‘Me Time’, or ‘You Time’, is a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot as a new mum. Due to a recent rise in awareness of mental health it seems to be at the forefront of people’s minds where I live. Either that or it’s easily apparent to everyone around me that I’m ahem a bit intense and am obviously not taking or getting enough time away from Baby. I agree with popular opinion that that this time is totally crucial. Though arguably I don’t know what it looks like yet as whenever I get a spare moment I clean (how such a little thing can make so much mess I’ll never understand), or do personal maintenance (we won’t even get into the forest growing on my legs), or start to read a book (I measure reading in paragraphs and pages these days). And if I have more moments strung together that form an actual chunk of time I panic a little as I don’t know quite what to do with it – no joke. I think that as mum (here might be where I’m going wrong) you partially give up your rights to ‘Me Time’, at least for the first few years. In my brief experience a hungry growing baby doesn’t respond well to ‘mummy just needs a moment’. I take it, of course when I really need it for both our sanity and safety. But a baby – at least mine – doesn’t seem to understand the idea of autonomy and isn’t able to be reasoned with. Maybe I need to invest in Baby Einstein…
I’ve recently been trying to figure out the buzz behind why this ‘me time’ such a big deal and so important? I’ve decided it essentially boils down to taking a break. Taking a break has been found in multiple disciplines as not only healthy but hugely beneficial.* Also called ‘rest and recovery’ in sports, ‘sleep’ in life… it’s called many things in various contexts and can be as simple as a break away, but in my experience it only works well and you only reap the full benefits if there is intentionality involved in the distraction. IE not just ‘time away’ from singing or whatever is work right now, but intentional time doing something that you know fuels you. Even when dealing with the physical voice complete rest is discouraged when rehabilitating or recovering from surgery. ** What is the solution? I think intentional active recovery. Active recovery is a popular tool in sports training and more recently in the field of psychology. This idea of active recovery has been explored specifically within the arts by psychotherapist Anne Holmes. I attended a weekend conference held by the British Voice Association on Burnout and Repair where she spoke about her theory of ‘creative repair’. Her theory has been developed specifically with clergy in mind using the creative arts but I agree with the core purpose and use which boil down to doing something creatively that fuels you.
How does this apply to singers? As an easy example – if you’re a classical singer and want to stick with singing as active recovery because you love love it (though arguably you should have another hobby), then sing a bit of Jazz or Musical Theatre. If you’re open to new creative activities (or already have hobbies outside of singing) then try baking, running, or painting. Any activity during which you feel a release and refueling inside can count as active recovery. For those of us whose work is the creative arts it is important to remember that creativity flows from freedom and freedom flows from peace. This reminder might help to adjust your mindset that you’re not ‘wasting’ time when actively recovering but actually adding value to the time you do spend practising your craft. If you choose strategically then anything you do that is a break from a normal work activity (even if you love it) is actually like cross training. You’re simply exercising creative expression in a different form, which builds diversity and strength. SO: wherever you’re at with your singing (or parenting!) taking some ‘me time’, or a break, is a significant part of doing what you do well.