We gathered together a selection of people from the South Wales music scene to host a roundtable discussion about mental health in the industry & ways of coping with the bad days.
As a heads up: in this video, we’re talking openly about a range of issues that might be distressing to some – please take a second to watch the disclaimer at the beginning & think if this is right for you. Make sure you take care of yourself & stay strong.
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A huge thank you to Storm+Shelter for knocking this video out of the park & generally being lovely humans.
When you’re a student and exams are on top of you, it’s so easy to feel stressed and maybe overwhelmed but hey, don’t forget that’s quite normal. Stress isn’t an easy thing to deal with, especially on your own, but if you can find your own creative coping methods for your bad days, you’re on the right track. Here’s a few to get you started. – Zara, St David’s Catholic College.
Seek inspiration and advice
Let’s start by acknowledging the that sixth form can be a massive change for some people – you get more responsibility for your learning and your workload will be very different to GCSE where you’ll be spending your time on fewer subjects so need to understand things in more depth. Some pressures may be the same, like doing your best to achieve certain grades or worrying about fitting in for example. But it doesn’t have to be scary – to take the pressure off a little, get some inspiration or a little life advice from those around you. It may not feel like it on your worst day, but it’s likely that there are so many people in your life that want to hear about your problems and offer a little helpful advice, so let them.
Jade from Year 13:
“When I’m stressed, I like to speak to my friends and family about my problems and ask them for their opinion on what I should do. I like to think of the positives and the things in life that I am lucky to have.”
Communicate with your teachers
St David’s students are pretty lucky to have a great Learning Support Centre so there’s always somewhere for students to go and share their worries whether it’s personal or school worries – if your school or college has one of these, seek them out! If you don’t have this, speak to a teacher that you trust and share you worries. They want to help you.
Isaac, Year 12:
“I find it stressful balancing college and a part time job as sometimes I have to leave my lessons early in order to get to my shifts on time, but my ICT teacher is very supportive and helps me finish my coding quickly enough to get to work on time.”
Write stuff down
Not being organised can massively contribute to stress with A Levels or other courses you may be taking after high school. There’s always so much to think about and remember, including assignment deadlines, revision dates and generally finding your way to the right class at the right time. I like to keep everything written down in a diary, so I always know where I am with everything and I can’t recommend this enough – simple but effective.
Take a nap
PSA – you can’t get far or feel at ease without a little rest, especially in our teenage years when sleep time is needed the most (excuse for a lie in, anyone?). But in all seriousness, poor sleep can make any mental health issues worse, increase your stress levels and weaken your immune system – basically it’s an all round a problem, which I can definitely relate to. I know it may be hard to do but try and go to bed early at least a few times a week or take a nap to recharge. Everything is so much better with a little sleep and switching off is so important. I try and turn off my phone alerts at night too to hep this.
Jamal, Year 13:
“Sleep is important! A lot of students undermine how beneficial rest is for your mental and physical health. I like to take regular naps to ensure I am well rested especially before tackling any big assignments or revision.”
Change your focus with exercise
Even if you feel like you haven’t got a spare second, exercise can really help you to clear your mind. Especially when you’ve got tonnes of work to do, which is adding to your stress. So, go for a walk, run, cycle, anything – just get moving! Change the focus, I find it helps.
Isaac, from Year 12:
“I think exercising is important as it releases endorphins and makes you feel a lot happier.”
Mindfulness is a term that’s batted around a lot but it’s a skill that can really help to remove you from your stresses, giving time to reset and balance your thoughts which can be both awesome and necessary when there’s loads going on up there.
Jamal, Year 13:
“Meditation techniques such as mindfulness can train you to relax and are excellent for treating anxiety. I was sceptical about trying them first – but they really do work.”
Help and Support
Whenever you feel stress/ anxiousness taking over, it can sometimes seem like the loneliest place in the world which I know can be really difficult to get out of. But it is so important to try to talk about what is bothering you. Maybe consider some of these:
Remember you are not alone!
The most important thing to realise when you are feeling down is that you are not alone – I know that can sound like a cliché but it’s true. There’s plenty of support and people available who can and want to help you- just look around you. If you don’t know where to start, follow the advice in this little blog or even have a think about your own unique ways to handle stress – if you find any great tips, make sure you share them too. If you take anything from this blog, I want you to remember that if you truly feel as though you aren’t coping, reach out to someone.
Good luck with your exams – go smash them!
-Zara, Year 13, St David’s Catholic College student
During Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, we were asking people to share the songs that have helped them through a rough time and the result of all that is this Spotify playlist! These songs have helped someone else before, and they might help you. You might discover something new, or find some old classics. Enjoy!
Here is a few links as to where you can find me, if you’re reading this feel free to reach out and message me about my music. I would love to hear from the people, especially those who relate to anything i’ve created!
I always wondered what happened after the ‘before and after’ stories. Okay, great, you got a makeover, lost the weight, moved house, fell in love – then what? Life isn’t made up of those big transformative moments; life is what happens in between. The mundane, the run-of-the-mill, the boring daily routines.
Almost four years ago, I wrote my first blog for Heads Above The Waves, right when they were getting started. I’d recently had one of those transformative moments – in my case, it was opening up to people about my self-harm for the first time. Talking to Hannah and Si about my experiences, and about their own histories, made me realise that it was possible to change and grow as a person – that there was a possibility that I could get better.
When I wrote that blog I was in my second year of university. Since then I’ve graduated, started a career, and gained a level of stability and joy that I didn’t think was possible. It hasn’t been an easy road by any measure. In January 2016, I was hospitalised with blood clots in my lungs, and was incredibly lucky to survive past my 23rd birthday. I’ve also continued to experience depression, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem. That stuff doesn’t go away – but each time you encounter those feelings, they become more familiar. You learn their power, and your power. You learn that they eventually pass. You learn that if you can just hang on through the darkest parts, the sunrise is inevitable.
There’s no secret wisdom that I, or anyone else, can pass on to stop you from suffering. But here’s some wisdom that you’re probably on the way to learning for yourself: with great suffering comes great strength.
If you can keep giving yourself chances, keep looking for the silver linings, and keep learning from the lessons that life throws at you, you’ll ultimately become stronger, wiser and more compassionate than ever. Look after yourself, but try not to wallow in self-pity. Take care of yourself physically – drink water, get enough sleep, eat some fruit – but remember that you’re only a human, and that you’re allowed to treat yourself too. Instead of getting angry and bitter at the world for the way it treated you, try getting angry at the injustices in the world, and looking for ways your experience can help others.
I’m not any kind of expert. But I have been to hell and back (multiple times), and I can tell you that it absolutely does get better. One day, that all-consuming wave of fear and pain and sadness that you think is drowning you will become nothing more than a ripple on a pond. Everything you need is already inside you. I didn’t believe in myself, and it turns out I was wrong. So, in case you can’t do it yourself right now: I believe in you.
You’ve heard people say “new year, new me” – well we’ve gone more down the route of “new year, old me” – bringing back the Spotify playlists to introduce you to some of the songs that have helped us, and kicking off this first one of 2018 with a bunch of songs that have inspired HATW from day one (with a few newbies thrown in for good measure). Here’s a lil runthrough of the songs on here, and why we love ‘em so much.
When I Was Young – Blink-182
Blink have been my favourite band for a long ole time now, so they’re always going to hold a special place in my heart. And while it was their self-titled album that I had on repeat through my toughest days, the EP this is taken from needs some love too. Musically, it feels positive and upbeat, and the hook in the chorus of “It’s the worst damn day of my life… but I’m alright” is a nice reminder that it’s ok to struggle sometimes.
Survive – Rise Against
I’m pretty sure I first heard this on a WWE game on the PS2 (yes, that’s me showing my age) and when I actually listened to the lyrics it was one of those “this is me!” moments. “We’ve all been sorry, we’ve all been hurt, but how we survive is what makes us who we are”. I managed my self-harm by replacing it with playing drums, that was how I survived, and that’s what’s led to so many cool things happening in my life. So a reminder that the coping techniques we share can be more than just a way of getting through the day.
I Was Scared and I’m Sorry – The Wonder Years
The Wonder Years are another all time favourite band, from the second I first discovered them years ago. This bonus track off of ‘The Upsides’ (which is such an important album for me) is one that really hit me hard. “I’m getting better but it’s in small steps” is a nice reminder to me that progress can take time, but it’s important to be taking steps towards getting better – however small they may seem.
Golden – Farewell Fighter
This is the first of my curveballs. It came on shuffle from a random Spotify playlist I was listening to while walking home from work one day and straight away I had to look into it more. “Something in my heart is telling me I’ve learned to love who I’ve become // I know my learning isn’t done” was something that really struck a chord with me. Plus it says about keeping your head above the water, so of course it’s gotta be on a HATW playlist.
Everyday – Modern Baseball
Modern Baseball are one of the most inventive and instantly listenable bands I’ve found in the last few years, and they’re great advocates for positive mental health (and friends of ours) so go listen to their whole back catalogue. This particular track is on here for the very ending “waking up every day is all about doing things you don’t want to do, but your reward is you get to wake up”.
Top to Toe – Fenne Lily
I met Fenne Lily on a show in Berlin (did you hear that clang as I dropped that?) and her voice was beautiful – soothing yet haunting at the same time. So I wanted to include a track from her on this playlist too so that a) you become aware of her if you haven’t already and b) so it adds a slightly different feel. It’s not just about posi pop-punk all the time. It’s ok to have slower and introspective moments.
Bowl of Oranges – Bright Eyes
Back to another classic – a band I own most of their studio albums. You might’ve heard the mega cute ‘First Day of My Life’ but this song in particular reminds me of what HATW is all about: “Your eyes must do some raining if you’re ever gonna grow // But when crying don’t help and you can’t compose yourself, it’s best to compose a poem”. It’s ok to not be ok, and that’s a time to channel what you’re feeling into a creative way of coping.
Limerence – Gnarwolves
When we did our interview with Gnarwolves, Thom (guitars/vocals) picked out this song as a particularly cathartic one to write & play – talking of social anxiety, and dealing with life, but ultimately taking a positive spin on it “money or no, I’ve got my head held high and somewhere to go” and being able to look back having got through that time and say “I’m feeling much better now”.
One Step At A Time – Four Year Strong
This one really hits home – a track written about the loss of one of the singers’ brother, and the pain of losing someone you love is close to a lot of us. “One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, I’m gonna get through this one way or another”. I guess to me, it’s about letting yourself go through the emotions that come with loss – it’s ok and very natural to find it hard. But it’s also about finding a positive way to get through it and making them proud.
The Sadness Will Never End – Bring Me The Horizon
The cheeriest title for a posi playlist. This was from a long time ago when BMTH had a different sound on the go, but still stands out as one of my favourites from them. The hook of “I won’t give up on you, so don’t give up on me” to me speaks of the importance of having support from people around you and being able to offer that support when you’re able to. Be excellent to each other.
Mess – Real Friends
The all round lovely lads in Real Friends have penned a few of our favourite lines that hit the nail on the head when it comes to positive mental wellbeing. And it’s the chorus of ‘Mess’ that keeps up the trend. “I’m letting go so I don’t lose myself” is a reminder that sometimes it’s right and ok to leave negative things, people or places behind to make sure you’re taking care of yourself.
Permanent – Holding Absence
I put this on a playlist not too long ago, but Holding Absence are really a band you need to watch out for in 2018. This song is particularly here because it makes a point I’ve seen made a few times: “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” – or in the words of singer Lucas Woodland “you want to die today; you don’t want to die forever”. Ultimately pointing out that however much your current situation is, it won’t always be that way. It can, and it does, get better.
Unknowingly Strong – Make Do And Mend
One of the very first songs that inspired HATW – with a chorus that quite literally talks about keeping your head above the waves. It’s the bridge that I love the most though: “this is the day we all begin to let our fear go and learn to swim”. Keep on swimming and doing what you can to keep your head above whatever waves life throws your way.
Changes – Charles Bradley
Not gonna lie, this is kinda here because it’s a nice laid back vibe, but lyrically talking about feeling low. Going through changes is something that happens to us all, and can be hard to deal with. It was also the title music for “Big Mouth” on Netflix, which I binged through in a weekend, so makes me think about a show that made me laugh, and sometimes watching something that’ll make you laugh is a good distraction if only for a short while.
It’s been freezing cold lately – quite literally. And my lovely (but old and drafty) flat has been feeling the chill. It means that getting out of the shower is one of the worst parts of getting up in the mornings (along with it being dark when you wake up this time of year, but that’s a whole other blog post right there). Every morning I seem to do the same thing:
The last few mornings I’ve been thinking about this last step. See, it’s this weird thing where as soon as I start moving, and towelling myself down, I naturally get warmer – both cuz I’m rubbing the towel over me, drying myself off, but also because I’m actually moving, and doing something. This is the part where I start to make a good point relating to mental health, rather than just reminding you how hygenic I am.
See, it’s easy to be paralysed – whether that’s shivering under a towel in the morning, being overwhelmed with too many things to do with your day, or just feeling like where you are now is where you’re always going to be. But just by trying something – anything – to help yourself, you’ll start to notice that you’re making progress. In my weird little example, it’s drying myself off and moving – and the more I do, the quicker I dry, and warmer I get, and more able to face the day.
But it could be that you’re feeling overwhelmed with having a million things to get done and seemingly no time to get them done in – or too many pressures from too many places all at the same time (like, why is it that EVERY teacher thinks their subject’s homework/revision is SO much more important than every other teachers? I digress). But in that situation, it could be a case of making a list of all the things you need to get done – right down to the really basic things like brushing your teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, making your bed. Once you’ve ticked off a few tasks from your list – no matter how small – you’ve got a bit more momentum in you, and it’s easier to start attacking bigger tasks. You know you can do a bunch of small things, so why couldn’t you do one big thing?
Or in the example of feeling stuck where you are right now – maybe it’s a case of taking some steps, however small, towards taking control of your life & your mental wellbeing. Do something, even if it feels scary, and when you’ve done it, you can look back and realise that you’ve done it once and can do it again, or take on a new challenge. Maybe that’s pushing yourself to try a new coping technique or speaking to a teacher/family member/GP about the way you’re feeling. Bear in mind that it might not work for you, and that’s ok too; sometimes it’s just as much about finding what doesn’t work for you as what does.
I guess my challenge to you is to take that trickiest step, and start doing something – get that momentum going, and you never know where you might end up.
Everybody’s somebody’s everything; nobody is nothing – Chance The Rapper
18 months or so ago, we asked people to share with us the lyrics that helped pick them up when they were down, and someone wrote this. I’d not really listened to Chance The Rapper before (other than a sick cover of the Arthur theme song), but this had me intrigued, and when I listened to it, I instantly knew why someone had shared this song.
I won’t go on too much about how good Chance The Rapper is musically and lyrically (though I do think he’s flippin’ great), and instead just have a quick think about that one line that was shared with us.
Everybody’s somebody’s everything; nobody is nothing
Sometimes it’s easy to feel a bit unloved or a bit worthless – and heck, sometimes it’s more than that, sometimes you feel totally worthless or utterly unloved and unloveable. But the truth is you’re super unique. You play a role in this infinitely big universe that no-one else can do. Maybe you know how to make your best friends laugh like no-one else can. Maybe you’re the brave one in a group who asks the question that everyone secretly wanted to know the answer to but were too scared to ask themselves. Maybe you smile at strangers on the street and make their day. Or maybe just by existing, you’ve made a difference in the lives of everyone you see: teachers, your family, your friends. It might not always feel like it, but you’ve got infinite potential and can do so much to make other people’s lives better.
I’ve got a lil niece who’s the absolute cutest thing in the world. Every time I get to see her or FaceTime with her (ignoring how wild it is that a 3 year old can work an iPad) it makes my day. She doesn’t know it – she’s just doing her and getting on with her little life, which mostly revolves around pirates. Which is amazing. I guess what I’m getting at with this is the fact that she doesn’t need to do or say anything in particular. Just her being her means everything to me. And in the same way, you don’t need to do or say anything outstanding; you don’t need to change the world. Just by being you, you can be making someone get as soppy as I do when I see my niece.
There’s that other saying that I’ve seen floating around a bit online too:
To the world, you’re just one person. But to one person, you’re the world
And while it can seem like you’re just lost in a crowd of billions of other people on this planet,
We obviously have a big celebrity culture, and care loads about the lives of strangers we see online or in magazines, but the most important thing is caring about the people around you – and them caring about you in return. Even if it’s just one person (but I can pretty much guarantee you it’s way more than that) by you being here, literally just existing, you might be doing so much more than you realise.
It’s funny because we often think about how much we appreciate the people around us – when they’re kind, when they help us, when they listen to us – but don’t always tell them. Let them know what they mean to you; how much you appreciate all the little quirks that make them who they are, and so important in your life.
And for what it’s worth, I’m glad you exist. Because just by being here and reading this, it means you’re part of this journey towards being stronger, that we’re all in together.
“I am on the mend, at least now I can say that I am trying” – Brand New
Today* marks 4 years since I last self-harmed. A milestone I don’t think teenage me would’ve ever seen coming. But here we are, and that’s something to be proud of. I still struggle, but I am on the mend; at least now I can say that I’m trying. Brand New also just dropped their new album, so now’s probably the best time to actually get round to writing a blog about this lyric that inspires me, and that we have on one of our swing tags for our shirts.
*In a move that’s fairly classic me, I put off posting this for ages, which means it’s actually been over a week since the anniversary, and Brand New’s
I read this line as saying “I’m not there yet, but I’m making the effort to do something about it”, but I guess that’s not quite as poetic as the way that Brand New put it.
“I am on the mend”
If you’re not there yet, that’s ok. Sometimes it can take months or even years to work through a difficult patch, or come to terms with something. That’s ok. Go at your own pace, and don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle or if you fall down and end up back at square one.
Sometimes half the battle is actually knowing what the problem is. I often have those days where I just feel rubbish and can’t really explain why. And if you don’t know what the problem is, it’s hard to sort it out. So try to identify what areas of your life might be bringing you down, or triggering you, or making you feel less than awesome. I think writing stuff down is a great way to do this. Write down the situation every time you feel like self-harming. Where you are, if you’re with anyone, what’s been said, what day it is, what time it is, if anything’s happened before that’s on your mind. Then you can start to look for patterns over time. Is it the same place every time? Is there a certain person who’s bringing you down? Once you know what the problem is, you can do something about it.
“At least now I can say that I’m trying”
It’s gotten easier over time to resist the temptation to self-harm when everything gets too much. That’s thanks in no small part to me having things in place that I actively go to when I recognise that I’m starting to get into a negative headspace. And making that conscious effort to do something else instead of self-harm is the biggest step you’ll take on your journey to recovery.
I play drums whenever I can. It’s hard living in a block of flats, but knowing that I can rag a drum set in a practise room or at a show, gives me something to hold onto, and a chance let out everything out. In the short term in the flat, I can still tap my knees or a pillow or a practise pad, even if it’s not as satisfying as making loads of noise.
I’ve got better at talking about it too. If I’m having a bad one, I’ll let someone know when they ask. Rather than just being as typically British as possible and shrugging out a “Yeah, I’m fine”. Talking it over with people helps to identify problems, and get ideas for ways to deal with it from another perspective.
And as much as I hate to admit it, exercising is actually a pretty good way of working through stuff. Going for a run, or doing some push-ups/sit-ups at home (which can be done while watching the TV, so it doesn’t feel so much like hard work). There’s all sorts of scientific reasons why it’s good too – it releases good chemicals in your brain, so you’re legit gonna feel good things.
So with a few lil tools in my arsenal, I’m on the mend. Even if I’m not fully all the way there, it’s ok, because I’m making the effort, and I’m trying.