When not working as an internal medicine physician, Dr. Eki Abrams is also a musician. Read below for her advice when dealing with the emotional roller coaster of life, whether between shows or between locum tenens assignments.
“You don’t look like you’re going up to play next,” a passerby commented in amazement. Weeks before this gig, I was nervous. Practicing as much as I could and doing a little meditation before walking onto the stage that evening, all helped. Embracing that anything could happen, I took a breath and accepted the moment and started to play.
Within minutes I was transformed and being transported away by singing and playing the keyboard. At one point, I remember looking out at the crowd. Gazing at all the eyes fixated onto me, for a quick second I froze, but then remembered to just relax and smile and I continued.
Later on, as I stepped down from the stage, I felt as if I was floating and experienced a comforting sense of calmness and peace. After blissfully mingling for hours with the audience, the night came to a close and I went home on a natural high from all the good feelings of that magical evening.
Several days later, I started to feel restless. What was next?
The buildup for that epic music event was significant to me, and now that it was over, I felt deflated. I tried to do nothing and relax, but felt like I was wasting precious time when I could be writing a new song or mixing an old one. The feeling was akin to being an undergraduate student after taking a final exam: the adrenaline is gone and the uncertainty of not having the next acute goal at hand is unsettling.
Floundering around and wallowing a little in self-pity, boredom, and frustration I reached out to a few close friends. One, an actress and poet completely understood saying she could empathize and she too had felt that way after performing in a big show. It was then that I started to think about how I could pull myself out of this slump. We all have different coping mechanisms, but here are few that helped me to get through.
- Reflect – try journaling or drawing out your thoughts. Sometimes just getting out of your head, can be a helpful cycle to break. Perhaps talk to a friend and share your experience. Just having an open discussion about what you’ve been going through may help you to identify how you’re feeling and ways to cope.
- Rest – take a break. We can’t always be in a state of adrenaline and highs – that can be taxing on our body and mind and can be stressful. It’s okay have to some downtime. Perhaps pick up that book you always wanted to read or go for a walk around the block. For me, little things like watering my herb garden and basking in the sun is a refreshing escape.
- Rejuvenate/Reframe – what helps you get back into your positive state of mind? Whatever it is – yoga, meditation, running, volunteering, vegging out for a bit on Hulu – go do it! You deserve to replenish yourself regularly. Reframe your thinking. When I have breaks in between gigs, sometimes I start to get antsy and worry about when the next opportunity will come. Now I see these breaks as golden opportunities to relax or work on a different project. I remind myself that there’s an opportunity cost to everything. Let’s say I booked back to back performances, what are the things I’d be missing out on otherwise?
- Relax Into Mindfulness – it’s about now. Mindfulness is the process of bringing your focus to the present moment. You’re not worrying about the future or reliving the past, but instead spending some time to just being in the moment. There are many online tools and phone apps that can guide you through meditation and visual imagery to help you with being mindful. If you’re a beginner, just starting with a simple deep breathing exercise to help keep you in the moment can be helpful. Deep breathing and other meditative activities have been scientifically shown to induce physiological changes such as an increase in parasympathetic activity – changes will help induce a more relaxed state.
If you’re still feeling stuck, you can always write a song or a poem! After the above musical experience and not knowing what to do next, I wrote “Incubation” about appreciating the state of being present. Another idea is to just journal your thoughts. Grab a notepad and pen – don’t worry about the hows and the whats – just let yourself free write and see what comes up. Some individuals may prefer to physically move their bodies to help get unstuck.
According to James Gordon, MD, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, movement can be a form of expressive meditation and it has been shown to help shake feelings through and out of our body. Just the act of shaking our body or dancing to music, can help move and release emotions and thoughts that may have built up within us over time.