It's Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK this week, which makes it timely to talk about self care in relation to a creative job.
Creatives, both freelance and full-time, can find the job demanding. Design has a grind culture which while exciting can take a toll. Burning the candle at both ends for big pitches affects people physically and emotionally - I've found myself at times working til late at night, trying to go to bed having spent 12 hours staring at a glowing rectangle, and then dreamed all night about work because I was still processing everything that I'd been working on.
And while we also develop thick skins while creating work for clients, anyone who works in a vocational sort of job such as design invests a little bit of themself into everything they do. They then have to go through a process of defending that creation, changing it to accommodate other people's opinions, and then often finding that the end result looks completely different from when they started. Of course, design isn't a solitary process and it's often the case that design improves with collaboration and insight from others, but I do still think it must take a little bit more of a toll than other work that doesn't require as much self-investment.
I suffer from anxiety which impacts a lot of what I do. People with generalised anxiety feel anxious most days and as soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another replaces it. It can be hard to remember a day where you've felt completely relaxed. For the reasons above, being creative is a leap of faith and I find I'm very scared of making mistakes or missteps - even if the risk of doing so is much lower than I think it is. I've spent sleepless nights worrying about things I did or said the day before in case they had unintended consequences.
I'm working on it. Being aware of your own issues and limitations can help you understand yourself. If I'm worried about something, I try to work out what I would say to someone else who was worried about the same thing. Would I give them advice, or just reassurance? If there's advice to follow, I try to do that. And if it's just reassurance, I try to listen to myself. Still, I can't always push past the feeling so I know to cut myself some slack. But sometimes it helps me to resolve things.
So, take care of yourself. If you can't make that evening class because you're mentally exhausted, take the evening off. Spend time outside on warm days if you can spare 10 minutes away from your desk. Don't push yourself if there's nothing left for you to give - burnout is real and more common than you think. And if you're really struggling, please talk to a loved one or a mental health professional.