Daily physical exercise (eg. the “7 minute workout”)
Why? Beyond the way we’re all berated to exercise daily for our long-term health, exercise has been shown time and time again to help with mental health. Just a little exercise each day can help to ground you, get things moving, and give you a sense of accomplishment. In addition, exercise is super important for musicians – strengthening muscles, particularly in the core, back and shoulders, can prevent injury and reduce back pain. Reducing pain can remove an important impediment to practice! I’m really not suggesting you hit the gym for an hour every day, or do a 10km run (though go ahead if that’s your thing), but in a similar way to your daily warm-up routine on your instrument, find something fairly simple that you can stick to and not wear yourself out too much.
What? Gentle exercise is totally fine. Walking has been recommended to me by several doctors and psychologists, and the benefits are well documented. If you’re using the Headspace app that I’ve previous recommended, it has a really great couple of exercises on “mindful walking” (that link has directions even if you’re not using the app). But as a big part of exercise for me is pain prevention through stretching and strengthening I tend to need something more, and as walking somewhere nice takes a bit of time I tend to do a lot more walking to and from the metro than I do as my daily exercise (note to self: take advantage of summer and walk in the park more!).
So here’s my no. 1 suggestion: the “7 minute workout”. It’s a workout designed by scientists using interval training to give you the benefits of exercising for much longer. You don’t need fancy equipment, just a sturdy chair and a wall. You’ll be puffing, but it’s over really quick! And here’s a free app that will walk you through it.
Pilates has also been really helpful for me, and when I’m managing my life okay I tend to take two or three classes a week. When I was struggling with some bad shoulder pain it helped me reset my body, along with therapeutic massage. It costs $$ but is worth it if you can afford it. You can still do some for free at home – here’s a youtube video.
In my experience, exercising first thing in the morning is a really good way set yourself up for the day. You’ve already checked something off your list and achieved something and the day has just begun! And, as I said, just find the thing that works for you and try to incorporate it into your daily routine. It might seem like just one more thing in your overloaded schedule, but it really does help.