For The Early Words: Mental Health Through The Arts, we asked three creative professionals to explore their mental health practices. This is what they had to say.
From 1-10 how important is a self-care routine for a creative professional?
Idealistically I would say 10, realistically I would say it often gets pushed down. When you are working in a very scattershot way for a lot of different “bosses” but only one boss who is deeply affected by your wellbeing (yourself), it is very easy to ignore self-care and blaze toward burnout. Rather than beating yourself up about not doing it enough, I think less judgemental effort towards moderating work/play is the key. And having understanding/ caring bosses (do they exist?).
I’d rate it 7/10. You can still be a creative professional without one, but having a self-care routine provides some safety, structure and (ideally) support to make it through when times are tough, which, unfortunately, can happen often in the arts.
10 for the self-care part but 5 for the routine part. I’m not fond of rigid structures when it comes to self-care because I often slip into the “oh no! more things to tick off” mentality, and the commitment turns into a source of stress (lol hello anxiety). The most important part to me is taking mindful checks, making sure my body, headspace, and heart space are alright at any given time. If it’s not, asking what might help realign that, what’s helped in the past, what might prevent the same issue from happening in the future, and doing them as soon as possible.
As creative professionals, most of us adore what we do, so it’s easy to accidentally (or sometimes forcefully) push ourselves in the name of art or love or love of art. But as our work is our source of income, joy and-or meaning, we need to make sure we can keep doing it long-term. That can’t happen without putting ourselves first.
Do you think self-care is as important as community-care?
In an increasingly neoliberal, individualistic world we put too much emphasis on looking after ourselves, being our best selves, working hard to better ourselves, so much self self self self, it’s exhausting. Such conditions are bound to make us feel isolated and shitty. Community care is just as important for creating lives we truly want to live. I currently work with ArtLife, an arts program for people with perceived disabilities, at Footscray Community Arts Centre. Such programs help to provide a shared and welcoming space for people who can often feel isolated. I always feel at home there.
I think so. Not everyone has access to community-care for various reasons, so being able to do some small acts of self-care (from being kind to yourself after making a mistake, to cooking a meal when you normally don’t have the energy or going for a short walk when you’re feeling stressed) can make a huge difference. Self-care alongside community-care would be the ideal, but until community-care is better developed and readily available, self-care will remain very important.
Definitely. When we understand our mental landscape and how to cope with it in various situations, we can help others who struggle with the same issues. The more people who are educated about themselves, the more space we can give to others who can’t go on day-to-day without feeling disabled by their mental illness. Although mental health isn’t an Olympics race and in an ideal world, all of us would get financially, culturally accessible care… at the moment, the space for community care hubs are limited. Whilst working to increase the quantity and qualities of these places, the ones available should be prioritised for people with challenging cases.
Name the one time you were kindest to yourself.
The times in my life when I have been the kindest to myself are when I give myself permission not be okay, and to ask for help. It’s really fucking hard to do that but people often step up in unexpected ways and really lend a hand. I always try to return the favour when I’m well.
Rather than one specific time, the times that I am kindest to myself are when I look after myself and put my needs first when every bit of my brain is telling me to do the opposite and look after others.
Not sure if my definition of ‘kind’ is skewed, but I am a tough love kind of girl, so I’ll share my three-day grieving rule. I’d recently broken up with a close friend-turned partner and the double loss was, to say the least, difficult. After the mutual and amicable separation, I gave myself full permission to hurt fully and deeply for the next three days. I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted (or not eat), cry however many times a day, wallow intensely, watch anything I wanted, not see anyone, or only see people I wanted to see. When I woke up on the fourth day, it was as if my body, mind, and heart knew mourning time was over. I was okay. I was relieved, compassionate, grateful, and even happy for both of us and the relationship itself. Even though emotions or memories sometimes resurfaced, the grunt of it has been processed and released in those three days. I would never impose this rule on anyone, it does sound intense, but it hasn’t failed me yet. And I think hurting effectively is an act of kindness for past, present, and future me.
The Early Words: Mental Health Through The Arts is now booked out. More tickets may be released in the days before the event, make sure to check EWF social media to stay up to date