It’s been a year since live events shuttered its doors to the public. Like an eclipse engulfs the sun, our industry was stripped from us in an instant. For many, this absolute darkness created no change; their lives continued, their work-life maintained. Those outside of the music and entertainment industry might not realize how significant of an impact the pandemic has had on our lives. We are heavily misunderstood and the public has trouble empathizing with our pain and loss. Careers in the nightlife industry are often paralleled with assumptions of superficiality, escapism, endless partying, and substance-fueled nights. But for us that have dedicated our lives to the industry, we know that it’s more meaningful than these stereotypes. It’s our passion, livelihood, and a salient part of our identity. We thrive in an environment and lifestyle that fit our personality and inherent skills. This extension of ourselves is an element that we are yearning to realign.
The magnitude of the challenges that this year presented took a heavy toll on my mental health. Before the pandemic, I was working in the industry full-time, juggling multiple jobs and projects. This has been my lifestyle for the past 11 years, starting as a 15-year-old mobile DJ business owner. Depression was a foreign topic for me since I commonly carry an optimistic mindset. This past year I started noticing negative changes in my mood and behavior, consisting of perpetual waves of sadness and feeling like I lost my purpose in life. I realized that this different version of me wasn’t who I am, and I have decided to take action. I chose to turn my life around and made a list of the essentials I keep in my depression toolbox. It will help you, just like it did for me.
1. Allow Yourself to be Vulnerable
Having a career in the entertainment industry can be quite lonely at times because we always have to show our best face to the public and often work odd hours. Discussing topics of mental health and wellness isn’t usually in sync with the fun and excitement expected in nightlife. We learn to face our problems on our own because we live in an individualistic and competitive culture. It’s dangerous to let ourselves carry all this weight on our own. It’s human nature to seek connections and share experiences. Letting your darkest feelings out is truly a liberating and comforting experience. Reach out to your friends and family and find the courage to open up about your mental state. Additionally, you can look for a community of like-minded individuals or seek professional help. You’d be surprised to see how many people are willing to help and listen to you. Be ready to listen to them too, they might be going through a similar experience.
2. Watch Constructive Content
Social networking sites are great tools to stay in touch with friends and stay up to date with the world. But they’re also full of toxic and useless content. Choose how you spend your time online wisely and be picky about what you consume. It’s tempting to spend countless hours on social media to numb your brain and forget about your problems. Realistically, this isn’t bringing anything positive into your life. Find content that is beneficial for your mental health and it will direct you on the road to self-improvement. Read self-help books, take online classes, watch motivational videos, and apply what you learn into your life. Create constructive habits that will lead you to be the best version of yourself.
3. Don’t Suppress Your Emotions
Sometimes episodes of anguish come when you least expect. Should you curl up in a ball and cry or just completely shut down? No! The best thing you can do is allow yourself to feel everything. It doesn’t serve you to ignore the negative feelings and bottle them up until they snowball into something bigger than you can handle. Let them run through you, acknowledge them, and simply be an observer. Emotions last approximately 90 secs in the body and brain. The key is to not extend them by attaching thought into them, simply let them flow and move on to the next. Pain and sadness are part of being human and without them, we wouldn’t be able to grow and learn from our experiences. They will give you a deeper appreciation of happiness and strengthen your resilience.
4. Express Gratitude
It is a difficult time to be grateful with all the misfortunes happening in the world. But, instead of focusing on all the things we lack, why not appreciate everything we still have? Expressing gratitude brings you joy and helps you think about all the basic elements of life that we often take for granted. For example, you likely have a roof over your head, access to clean water, and are able to fill your belly. Be grateful to yourself and others for making sure these needs are met. Whenever you feel like everything seems to be falling apart, take a moment to write down a list of all the things, big and small, that you’re grateful for and say them out loud. The more you practice, the more you’ll start noticing additional things that should make the list. Feelings of contentment will naturally start flowing.
5. Engage in Physical Activity
Working in nightclubs and events can make one accustomed to physically demanding jobs and fast-paced environments. Maybe you were a bartender making 200 drinks a night at the local bar or an AV technician setting up heavy equipment for big concerts. Now that all of that is gone and most gyms are closed, it’s easy to stay unmotivated to work out on your own. But lack of physical activity is only going to make you feel lethargic and stagnant. Make it a habit to incorporate some type of physical activity into your day. Don’t pressure yourself to go too hard too fast. Start small and slowly increase the time and intensity of your workouts. Get that boost of confidence and energy your mind and body need. You’ll notice how you will carry that positive energy in other areas of your life.
6. Find New Hobbies
Now that you are most likely working in different industries (or not working) and waking up earlier, do you have plenty of time on your hands? Take advantage of it by tapping into your different interests and discovering new hobbies. Do all the things that you have been wanting to do, but your busy nightlife schedule wouldn’t allow you to try. Look for new adventures to stimulate your mind. Go hike at the nearest national park, learn how to paint, go skydiving, learn a new skill in an online class; you can do them all! There is still so much of this world we haven’t explored. You might end up discovering a new passion or favorite activity. Get out there and try something new.
7. Enhance Your Environment
Something that is missed about working in nightlife is the constant sensory stimulation, from epic stage designs to meeting different people every night. Bright lights, vivid colors, loud music, and the warmth of being surrounded by people might be absent from pandemic life. But, since we have to spend more time at home, why not make it fun? Do whatever it takes to create the perfect aesthetic and get your creative juices going. Switch to color-changing light bulbs, get or make some eye-catching art, place some speakers in your living room, install a disco ball… the possibilities are endless. Your environment influences your mood and impacts your behavior. Recreate the atmosphere that makes you happy.
This pandemic brought immense new challenges for everyone, and those who work in the nightlife industry face no exception. The time when we can go back to our beloved lifestyle is still uncertain. But when everything else fails, there’s nothing better than self-love. Taking care of your mental and physical health is the key to get through this successfully. Don’t be hard on yourself and remember the spark that makes you unique. You are stronger and more capable than you realize. Remember that this is only temporary. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend: gently pushing yourself to make the best choices that you can under the circumstances, with kindness, compassion, and patience no matter what that journey looks like for you.