In this third blog installment I am going to discuss something very serious and it affects everyone whether they are in the film industry or not - our health. During these extra-ordinary times all of us in the entertainment industry are going though various levels of struggle with some of us not being able to work for months. Being mindful about our wellbeing is of paramount importance as we go through our day to day activities.
I am in no way any part of the medical profession. As you may know I am a Film Composer and Sound Designer so this blog will be coming partially of my own experience in managing my health, the discussions I’ve had with another Film Composer and my own research. I also understand that this blog may be triggering to some so I apologize in advance.
In light of the ongoing pandemic and shelter-in-place regulations that are ongoing in various communities worldwide I am going to talk about health under three broad umbrellas – Physical, Emotional and Mental.
There are running jokes (memes) about my profession in some of the private Facebook Film Composer Groups that I am in where there are two pictures of a Film Composer in the dark, hunched over his piano and computer. Above each picture there is the title “Before COVID’ and ‘During COVID’ respectively. The catch … both pictures are the same. As funny as (and kind of true) these pictures are it also shows some underlying issues – lack of exercise, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, etc. I shall look at a few of these issues.
Working in the film industry is a time-intensive enterprise regardless of where in the supply chain you are involved in and it will take a toll on your body. Exercise is vital to sustain you during the long hours, rewrites, rejections, edits and the myriad stresses to get a film from idea to distribution. If you have access to a gym (home or otherwise) use it. For those who do not have access there are many videos online that show how you can use your own body-weight to create a comprehensive exercise program.
Exercise also has another benefit according to a webpage of the Current Sports Medicine Reports1. It states that regular exercise can be an aid for the prevention of and/or treatment for depression. I have tried (and failed) and tried again to keep to a constant exercise regimen as this practice necessitates a change in mindset for me. I would advise to consult your doctor before you start any exercise program especially if you have any pre-medical conditions.
What you eat on a daily basis will also have an effect on your overall energy, stamina and health long term. Diet is also a vital component for a successful and consistent exercise program. I may venture to assume that the readers of this blog have a general knowledge of what constitutes a healthy meal so I won’t reiterate it here – eat those veggies though.
Getting enough sleep may be a problem for a lot of creatives – including myself. When I was younger and working in recording studios and at University I could have gone days with little or no sleep. I am now nearing my fifties and my body wants none of that. I still sometimes struggle with getting enough sleep – there is so much to do.
Getting adequate sleep is vital for your mental clarity, peak performance and overall proper bodily function. I try (and still struggle) to get an average of 8 hours. For some people it will be less, others more. My personal regimen includes listening to an online piano music station at low volume while falling asleep, having my computers and my phone activate its ‘night light’ setting at 7:30PM and practicing meditation – more on that later in the blog. Other tips to get a good night’s sleep can be found on the CDC website2
Developing a routine every day is a great way to keep a sense of normalcy especially if you are in a situation where you have to shelter-in-place. According to Healthline3, establishing a routine (and keeping it) establishes a sense of stability especially if you are in isolation. Carve out a part of your day to practice your craft or read up on the latest developments in your field. Not to give a sense of anxiety but in the competitive fields within Filmmaking it is better to be prepared when situations normalize than to find your skill-set not up to par due to lack of practice or updated knowledge. You actually have time now – make the most of it!
It is a good idea to become part of groups in your area of specialty. There are many forums on Stage 32 that you can join and be part of the discussion. It is also a great way to network as all of us work through, readjust and recover ourselves towards a post-pandemic economy.
Reaching out is also helpful emotionally and it’s not restricted only during these stressful months. Contacting people who you know in the Film Industry just to see how they are doing can be a way of coping not only for the person being contacted but for the caller as well. Personally I have learnt that while many of us may seem happy on the outside and we see the smiling faces of our friends on Social Media it can possibly hide the pain and emotional hurdles that lie beneath. Just the mere fact that your friends or co-workers know that someone thought of them enough to reach out can be a source of relief and comfort.
If a person is feeling overwhelmed and can visit their Psychologist (either in person or online) this can prove beneficial for the daily challenges faced during this time. As mentioned before I am not part of the medical profession but various Psychologists have banded together online to give advice, through video, as a Covid-19 resource4.
Taking Care Of Your Mental Health:
According to the Centers of Disease Control5, Mental Illness “are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior” therefore it is paramount that we take care of this aspect of our lives. My immediate family has had (and continues to have) its share of persons with mental illness so I have personally seen its effects not only on those suffering from it but also on other family members.
In this time of shelter-in-place regulations the stress of either looking after people with a mental condition or looking after your own mental health may be overwhelming.
Here are some practices that have worked (and continues to work) for me.
There are many benefits to practicing mediation whether you are secular or non-secular. The daily practice of mediation has been known to promote emotional health, increase mindfulness, control anxiety, decrease blood pressure and reduce stress6.
There are many videos on Youtube that can assist in this practice. You can also focus on your breathing. One of the videos I use almost daily, after doing some research on it, is a Youtube video tilted ‘Guided Wim Hof Method Breathing’. This is just a suggestion and I urge you to do your own research, find out what resonates with you and most importantly, be consistent with your practice.
This can range from unsubscribing email messages from various companies, uninstalling apps you don’t use and yes … unfriending/blocking people on Social Media – I have done all of them. You would be surprised at how much control you have over your own Social Media feeds and how cleaner it will be. The last thing you would want is additional stressors/triggers during these times. Taking a break from Social Media will also be beneficial.
This of course is dependent on where you are geographically and what regulations are in place. In my country, at this time of writing, you can go outside but there are regulations on how many people can assemble in a group, which places are allowed open, etc. If you are in a more relaxed area it may be a good idea to step outside, get some sunlight and a change of environment. Still wear your mask and wash your hands - if not for you then for the sake of others.
Developing a new hobby will keep your brain active and focused. It will also pass the time. In my case it was renewing my skill in Japanese – I’ve been out of practice for way too long. Throughout 2020 and also at the start of this year I have also entered Film Scoring and Sound Design competitions. This has been good for me as I have won some of these and used all my competition entries as a way to build up my portfolio.
Catching up on your reading and improving your skillset through Webinars, Audiobooks and Podcasts are a great way to be prepared as shelter-in-place regulations gradually lessen. Stage 32 provides this through the Next Level Education section of their website.
I hope this blog has been helpful to you and applicable to your situation. Feel free to share it as well as we are all experiencing different degrees of stress and anxiety during 2020 and will continue to have this for some time in 2021. Just remember the fact that we are all creatives and we will get through this. We are resilient! Stay safe, wear a mask and wash your hands. I am looking forward to composing music for you all in the future.
What other activities are you engaged in during these extraordinary times and what habits are you developing to maintain your health? Leave your comments and questions below.
Navid (pronounced Nah-veed) Lancaster is a Film Composer and Sound Designer from Trinidad and Tobago. He is the owner of Lancast Ltd where he composes the emotions for award-winning films, video games, mobile applications and animation.
Previous Stage 32 blogs by Navid:
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