Effect of stress on playing guitar

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  • sev112sev112 Frets: 198
    Get a black book, write your thoughts down at those times, keep them to yourself.  Don't analyse, just write them down.  If your thoughts are probes, don't try and lose them, just write them down.
    new page each time you site down.

    it is surprisingly effective at clearing our brains .  Almost like cleaning the cache of a computer.
    also it takes longer to write them down than to think about them, so it slows that thought and worry process down (you know the one where all sorts of thoughts just keep rushing into your brain) and many of them just disappear or go away.

    you can choose to, or not to, look back at them at any time if you wish.  You can decide if you want to share them with anyone close or not at all.

    yoU may find that they become a great source of lyrics for songs ! many great creative thinkers and writers, and musicians, have gone through periods of worry, stress, angst, depressions etc. And that has been key contribution to their outputs

    wish you well 


    when the guitar thing happens to me, I just put thinlizzy songs on, put a whole load of gain/overdrive on , put the headphones on an just pretend :). Sometimes works for me 

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  • 57Deluxe57Deluxe Frets: 4311
    take more drugs...
    <Vintage BOSS Upgrades>
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  • amarok1971amarok1971 Frets: 115
    I'm kinda in the same boat, I try not to beat myself up about it, just keep playing anything to keep the fingers moving. Don't let it piss you off is the main thing.
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  • TADodgerTADodger Frets: 21
    Thanks all for the thoughts and suggestions. 

    I am booked to go to the Northampton Jam next month so I need to practice and maybe focussing on the song list will be an incentive. 

    I did post primarily to see if others experience losing interest in playing guitar for relaxation (i don't gig so it is only playing for pleasure) and if so what they did about it. I probably hadn't really thought that I should sort out the stress as I figured we all get stressed, so the replies have also made me consider this.
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  • dazzajldazzajl Frets: 69
    This sounds very much like the icy fingers of depression creeping into your life. As others have said, about the first thing it robs you of is the benefit of the things that usually help. 

    Could be just the common case of loosing lots of daylight this time of year, could be more. Or both together. 

    Even if it’s not this, it’s really worth checking and eliminating the possibility. 

    And when things start to turn back the other way, which they will, your desire to spend time with the guitar wilol come back. If it’s upsetting you now though, don’t feel you need to push it. 
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  • SkippedSkipped Frets: 1901
    edited November 11
    What a thought provoking thread. Very interesting contributions from both ToneControl and dazzajl.

    I can see so clearly that a serene state of mind....perhaps several days into a holiday.......is conducive to wanting to get home to play a guitar or search for an inspiring new guitar. And that the absence of that enthusiasm might be a warning sign. In fact.....the absence of enthusiasm to go on holiday might be a warning sign.

    I have now concluded that I might be beyond awesome (forgive me) at handing out this kind of advice to other people but hopeless when self diagnosis is required. I cannot feel serene unless all of the small group of people around me are safe, warm and content. And that is not going to be the case for a while.
    I can say with certainty that alcohol is not the answer.

    Here is one practical idea. If you have an acoustic guitar around, persuade yourself that during your period of low interest, it would very sensible to maintain your calluses, and  to strum or fingerpick for a set period every day, maybe while you are watching the News or something. When your enthusiasm returns, this will surely help.

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  • RolandRoland Frets: 1300
    Skipped said:
    ... I might be beyond awesome (forgive me) at handing out this kind of advice to other people but hopeless when self diagnosis is required. 
    That happens to most sufferers.
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  • I'm in a similar place. Lots going on (12-year relationship breakup, house sale, health issues, work too). I've done more buying and selling than ever, as it's a welcome distraction,  even if not always very sensible. I find it hard to find the desire to play and when I do it's often for little time as I'm not feeling it. But, acceptance is part of it. I'm not in the right place for it but I will be again.

    There are worse things to try than the Headspace meditation app. I might not practice more but it helps with general emotional wellbeing. And counselling is always worth trying.
    My band, No Soap No Radio.

    Trading feedback info here
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  • WolfetoneWolfetone Frets: 610
    I have suffered depression and  thank God, came through the other side   intact with my family/job/interests also. I was on medication for a while but also was able to give it  up.

    My point here is  that you should be sure that what you're calling 'stress' isn't actually depression. From what you write, I would suspect that it could be. I had a similar situation thinking that my work related stress was all that was affecting me.  I found out that  the stress had led to depression which was impacting all parts of my life including my guitar playing. Go see a doctor and talk it through. There's no stigma these days and, in fact you'll be joining a very big club!

    Just hang in with the guitar playing and don't try to force issues. It will come back. Good luck brother!
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  • amarok1971amarok1971 Frets: 115
    ^^^ THIS ^^^
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  • TADodger said:
    Ok, I started typing this a load of times and then stopped, because I don't find it natural to talk about this, but strangely, I am more concerned about it as it involves playing guitar than I might be for some other parts of my life.

    I am a bit stressed at the moment, work issues, a bit of a health matter, some family stuff all seem to be leading to a lack of ability to play guitar. I mean, the desire is still there, but I sit down pick up a guitar and..........nothing; can't even focus on the simple riffs. (and even can't be a**ed to play them) 

    I 'm a home player, but I get (got) a lot of joy, and,ironically wind down, from picking up a guitar and spending time just playing. In my own way.

    That seems to have completely stopped at the moment. Anyone relate to this, or, do I need therapy?
    Hey @TADodger ;

    I posted a similar thread not long ago and I know exactly how you feel man, I want to play, pick up a guitar tired and stressed and it all goes to toss!

    I've found more enjoyment recently, partly from sharing on here, partly from accepting it is fine not to play certain gear, etc.

    What I found helped a chunk was after a few tips from @alnico , I've been going through my guitars I do play doing little setups, polishing frets, re-stringing, and getting a bit of satisfaction when it returns a guitar that feels noticeably better.

    I had a bit of fun last night actually trying to compose something sad yet Xmas'y for @TTony 's competition, as again thanks to great tips on here I'm thinking of visiting the "Making Music" section more.

    Also seriously considering doing some modding of a surplus guitar, to learn some new skills in preparation for making a partcaster.

    I guess i'm saying you have a huge broad hobby here and maybe it is OK to suck at playing sometimes, because ultimately just like me as a home player it's your thing, and it's your thing because it makes you happy.  If it isn't making you happy then just don't pick the guitar up, do something else, drool over Mary Spender videos, works for me... ;) Jokes!

    You are among friends here and I think from the responses I got and you are getting most of us have been there :)
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  • Having the opportunity to practise is a window not to overlook. If I'm not in the mood to practise but have nothing else to do, I would practise anyway.

    I play occasionally with a cover band and, although our set is different in some ways, the material is sometimes depressing to learn or practise. If I'm unable to work out my parts or whatever, what I do is dig out something to play along to that I like or want to learn. If I choose Sex Pistols, it's a way to bring back some of the excitement I had when i was able to play by ear rather than from those expensive 101 Songs for Easy Guitar those 30 years ago.
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  • I'm out of practice, and have joint pain in both hands. Downward spiral - can't play -> don't want to play -> can''t play even worse ...

    Only thing I can think of to break out of it is: Can't play? Then play until you CAN play! I've said it to other people, now I'm trying to say it to myself.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs.
    Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!
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  • TADodgerTADodger Frets: 21
    Thanks again all, any thoughts / tips gratefully received. 

    @darthed1981 - your are right, it doesn't always have to be about playing, but it is the desire to pick up and play that I want to get back. I have been thinking more about whether it could be a bit of boredom with playing the same stuff, so have decided to make an effort to specifically do something new each time I have time to play.
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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1053
    edited November 13
    As a bit of general background to some of the comments (and there have been some excellent and insightful ones) in this, and some other threads, with a similar nature:

    If there are too many negative events going on in life, then creative outlets are the first to suffer, often just when we need them most on an emotional level.  My guess would be that the brain frees itself of investment in non-survival tasks, to concentrate on "problem solving" for survival.  These processes are deeply subconscious and pretty much beyond our conscious ability to influence without significant informed effort, and even then we can only scratch the surface of control.

    This graph may go some way to explaining the relationship which seems to exist between stress and performance, and the Wikipedia link explains this further, and the fact that the levels of "stress" for peak performance, etc, varies depending on the nature of the task.



    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerkes–Dodson_law


    Best of luck to TADodger, and everyone else having "life issues".  Keep the faith, music really is good for the soul...

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  • @TADodger - you're getting lots of advice from people and I can't add anything that hasn't already been suggested. Good luck! 

    One thing that did strike a chord was you said you were sweating at night about things. If that was just a metaphor, ignore this. If, however, you're waking up in bed and your bedclothes are actually wet with sweat, then I strongly suggest you go see your GP. It might be nothing, and often is, but "night sweats" can be an indicator of something physical and should be checked out. 
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  • TADodgerTADodger Frets: 21
    @ChrisMusic - interesting thanks

    @TheBigDipper - part metaphor, but it has happened. Actually, I can actually be fairly sure that I don't have something serious physically as the health issue that I mentioned is a Retinal Vein Occlusion and because this is essentially a blood clot in the eye and there is a concern that it could happen elsewhere in the body I have had tests on tests for the past year. Unfortunately just as that is settling down I am told that the retina in the same eye has become 
    detached, so back for more tests.....
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  • ESBlondeESBlonde Frets: 1953
    Sometimes i just sit and hold a guitar while watching s#it on TV, maybe widdle along to the background tunes or just hold the guitar a while. Ten of fifteen minutes later it goes back in the case.
    The thing is guitar has been a constant in my life for nearly fifty years now and in all that time it's not cheated on me, asked for anything I'm not prepared to offer, held me to ransom, or tried to harm me. But it has given me and others a lot of pleasure and provided oportunities in life that I wouldn't have had otherwise. So sometimes just having one on my lap/knee is quite acceptable.
    Stress will come and go, remember you've got this far through life, so going onward isn't something you can't handle as you've already proven.

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1053
    ^^^ What an extraordinary and beautifully crafted post @ESBlonde , (very) well said.

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  • tampaxbootampaxboo Frets: 313
    feeling anxiety and/or guilt about not playing will just add another layer of stress onto whatever has triggered your lack of interest in playing in the first place.
    let it be ok and allowed (give yourself permission) to not play for a while if you don't feel like it, and don't dangle imagined threats over yourself either (such as if 'i give up i will never restart').
    bullying somone to do something is the surest way to kill off any desire in that person to do it.

    i take whole years off sometimes and always come back when the time is right. sometimes i move sideways within music and switch to keys or anaolgue 'abstract noise' synths. or sometimes another medium altogether (art, photography, clothes).
    maybe you have just overworked the same outlet and need to take your creativity to new ground for a while, to steepen your learning curve or find novelty to keep things fresh and interesting.

    watching music documentaries is something that often brings me back after a break. you are reminded why you got into this thing in the first place and you reconnect with that initial drive, not your recent disenchantment.

    so my prescription for you would be watch a documentary about the band that inspired you to want to start playing in the first place. ground zero. back to your roots.

    don't beat yourself up about your feelings. it's ok to not be superinterested in everything all the time. it happens.  work on your expectation management. and love yourself, don't bully yourself.
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  • m_cm_c Frets: 192
    Stress and depression can be a tough mix to deal with, and result in some very varied symptoms.

    I've come to the realisation that I do suffer from SAD. Every October I'd quite happily crawl into a corner and just spend my days eating junk, sleeping poorly, and being an even grumpier bastard than normal. Best cure I've found is exercising, and concede to having days where I do as little as possible.

    It's not been helped this year, by having a bit of stressful time in September, which lead to a good few sleepless nights, so was already feeling a bit burnt out before the darker nights started having an effect.

    All that resulted in a couple months where guitar playing was very much in the noodling category, as I just didn't have the mental capacity to handle anything new, and motivation was pretty low. The plus side was I've got my palm muting pretty much perfected on Lightening Bolt :-/
    It's only now that I've found the motivation to work on some new songs and techniques.

    As for the Retinal Occlusion, my dad's had one for over 20 years. They do like to rule out all possibilities, but for him it just turned out to be a kinked vein with the long term solution of taking an aspirin a day.
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  • TADodgerTADodger Frets: 21
    Thanks @m_c - the retinal occlusion is doing well, just bloody annoying that the constant has spotted that the retina is looking as though it is detached as this is likely to a. get worse if they do nothing and b. leave me with worse eye sight if they fix it (but at least i would have sight in that eye). 

    Your symptoms sound like mine (or mine like yours), but I haven't even felt like noodling for the last couple of months; although slightly better now and I agree about exercise and push to make an effort regularly.
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  • Unless you are a professional musician, you are in the enviable position in that it is a hobby. You DONT have to do it, you play because you choose to. if you wish to not play for a while, thats ok. You can return to it when you feel inspired to. I know i get into a rut of playing the same songs, learning songs that im not really in to for the sake of the band. but every now and then i will seek out an open mic, or a jam that ive never been to and go along for a change of scenery. Maybe , as suggested before try something a bit different, write some songs, record some stuff, jam with others.If you dont or wont sing, find a singer and do a duet.
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  • TADodgerTADodger Frets: 21
    @midlifecrisis - agreed and I am dong just that. Decided to try some jazz and started to learn what I need to record onto a mac.
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  • Getting into guitar again saved my artistic sanity. Been going though a really dry few years of no acting work, and was busting myself with two (at one point three) jobs, and had no expressive outlet. Playing guitar changed that: alright, bouts of GAS and the usual gear-sell-buy-set-up bollocks didn't help, but just plugging a nice guitar into a nice amp through some good pedals and playing has proved to be very therapeutic for me. Particularly if it's just clean with a bit of reverb and a delay.

    When you play and the stress affects your playing, what sort of stuff do you try and play? How does the stress manifest? If it's serious stress, have you tried therapy? I went for a year of therapy 10 years ago and it was incredibly helpful to me.

    Hope you can find some peace and get the help you need, mate. Mental health is so important and shouldn't be ignored.
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