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Self-Care Rules of the Road
By Linda Dessau - 04/19/2006 - 06:46 PM EDT

(This article was co-written by Dr. Timothy Jameson. More information about Dr. Jameson can be found at the bottom of the article.)

Taking your creative work out on the road can be exciting. Seeing new places, meeting new people, and sharing your music with new audiences are all enticing prospects.

Ready to go? Not so fast…

Jumping into a touring experience without planning ahead can lead you down a destructive path of poor routines and lifestyle habits. This path can negatively impact your self-care, not only while you're away, but also when you get home and you're trying to settle back into everyday life.

How many times have you come back from a tour (or even a vacation) with the feeling that you'll need a week at home just to recuperate? Hard work, excess "fun," and general neglect of your health while you’re out on the road can all add up to big trouble.

These times of extreme stress can take their toll on your body over time. Even in the short term, you're at risk for illness, mental fogginess, and irritability.

Here are the factors that will have the greatest effect on your physical, mental, and emotional health while you're on the road.

A. You're away from your loved ones, including your family, your friends, and the other people closest to you. Some of them might be touring with you, and that's wonderful. But you're bound to have left some of them behind and face it, that can hurt.

B. You're away from your familiar routines. Traveling turns your world, literally, upside down. Some people thrive when they shake things up; but if you're a creature of habit, don't underestimate the traumatic effect of the constant surprises that traveling can bring.

C. You have an intense performing schedule. Whether or not you have stage fright, performance can be a draining activity. You’ll receive energy from the audience, your band mates, and your music, but you're also giving out a lot of energy and that can leave you sagging.

Physically you might be putting an enormous strain on your body with improper and uncomfortable postures when you play, stand or move on stage.

D. You're under pressure to perform well. Whether or not you have performance anxiety, this can create a lot of mental stress as you're constantly trying to figure out how to do your best, and analyzing what you did right and wrong.

E. You have to play nice with others. There are lots of social situations and challenges that come up while you're touring. Being in close quarters with the same people over a long period of time can lead to arguments, resentments and tension.

Meeting a lot of new people can be fun, but it can also be awkward or even frightening if you're a naturally shy person. Depending on where you're touring, you might also need to adjust to different social and cultural customs than you're used to.

To address these challenges and keep you healthy on the road, pack along these ten tips before you leave for your next tour.

Top 10 Self-Care Rules of the Road

1. Think ahead and know what's coming.

Carefully look over your trip itinerary and schedule of performances. Pay special attention to back-to-back performances or long stretches of traveling. Notice also where you might be able to take advantage of breaks in the schedule.

2. Have a Plan A and a Plan B.

Loosely plan a self-care schedule for yourself, including what and when you'll eat, how you'll make sure you get enough sleep and rest (at night and during the day), and when you'll take time to recharge in whatever way works best for you.

At the same time, have a set of "Plan B" contingencies for when unexpected things come up or Plan A just isn't possible. This will help you to be flexible and make the best possible choices you can.

3. Fill your "energy bank" before you leave.

Take special care in the days and weeks before the tour to get enough sleep and eat well.
The healthier you and your immune system are before you leave, the more resilient you'll be when things come up that challenge your self-care routines.

4. Stay in touch.

Keep in touch with the people you're close to, using the telephone, email, and Internet. With camera phones, web cams and other technology, there are many ways to "close the gap" and ease the feelings of separation.

5. Sleep right and regularly.

Keep to a regular sleep and wake schedule where you can. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep plus a planned nap or rest time each afternoon - the earlier, the better.

If you're performing until around 2:00 am every night, sleep until around 10:00 each morning. Avoid the temptation to sleep the day away because that will just leave you groggy and ineffective.

6. Eat right and regularly

Plan your three meals a day, and also plan regular snacks. Dr. Jameson recommends a snack every two hours or so.

Mixing a carbohydrate (e.g. whole grains, fruits or vegetables) and a protein (e.g. nuts, cheese or peanut butter) will give you the best boost and keep you going the longest. Stay away from sugary snacks or nutritionally empty salty foods because you'll just "crash and burn" a short while later.

7. Hydrate right and regularly.

Most people maintain their best hydration levels by drinking between six and eight glasses of water a day. Dr. Jameson writes, "Keep in mind that anything else you drink may interfere with your hydration levels. For example, caffeine containing drinks, such as coffee, teas, and colas will actually make your body urinate more, leading to higher levels of dehydration.

Sugar laden sodas actually make you thirstier because of the increase of blood sugar levels after ingestion. There are about 8 to 10 teaspoons of sugar in soda, so drinking soda is not a substitute for drinking water. In fact, you’ll need to increase your water intake if you are drinking sodas throughout the day.

Another key factor in hydration is alcohol intake. If you are enjoying yourself with alcoholic beverages just keep in mind that you should follow up for at least six hours afterward with increased water intake. The amount of water will obviously depend on your level of “enjoyment.” If you wake up in the morning wondering how you got in the bed last night, then drink water all day long!"

8. Blow off steam right and regularly.

Find ways to express your thoughts and feelings safely and effectively. Keep a journal, talk to someone you trust, or whatever works for you. Physically, balance out periods of down time with exercise and activity so you'll have enough energy for your performances.

9. Recharge right and regularly.

Actively seek out things that inspire and nourish you - bring along your favourite readings, music and pictures. Find interesting places to visit in each location. Get out into nature. Plan something luxurious like a massage.

10. Make your choices known.

Instead of being a victim of what everyone else is doing, stand up and make your healthy choices known. Chances are, other people will appreciate the healthy options as well.

There's no need to leave your self-care at home when you go on tour with your band. And there's definitely no need to return from a tour completely depleted of energy and your health. Self-care is portable, so pack it along!



Linda Dessau, the Self-Care Coach, helps artists enhance their creativity by addressing their unique self-care issues. Feel like your creativity is blocked? Sign-up for your complimentary copy of the popular e-course, "Roadblocks to Creativity" by visiting http://www.genuinecoaching.com

Dr. Timothy Jameson is a chiropractor, guitarist, pianist and band leader, and is the author of "The Musicians Guide to Health and Wellness". Learn more and download your copy at http://www.musicianshealth.com/musicianhealthandwellness.htm


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