Sometimes, being creative is a double-edged sword. Your artistic pursuits inspire and motivate you, but the fast-paced, high-stress world of the creative professions wears on you. Unfortunately for many artistic professionals, this leads to battles with depression, addiction, and other mental illness. But pursuing your passions doesn’t have to mean being a tortured artist. Here’s how you can manage the pressure without sacrificing success.
According to a study of drug abuse across ten different industries, 12.4 percent of people who work in the arts and entertainment use drugs, a rate surpassed only by food service and construction workers. Another showed that entertainment industry workers are 10 times more likely to have anxiety, five times more likely to be depressed, and more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide. Many artists are self-employed, and entrepreneurs experience higher rates of stress and anxiety than employed workers.
Why do creative professions leave people so stressed out? While creative pursuits can actually promote mental well-being, many professionals experience a great deal of pressure in their day-to-day life. Whether it’s a self-employed artist wondering whether his most recent investment will pay the bills or an industry employee struggling to innovate in the face of strict deadlines, this is a career of pushing hard and taking risks.
There’s little evidence to confirm a direct link between creativity and mental illness, but the high stress nature of creative professions can trigger issues like depression, anxiety, and mental illness for those who work in the field. But, in a way, that may be good news. It means that creatives can overcome their illness without losing their talent, and a challenging work environment is much simpler to overcome than an innate personality trait.
When you’re overextended, stressed out, and on the verge of burning out, follow these tips to help you manage:
- Step back. When you’re mired in work, it’s hard to see the big picture. Walk away from your project for a little while to clear your mind. Go outside for fresh air or practice mindfulness exercises in your office to center yourself.
- When you have tons to do and don’t know where to begin, making a to-do list will help you find the path forward. Identify everything you need to get done and break each project into discrete steps. Rate each project by importance and urgency, and then sequence the steps for each project to find your starting point.
- Cut things out. Sometimes there’s simply too much to accomplish and not enough time. In that case, it’s time to cut out work. You can either do that by rescheduling the least important, least urgent project, or by outsourcing parts of your to-do list.
More important than managing acute stress is avoiding it in the first place. Stop taking on more than you can handle at work. While learning how to say no isn’t easy, it enables you to create higher-quality work for the projects you do accept, so you’re still advancing your career. If you’re self-employed, limit how many high-dollar projects you take on at once, and learn to disconnect at the end of the day, even if you work from home.
If you work solo, attend local networking events to connect with other creative professionals in your area. You’ll not only build a resource network for big projects, but you’ll also make social connections that can evolve into supportive friendships.
Make your health a priority. Instead of living on caffeine before a big deadline, recognize that you produce your best work when you’re rested and fueled with good nutrition. Burn off stress with a run, spin class, or yoga session instead of letting drug or alcohol abuse enter your life.
When you work in a creative profession, being overextended can seem like business as usual. But the truth is, stress stifles creativity and makes it harder to advance your career. When you find ways to keep stress and its related mental illnesses at bay, you’ll be amazed at how much your work grows.
Image via Unsplash