Lockdown is easing for most of us… but not for working DJs just yet. 1980 Recordings boss Dan McKie has some thoughts on protecting your mental health…
While most of the UK and Europe is tentatively emerging from coronavirus lockdown, spare a thought for those who earn their income mostly from DJing. With clubs still closed and no visible means of support, the lockdown is sure to have had a detrimental affect on many people's mental health, so in this article we'll look at some ways you can help keep yourself on an even keel.
This is an important issue for me, because I've got a couple of family members who've struggled badly with depression, and it's horrible to see. I see them unable to react to and enjoy things as they normally would, because the depression doesn't let them. I've also suffered from anxiety myself – that's almost part of being in the music business, because the constant rejection can get to you, and you get to that point where you're waking up in the middle of the night and questioning your entire life and career. I'm luckier than some – I've never had full-on panic attacks. But I've had palpitations and I definitely tend to over-think things, which can keep me awake at night.
And I'm definitely not the only one. I saw something just the other day that Alan Fitzpatrick had posted, about how he'd broken down in tears because he's not going to be able to DJ for so long. And I've spoken to friends who are resident DJs in Ibiza, and they don't know what's going to happen either, because it's just the little bars that are opening over there at the moment.
The trouble is, lockdown doesn't just create worries – about the illness itself, about its immediate effects on our own income, and about the wider impact on the world more generally – it also prevents us from doing the things we might normally do to cheer ourselves up when we're anxious or stressed out, like go for a walk or meet up with friends for a drink. No wonder people are struggling.
Ways to cope
So what can you do? One idea is to limit the amount of time you spend looking at news sites and social media – there's only so much doom and gloom you can take in one day! In fact I deleted all the news apps off my phone at the start of lockdown just because it was too depressing, though I've reinstalled them now so I can keep up with what's going on.
As for social media, that's always been a bit of a love-hate thing for me anyway. It's a necessity for the music industry, for promotion, but I don't think it's a necessity to be on there all the time. I tend to switch my phone off in the evenings and just chill.
It's important to remember, too, that this isn't forever. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event in all our lifetimes – but there've been pandemics before and human life has gone on. Of course it's easy for me to say that: I have the benefit of being nearly 40, so three months in lockdown doesn't seem as big a chunk out of my life as it would to a 20-year-old! Just remember that we will get back to some kind of normal, eventually – though it's not going to 'business' as usual because there's going to be a lot to sort out.
It's a good idea to spend as much time with loved ones as you can – if you can't do it in person, you can do it via apps like Zoom and Houseparty. I've been doing Google Hangouts with friends in Barcelona throughout lockdown, which has helped a lot. Just don't invited me to any Zoom quizzes – I hate pub quizzes at the best of times!
Absolutely the best thing for my own mental health during lockdown, though, has been spending time with my daughter. She's two and a half, and our childminder hasn't been able to come to our house for the past three months. So juggling my work, my girlfriend's work and childcare has been a struggle, but once we were allowed out I started taking her on daily walks and honestly it was the best thing… just being with my daughter and switching off for an hour or two was of huge benefit to my mental health. So if you have kids, I'd heartily recommend spending as much time with them as you can – especially if you don't often get the chance because you spend half your life travelling to and from DJ gigs!
Beyond all that, the best advice is really just to take good care of yourself. Eat healthily, get plenty of fresh air and exercise – and whatever you do, don't hugely ramp up your intake of drugs and/or alcohol. It's easy for boredom to set in during lockdown, and for temptation to follow in its wake. But if you are experiencing problems with anxiety or depression, drink and drugs are only likely to make it worse in the long term, particularly if used to excess.
Lastly, if you are struggling – talk to someone. Thankfully society's attitudes towards mental health have come on in leaps and bounds in the past 10-20 years, particularly – in our industry – since the tragic death of Avicii. So if you're suffering, don't suffer in silence. There's a list of organisations that can help at the bottom of this article.
Otherwise, just try and stay positive. As I said above, the world's going to be a very different place after lockdown, so to find your inner Zen state and not get wound up by it all. As a great man once said: this, too, shall pass…
Words: Dan McKie
Dan's remix of Aki Bergen & Richter's Turquoise is out now on 33 Music – buy it here.
If you're worried about your mental health, agencies that can help include:
Tel: 0300 123 3393
Tel: 116 123
Tel: 0800 58 58 58
Tel: 0800 1111