ypically, if we get physically sick there are options for us. Coworkers sympathize and say things like “you should be at home” or they wish you well and for a speedy recovery. When we are sick, we get to play the sick role that our society has defined. You are no longer expected to work at full capacity, and it is understood that you may even need some time off. Usually, it is easy to play the sick role, you have symptoms that others can see and hear, and you clearly are just not yourself. But why are mental health issues not taken as seriously? There doesn’t seem to be the same sick role available to those suffering from mental health issues, and support systems are still flimsy and unreliable - not to mention the cultural stigma still hovering around.
When your career revolves being around a creative problem solver, there's no time to take a break without adding to the stress that already exists because of your own self frustration with block or burnout.
This isn't something I publicly declare to anyone except a few close friends, but even then, it's a confession that I rarely say out loud. But since the whole point of this blog is to be authentic, let me build up some courage to type this out. I have a diagnosed minor condition of depression and anxiety. I go to therapy every other week, sometimes every third week if I'm traveling or just feeling really great about life, but I try not to go any longer than three weeks no matter how happy I feel. This condition has been something I've dealt with since my teenage years, but has genuinely improved into a less serious case since I've grown older. When my creative burnout strikes, my mental health takes a large toll. It's very rare that this happens vice versa since creativity fuels my life purpose, thus thrives in all levels of mentality. On the days I fight through it and create something I’m really proud of, I want to show everyone. On the days I create something when I’m having a bad day or am feeling especially anxious or depressed, I hide it in a folder on my computer or give up with my idea halfway to starting a project. It’s a vicious cycle. Even with this blog post, I was ready to toss it until this topic won the majority vote on a Twitter poll I posted. It was then that I knew I had to talk about it.
So what steps do I take to soften the blow when creative block or burnout happens?
• Wake up 15-20 minutes earlier than the alarm you set to make sure you have enough time to get ready for your day. I know you're probably thinking, "how can getting less sleep help my mind?" It isn't the amount of sleep lost, it's taking advantage of that valuable time where your brain is fresh from rest to create. Ignore checking your phone, emails, and social media for this time and write, draw, or read instead. Your brain will automatically be set for a creatively stimulated day.• Eat healthy. This sounds so cliche, but it's true. I have a recipe for an acai bowl that is the ultimate brain fueler. Not only will healthy foods be good for your body and energy levels, you'll feel better than if you stopped at McDonalds for a quick breakfast.• Get out of your normal routine. Take a slightly different route to work and soak in a different atmosphere. If you stop for coffee, try going to a new spot or a different Starbucks location. You never know what you may run into that sparks unexpected inspiration.• CREATE, CREATE, CREATE, & BE HONEST. Even if the work is bad - get it out of your system. If you have writer’s block, write that down. Write down how crappy it feels to be in this position. No one has to know your wrote it, no one has to see it. It’s for your eyes only. The simple act of making and creating does wonders, helps us perfect our craft and ultimately, we can’t create anything good if we aren’t creating anything terrible to begin with.
Start with being more aware of your own behaviors, identify when you are in a slump and learn from those moments. If you believe you are symptomatic with a mental health issue, then take action. Keeping it to yourself is a bad idea, this can only compound the effects of the mental health issue and open yourself to other medical issues, not to mention how it affects your life, in and out of work. Most importantly, don’t shut yourself off. Mental health issues often encourage us to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world and hide in a dark corner. Don’t fall into this trap, despite how difficult it may be.
Creating when your brain is a hot mess is hard. But when you push through it, amazing things happen and beauty is created. Whether it’s a sketch, a painting, a design, or a poem, creating something is so worth it. It’s worth the sweat and the tears. By putting something beautiful into the world, the world is that much brighter and more colorful. I think we can all agree that we kind of need that beauty right now.
You are not alone in your struggles. Be open and honest so that your support system has the opportunity to understand and adapt. The symptoms of mental health may are often invisible, but communicating with others is a powerful way to bring them into your side of understanding.
Lastly, I believe in you. Yes, you reading this post. Whatever you're struggling with today or whatever comes your way, you got this!
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