The Mental Health Benefits of DJing Sober

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+ A few insights on how to stay sober when everyone else is drinking
and one trick that’ll help you

Alcohol is a socially accepted hard drug in Western culture. Abuse of it is easily condoned and sometimes even applauded. In nightlife, music and alcohol are seemingly inseparable and not drinking on a night out makes you the odd one out.

When you step into a DJ booth, it’s almost unthinkable to not see alcohol. Most DJs drink while on the job, something you don’t do at a “normal” work place, because - and stating the obvious here, it’s just not allowed! If you were a spaceship pilot or avocado grower and you show up for work with a rum and coke in hand, you’d be fired on the spot.

There is a correlation between music and alcohol. For some, it’s a huge issue and it should be discussed more. It can be challenging to stay sober on the job when everyone else is drinking. So why do it? Explore the mental health benefits of staying sober while DJing and discover an amazing trick to help you out!

It’s not rocket science. We know various things happen when alcohol enters your body.

But just for the sake of it, let’s have another look, shall we?

Alcohol affects your mood
Some people are just no fun when they’re smashed. Alcohol tends to make you not give a fuck.
If you happen to get into an argument with someone, even if you only had one single drink, you automatically lose high ground. Nobody is going to bother sorting out how much you had. The fact that you were drinking is enough to get labeled.
You may think you’re all that due to liquid courage, but one thing drunk DJs have in common? Their sets usually suck. So, it damages your reputation and your career in more ways than one. Nobody likes to work with a “diva”. And it can be quite difficult to shake that image. It’s important for you to think ahead and ensure the longevity of your career. In order to do that, you want to maintain a healthy mindstyle so that you can be able to make conscious, self-empowering choices for both yourself, your personal development and your career.

Alcohol affects your body
Alcohol makes you tired. It affects your memory, your concentration, your ability to focus and your capability to actually be present in the moment. You may think you’re killing it and that you’re full of confidence, but that’s just the alcohol talking honey. They don’t call it liquid courage for nothing.
It takes hours for your body to break down just 1 drink. Not to mention the time you need to recover the day after. The effects of drinking can have long-term effects on the body, like increasing your risk for heart and liver problems.
Granted, you can’t expect to be woke 24/7. When you’re playing a set at 3 am and you’re giving it your all for a few hours, it’s natural you’ll get tired and you need a little pick-me-up to get through. Grab an energy drink or a soda. Better yet, and most of all, make sure you stay hydrated throughout by drinking plenty of water! You won’t regret it the day after. Not only will you get more quality sleep, you’ll also wake up more revived than after a night of debauchery. There’s nothing fun about having to travel hungover.

(PS. If you have to get yourself home right after a gig, don’t drink and drive! Grab a cab, or get the promoter or whomever took care of your booking to fix you a ride. )

Alcohol affects your mental health
According to a recent study conducted by Record Union (April 2019), alcohol and drugs are used to self-medicate as an alternative treatment to seeking professional help, in fact, of those who said that they have self-medicated, 54% of them were most likely to have done so through the use of alcohol.

Maybe you need a drink or two to calm your nerves behind the decks and stop your hands from shaking, which can be a major annoyance of course - operating knobs and whatnot. Or, perhaps you’re an introvert and you think a couple drinks will give you more confidence to actually cope with social interactions. But alcohol can cause anxiety and so drinking is actually counter-productive.
Besides, there are other ways to cope with those jitters. Meditation is a great solution to help ease anxiety in the DJ booth.

When drinking becomes something to lean on to enable you to do what you love, then you need the self-awareness to know if it’s starting to destroy who you are.


Abstaining from alcohol while DJing is beneficial to your mental health.

You might argue that some of your legends were largely thus for going super human distances or that no party crew you ever met, made the raves they threw happen without some serious stimulants. Get real for a minute here, should you really be admiring that? Are those legends actually being themselves or are they hiding behind said stimulants? So, what are the mental health benefits of staying sober while DJing?

Improved focus: be in control and achieve the results you want
When you’re DJing, you have to focus. Your sense of hearing and concentration are affected even when you’re just a little bit tipsy. There’s a lot of things going on at the same time and if you make a mistake, you have to be able to think on your feet.
You can better plan where you want to be going musically and decide on a few tracks ahead of time. You have more control when you’re sober.
When you’re under the influence, you may think you have it all made and people are feeling exactly what you’re feeling. But actually, the more focused you are, the easier it’ll be to achieve the results you want. In this case, a killer set, connecting with your audience and people having a blast.

Improved memory: remember, learn and stay positive

If there’s one thing DJs and producers have in common, it’s not having enough time to spend on their music - time to make it, time to practice and time to prepare for a gig. There are many things to juggle during a set and as all human beings, you forget things and make mistakes. Remembering what went wrong and learning from that will help you improve your skills as a DJ and recounting what went well will contribute to an overall healthy, positive mindset.

One trick to contribute to a healthy mindset and support your memory is having a plan and have it written down, so that you don’t have to be afraid to forget, or miss out on important steps. Planning involves setting priorities and defining goals. One of those goals could be not to drink while DJing, so that you can play nights that everyone, including you, will fully remember. Besides, isn’t it nice to be lucid enough to remember familiar faces from past gigs? You want to take care of your fans and followers. What better way to show them some love by actually remembering who they are, interact with them so that you can demonstrate your appreciation for their support? That’s certainly something that won’t hurt your reputation. Maintaining good relationships will contribute to the longevity of your career. And that’s a good thing!

Improved energy: when you feel good, you do good
DJing is a fun job and it gives you a lot of freedom. But it’s still a job. Any other “normal” job forbids you to drink on the job. And you have to remember someone hired you to do your job. Staying relevant and on top of your game takes grit. So you need your energy to be abundant in order to be present and show up for yourself and your career every single day. There’s no need to drink alcohol to increase self-confidence while DJing. As soon as you see people dancing and having a good time, your energy level starts to build up and you can fully enjoy the moment.

When you’re present, sharp and alert, people on the dancefloor will notice, and will enjoy themselves even more. Besides, having good energy enables you to make conscious choices for yourself and for your career so that when opportunities come knocking, you can properly evaluate them, and don’t let your career depend on dumb luck or choices based only on what others have to say.

This contributes to more resilience and self-empowerment, which is indispensable in a high-pressured, rapidly changing environment like the dance music industry. You want to stay in the game long-term. This means you need to think ahead and remember that you always take yourself with you wherever you go.

Improved sleep: reduce stress
Let’s face it, being a DJ in the electronic scene means that most of the time, you’re probably not getting enough, quality shut-eye after a set. Especially when you’ve played until the wee hours and you have to be up and about pretty early the next day. Either because you need to select records for the next gig that’s coming up, or you have to go to work, you have kids to take care of - there’s always something next. That’s stressful. So if you have a short night ahead, it’s vital you get good, quality sleep. Even though alcohol can allow you to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply, it reduces REM sleep. You need to spend enough time in restorative sleep stages for it to be beneficial to your memory and cognition. That’s already a very good reason why booze and a good night’s sleep don’t mix.

It’s hard to go to sleep after a set. You’re still buzzing from the adrenaline and all the feels! Meditation is a great way to facilitate that transition from buzzing to zzzz.

You can give it a go right now with this guided grounding meditation.

Ground yourself with ‘Ready, Steady, Roots!’

Whether is to wind down after a set, cope with jitters in the DJ booth or stay focused in the studio, this guided meditation will help you with that in only 10 minutes. Find your calm whenever, wherever. You can even do it in a toilet stall!

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The surprising benefits of grounding yourself

It's quick and easy so that you can do it anytime, anywhere! Whether you're backstage and about to perform, or in the studio.

  • You will stay grounded so that you can focus on what you're doing, without getting carried away by your public (too much).

  • You will learn to cope with performance anxiety by calming your nerves in the DJ booth so that you can avoid making mistakes due to stress and fear of failure.

  • You will get clarity about what story you want to tell with your music so that you can be happy with your tracks / your track selection

  • You will gain confidence in your craft so that you don't miss out on great opportunities.

  • You will stay in the moment so that you can enjoy your set to the fullest.

When you set an intention to take care of yourself, you’re already doing your mental health and overall well-being a huge favor!

Hopefully this can serve you. Leave a comment below to share how’s it’s working out for you.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to your GP, a treatment center in your area or a helpline, like Help Musicians UK who have great resources available.