The spectrum that mental health lives on is vast and many of us are still ignorant to what a lot of people go through. It may sound like a broken record, but it’s time to step it up. You can’t rely on struggling friends and family to tell you when something’s wrong, it’s hard enough trying to reach out in the first place – that added burden is just not needed. In creative industries the pressure and competitiveness of work together with feelings of self-comparison; work never being good enough, and not being validated by your industry can lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout. With the nature of social media, demanding schedules, and low pay its easy to get lost amongst all of the noise – and it can feel as if there’s no end in sight.
Whether in music, fashion, advertising, or the art world; creatives can feel society undervalues their work. Extreme stress is placed on creatives to produce projects swiftly and to a high standard, all at the expense of losing a part of themselves in the process. Exploitation in the creative sector is a major source of stress and a reason many talented individuals don’t succeed. When you’re a creative you face the sensation of being on edge, you exhaust yourself with made-up scenarios, and you tend to overthink and overanalyse anything and everything. Creative industries glamorise the busy factor, so much so that you lose sight of how overworked and underpaid you may actually be.
Herein lies the question; are creative industries contributing to mental health issues, or are those more vulnerable to mental illnesses drawn to creative career paths? The reality of your everyday social media scroll (as a creative) means your feed is flooded with peers and strangers who appear to be creating more work, going to more events/networking, and posting more than you thought humanly possible. In the 21st century personalities, awards, and political beliefs are what’s being judged – we no longer let the work speak for itself. All of this combined can make us begrudge and fear our own careers. Every new opportunity or new client seems too good to be true, we judge ourselves harshly and only compare ourselves to others in a negative light.
I bet you’ve heard the story of the starving artist pursing their passion and struggling to make ends meet… Of course you have. Being a creative genius is such a cliché that it feels wrong for creatives to admit that the work they slave over is distressing, all these negative emotions just so they can say they’ve made it. In law or banking, employees put up with less than desirable working conditions for the prospect of an easy life in the future – but that’s not so straightforward in creative sectors. Many creative professionals at the beginning of their careers feel more disposable than ever, largely due to the fact that there are so many ready and willing to take their place. And if you’re a freelance creative, it can get worse. Mental health issues are heightened due to irregular work schedules, frequent isolation, and the financial strain that comes hand-in-hand with job stability. Burnout culture, high functioning anxiety, and depression are just a few mental health issues creatives face. Long hours met with low pay, the need to produce more in a saturated landscape, and slashed budgets all contribute to these issues. And when your form of self-care is to do something creative, but doing something creative makes you feel like a failure – you just can’t win.
To my friends in the trenches who may be suffering, just know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. When you work in a creative industry the line between your professional and personal life can become blurred, so set boundaries and be mindful about situations that trigger unwanted feelings. Choose to love and nurture yourself first and foremost, and when things feel like they’re becoming unmanageable don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s okay to make mistakes, to have an off day, to do what’s best for you. Treat failures as an opportunity to learn and grow, and trust your instincts. We’re always investing in tools we need to do our jobs, but the most important tool that we need to invest in is our minds. Our minds are a muscle, and they work overtime. We produce ideas and torture them, we put them under pressure, and more often than not we neglect them. As a creative we all want to create that jaw-dropping end result, that wow moment. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey and the process of creating, they’re the moments when we truly thrive.
Written by J’Nae Phillips
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