#HangInThereDesigners: Mental Health Struggles in the Creative Industry
Recently, we’ve started using the hashtag #HangInThereDesigners for uplifting posts dedicated to the creators and distributors of the media, marketing, and creative design industry. However, this hashtag means more to us than a way to receive audience interactions or shares on social media.
#HangInThereDesigners stems from our belief that mental health should be an open discussion in the workplace. Although being a part of the creative design industry is rewarding, we know first-hand how the never-ending cycle of anxiety from criticism, a high-pressure work environment, and self-doubt can affect employee wellness and work abilities. Even the sprinkle of social issues (*cough* thanks COVID *cough*) can make any creator want to flip their desk and turn off their phones for a week. In other words, WE GET IT!
We could provide you with extensive research and statistics (all of the data we collected over days of endless Google searches) about the link between mental health and creativity, but we decided that reading about relatable experiences is much more home-hitting. We had the opportunity to chat with three professional designers of different ages and career experiences to discuss their viewpoints on balancing personal and employee wellness with their work.
Anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, and burnout are a few daily struggles creators can encounter. Although the creative industry consists of communication experts, we (as in those same experts) sometimes don’t find comfort in discussing mental health with others, especially in the workplace.
So as an act of stepping out of the norm, we asked these amazing designers if they could share their struggles with our 12-Point readers.
Kevin: “One of the biggest struggles at work for me is probably less around mental health, but more around maintaining good communication and connection to co-workers and establishing a routine. I definitely miss all of my co-workers and the company culture in the office. NewGround is very much all about the people, and we all work to promote an inclusive/collaborative environment. Moving to a remote work situation has posed some challenges around that overall since everything is virtual.”
Dawn: “My previous job took a huge toll on my mental health. From my fear of COVID-19, racial tension, my personal values, and being the only black woman on my team with no one to ‘talk to’, my mental state was – and still is at times – a lot to handle. Currently, as the owner of a new business, the things I struggle with have more to do with me getting in my own way. As a creative, it takes constant inspiration, fire, and drive to keep creating or designing. The goal is to not only begin a project but to finish it. A normal schedule for me is to start my day as early as possible, write out my to-do list, exercise, nourish my body, tackle those tasks, make a few phone calls, and be present on my social media platform. Sounds simple right? Well, this is a big struggle for me. I have days where I am not motivated enough to even open my laptop or I forget to eat because I’ve dedicated my entire day to working with a client. Let’s not forget the days when I stay up until 4 a.m because I accidentally got distracted on social media. In other words, I’m mentally drained and not the perfect, head-strong designer. However, I have to remind myself of how good of a job I’m doing because my best foot forward is what matters the most. “
It’s been six months since the pandemic became surreal for business owners and employees. Some businesses were forced to close which meant a lot of people lost their jobs, while other businesses – that were fortunate enough to keep their doors open- created new policies that allowed employees to work from home. Although those same ‘still open’ businesses have allowed employees to come back to work, these designers are still working remotely like many others. We asked them if they were facing any mental challenges due to their new at-home workspace.
Chris: “I’m an introvert by nature, and I like focusing and working independently. Therefore, working remotely hasn’t been as difficult for me as it might be for some, but I definitely miss the daily interaction with coworkers. Things are really tough right now with COVID and other issues in the news, so I try to limit news intake while still being aware of what’s going on.”
Kevin: “… I definitely miss the energy of going into the office. Being in a creative field, I also find a lot of inspiration and influence from just being out in the world. Ideas come about from even a morning commute that could easily end up influencing a project. Just small details in the physical environment really help build upon ideas. One way I have coped with this is getting out of the house in a safe manner and walk different directions around my neighborhood or go out of my way to see new areas of the city. It’s not an ideal time, but we can definitely find ways to make the best of it.”
Dawn: “I think that we all face pros and cons when it comes to working from home. The pro is there’s no place like it! The con is it’s home! There’s something about being able to leave for the day and being able to interact with customers and co-workers. I often miss it, but I have also been able to make a home of my space so I can appreciate this situation even more. Mentally, I do not struggle as much being at home as opposed to an office. Although concentration does not come easy, it is way more satisfying and safe.”
Coping with mental health comes in different forms from seeking counseling to finding a new relaxing hobby. Our guests were kind enough to share their positive coping mechanisms to get through the long and stressful days.
Chris: “I listen to a lot of podcasts to help stay focused on work. I also practice on controlling what I can control.”
Dawn: “A way that I cope with these struggles is by giving myself permission to slow down – giving myself grace. That can look like going for a drive to get away from my computer screen, grabbing my favorite meal, or just taking the day off to gather my thoughts and pay attention to myself. After all, it is more important to be connected to myself as opposed to my work.
Kevin: “The best way I’ve found to cope with struggles related to working remotely is to maintain a sense of routine. Even if it’s something simple like making coffee at a certain time every morning or getting out of the house, it all builds towards a positive outcome for my own daily drive. Additionally, keeping in touch with co-workers and maintaining a good line of communication has made the work from home setup much more positive overall.”
Any advice for 12-Point readers who may be experiencing the same struggles as you are or know of someone who may, but they aren’t sure how to help?
Kevin: “One thing I’ve found to be beneficial is to connect with co-workers in other ways like through instant messaging, virtual happy hours, or just a quick call to catch up. Additionally, I’ve found a lot of positivity in reaching out to other friends who are in the same situation, even if they are in different fields of work. Keeping up with them socially or meeting up here or there to work together (social distancing of course) has made a big difference.”
Chris: “It’s important to stay connected with family and friends, through text, calls, or zoom. I’ve made an effort to reach out more and keep in touch. We are all going through difficulties and everyone needs support right now.”
Dawn: “Give yourself grace. You deserve it. At the end of the day, you want to be happy with what you did or did not complete. We all can list the things that went wrong with the day, but if you did not check off giving yourself praise, your day is not complete. For those who are working from home and are struggling with a schedule, like me, and are getting in your own way, keep pushing! This is new for us all.”
Mental health isn’t an easy topic to discuss. Our quick chat with Chris, Kevin, and Dawn is only a small single layer of what mental health is for some. The complexity and severity of it can be scary and deadly, and smiling your way through it isn’t healthy. Likewise, in a joined effort within our industry, we have to stop romanticizing the ideal of the ‘tortured artist’ because pain shouldn’t be the driving force to generate our creativity. Most of us chose this field because creativity was our therapy.
For that reason, we encourage companies and peers within our field to take incentive in being open-minded and supportive of those who have mental conditions. It doesn’t take a substantial change in the company’s handbook or your social behavior to make a difference in how we speak out about such a sensitive topic. Asking a simple question like, “Are you okay?”, can go a long way! Also, asking a friend to listen isn’t a bad idea either!
We want to thank those like Chris, Kevin, and Dawn for using their platform and voice on the matter. We also applaud organizations like Mentally Healthy for taking action and conducting research to enhance our industry’s capacity to cope with and improve our levels of mental health.
So to make a long article short, remember to hang in there designers! The road to balancing mental health and keeping up with our demanding environment isn’t a walk through the park. There are going to be bumps, scratches, headaches, computer crashes, and loud huffs & puffs along the way. However, there’s always space and a place to breathe and take care of no one else, but you!
If you or someone you know are in a crisis and not sure about what to do, don’t be afraid to reach out to these listed professionals who can provide you with the help you need. Their services are always free!
- Tennessee Statewide Crisis Phone Line: 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471).
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255