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How To Manage Your DJ Career And Hormones As A Female DJ

Updated: Feb 29

As a DJ, singer, and producer, diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) in 2012, two years after having my second child, the last decade has been challenging.


Just when my music performance career was reviving after a pregnancy-induced change in pace to music production only, my PMDD was so bad that one month, I almost lost my mind.


It’s not easy when your hormones mess with your health and wellness.


If you have also suffered with PMDD, you'll know all too well that the symptoms of PMDD can impact your performance as a DJ.


From bone-tiredness to a shattered confidence, near-psychosis, and nausea, I found that the monthly symptoms of my PMDD were seriously impacting my career and happiness.


Nowadays, I’m in peri-menopause which is a whole other kettle of fish—but that’s another article for another day!


When I look back over the last ten years, I’ve no idea how I got through it, but I did. 


I’ve raised two wonderful kids with my amazing husband, and stoked my creative fire with hundreds of DJ sets — playing at festivals, weddings, and parties.


I’ve promoted my own events, spent time on my songwriting and production craft, and in 2020 released my debut album. It has been amazing. And tiring. 



How To Manage Hormonal Shifts As A Female DJ

So what can you do when every month you’re hit with a truck of symptoms that impact you, your creative endeavours and your DJ career?

 

If you’re struggling with your menstrual cycle and hormonal shifts along with trying to balance your music career, here are some top tips for female musicians which helped me, and that I hope can help you too.



1. Seek Support And A Likeminded Community

Find people who get you and your cycle—remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Seek out professional support but also seek out friends who 'get it'.


I found solace in a Facebook group full of others who also suffered with PMDD and the people in that community helped me through my experience, and I helped to support them through theirs.


Not feeling alone through the power of community is a potent tool to help during any type of adversity.



2. Track Your Menstrual Cycle

If you track your cycle, you'll quickly start to feel more in tune with your body. And when you know your cycle and body better, you can aim to book your gigs around your symptoms and menstrual cycle.


I use a menstruation tracking app called Flo, which has both free and paid membership options. It allows me to track my cycle and symptoms, and is my first port of call before accepting a booking.


I look at where I will be in my cycle, and if I’m too close to a period, or on day one of my bleed, I turn it down. Unless it is an unmissable opportunity, in which case, I bend this rule and deploy some of the techniques below to power through. 


If possible, make the world work around you and your cycle, not the other way round. 


I know this can be tricky. In reality, some of my biggest shows have actually happened when I've been about to bleed. And some of these experiences have been both painful and powerful.


As an independent musician, tracking your cycle can help to build harmony between your work flow and your menstrual flow because you can start noting down symptoms, recurring cycles, and your needs at different times of the month.



3. Be Realistic And Assess Your Booking Schedule

This was the killer for me. I WANTED to gig three or four times a week. I loved it. But in reality, gigging too much in the run-in to my period (the luteal phase), and while I was bleeding, caused me to burn out — over and over.


You have to find balance in your bookings and ensure that your gigging schedule works in tandem with your hormones, menstrual cycle, and menstrual symptoms.


For a while, I adapted, and aimed to take more gigs which fell in my follicular phase and fewer when I was bleeding or in the luteal phase of my cycle.


I realised I felt better when I worked this way, and more in harmony with my body.


Start noting down your symptoms, and check if they have any recurring patterns. Then you'll know how best to adapt your schedule to your needs.


You might find that your symptoms are strong or your energy is low at certain times of your cycle such as during your menstrual bleed, follicular phase, or your luteal phase.



4. Be Curious And Open-Minded

Consciously make the effort to learn about your body whilst being curious and open-minded about solutions.


Get to know yourself and your body, and try different remedies and possible solutions.


There are a thousand solutions to dealing with hormonal issues, and different solutions work for different bodies.


Explore each option, remedy or treatment for at least 6 months at a time, because you need to allow time to track them, to note any changes, and to give them an opportunity to work. If after 6 months you feel like the remedy isn't working—you can switch treatments and try something new.


I have tried many things to “fix my hormones”. To cut a long story short, I have had to do this with 'natural' options', which is not easy. It takes time to explore your options and find something that works for you.



5. Learn More About Your Body

You might think that because you're an adult—that you know your body.


But the truth is, the female body is complex, and not only that it changes within different 'seasons' of life.


Your body and hormones are vastly different before you start your period and when you reach menarche (your first menstrual bleed), they're also different during pregnancy, postpartum and during the menopause.


Be open minded about continually learning about your body, and how you can work with it.


There are loads of brilliant books that can help you to learn more about how your body, hormones, and menstrual cycle works.


Read them to deepen your understanding of your cycle and learn how to work with your body and your cycle, rather than against it.


Learning in depth about my cycle saved my life. And believe me, the world needs more women in touch with their cycles.

 

Some of my favourite books are 'Wild Power' by Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer and Alexandra Pope, Woman Code by Alisa Vitti and Period Power by  Maisie Hill.



6. Prepare Appropriately For Your Gig

This goes without saying before any gig, but you'll need to prepare well.


In particular, you'll want to counter your hormonal symptoms, for example if you experience pre-menstrual brain fog or menstrual exhaustion.


Make sure that you are fully prepared and have rehearsed and give yourself plenty of time to work around your menstruation cycle and your hormones so that performance day goes as smoothly as possible.


With some good preparation, you'll find being in your 'DJ work flow' much, much easier, which means the toll on your body and mind is also reduced.


Good preparation also helps you to deal with any unexpected situations or symptoms with less stress and more ease.



7. Take Care Of Your Holistic Health And Wellness

This means, sleeping well, eating nutritious food, exercising appropriately and practising mindfulness or meditation techniques.


Whilst taking care of your wellbeing sounds simple, it's not always easy, especially with a packed schedule, unusual work hours, and hormones to contend with.


Over the years, I have learnt that good sleep is the key to it all (for me). A sleep deficit will likely leave you feeling exhausted, and can affect your focus, mood, and energy levels.


If you can’t sleep, for whatever reason, then try using guided sleep meditations or white noise playlists—I find them really helpful!


There are hundreds of free meditations for sleep, anxiety, performance, a positive mindset and anything you could wish for on YouTube, and a number of sleep-inducing white noise playlists.



8. Plan Ahead, Don't Rush And Honour Your Needs (And Boundaries)

On the day, it's important to give yourself the time and space you need before you perform. This also means that you need to prepare your schedule well so that you're not constantly rushing around at the last minute and unnecessarily stressing yourself out.


I remember a taxing journey to Southern Italy from the UK. Out on the red-eye, I had been booked on a cheap flight, involving multiple changes, so my journey was eleven hours.


When I arrived, I was whisked to the venue for press interviews, then invited to hang on the beach with the promoter and friends.


Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful, and they were all lovely, but I was exhausted and needed some downtime to decompress.


I ended up with about an hour to get ready at my hotel, then back out to dinner, before my set from midnight to 3am. And then my flight home was at 10am the following morning.


Needless to say, I came home exhausted, and it was a tale that would repeat itself during the many years that I worked as an international DJ.


Now I know that I need to respect my boundaries, and build in time to my schedule for rest and solitude.


Whether you need to have half an hour on your own before you perform, or a disco nap in the afternoon, be bold in asserting your need for rest, and do this early in the booking process. When you’re booking the gig, check out the schedule and be sure that there’s time for rest built in.


I know this can be hard when you’re with your mates, promoters, or encountering the people who love your music—but it's really important to put your needs first.


As a people pleaser, I have always put others before myself, but have realised the only person this harms is myself. So be brave and don’t make the same mistakes I did. 



9. Centre Yourself Before Your Performance

Taking 10 to 15 minutes to yourself to centre yourself before your performance is a really important ritual that can help you make you need grounded, calm, and focused.


When you’re at your gig, see if you can find a quiet spot for yourself—I’ve been known to take this in my car (or tent) at festivals!


Use this time to do a short meditation, take some deep breaths, do a little bit of yoga, or whatever else resonate to help you centre yourself pre-performance.


I usually reverse engineer this from when I need to be on stage. For example, work out your stage time and call time, then factor in some 'me time' and before that some 'band/fellow performer' or socialising time.



10. Prepare With Nutritious Food And Drinks

On the day, amp up your nutrition and stay hydrated. 


In my experience, it pays to be prepared with good food!


I’ve encountered way too many gigs, where you’re offered a bag of crisps and a shite sandwich.


Use food riders and request what you need, or take your own so you’re never caught short feeling depleted.


When it comes to drink, make sure you’ve had plenty of water to drink earlier in the day so that you're hydrated but not needing the toilet every 10 minutes whilst you're on stage.


Also, a little reminder that alcohol doesn't constitute as hydration—I have some wild tales involving tequila and being kicked out of DJ booths... needless to say boozing doesn’t necessarily boost your performance in a positive way, so try to stay sober and functional.

 

I hope these tips help, and let me know if there are any more that you'd add to the list!

Sophie x

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