Due to circumstances within and beyond my control, I had to take some time off from being the music demi-god my unchecked ego lets me believe I am. Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause everything little thing is gonna be alright. Life goes on and so do I. I found the time very beneficial for my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being. Spending time away from the stage let me take a step back and look at what I’m doing. I’ve retooled the way I do some songs and starting writing new music to add to the show. It also allowed me to rest my body. When you’re slaving away in the salt mines trying to make a dollar or make yourself a superstar, it can take a toll. There are some advantages to shutting the machine off for a little while.
For instrument players, giving your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments a break will reduce your chances of developing a repetitive strain injury. In simple medical terms, repetitive strain injury (RSI) is defined as a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) stemming from prolonged repetitive, forceful, or awkward hand movements. The result is damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves of the neck, shoulder, forearm, and hand, which can cause pain, weakness, numbness, or impairment of motor control. Fine hand movements, repeated hour after hour, day after day, thousands upon thousands of times, eventually strain the muscles and tendons of the forearms, wrists, and fingers, causing microscopic tears. Unless this cycle is interrupted, it repeats itself over and over, and a long-term, chronic problem results.
Vocalist are not exempt from RSI with their instrument either. Strained vocal cord is the term for the exhaustion or damage of the muscle bands within the larynx that are responsible for producing sound. There are several reasons behind the problem and it is generally characterized by hoarseness or loss of voice, excessive mucous production, difficulty swallowing and throat and ear discomfort or pain at times. Individuals with strained vocal cords usually experience raspy or hoarse voice and at times, have total loss of voice ranging from a few hours to a few days. The pitch of the voice will also become significantly lower and the person will not be able to consistently maintain a steady note for a long time.
With proper diet, exercise, proper technique and rest, you should be able to minimize your chances of having to deal with a member of the RSI family. But what about the mind?
Just like your muscles, your mind can suffer from overuse and stress. Some stress is good for you. Creative tension can lead to some incredible music making. However, too much stress can lead to some really bad decisions. Stress can show up in the form of anger, anxiety, depression, mood swings, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, sadness, or restlessness. It can physically manifest in the form of headaches, chest pains, muscle aches and pains, clenched jaw and teeth grinding, shortness of breath, stomach upset, tiredness and sleep problems. For a lot of musicians, the act of playing their instrument or singing is their favorite and most effective stress reliever. You need to find what works best for you, but you should not ignore these signs. Over stressing your body and mind can lead to a host of maladies that will lay you low and take you away from what you love to do.
So take a vacation or a stay-cation or a long weekend. Take up yoga or join a gym. Hang out with your kids or your dog or both. Sit on the couch and watch a bad Sci-Fi movie marathon. Whatever it is that gets you to that stress free place, make sure you are making time to pause.