A focus on mental health strategies for creatives and other influencers hasn’t always been a thing. But since our favorite pop culture icons are now willing to admit they struggle with mental health issues, we’re seeing it everywhere. And, while I’m glad this is happening, I don’t want us to remain in the habit of waiting for the culture to tell us it’s okay to get ourselves together! By the time you see them doing it, it may be too late for you. If you’re a creative who is heading for the top of your platform or already there, it’s time for you to focus on your mental health.
Proactive mental health strategies for creatives is something I’ve been a proponent of over the last few years because it landed on my doorstep, literally. In 2016 my counseling clientele took an interesting shift. I began treating an influx of what I called “undercover creatives”. Of course, I didn’t tell them that’s what I was calling them but it’s exactly what they were! There were writers, singers, bakers, stylists, and such who were struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, and unresolved trauma. Their creative gifts had been covered up by life. As we progressed through the counseling process, the gifts emerged. My clients got better the more they allowed themselves to fall in love again with why God had placed them on the earth. Those creative gifts were never meant to be buried and once they were front and center again, the healing process became a lot less painful.
While studies have shown that mental fitness or cognitive training works, more studies may need to be done on what regimens yield long-lasting results. Sometimes there’s a resistance to training and I’m not talking about the physical workouts you do with those flexy bands! Often, my clients shy away from things you think will be too difficult mentally because you’re already in a place of vulnerability. So, what we’ll focus on in this blog are tips you can use on a daily basis to build mental health strategies for yourself as a creative or an influencer.
I’ve created 13 mental health strategies for creatives as a nod to the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher that was also adapted into a Netflix series. Although this story is fictional, this has been real life for some and I don’t want to wait for it to happen to anyone else if there’s absolutely anything I can do to make a difference. You may not need all 13 of the strategies but maybe someone you know will. Use what you need and help others with the rest.
13. Be Proactive About Your Mental Health
What I’ve found in my years in the mental health field is that many of my clients wait until they are nearly one step away from losing something precious before seeking help. When I say, “be proactive about your mental health”, what I’m saying is…don’t wait until something is wrong to have a mental health checkup. Similar to getting your annual physical exam with your primary care physician each year, get a mental health lookover as well. Waiting until you have a “meltdown” will cause more damage than getting ahead of the trouble.
Meet with a professional at least once to get your baseline of functioning. Meaning, let’s take a look at what mental space you’re used to operating from. Not everyone functions and operates in or from the same space. What’s stressful for someone else may be a piece of cake for you and vice versa. But you need to know yourself well enough to recognize the initial signs of you moving away from harmony.
Although there are mixed results when it comes to the research, there have been studies looking into the mental health of creatives. Waiting for more data to come back to know that creatives must hold our mental health as high priority is unnecessary for me and I’d rather be proactive about it than reactive. I want you to learn to take the proactive approach too!
12. Respond Instead of Reacting
After saying something to someone in the heat of the moment, have you ever thought to yourself “did I really just say that out loud?” On the other side of that, have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s hurtful comment? Those word wounds are typically caused from our reactions to people hurting our feelings. We fly off in anger and speak without thinking.
Reacting is about emotion and urgency while to respond is to intellectually evaluate and reply. You want to learn to respond from intellect rather than react from emotion. A reaction is often a product of a defense mechanism. You want to get someone off your back or out of your face, so you launch a verbal assault.
Resisting the immediate retort will give you an opportunity to have a productive conversation instead of waging war with someone you care about. If your goal is to be a better communicator you must learn to respond instead of reacting. You take better care of your mental health as a creative or influencer by being able to handle critiques or criticism of your work by mastering this strategy.
11. Engage Positive Coping Strategies Regularly
We all have some sort of coping mechanism, skill, and/or strategy we engage when in crisis. What I want you to focus on are those that bring you peace and do not bring harm to you or anyone else. When you consider positive coping strategies think of behaviors that lift your mood and have long lasting, positive effects. This is needed as a mental health strategy for creatives because your mood likely shifts with your work and you want to be in charge of being able to shift your mood into the place you want it to be at any given time.
Replace your negative coping mechanisms with those that are positive. Make sure you have at least 3 positive coping strategies in your mental health tool bag at all times. This ensures that if one strategy either fails or is outside of your ability at the time you need it, you have others you can pull from. You want to be able to engage these strategies at least once per week. Your goal is three times per week. But, don’t set yourself up for failure by going for three immediately. Allow yourself to work up to that. To be clear on what I mean by positive, I want to name a few positive coping strategies I use for my own mental stability. My go-to strategies would either be reading or writing. Watching on movies over and over, and swimming are my other options. I live in the northeast, so depending on what time of year it is, swimming cannot be my first option. However, reading, writing, and watching movies to decompress or wind down are always within in my reach. Make sure you have similar choices in your arsenal. And all I mean by similar is cost effect, singular, and close by.
10. Address Past Trauma & Recognize Triggers
Where you experience triggers is also where there has been trauma. If you do not allow yourself to intentionally take the time to heal from trauma you will find yourself being triggered unnecessarily. You will always be looking over your shoulder because you’re running from something. Your past will continue to chase you if you do not resolve it.
Why is this important when it comes to mental health strategies for creatives? Think about this in terms of being stuck. If your past hurts are chasing you it often results in you experiencing depression. If you’re unsure about what’s going to happen to you in the future it often results in you experiencing anxiety.
Your past is pulling you back by your shirt collar. The fear of the future is forcing you to second guess everything you’re doing or not doing. This battle in your mind ultimately keeps you stuck. If you do not want to live in a stuck place in your life, you must address the past trauma and learn how to face your triggers head on.
9. Setting boundaries
Everybody needs boundaries. The world is completely out of hand because we do not have boundaries. Things that should be against the law are not and things that should not be against law, are. We cannot change the world with our boundaries but we can change our own lives. We can have control over what we allow in our presence and what we will not tolerate.
Of course, I understand that we live in a world that promotes tolerance. However, we’re talking about your life and not pop culture. Consider for a few moments the things that, if you had it your way, it would be different. Are those things you can implement in your life and your own culture on a personal level?
You do not set boundaries to control other people. You set boundaries to protect yourself from the behaviors of other people. I always use this ridiculous example, but it makes the point. If your friend loves backflipping in the street, you do not set a boundary to try to make them stop. Your boundary is that you do not ever walk on the streets with them because you know they life flipping in the streets. Just because they risk their lives in oncoming traffic does not mean you have to. When you see them walking toward the street you go the other way. That’s your boundary. You hope that by you setting this boundary for yourself that your friend will stop doing what they’re doing but that’s not your reason for doing it. You are only concerned about protecting your own peace. You allow them to be concerned about theirs. Change your perspective and start setting boundaries.
8. Learn Problem Solving Skills
As long as you’re alive there will always be a problem to solve. Whether it’s your problem or someone else’s makes no difference. As a matter of fact, you’re the answer to someone’s problem. When it comes to mental health strategies for creatives, I bring this up because you can solve problems with your craft. Who says all problems need a linear resolution? Some need creative solutions.
No matter how you solve a problem, it needs to be solved. Ignoring a problem will not make it go away. Pretending it’s not there or never happened can do more harm than good. Focusing on other people and their issues is simply a distraction even if and when it helps them. Learn to good problem-solving skills and you and you’ll be able to help yourself as well as others.
7. Learn How to Make Effective Decisions
If you are not making good choices and decisions for yourself then who is? When it comes to mental health strategies for creatives, the decisions you make have a huge effect on your craft. What contests you enter, what conferences you attend, what supplies or materials you purchase, all make a difference on the outcome of your project, right? You may be proficient in decision-making when it comes to your craft, but what about other areas of your life?
Honestly, as an adult, you can make any decision you want about any situation. However, you do not always get to choose the consequences that come along with that decision. Consequences can be positive or negative. Learning a proper formula or strategy to decision making can cut down on the negative outcomes you face.
6. Understand How to Shift Your Mindset
What if you were just one thought shift away from being unstuck? Do you know how to shift your mindset? I teach my clients a process that helps them move from frightened to freedom. Reframing is a necessary skill to learn for times of crisis. There are times when the only reason you’re stuck is because of the way you’re thinking about a certain situation. Shifting will move you!
I find that there are times when I’m unable to shift because I haven’t acknowledged what’s keeping me stuck. Maybe it’s because I don’t really know what it is. That’s when coaching comes in. Sometimes it takes the voice of someone asking you a question or repeating back to you what you’re saying for you to see it or hear it. If you know you need a mindset shift in any area, don’t wait. Figure out where you need to shift now and get your mindset shift freebie!
5.Build Self-esteem, Self-worth, Self-confidence
When it comes to mental health strategies for creatives, this one might be at the top of the list for many. Knowing who you are and being confidence in it is imperative for you. Creatives are constantly subjected to criticism, critique, and rejection simply because of who you are and what you do. Presenting yourself and/or your work to people can be difficult for anyone. But, creatives do not have a choice unless you’re not using your gifts to make money. If you want to be paid you have to show up.
Your self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence are of utmost importance. If not, you’re in danger of becoming a chameleon and only creating to please others and not using your God-given gifts to bring joy to the world. Sure, you have to please the people you may be creating specifically for. But, beyond that, you must have the internal fortitude to show up with your own unique style as often as you’re able. Know that’s it’s okay to pat yourself on the back and be your own cheering section because you love what you created even if it appears that no one else cares.
4.Balance Your soul, Body, & Spirit
At any given time we can be out of alignment in mind, body, and/or spirit. Learn to treat all three of these parts of yourself like a tripod. If any one of the three goes out of commission, you are left unstable. You are a whole person and need to think of yourself as such. As it pertains to mental health strategies for creatives you can see how all three would be important even if you haven’t recognized it before.
Consider your mind as a part of your soul. You create from your soul. It’s where your ideas come from. So, if your mind is out of alignment, your imagination may not be functioning the way you need it to be in order to create your best work.
If your body is in pain or down for the count, you may not be able to create at all. Beware of doing things to your body that would keep you from doing what you do best. Take care of your physical health because when you don’t feel well in your body, it has an effect on everything else in your life.
We’ll a bit more about your spiritual in a bit, but what I want to say here is that you are a spirit being. That part of you is sensitive to happening that you may not be consciously aware of. Do not ignore things that you would call a hunch, intuition, “something told me”, a gut feeling, something you can’t quit put your finger on. That is your spirit communicating with you.
3.Improve Your Verbal Communication Skills
Text messaging, social media, DM’s, and email lists will not help you with this. Verbal communication is not as extent as we make it appear to be. If you want to have an authentic relationship with someone, you are eventually going to have to speak to them using your voice. While it’s perfectly fine to write someone a note to tell them you love them…sometimes people just need to hear it.
You have already experienced a miscommunication or two with someone you care about through a message that was nonverbal. They thought you were angry when you weren’t. You thought they were talking about tomorrow Wednesday when they meant next week Wednesday.
People mostly want to be loved, validated, heard, and respected. One of the best ways to show all those things is through listening. You cannot listen to someone who isn’t talking. If you’re reading what someone is saying, you’re not listening. You’re reading. Trust me, it’s not the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with communicating through messaging, but don’t let that be the reason you’re unable to have an in-person, intelligible conversation with someone.
2.Set Goals & Find Accountability
I have several clients who believe that goal setting is not as important as I make it out to be. The thought is that if something is supposed to happen, it just will. While that concept is still intriguing to me, it is also one I always encourage my clients to shift away from. If you do not set goals, you cannot be disappointed if you don’t get where you want to go.
I have another blog post that I talk more in depth about goal setting, so in this post, I want to focus more on finding accountability to help you stay on target with your goals. If you really want to get something done, do not try to do it all on your own. Sure, there are plenty of tasks you an accomplish by yourself, but when it comes to your major dreams and goals, share those with someone. It will hold you accountable if someone is asking about your progress.
This is where you have to decide if you really want it or if you only want to hope or wish for it. If you never write anything down or tell anyone about it, then it doesn’t exist. One of the best ways not to meet your goals is to not have any proof that you ever had a goal you were trying to meet.
1.Strengthen Your Faith
Where is your faith? What or who do you anchor yourself in when times get tough? You may say you’re not a person of faith, but you have faith in something. Maybe it’s in yourself. If that’s the case, that’s a great deal of pressure. As a matter of fact, it’s more pressure than you’re designed to handle.
Your core belief system is what grounds you. It’s where your faith lies. Whatever you believe about this world, or your life is your core belief. If you’re not anchored in something greater than yourself, you’re essentially unanchored. When considering mental health strategies for creatives, being grounded will lessen some of the struggles with depression and anxiety that some of us experience.
If you’re a person of faith, then anchor yourself in your faith. Understand the foundation of it and stay grounded no matter what happens around you. If you’re a follower of Christ, like me, then your anchor is in the gospel of Jesus. Everything you create may not have a direct link to your faith, but the more entrenched in it you are, the more it will be evidenced in your work. There is no shame in that!
Final Thoughts On Mental Health Strategies for Creatives
What you can expect see from me are more mental health blogs for creatives. Having mental health strategies in any profession is important. For creatives, it’s imperative. The studies are being done but the results are mixed when it comes to creatives and mental health. At the least, creatives struggle with mental illness and diagnoses at about the same rates as others. At worst, some creative groups might be a bit more prone to certain disorders.
No matter what past, present, or future findings report, we want to get proactive about our mental health. The 13 mental health strategies for creatives I’ve outlined in this blog will help you get on the road to doing just that! If you need additional resources, check out Psychology Today. If you’re in crisis you can dial or text 988 at any time, nationwide.