The older I get, the more I understand how mental health affects physical health, relationships, careers, and life in general. I used to think I could get by on junk food, caffeine, minimal sleep, and negative self-talk compounded by toxic relationships. Well, at the confusing age of 27, I now know that’s not enough.
It’s time we creatives stop glorifying exhausting late nights for the sake of our art. Screw that! Sleep is beautiful and necessary for our cognitive functions.
It’s time to drink more than coffee and eat real food not out of a vending machine, coffee shop, or ready-made freezer section.
Our mental health, our lives, and our art depend on it.
Today, I want to share 3 reasons creatives need to embrace mental health. Then I’ll share 3 ways we can do so.
Reason 1: When you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others – including fictional characters!
In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others.
On the airplane of life, if the cabin door flies open, sucking oxygen away from you and your family, you need to put on your own oxygen mask. Before you can help your husband, children, best friend, second cousin, neighbor, or anyone else, you first need to save yourself.
On the surface level, this seems very selfish. But my children! But your children, et al, need you and they need you conscious. That’s why it’s so important to put on your air mask first. If your best friend passes out while you’re placing air masks on yourself and family, you can place an air mask on her next and her body will take over, breathing in the air, without her needing to ask it to.
But my characters!
But my work!
But my dreams!
None of these things can fulfill themselves. (Okay, maybe your coworker can help you with some of your work for a while….) They all require your time, your energy, and your knowledge. They require you, so take care of yourself.
Reason 2: In the creative space, we owe it to our readers to be healthy.
Creatives get a bad rap for addiction and unhealthy lifestyles – alcoholism, drugs, sleep disorders… But our readers deserve a better narrative from our lives. No matter what we write or create, we can show our readers and art viewers that life is both good and bad, but completely beautiful.
Our readers need a good example of how to do it themselves, especially if they’re in a dark place. So share your stories of how you got out. Share the good and the bad, but always with hope. We want our stories to save, yes, but sometimes those stories are our personal stories.
Reason 3: You matter.
Your struggles matter. You are worthy of health and happiness.
Even if you don’t believe me right now, can you try for like two seconds? I believe you were created for an amazing purpose that only you can fill. Whether that’s sharing your story or something else or more, you are worth it. Your stories are worth it. It’s all worth it. You deserve life. You deserve to live.
“Turn your demons into art, your shadow into a friend, your fear into fuel, your failures into teachers, your weaknesses into reasons to keep fighting. Don’t waste your pain. Recycle your heart.”
Are you struggling? Do you know someone who is? Whether you do or don’t, taking care of your mental health is still valid and vital. Here are 3 ways that will help provide you a firm basis for mental health, even when mental illness is not a factor. After all, we all deserve to be mentally healthy.
Way 1: See a therapist.
If you are struggling right now, see a therapist or counselor. Even if you don’t think your struggles are valid. Even if it seems super expensive. Even if you’re scared. They can help you go through the pain and struggle.
Do you know why seeing a therapist is so helpful? Because we have to go through the hard stuff. We can’t skip it. We can’t fast-forward through it. We need to go through it. And sometimes we can’t go through hard things with our friends and family. But we definitely should not go through them alone. So finding a therapist or counselor who listens to you and offers you proactive steps through the hard stuff will help you grow through the hard stuff, not just barely survive it.
If seeing a therapist or counselor is too expensive, check out these more affordable options.
I also suggest trying a meditation app. My favorite, which offers many meditations for free, is called Stop, Breathe & Think. On top of that, I suggest checking out these images, which would be good screensavers.
Way 2: Exercise & eat real food.
I know that when you’re going through hard things, exercising and cooking is hard. I get it. Some days I want to lay on the couch with a large pizza and just lay there until I go back to bed. But that would literally be the worst thing for me on my really bad days, just as it’s the worst thing for you, too, on your bad days. So try. Try to exercise, even if it’s just a 5-minute walk outside. Try to eat real food, even if it’s a terrible smoothie with questionable vegetables and fruits thrown in because actual cooking sounds exhausting.
All you can do is try. And if you do order that pizza, don’t be hard on yourself. Enjoy that greasy goodness and keep moving forward.
Way 3: Take time off.
This might be the hardest and simplest thing to do when you’re struggling. With something like depression, all you may want to do is nothing, but nothing just makes you sink lower. So instead of doing nothing, take time off. Take time off work, off social media, off doing the dishes. Take time off a responsibility that is wearing you down. That responsibility may be really good and fulfilling most of the time, but right now it’s not helping. So ask your boss for a day or two off. Ask your spouse or roommate to do the dishes and cook a few extra meals this week. Ignore the laundry or lawn for a day or two; they will get done in time. Right now, you deserve to rest.
You deserve to veg on the couch or go for a walk. You deserve to read a book or sit in a coffee shop people watching. You deserve to reach out to a friend for some girl/guy time. (I highly suggest friend time! Just make sure you choose friends that fill you up, not wear you down.) You are taking care of you. Do something that fuels your soul.
“Nobody can save you but yourself, and you’re worth saving. It’s a war not easily won, but if anything is worth winning then this is it.”
I hope these reasons and ways have reached you today. If there’s anything I want you to receive from this long blog post, it’s this:
You are not alone.
There are people in this world who love you. Even if you don’t feel lovable and fear that you let everyone down, you are loved. No matter how far you think you’ve gone, you can always come back. You’re just one step away. It’s a painful, arduous step, but it’s only one step. Your friends, family, and loved ones want you to come back. You don’t have to believe it right now, but I hope you will.
“None of your scars make you less worthy or lovable.”
For my own mental health, I am taking a hiatus from QuestType. I love this blog and sharing my creative life with all of you, but I need this break. I’m not sure how long I need, but please follow me on Twitter while I figure it out.