Please feel free to share. “The Little Drummer Boy Project”
There is a silly little phenomena that occurs and has been for the past year (and this year) of high school. During the summer, I get so relaxed with the thought of having no worries or stress from school and I can play violin better than I every could the previous year; I love it, I practice every day for hours and I'm confident. When the school year starts, that energy leaks into it, but it soon dissipates and I very slowly go into a state of depression (like right now) and I can't find the motivation to play. Specifically, I have homework, rehearsals every week for a college orchestra, weekly rehearsals for a pit orchestra for a school play, all county band, all county orchestra, and violin lessons. I'm about to explode and I can't wait for this hell to end. Oh yeah, and my progress is also stunted and slow during this time of the school year and it's making me believe I'm a bad violinist. I happen to have very high expectations of myself and I know that I want to go into music, though with the way I've been thinking at the moment, it's hard to manage to scrape up any will to play other than forcing myself to and waiting until summer break finally comes. School is breaking me a little right now... Any tips on how to cope at the moment/in the future? (I will be quitting band, so that's one down...)
High school was a very stressful, and depressing, time for me, as well, and I did not have nearly as much going on.
There were plenty of other issues though. I cannot promise that life will get easier as you age, but I do believe that most adults get better at dealing with the pressure, and life circumstances... but that takes time.
Back when I was still on the young adult side of life, in my mid twenties, I was at my all time low. As if high school had not been a hard enough time. It was then that I did start thinking in a way that would eventually help me tremendously through the years and decades to follow.
Today is may be a bad day. Tomorrow may not be any better, and maybe the next weeks will be just as bad, but if I hand on, sooner or later, a better day will arrive. Maybe it will just be one good day, or maybe it will be the start of many better days, but a good day will come as long as I hang on and make my way through these hard times.
It did not make me feel better, but just that sliver of hope, it helped. Eventually, times did get better for me. It did take a while, but I held on. I trudged my way through all the hard times until I was finally able to find peace within myself.
I hope you too can find peace within yourself. If not today, that someday. Just keep on making your way through these hard times until those better times arrive.
I can really understand your perspective on this. When there's so much stuff going on, it's hard to focus on or enjoy things that you typically have fun with. I think the most important thing to remember right now is that the situation is temporary. It might be super stressful right now, and it might be super stressful for the next few weeks or even months. But it'll get easier! I also think that if you have really high expectations of yourself as well as the feeling that you have to play, rather than wanting to, that might certainly affect your willingness to play. I'm assuming you feel pressured to practice a lot, considering the amount of weekly violin-related activities you've listed?
If so, maybe you could try introducing a reward system to yourself. Say, maybe treat practicing your violin as a break in between studying or other things. Don't work on it unless you're using it as a "break", (or for your lessons/practice for activities, obviously) at least for awhile. Psychologically speaking, it's best to study for only short periods of time (say 15-20 minutes) with equally short breaks in between. Perhaps you could study or do your homework for 20 minutes, then give yourself a break by playing some tunes you want to learn --again, for about 10-20 minutes, then pull your books out again, and so on etc.
If you enjoy homework less than you enjoy playing, you may just start to enjoy and look forward to playing violin again rather than seeing it as another chore on top of a thousand others. And this could be an optimization of your time as well, because you could rack up some serious playing time in between those studying sessions.
If you're hard on yourself due to your own expectations, maybe try scheduling your day out, including homework etc. (if you don't already) and make sure you have a little bit of time each day to just relax. I know it's really hard to do that when you have a zillion other things you need to do in a day, but you can't be completing those activities if you're run down, depressed, and probably getting sick often because you're stressed out. Taking care of yourself should be as important as the other tasks you have to complete in a day.
Hope this helps! Remember, it's fairly normal to be feeling like this and it's equally as normal that you'll work your way through the rough patch and find the easier times! (:
I'm wondering.. do you live in an area with dark winters and sunny summers? I ask because that is the weather we get here, and lots of people around here suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder (also called winter blues/winter depression) caused by the lack of sun. Some here people get lamps that mimic the sun and that can help them. Even if this isn't what is adding to your stress, a lamp like that couldn't hurt.
World's Okayest Fiddler
I’ve watched your type of situation play out over and over with our daughter throughout her high school years. She’s not a musician, but an extremely talented artist. During the summer she would produce some fantastic drawings and sketches, but shortly after school began, her mood and her artistic productivity would take a serious down turn. At one point she had accepted a commission to do a series of fairly simple fashion drawings for a local boutique, well within her abilities, but shortly into the work she just shut down and had to back away from the project.
After a great deal of discussion and introspection, she realized that the problem had to do with expectation, schedules and spontaneity. She would focus on schedules, deadlines and pleasing teachers, us as parents and people who wanted her drawings. She was comparing her work to famous artists that she followed and trying to force a pace of constant improvement and development. She regarded her art more like a product that had to meet specific standards and her talent as something that drew sometimes unwanted attention instead of a gift to be freely expressed.
Much of that changed shortly after she started college. She met another very talented young artist with almost the opposite perspective. While there were still schedules, projects and techniques to learn, the other young women saw them as opportunities to express herself… to inject her personal touch into the sometimes rigid structures of learning. Her personal expectation was to assert her statement as an artist into each demand or assignment. Together they seized opportunities to be spontaneous, painting murals for community renewal projects and creating posters and props for a local theater group. The joy of the very expressive work balanced the demands of school.
Both have graduated college now and our daughter is an Artistic Developer for a Broadway theater company. Her schooling and her experience with the more spontaneously expressive work helped her develop both a formal and uniquely individual professional talent. It’s about finding balance.
Wow I am feeling all the love and good advice here.
I like the idea of goals and not expectation.
I love the idea of getting a walk or some physical exertion.
All the ideas and support are so genuine and wonderful...
Be kind to yourself, accept all of yourself...you are not a bad violinist. Each day you play no matter how great or little, you become better.
Some people add some natural oils and or meditaion music to their regime, such as lavender and Reiki healing music, or other types of rain, ocean or nature sounds.
Cheers and peace.
Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato
You're building something really important - it's really hard and the distress you feel comes out into the page. You're under perhaps the worst stress of your life - wow, it's impressive that you are able to keep up, even if you don't really like keeping up and barely think you can. Times like these, there are little things that might help a little, but doing a lot of little things all together can really add up to be an immovable forcefield between you and the stress coming at you. #1. The fuel type that you need for your body and mind is very different than the typical American meal plan. If you don't take a multivitamin, that can help as one of those little things. If you don't eat red meat a lot (or seafood) then taking an extra Vitamin B 12 vitamin will also help a little. Then there's vitamin D. In my part of the world, it's been cloudy and cold for months. We all have to take a vitamin D on top of the others but if you're in a sunny location - awesome! #2: Sleep! If you don't have great sleep habits and are sleeping too little, or sleeping too much, that's a known way to wear your mind and body down. In order for your RNA to replicate, you have to be in stage 4 sleep for a good part of the sleep cycle. #3: usually getting between 3-5 hours a week of vigorous exercise is known to stimulate brain activity...almost like someone turned on the lights and you can see everything more clearly. #4: PLAY THE VIOLIN! It too, stimulates energy centers in the brain. Don't forget, Summer 2017 is coming - if you practice just a little, by the time summer rolls around you'll be that much closer to having an even more violin-centered summer!
Good luck to you... write back if you have any questions...
I echo what everyone else has said, but have you asked yourself why you need to play in so many ensembles? Playing may seem like a massive part in your life right now but you're still a teenager and don't need to push yourself this hard that young.
Maybe choose two you really enjoy to focus on and more importantly balance with your other studies. Playing well takes a lifetime to achieve so don't burn yourself out too soon. You may also find that life doesn't work in a straight line and can take you to completely unexpected places that may put music to one side for a bit.
I could write out a short essay here on my own 40 years of trial-and-error experiences with coping with stress and outside expectations and setting a personal bar that's way too high and (worst of all?) the unreachable pursuit of this thing called happiness, but I found an online comic a little while back that summed up perfectly what I couldn't articulate, and it put some stuff in perspective for me:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/unhappy (it's a little PG-13, so be warned)
But the tldr; is you are probably stressed because like everyone else you haven't figured out how to reconcile what the world wants from you versus what you want from the world. You will get there. Don't try to be happy. Try to be interesting and alive and everything else will follow.