For anyone who’s ever been on the road for more than a few days, it is known fact that Post-Tour Depression (PTD) is real. Coming back from being on the road can feel like never-ending jet lag for some, while others can experience a serious case of mood changes, increased anxiety, stomach issues, and even severe withdrawal from the outside world.
If left ignored, these symptoms can snowball into very dangerous illnesses, both mentally and physically. It’s not surprising, given the lifestyle many experience while on tour.
Life on the road can lead to a feeling of extreme isolation, no matter how many people are around you at any given moment.
As quoted in The Guardian, Matan Zohar, a Grammy-nominated producer who goes by Mat Zo, said of touring, “Ninety-nine percent of touring is the airports, the hotels, sitting in a metal tube for up to 16 hours at a time… It’s easy to let your mind and body slip into decay, even for a person with a healthy emotional state. For those with anxiety, hotel rooms are like prison cells.”
Over the last few years, PTD is something that our industry has started to shed a brighter light on, however more needs to be done to equip musicians with the tools they need to combat its effects.
According to a report published in 2015 in The Age, a digital news site covering Victoria, AU, the number of people in the entertainment industry with depression leading to suicide (or attempts thereof) are staggeringly higher than compared to the general population:
The results of that survey of 2900 people, ranging from singers and actors to roadies and riggers, found that the rate of attempted suicide in the industry is more than double the rest of the population. In the past 12 months, workers in the entertainment industry considered taking their own lives almost seven times more than the general population.
We may never be able to avoid the effects being on the road has on one’s mental and/or physical state, but we can set some boundaries in place to help combat the strength of those effects.
If you’re planning on touring in the near future, consider this list of five ways to combat the effects of PTD (in no particular order):
1. Acknowledge PTD
If you’re going out on tour, the simple act of recognizing what you might face upon your return can help you avoid the shock of the emotional roller coaster you may experience, especially if you’re new to touring. In addition, it can help alleviate the feeling that what you’re going through isn’t normal — because it is.
2. Have a plan in place
If you’re leaving for an extended period of time you may decide to end your apartment lease or quit your day job or even sell your furniture. Be sure that you take time to plan how you will handle the transition upon your return. While you can’t possibly predict how you’ll feel, having plans in place to see certain people once you’re back in town or a game plan for applying for a new job once the tour wraps can help you stay focused and purposeful, especially at a time when you may feel lost and drained.
3. Alert others
As stated above, touring can feel very isolating, mainly because those closest to you may have no understanding of what life on tour is really like. Letting them know what may be in store for you emotionally, and how you’d like them to show support, can allow them to feel empowered to take action, especially when you may hesitate to ask for it in the moment.
4. Keep strict boundaries
When you first arrive back, try to say, “No” to as many things as possible until you’re re-adjusted. Bringing on too much too soon can make you think you’re okay, until suddenly you’re not. Don’t let your moods play tricks on you. You may experience an ever-changing mix of adrenaline, lethargy, anger, gratitude, and anything in between. Give yourself time to settle back in before you make any big decisions.
5. Push your self-care routine into overdrive
Self-care should always be a priority in your day, however if there was ever a time to make it a top priority, this would be the time. Be easy on yourself. Having a plan in place will help decrease the feeling of urgency to do things as well.
Lastly, consider this a bonus tip: don’t wait to get help. Knowing what you may encounter after a tour can help you plan ahead with how you treat your mind and body while on the road.
Leverage the tight bonds you form with your tour mates into a support network for when you all return home. Stay in contact with one another and check in on each other. Share how you’re doing, even if (read: especially if) you’re not doing that great.
And, if time goes by and you feel things are not getting “back to normal,” be sure to seek professional help to work through what you need in order to transition back to your post-tour life.
If you, or someone you know, are suffering from PTD or other related forms of depression or anxiety don’t wait. Reach out to Lifeline at any time to speak to someone who can get you the help you need.
Touring can be an extremely lucrative and rewarding experience for any musician. Make the most of it by knowing what you’re up against and preparing accordingly.
Suzanne Paulinski is a mindset coach and founder of The Rock/Star Advocate. She helps music industry professionals gain confidence and clarity in their goals with a healthy work/life balance. Her book,The Rock/Star Life Planner is now available on Amazon.