From Stress to Superpowers (Part 2): Overcoming Adversity

17 Apr 2019

This post was written more than two years ago. The content or information below may no longer be accurate.

Continuing on from our previous blog post on “The Importance of Stress Awareness for Artists”, we now look at the ways in which you can overcome adversity…

Although stress is a natural and unavoidable part of pursuing a career in the creative industries, it’s important to bear in mind that it can be managed and overcome using a combination of effective approaches that have helped millions worldwide move forward with poise and confidence. As this April is Stress Awareness Month, we’d like to introduce you to a range of ways to transform stress and adversity into your own personal set of superpowers.


1. Remember that you’re not alone.

Within the psychological community, it’s widely acknowledged that people who are open to new experiences – such as visiting an unfamiliar art gallery, listening to a new band that you’ve only just heard about, or making music with a variety of colourful characters – are often also particularly sensitive to negative emotions. Check out almost any band and listen through their back catalogue, and you’ll uncover countless songs that deal with the darker side of life. Millions upon millions of people have listened to, connected with, and loved such songs, using them to soundtrack their lives and turning to favoured tunes for support, encouragement, respite, and release.

The music made by bands and artists, from the smallest grassroots groups to superstars we still remember decades after they made their mark, is indisputable proof that whatever might be happening right now, you are not alone.

2. Practice mindfulness.

In recent years, our society’s awareness of and attitude toward stress has begun to change for the better. Mindfulness – a form of meditation that involves being focused on the present moment – has now been scientifically proven to help reduce stress, thanks to the pioneering work of researchers and experts such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, the original creator of mindfulness-based stress reduction and author of the international bestseller Full Catastrophe Living. Here at ACM, we actively encourage the use of mindfulness-based techniques to unlock your fullest potential, and take your musical and creative abilities to the highest possible levels.

If you’re unsure about meditation, try listening to your favourite song and really focus on the music. Take your time, be patient, and really listen. Try to shift your focus to a particular aspect of the recording you’re listening to – maybe the chord progression, bassline, or hi-hat. It might surprise you, but this is actually the essence of meditation! All you need to do now is keep listening.

3. Change your perspective.

As with stress and mindfulness, the world at large is also becoming more aware and appreciative of cognitive and psychological differences. Whether such differences involve mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, or neurodiverse factors such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism, and Asperger’s, all of the above and more can have a major impact on a creative person’s career. However, this impact does not necessarily have to be negative.

Using a psychological technique called “reframing”, which involves changing one’s perspective with regard to a particular set of circumstances, it may be possible to reveal hidden abilities you never knew you had – or may have always had, but not fully recognised. For instance, some people with ADHD (such as beatboxer Reeps One) are able to hyperfocus on tasks they find especially interesting, as are some people on the autistic spectrum; dyslexic people may be exceptionally good at thinking outside the box and being creative; and anxiety is a remarkably creative mental health issue that actively engages the imagination, potentially facilitating heightened creative powers. Be proud of what makes you unique – many celebrities have built their careers on being different.

4. Practice, create, perform, and keep learning.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is distract yourself from negativity, and find a way to turn something bad into something good. Music offers many ways to achieve this goal, from the simple act of listening to more intricate pursuits like writing and learning to perform a new song. By immersing yourself in something you love, you can find calm, control, and peace while creating your own unique artistic universe.

Performing live also gives you the chance to connect with likeminded others, gain immediate positive feedback, and pursue progress rather than perfection. There’s always something new to learn about music – and an ACM course will help you discover and explore new territory while developing transferable professional skills. Combine everything we’ve covered so far with effective self-care, including a healthy diet, exercise, relaxation time, a mindful and “glass half-full” attitude, and time spent away from digital distractions, and you’ll be in the perfect position to keep yourself on the right track.

5. Get in touch with a professional.

Reaching out to others for help is a sign of strength and self-awareness, and we all have times when we need some backup. ACM offers a wide selection of support options to our students, from wellbeing masterclasses and counselling to therapists who can help you deal with everything from everyday concerns to more complex situations. We are particularly proud of our award-winning Student Support team, and the many ACM students who have overcome difficult circumstances and gone on to achieve great things.

Within the music and wider creative industries, mental health is being increasingly prioritised. Initiatives like Music Minds Matter (provided by Help Musicians UK) have brought mental health to the forefront of the industry’s awareness while actively supporting creatives through the provision of advice and crisis lines. GPs, other health professionals, and crisis management organisations such as Samaritans are also available to those who need them. You are not alone, and there are many people who are dedicated to helping others, no matter their specific circumstances.


To learn more about how ACM can help you build and sustain a career in the creative industries, come along to one of our Open Days.

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