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Yonaka's Theresa Jarvis: How I manage my anxiety

Anxiety can be all consuming. It can leave you feeling incapable of doing anything, paralysed by the fear of what you wholeheartedly believe will happen. That's why I've always been curious to know how performers and musicians who struggle with their mental health, anxiety specifically, overcome these intense feelings and emotions when they have a show to put on. I've always presumed they must hold some really valuable advice for those of us who struggle to 'perform' in our own daily lives.

That's why I am really grateful that Theresa agreed to be interviewed. Theresa is the lead singer of English Rock band, Yonaka, who also happen to be one of my favourite bands on this earth. Their raw and empowering lyrics have comforted and reassured me on many an occasion and I hugely admire them for endlessly shining a light on what it really means to navigate mental health issues. If you love a female-fronted rock band as much as I do, you HAVE to give them a listen. You're welcome in advance.

Keep reading to find out more about Theresa's own struggles with her mental health and how she manages them, and what her advice she give to others who are experiencing something similar.

 A picture of English rock band Yonaka featuring lead singer Theresa Jarvis (female far right) wearing red PVC bodysuit, PVC gloves and red fishnet tights with hands to mouth as though gasping. Male guitarist George Edwards can be seen in the middle wearing a black turtle neck and cream trousers with a black belt. Bassist Alex Crosby can be seen far left, with his head rested against George,wearing a white tshirt, orange satin open short sleeve shirt and black trousers.
Photo credit: Brian Ziff

When did you first notice you might need some support for your mental health?

I first experienced a real problem with my mental health when I was around 24/25. I had a panic attack and it completely threw me and I haven't been the same since. I didn't have any idea what was happening at first and it took me a while to understand that I was experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. I went to the doctors first and then about one year later I saw a therapist.

How do you manage your mental health, especially your anxiety, as a performer?

I do a few things to manage my mental health: I meditate; I exercise; I journal; I spend time in nature; I don't drink as much anymore; I don't do drugs anymore. I also read everyday to help understand what I'm feeling and ways to get better by reading about other people's experiences. I once saw a holistic therapist which was helpful, although I'm not currently working with a therapist now. They're the main things I do. I won't do all of them everyday but it's an insight into the stuff that has been helping me.

Lead vocalist Theresa Jarvis wearing a sequin white jacket with different sized black dot detail, also in sequin, and a black spike choker.
Photo credit: Ian Coulson

A lot of your songs reference your own experiences of struggling with your mental health. Have you always been open to talking about your struggles or is this something you've been more open to discussing over time?

I think I've always been open about talking about it in my music for as long as I've suffered with it. It's such a strange thing mental health because it's invisible and sometimes when i would try and talk and explain how I was feeling, it would sound a bit crazy. But I just kept trying to articulate the feelings and because it was/is such a big part of my life, it was all I could really write about.

One thing I love about Yonaka is how honest and empowering your music is. Your lyrics make me feel seen as someone who has struggled with their mental health and give me the strength to keep going. Is that your intention when writing your songs?

I love that! Knowing that my music helps other people is a massive win for me. To know that you're not alone is a really big deal when you're struggling with your mental health and it helped me a lot to know that other people were going through the same/similar things. It brought me lots of comfort. I got that a lot through reading so my way to give it back is to write about it.

Lead vpcalist, Theresa Jarvis, performing live. Her hand is outstretched to the audience as she sings.
Photo credit: Mantas Daleckis

What has really helped you manage your mental health?

Talking about it, understanding myself and working out life changes that maybe needed to happen anyway. I've found a way to work through it. I worked with a holistic therapist and that really helped me a lot before. I also tried CBT but it didn't help me, it just didn't work for me. But the holistic therapist I had really helped me see things clearer and gave me the skills/techniques to work my way through. They just have a different way of approaching the issue and it worked great for me. I also feel like the people you surround yourself with are crucial to your wellbeing, so I'm more careful with that now a days.

I know you love to read. What are some of the best books that have helped you manage or improve your mental health?

Some of the best books I've read to improve my mental health are:

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you were struggling most?

I would give myself love. I was really mean to myself for years when this was going on at it's peak and it's not nice. You need to be sensitive and loving as if you were talking to yourself as a little girl and how you wouldn't be mean to her if you saw her. I would ask myself to be more kind and gentle with myself.

Follow Theresa on Instagram and stream their latest single, By The Time You're Reading This, now on Spotify or Apple Music.

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