Creating During the Pandemic Mental Health & A New Normal

pictured :Shaquille Payne aka A.O.R

We’re  now more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Most of us have struggled at some point or another with our mental, physical and financial health but artists especially are struggling as entertainment venues, festivals and concerts don’t seem to be returning any time soon.

“I really miss performing,” said Zahyia Rolle, a musician whose “bluesy” R&B has captured residents across generations. She was in the middle of a series of shows, but had to pause indefinitely. Now more than a year later and she says embracing this new normal is a constant journey. “It’s  not easy but you have to create – especially if you’re an artist because you’re used to that expression. Maybe it just looks differently now.”

Zahyia Rolle

For   Rolle, she went from performing live to dropping a solo-video for her new song Foul SoulChild. In the song, she’s open about mental and emotional health, even shaving her head on camera, a haircut she’s still rocking months later. And the video has amassed  more than 40K views. 

“It was important to me to be open about all of this. We need to talk about this if we’re ever going to heal,” she added. “I would love for festivals to come back and venues to open but we’re not there yet.” 

 “Being   an artist during the pandemic was like a roller coaster ride,” said Shaquille Payne or A.O.R, a poet who has performed all over the state and parts of America. “In the beginning you are going up the first hill and thinking, ‘oh this will probably blow over soon’…[but] after the first month, I started noticing my financial situation was different due to not doing any gigs. It was then I hit the first drop: less money coupled with the [time] spent in quarantine. My mental health took a plummet.” 

Data  shows that most Americans felt a mental and emotional “slump,” particularly in the first part of the pandemic when fear was high but vaccines and store/restaurant openings were still far away. Payne,  like Rolle, found an escape in his music even if it was hard at first to make the adjustment. 

Experts   say what Payne and Rolle may be referring to is “flow” or being in the zone. It’s when you’re so immersed in what you’re doing that your body and other intelligences take over, giving your brain a much needed rest. 

This  isn’t exactly the same as driving on auto-pilot. Adam Grant for the New York Times [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html]  in a viral piece about “languishing” during the pandemic wrote: 

“People  who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their pre-pandemic happiness. An early-morning word game catapults me into flow.

A late-night Netflix binge sometimes does the trick too — it transports you into a story where you feel attached to the characters and concerned for their welfare.” 

Ultimately  the pandemic has been tough on all of us, emotionally and financially and yet art like music, movies and TV have gotten a lot of us through. While many of the creators of this art say they’re struggling, they also say it was a necessary struggle: 

“It   was through writing…and recording the songs that I was able to find my sanity,” said Payne.