What We've Been Up To
We'd like to give an extra special thanks to the Saving Grace Project for having us out at their annual fundraiser as well as Belmont University and GrammyU for having us at their mental health seminar and Showcase Series!
EHS is pioneering research on mental health in the entertainment industry to better understand experiences, how to help, and prevention for mental health issues. Although such research has been done in other countries, there is little to no evidence of collecting data on mental health in entertainment here in the States.
Needless to say, the more participants we have, the better we are able to assess the pulse in the entertainment industry and assemble useful information for those in the industry. Our goal is to have at least 2,000 participants for the initial survey. Our surveys are confidential for those completing them and data collected will maintain anonymity in outcomes reports.
If you want to participate or share with others, you can check it out here! - http://bit.ly/ehssurvey2018
Digital Detangler Workshop
Our latest workshop is something we can all relate to! If you're looking to decrease your stress and screen time, especially in the workplace, this could definitely help you out!
The Cost of Technology on Mental Health in the Entertainment Industry
Elizabeth Porter, Founder of EHS
Pete Dunlap, Founder of Digital Detangler
Reducing Stress, Crisis, and Distraction
Whether or not you understand your digital habits, they have a massive impact on your mental health and creativity. By taking time to understand your relationship to your tech, you’ll empower yourself to make better choices. Since we spend more time on devices than we spend asleep, tweaking the way you use technology opens up vast portions of your overbooked schedule. If you struggle with trying to keep up with it all but can’t seem to disconnect, we’ll help you find the balance. By implementing the strategies we cover, your employees will experience less burnout and more creativity.
This workshop will analyze the effects of social media and technology on mental health, especially in the workplace. The CDC lists stress as the #1 health issue at work. Our intention is to reduce this stress while limiting distraction, comparisons, and time spent looking at screens.
This workshop is designed for 5-6 hours, but can be adjusted for
Workshops are led by Elizabeth Porter, a licensed counselor with more than a decade in the entertainment space. Having spoken at events like Touring Career Workshop and been an entertainer herself, she has grown a successful practice by focusing on needs specific to entertainers and those who support them. Pete Dunlap, a former educator and software engineer, delivers practical tactics for nudging yourself toward technology experiences that reflect your intentions, instead of your impulses.
If you're interested in our workshops, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Touring Career Workshop's All Access Program
A big thanks to Touring Career Workshop for having us out at their awesome event November 13! We got to share some exciting news about our research on mental health.
Not only did we get to check out the everything the workshop had to offer, we learned about how TCW is helping industry professionals with their mental health.
At EHS, we're no strangers to the fact that a career in entertainment can be very taxing on mental health, and we love learning about endeavors that work to remove barriers. Touring Career Workshop's All Access Program will pay for four sessions with one of their selected life coaches or therapists for touring professionals. Most importantly they keep it confidential and simple; they just receive the bill from the provider with none of your personal information attached. If you're struggling and need some help, check out their program at
The Hidden Benefits of Strength Training
With the ubiquitous social pressure to work out bombarding us everywhere we look, it seems like everyone is on the fitness train nowadays. With Hot Yoga, Barre, CrossFit, and all the other seemingly endless options, there’s something for everybody. Where do performance artists fit on this spectrum of fitness options though?
You’ve been told you need to exercise. Our bodies were made to move, but let’s be real, working out regularly and effectively is easier said than done.
Why Should I Care?
Your body is your first instrument, and when you aren’t tuning it properly, it’s only a matter of time before other things are affected. Have you ever noticed that when you spend all day on the couch, it’s exhausting? Yet, when you do a little exercise, you have more energy. That’s how our bodies were made.
In addition to less energy, a lack of exercise can also result in the following:
Less body confidence = less confidence on stage
More inflammation = more allergies, illness, and discomfort
Poor insulin resistance = more fat, trouble sleeping, increased irritability and stress
All of these things come back to one important thing, MONEY. If you don’t have energy, confidence, or good health, you can’t give it your all. People don’t want to pay for subpar performances!
Quick Run-Down of Non-Physical Benefits
Preventative maintenance is cheaper than doctor’s bills
If you get injured or sick you have to take time off from touring, recording, and working
It’s tax deductible
Not worrying about throwing your back out pushing an amp up 2nd avenue and being able to play a gig
Self-care and “me” time
Confidence is increased
Increased self-awareness and being more in tune with your body = less chance of injury or overworking
It’s cathartic = less stress
Better sleep = more creativity and positive mood.
When your physical health is on track, other things tend to fall in place.
By and large this is one of the biggest benefits to exercise. As a performer, this is a crucial aspect to your stage presence.
One of my long-term clients is a tenor and sings classically. He is also an author and was suffering from intense back pain from sitting all day. He wanted to feel better, but he also wanted to look out for his future health. After some time lifting weights, he was no longer guarding his back and as he picked it off the floor, his face lit up in a huge smile and he shouted “this is important!” He finally felt right in his body, and that has made all the difference in his life.
Another client of mine was a petite 24-year lady who had never worked out in her life. Two things held her back: she had no idea what to do and the gym totally intimidated her. As I walked her through barbell lifts and weighted squats, I watched her learn what to do with a dumbbell, how to hold herself, and how to move. That young lady now has confidence that spills out into the rest of her life, besides feeling confident in any gym.
Sometimes we put barriers on ourselves with what we think we can and cannot do, especially with our bodies. We limit ourselves. The gym can be intimidating, but rocking your routine translates so well to the stage and bolsters your self-confidence.
Do you notice that when you take the time to clean and organize your house, you sometimes get inspired to do the same thing in other areas of your life? Or, when you started following a dedicated routine in some part of your life, you notice that dedication carries over to other places in your life?
Exercise is no exception. When you maintain a workout routine, other things fall in order. When you take dedicated time to do a planned workout and you see the results, you might even realize you have more control than maybe you thought you did over other areas of your life as well. Exercise is empowering in many aspects.
Maybe you feel that you have too much to do and you have to do it all perfectly, and that self-care is a frou-frou word dedicated to people who don’t have jobs and have nothing else to do? We’ve heard that if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. That’s absolutely true.
Our schedules are so jammed that fitting in things around work, family, and survival seems impossible. For example, I love music, but when I play all day long, from rehearsals to practice to recording to concerts, there’s no balance.
You need to step away and enjoy a hobby. Doing something physical so that you can’t be tempted by taking calls, checking emails, or looking at screens will help you see the value of purposely carving out that time for yourself. You have to have the control to say “I see the value in this. I’m putting my foot down, and these few hours a week I carve out just for me. I have to have that time that I devote to myself.”
Exercise releases endorphins (what we experience as the “feel good” hormones) and who doesn’t want more of those? Often we turn to other things to heighten our mood, but these things tend to be temporary. You can learn to feel good and proud for pushing yourself, doing a little more each time, and feeling your body move the way it was meant to.
This benefit goes along with increased confidence. We can build up so much anxiety about ourselves, doing things perfectly, and being enough for not just ourselves, but for everyone else in our lives.
When you step into the gym, you are allowing yourself to be a beginner again. There are no expectations for you there. Can you feel the relief that comes with those words?
Putting yourself in the hands of a coach that is right for you can do so much to alleviate stress and performance anxiety. And, as you get stronger and more confident, your anxiety decreases. Decreased anxiety allows you to be more creative and relax. Your cortisone levels will go down and so will your weight.
Why is it the best ideas seem to come to us in the shower? Hot water can serve as a vasodilator, letting your blood vessels open up and allowing easier blood flow to the brain. With that increased blood flow comes increased oxygen, which in turn, helps to give us some of our best ideas.
The same things happen when we exercise. The blood vessels dilate to allow more blood flow to the muscles and to the brain which increases our creativity.
Have you ever moved? You know, had to pack up everything you own and unpack it somewhere else? Do you remember at the end of the day how bone-tired you were? How did you sleep after that?
There’s a certain satisfaction to physical exertion and knowing you’ve really pushed yourself. Your body needs to recover and after a workout, the only place it can rebuild and recover is sleep. So, if you find yourself tossing and turning, a good workout might be all you need.
Give it a try and if you want some guidance, I’m here for you!
Who Am I?
I got my start in the world of performance injury relatively young. I discovered the flute in middle school and by high school I was playing the Nashville Youth Symphony and attending Governor’s School for the Arts and Interlochen Arts Camp. My body was completely unprepared for the sheer volume of playing. Unsurprisingly, I developed pain in my left wrist. Doctor told me it was tendonitis and to “stop playing”.
Fast forward to graduate school at Florida State, where I was working on my master’s in flute performance. I got into the habit of working out every day. At the time, I had no idea of two important things 1) what proper weight lifting form was 2) what exercises were good and bad for me based on my high volume of playing.
Unfortunately, the way I was working out didn’t help. I went to health services, in agonizing pain. The doctor gave me a prescription for muscle relaxers said “stop playing”. As a performance major in graduate school, this was simply not possible.
Third and final straw came after grad school when I learned about a piccolo audition for a job I really wanted. I didn’t know the orchestral repertoire, so I dove in, cramming hours a day to learn the music. After a couple of weeks, my body again tried to warn me something was wrong. I’ll never forget the doctor’s words. “Ordinarily I’d give you a cortisone shot in the trigger point in your chest that’s causing the back spasms to help it relax. Unfortunately, it’s right over your heart, and it might kill you, so you should probably just stop playing”.
I was fed up. I decided that since I couldn’t find any answers, I would be the answer.
I discovered the National Academy of Sports Medicine, where I got my Certified Personal Training certificate and Corrective Exercise Specialization. That’s when it hit me that there was nothing like this out there for musicians. There was nothing to teach them smart strength training to address muscle imbalances. There was no outlet prolonging their careers instead of telling them to stop playing.
I went on to obtain my Senior Fitness Specialization and Cancer Fitness Specialization. I also accepted the position of Chair of the Performance Health Committee for the National Flute Association.
All of these steps led me to found Music Strong. Currently I’m building a team of professionals to help musicians in all ways because a musician’s wellness and fitness is best served as a team approach.
Angela McCuiston is a NASM-CPT, CES, SFS, CETI-CES and holds her M.M. in flute performance from The Florida State University. An active musician, she plays assistant principal/piccolo in Sinfonia Gulf Coast of Destin, FL and with the 129th Army Band in Nashville, as well as teaching and freelancing in Nashville, TN. Winner of the 2005 Piccolo Masterclass Competition for the National Flute Association, she has fused her love of fitness and music to form Music Strong, a business that provides health answers to musicians. In 2018 she accepted the position of Chair of the Performance Health Committee for the NFA and is sought out national as a resource in musician’s health and fitness. She currently resides in Cane Ridge, TN where when she is not playing, lifting, teaching or training, you can find her cycling across the countryside.