Needle Drop

DJ Nick Stracener on how music and working out can help combat depression

This post is part of a series of Queerty conversations with models, trainers, dancers, and, well, people who inspire us to stay in shape–or just sit on the couch ogling them instead.

Name: Nick Stracener, 29

Occupation: Professional DJ and Flight attendant

What city are you based out of? Dallas, TX

What is your favorite gym for working out? LA Fitness. I like being able to be surrounded by a lot of people when I’m working out. It’s inspiring.

Do you have a favorite exercise playlist? I listen to a lot of circuit music. There’s a DJ named Enrico Meloni; I play a lot of his mixes, and Roberto Ferrari. They both have hour-long tracks, so I don’t have to change my music during my workout.

What’s the best food to eat prior to a workout? For me, a handful of nuts like pistachios or almonds. Something light.

What’s the best outfit for working out? I like show off my arms, so a tank top. Then shorts down to my knees, usually dry-fit like Nike. I also wear long, black, dry fit socks. I have some heel problems, so I need my feet to be comfortable.

How do you balance staying in shape and having fun? If someone invites me to a restaurant [I ask] to choose a healthier option. I also eat in moderation.

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Who’s ready to get back on the dance floor? ???

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What’s a basic, if useful, work out tip you can offer? Don’t expect immediate results. Hang in there. Stick with it. Stay disciplined. Discipline will take you further than motivation.

What is it about DJ-ing that you find so satisfying? Sometimes I get nervous and can’t express myself with words. DJ-ing I can express myself emotionally through the lyrics from the songs I choose. I feel like I can tell a story. I love to see people smiling on the dance floor, especially if it’s a mix a put together myself. Honestly, it’s just to make people happy.

Everyone wants to be a party DJ these days. For you, how does a DJ arrive prepared? You double-check all your equipment and your flash drive. Emotionally, if I’m about to go to a gig, I have to get myself in the “zone.” I stay in my hotel room, take a hot shower, listen to soothing music. I have to be 100% focused. Sometimes you get a drama text from a friend; I ignore those. I deal with it later. Meditation has also been very helpful.

Related: Trainer Ian Armstrong on why you should take an edible before a workout

You’re someone that’s been very open about his battles with depression and mental illness. For you, how did they manifest?

I describe myself as an empath; it means I feel emotions a lot stronger than most people, be it negative or positive. I also take on the other emotions of people I’m around. To describe depression—whenever you’re sad or upset about something, it’s hard to get out of your head. We dwell on it. We let it affect our eating, sleeping, working out…our friendships and relationships.

How does depression interfere in your preparedness for everyday life?

Sometimes I’m not able to go to my flight attendant job. I do have FMLA [the Family Medical Leave Act] for my depression, so I can call out when I’m depressed or anxious. I can’t operate the door a of an airplane safely in my mental state. I’ve had to call in a whole month for depression before. I’m working on different ways to cope with that.

What kind of treatment did you seek?

I go to a therapist every one or two weeks. I also take an hour of “me” time every day. I make sure I get things done early in the morning. When I’m depressed or anxious, I do things to process my emotions. I work on music, my creative outlet. That allows me to express how I feel in a healthy way.

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When you are browsing through images on Instagram, just remember that real life is in your heart. Your smile. Your family. Your surroundings. Pictures online will make you believe that you are not enough. Like you need to do something more. Be more exciting, be more physically beautiful, be bigger/smaller than you are. A net of fleeting fantasy. You are real. You are beautiful. You are enough. Go be in the world and stop comparing yourself to the world’s selfies and photoshoots. ????? ? -Stop checking to see who has viewed your story? ? -Stop deleting post because they don’t have “enough” likes? ? -Stop talking, listen? ? -Stop feeling embarrassed about things that make you feel happy? ? -Stop thinking loving yourself means you’re stuck up? ? -Stop comparing yourself to him/her, you’re beautiful? ? -Stop dwelling on the past about what could have been? ? -Stop reading old text messages? ? -Stop trying to be someone you’re not? ? -Stop trying to impress others? ? -Stop believing that social media acceptance determines your self worth? ? -Stop hating your skin? ? -Stop refreshing your notifications? ? -Stop putting your all into people only to be let down? ? -Stop being ashamed of the type of music you like? ? -Stop feeling bad about your body? ? -Stop limiting yourself? ? We all can be capable of doing these things without even realizing it sometimes. But it’s important to be aware of it. Love you guys and happy Wednesday. ??? ? Thank you @jay_fuertez for another wonderful edit from my past shoot ?

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There is a stigma surrounding depression and mental illness. In your experience, why are people so unprepared to discuss it?

I think no one understands it. People are afraid to say the wrong thing. I think if people read up a little bit and were more informed about it, it would change. People are misinformed. We’re taught to have shame about or mental illness rather than reach out for help. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to say “I’m not ok.” I’ve learned that often times, when we reach out to people for help, we do it as friends. Friends may not have the capacity to help. In those cases, it’s important to self-soothe. For me, music production is a creative outlet. It’s a way to be productive and have change in my own mind.

How does staying in good physical shape combat mental illness?

If I feel I look good, it makes me happier somehow. I suffer from body dysmorphia, and under COVID-19 I gained a few pounds, which can also worsen depression. It’s very hard for me to work out if I’m depressed about something, so I try to go to the gym in the morning before any sh*t can happen. I can feel the endorphins coming out after I work out.

What do you keep on your nightstand?

I keep a bottle of diet sweet tea, a night light, chap-stick a Vicks inhaler, and my headphones.

Bonus Pics:

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Just got the awful news. 8,099 of us flight attendants are officially involuntary furloughed including myself at the worlds biggest airline. ??? ? ? Throughout this 7 years of being able to travel the world I’ve learned so much about myself and met so many amazing people. I’ve learned a lot about other cultures and it’s turned me into a very open minded person. I wouldn’t even have made it out of East Texas to Dallas if it weren’t for this job. ? ? Maybe this is a sign from a higher power that me choosing to pursue music and dj’ing is the right choice. ??? ? ? I will miss all of you who I’ve met on the job, and I hope one day that we all get to fly the sky’s again if that’s what’s best for us. Only time will tell. I’m going to leave some pictures of some of my best memories on layovers and my favorite people that I’ve got to meet either through this job or with my flight benefits. ? ? ?? SCROLL LEFT ??

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For the past 6.5 years I have had the privilege to work for the world’s largest airline as a flight attendant. Throughout those 6.5 years I’ve had so many wonderful memories, met so many amazing people, and I even developed some significant relationships. I am incredibly blessed, and I will not deny that. I am hanging up my wings for the time being. I am of course keeping my options open and on the lookout for any career or job opportunities that may come my way, but one of my most significant passions lies in music and my creative outlet. I am taking this period of leave as an opportunity to hone my craft and further myself in my musical journey. Going forward after next month I will be focusing on my music, producing, and expressing myself through creativity which I’ve always found as the best medicine for depression and anxiety. Here’s to looking ahead to brighter days to come in which I can take flight again in more ways than one. ??? ? ? To everyone out there who is experiencing this expedience of change at such an alarming rate, please know that you are not alone. Life is scary, but we are all in it together. ??

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Life advice:? ? Always be the best person you can be. Be kind even when you’re tired. Be understanding even when you’re angry. Do more than you’re asked, and don’t ask for anything in return. Don’t silently expect anything either. Listen when someone talks, and really listen too, stop just thinking about how you’ll reply. Tell people that you love them and that you appreciate them. Go out of your way to do things for people. Be the greatest person you can possibly be and when you mess up , make up for it in the next moment or minute or day. One thing you should never do? Never spend your time trying to prove to anybody that you’re great, your actions will speak for themselves and we only have limited time on this earth, don’t waste it. If someone doesn’t see your light, don’t worry. Like moths, good people are attracted to flame and to light, and they will come. ??

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? My goal for 2020 is to fall back in love with myself, with life, with the world again, and to be a warrior! ????You guys, the holidays are here and that means depression can get worse for those of us that suffer with depression already like myself.? ? Below I’ve made a list of reasons why depression can be so hard during the holiday season:? ? 1. We are overstimulated with social situations? ? ??2. It’s harder to engage in distractions? ? ??3. Suppressed emotions surface now that you aren’t working??? ? 4. Increased awareness of our own suffering because we aren’t able to experience the joy others feel? ? 5. Our lonliness increases as we suffer inside while others are full of joy and we don’t want to bring the mood down or be a burden so we hide our suffering? ? ??6. Lastly we reflect on what happened during the year and we ultimately feel like something is missing? ? ?The more we understand each other the more we can empathize. ?? ?

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