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DJ Soapbox July 2017 MUSIC Read in PDF format N14/2017
DJ Soapbox Anna speaks out on mental health and tour breakdowns…

All this happened around the time I won the Ibiza DJ Award. It had been the busiest summer of my career, highlighted by playing Solomun+ 1. Yet, I could feel myself falling apart. I was constantly snapping at those closest to me. Both my husband and manager felt like something serious had shifted and were worried they didn’t know me anymore and couldn’t get through to me. Things got so bad, they thought I might end up quitting.

I eventually broke down mid-way through my first US tour in September 2016. After 15 gigs on average a month throughout the summer, my body and mind gave way. I remember being in the hotel room crying before a gig. My thyroid was so swollen, I couldn’t actually swallow water. My manager wanted to cancel the rest of my dates so I could come home and rest, but I stayed and did the gigs. The promoter at my gig in San Diego was incredibly kind; his wife was a nutritionist, and he brought me strong Ibroprufin, plus Iodine, Kombucha and coriander to help with the swelling. I can never thank them enough for their help during that time, which in a way made it bearable for me to be able to make it through the tour…just. When I returned back to Europe, I cancelled the next two weeks of shows, including missing playing Ultra Tokyo and Bali as I was simply too exhausted, ill and in a bad mental place. The doctor diagnosed me with a thyroid infection - probably courtesy of too many airplanes, not enough sleep and terrible hotel food. Since then my entire focus has been on managing my schedule so I stay healthy and happy. When I travel, I’m always taking my own protein bars, whey protein powder, bulletproof coffee and even a small vial of ghee, which is great for the gut and is a good source of fat. Basically I don’t rely upon (possibly bad!) hotel or airport food for nutrition and sustenance. I am also very conscious about how damaging playing so many gigs and adding on top some difficult travel routes can be to my body and my mind. Ideally I would love to be able to take one weekend off a month, but I also feel that as a developing artist I’m not in a place where I can do this just yet. I feel if I miss an opportunity it will impact my career and I will lose out in the end so I try to do as much as I can and then it becomes a catch 22; a vicious cycle. As artists, we need to be very proactive and strict with ourselves when scheduling time off from DJing. It can be a challenge though; even if you’re planning some time off, it can be hard to stick to it, as sometimes you’ll get a good gig offer and you feel you can’t say no. Careers in music don’t last forever and there is a constant pressure to make the most of every chance you get. The pressures of this job are the hardest thing. It’s so easy to feel uncertain and worry if people will like your music and you have to deal with so many frustrations and unfulfilled expectations. That’s why I need to keep an eye on my mental health, otherwise I’ll go crazy. Six years ago, I learned Transcendental Meditation and it’s been a godsend in dealing with all this. I learned after my husband begun practising it to deal with problems with anxiety - it used to be so bad he was on heavy medication that prevented him from driving. After a few months, he didn’t need the medication anymore. It’s a simple technique where you are given your own mantra and you practise it 20-minutes twice per day. There have even been scientific studies on it to prove it reduces stress and anxiety and aids brain function. I do it every day, also before I go into the studio or play a gig and I find everything just flows better and my mind is clear. I trust my instincts more and don’t doubt myself like I might normally. If I start missing meditations, I really notice it …all those anxieties come back a lot. Another thing I’ve found helpful to staying happy on the road, is having some company. I’m not a live artist, so I’ve never ‘needed’ a tour manager. But bringing my manager or husband with me and paying for an extra flight for them is a worthwhile investment. Just having someone there to share a stupid joke or explore the city makes a big difference for your mental health. When you’re by yourself, you just go to your hotel room and do nothing. It definitely can be a lonely experience. Make no mistake, as artists, we are living a dream that we’re all very thankful for. However from my experience, if we don’t take a practical and balanced approach to taking care of ourselves, then the dream is over.

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