5 Holiday Self-Care Tips for Conductors

Wherever you are, however short your break, these 5 tips will help you recharge, reconnect and revive.

It's been a year like no other. We've spent so much time adapting, giving to others and climbing steep learning curves this year. Now is the time to recollect our hearts, minds, bodies and venture inwards. Amidst the drama, it's easy to forget that when we invest in ourselves it helps us be better for others too - our loved ones, colleagues and musicians.

Wherever you are, I hope you'll take some time over the break to reconnect with yourself so that you can begin 2021 with renewed focus, clarity, compassion and curiosity.


If your podium has become a desk chair this year, your shoulders, neck, hips and back are probably feeling tight or stiff. Whether you've got more remote learning to come, or you're getting back to in-person next year, reconnecting to your body is going to help you get through it.

Try moving in a way you're not used to:

  • Try some online yoga
  • Stretch - try this quick routine from The Functional Musician
  • Go for a walk in a new neighbour hood
  • Go to a rock climbing wall or trampoline park
  • Channel your inner 80s aerobics god/dess with a Retrosweat dance workout (go for the incredible staging and costumes, stay for the physical challenge)

Staring down my fear of heights by rock climbing this holidays.

Listen to music - for fun!

One thing that's got me through this year is reconnecting with music I love that isn't something I'm considering for a program, learning to conduct or studying. It's easy to feel like we don't have time for this kind of indulgence. Make a playlist of songs that just make you feel good, want to get up and dance, or just smile uncontrollably. For me it's a playlist of Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon and Cake. (This also doubles as my pre-performance playlist when I'm getting ready for a gig, rehearsal or speaking engagement and I'm a bit nervous). What can you put on that makes you get up and dance? (No conducting allowed, kids).

I'm also currently building a bass guitar, so I've been digging this very groovy Best Bass Riffs playlist on Spotify. I can't help but dance around the house to this and I'm hearing heaps of great music I've never heard before.

Maybe I'll eventually be able to play the riffs on this!


After a year like 2020, we need to create opportunities to laugh. Got a comedian, TV show or YouTube channel you like? Give yourself 10 minutes to just sit an have a giggle, either by yourself, or with someone you care about. Even if you're isolated you can have a streaming party over Zoom or Facebook to enjoy the laughs with others. It's amazing how much you realise you've missed laughing until you do it. I've been enjoying watching:


#Conductorjoke. Yes, pause. Haha. Come on, I said laughing was good. I'm trying my best over here!

But seriously, take time to just stop. This year it's been easy to fool ourselves that we haven't been doing enough, haven't been being enough for those we teach and serve because things have been different. We've been out of our normal routines, and anything different can feel like we're not measuring up. The result? Overwork, over commitment, exhaustion. We need a break. We might have felt like we haven't been doing as much, but we have. In fact, we've been doing as much or more than we'd do in a normal year - even if we've been stuck in our own homes.

Meditation has been the buzz for a while now, and there's plenty of science to back it up. But for many of us it can seem unachievable or too hard. Stop worrying about trying to meditate everyday and just do it for 5 minutes. You'll feel better. Try this free 5-minute meditation from Headspace right now. Yes, stop reading and do it.

Come on, you've got five minutes.

Even just a few minutes being still and focussing on your breathing can give you a moment of recharging and resetting. You might even find it addictive! And bonus, you can do it any time (Just before meeting or Zooming crazy relatives, anyone?!).

Noodles knows how to fermata. Be more like Noodles.

Get grateful

Gratitude is an incredible fix for just about anything - and in 2020 there might be a lot of things you'd like to fix! Feeling stressed? Get grateful. Feeling low? Get grateful. Feeling overwhelmed? Get grateful. Even at our lowest of lows - and 2020 might have dealt you some of those - we can find things to be grateful for.

Take a moment to think of, or write down, just one thing you're grateful for in this moment. Why? The why is important.

If you want a challenge, write more, or think about what you're grateful for as a result of this turbulent and unexpected year.

This year, I'm grateful for:

  • Learning many new technologies I wouldn't have otherwise explored
  • Questioning and challenging assumptions about what rehearsals and performances are for
  • Staying connected to my ensembles as best I could amidst many constraints
  • Learning to not berate myself for things that are out of my control

Choose to give back to yourself over this period (or whenever you're reading this). You will thank yourself later, and so will those around you.

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