and wake you up.
- Do about 15 to 20 minutes of stretching and light exercise just to get your blood pumping. This is huge booster for almost everyone. When one doesn’t participate in getting the body going, productivity usually slumps for the rest of the day. The exercise routine doesn’t have to be anything outrageous. You could do some leg stretches in bed, then get up and add some sit ups, push ups, and jumping jacks, nothing fancy; just get your blood pumping. You don’t even have to sweat to accomplish that. It’s more about getting blood to your brain so your mind starts working rather then building muscles. And this can often be the time when those amazing, productive and unexpected thoughts come to mind.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. Whether it be a bowl of cereal with a banana, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, or toast with peanut butter and a yogurt, be sure you start your day with healthy food. Most people need that great cup of coffee or tea in the morning, so take the time to really enjoy it. And then top it all off by taking some vitamins. It’s a documented fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It literally means break the fast which is the 8 hours we don’t eat when sleeping. So don’t skimp or skip on a healthy breakfast or you might wind up feeling like a slug for the rest of the day.
- Read for 10-15 minutes. After you have had breakfast, showered, if you do that in the morning and dressed for the day, clear your mind and read for a few minutes. Try reading something that motivates and inspires you. For most, this little time of reading helps get one’s brain to focus on interesting ideas and gets your creative juices flowing. One of my favorite morning books is “Discover Inner Peace” by Mike George. You can just pick a page and read the very short message which helps one revisit the important stuff in life and sets up the day.
“I am more and more convinced that our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves. ”
~ Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt
- Next add a bit of meditation… like 5-10 minutes. This might be something you have never tried before. But just like taking the time to wake up your body, this practice helps wake up your soul and spirit so you really start your day feeling empowered. It’s not a complicated or fancy ceremony. It’s just sitting in a quiet place with your eyes closed and letting the mind and body come to rest letting go of all thoughts. Just clear you mind and if thoughts do pop up, let them come and let them drift out like little clouds in the sky without grabbing on or becoming attached. Taking the time to mediate each morning or better yet both morning and evening for just a few minutes before you go to bed at night will help you experience more love in your relationships, more happiness in your everyday experiences, and an inner peace the helps circumvent our fluctuating nature and helps us sleep better. Works like a charm. o Write out a quick snapshot – explanation – or get a sense of how you’d like the day to go. All this means is check in with your current “to do” list and see what projects you have on your plate. (This could be a combination of mundane household activities, unfinished job related items and/or things you need to get done for your career.) Think about what did and didn’t get accomplished the day before and what needs to be done today to get to this weeks goal. Which are highest on your list of priorities? Simple. Jot it down and stick your list in your pocket. Now you know where you are, where you want to go and how to get there. This actually gives you something to measure your results/outcomes against. How much were you able to accomplish? Without measurement you can never get better at what you do. That’s it. Simple stuff huh?
- Great Tips for Changing Gears If you are interested in learning how to end one activity completely in your mind before changing gears to another, listen up. There are two sure fire ways to clear you mind. This will be helpful when you are at work and need to move from one project to another, or when it’s time to leave work behind and practice or even before a lesson or coaching. It also comes in handy before an audition or performance when your nerves get out of control and the ego start that internal chatter. These are both Neuro-Linguistic Programming Skills. (NLP)
- Sit erect on the edge of a chair with your hands in your lap and you feet flat on the floor or stand tall. Close your eyes. Now without bending your head or neck, allow your eyes while still closed, to roll down to look at your feet. Your eyes will not want to stay there, but keep guiding them back to look down at your feet without bending your neck or head or opening your eyes. Once you are able to focus on just your feet for about 30 seconds, open your eyes. You will notice that you feel fresh and rejuvenated ready to rock and roll. You are present.
- Jon Gorrie, in his new book, “Performing in the Zone” suggests this NLP exercise. Sit erect on the edge of a chair with your hands in your lap and your feet flat on the floor or stand tall. Look straight ahead. Relax your eyes as you look straight ahead and notice what comes into your peripheral vision. Without moving your eyes from this forward looking position, focus on objects at the extreme left and right of you at the same time. Maintain only your focused peripheral vision for at least 30 seconds. When accomplished notice how refreshed you feel ready to move on to the next activity.
- Catch-up Because you have some catching up to do mainly with the mundane everyday sort of activities, reading your mail, paying bills, buying groceries, etc, that have been put on hold since you left, you will have to figure out how much extra “stuff” you can comfortably put on your plate each day. What will work for you without putting you over the edge? Prioritize and incorporate you catch-up “stuff” into your daily “to do” list. You will be caught up quicker than you think and feel accomplished as you go.
“You have to do a thousand things one percent better, not just do one thing a thousand percent better. It's doing the little things well, being on time for meetings, returning phone calls, saying thank you to people. It sounds like a cliché, but that is the reason one organization or one person is successful over someone else. Everyone knows what they ought to be doing, but the ones who practice daily excellence are the real difference makers.”
~ Buck Rogers
- Updating and Re-energizing Your Career Plan of Action Now it’s time to go through any notes you have taken during your summer activities. What new skills and tools have you learned this summer? Do you want to incorporate any of them into your present plan for reaching your goals, your strategies and tactics? How might they help expedite your career? Either mind map (if you don’t know what that is, check it out online, it’s a great organizing tool for some) or make a list of all you learned. Figure out what can be used where and put it in place. If there are new ideas about vocal technique or ideas for learning/understanding a role or aria, take them to your voice teacher and coaches to see what they think. Start using your tools and skills. Update your web site and put all your new contacts in your data base. Mail your hand written thank you notes to all those who ran the program, teachers, coaches, etc., anyone that you worked with. And make sure all spellings are correct. Also email all your colleagues to start the process of keeping in touch for future networking purposes. We are also fast approaching audition season again, so make sure all your PR Packet materials are updated as well and ready to send out.
- Create Your Own Local Musical Community For Support Remember how wonderful and fulfilling it was to be with so many others who were as passionate as you about singing and performing? You can create that same experience once you are home. Start calling, emailing, texting, or tweeting all the singers, accompanists, other musicians, etc, you know that you have performed with, sung in church with, met at past programs, etc. that you know live in the area. Suggest getting together someplace centrally located. Not everyone will show up, but there will probably be enough of you to make it worth while. It’s important to create and keep in touch physically as well as electronically with a community of those with like minds. It makes you feel less alone while going through the process of making a singing career for yourself.
I challenge you to incorporate my suggested morning routine for a whole week and notice the results. As you go through this morning ritual, there might be other ideas you may want to either add or delete. The idea is to have a routine that is a conscious choice rather than allowing yourself to just wander through the day without any preparation or thought. So stop and look at how you are setting yourself up for a whole day’s worth of activities. I want to hear from you on this one.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything. ”
Welcome back to the real world. See, it’s not all that bad coming back down to earth. Life is what you make of it and for the most part it is an exciting, sometimes scary, but ultimately fabulous adventure that keeps you growing and learning. Congratulations! Catch me up with what happened in your world this summer. Talk to you next month.
Ciao until next time, Carol