Step away from mental illness through creativity
“I feel crazy” or “I’m going crazy” tend to be some of the most common statements we use when we want to explain how we are feeling. Whether it's stress-related, feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated or stretched too thin.
Mental health has been ignored and minimized for years. Only now its importance is finally being recognized with awareness campaigns like “Are you ok?”. Conversations encouraging everyday self-care routines and working to understand where they stem from and how to manage them. The list of mental health disorders is long. Sometimes the distance that separates us from some of the things on that list is a lot smaller than we (used to) imagine. However that doesn’t mean we now always know how to recognize them or how to deal with them. The spectrum is vast, sometimes confusing and yes, overwhelming.
Let’s take Attention-Deficit for example, more and more adults are being diagnosed with ADHD than ever before. Because maybe as a kid, it wasn’t properly recognized. You were just thought to be hyper or to have difficulties concentrating. Now as an adult, how many times have you been caught up “multitasking”. Caught between answering emails, your phone going off and scrolling socials? Sometimes I lose focus to the point that I’m staring at a cat video completely forgetting what I set out to do 5 minutes ago. My focus, completely gone.
In an age where we are sometimes measured by what we do, our productivity, our progress, losing focus can be a daunting a downward spiral if you’re already teetering on the edge of a bad mental health day. For a creative with a busy mind, maintaining focus can be that much more difficult. Leaning into the things that inspire, excite and cultivate a sense of "being in the present", can lead you towards a calmer path.
When I need a break, I can easily spend an hour lost in the endless imagery of Pinterest. The cityscapes, creative shoots and bright stunning aesthetics that light up parts of my brain. It reminds me that we can find inspiration in every day & the creatives that surround us. It gives me a mini-break, a moment to restart so I can dive into the next task with a clearer mind and a happier spirit.
We tend to be always "on". The constant ding of a new notification or the glaring red number reminding me of a new email can sometimes feel like the last drop in an already overflowing cup. We grew up with screens becoming more and more a daily essential, and it has left us all desperate for an escape. This can be difficult in a time where print might not be dead but its nearing extinction and Digital is reigning king, we live our lives online at a dizzying speed. Most times we really do forget to tune into the present moment IRL.
I try to take 10 minutes every morning to drink my coffee on the balcony. It lets me breathe, slows me down for a minute and it gives me time to look around the city I love. Time to take a deep breath and soak in the fresh air, it reminds me that I am alive and that feels amazing.
There are times when I will turn my phone off throw it in my bag and set out to explore parts of Lisbon that I hadn’t noticed while I was rushing to the studio or quickly replying to that text. While I am busy taking in the architecture that photograph so well and thinking about the intricate details that make me want to create my own masterpiece on film or canvas I forget, for a fleeting moment that my phone exists at all.
But let’s not forget the standstill, the concrete wall of jerks, depression, and anxiety. Not mutually exclusive, but often frenemies that go hand in hand. Crippling, mean, hard to get away from. Made worse by productivity blocks, lack of sleep and negative thoughts.
There's a reason that the Buzzfeed article “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation” went viral. We are at our limits, exhausted, standing unsteadily and sometimes almost paralyzed by our own mental health and the scary reality is that the only way out is through it.
But when we shift focus and do things like setting a routine or logging off and spending time dedicated to your creative outlet. Whatever that might be, an hour a day spent drawing over binge-watching Netflix can significantly positively alter your mood. Allowing yourself to experiment and learn, to dream, to create. The stroke of a brush, the click of the lens, the touch of a new fabric, can lead to new ideas brewing and with it, a sense of purpose. A way to step out of your own bubble and push forward. The power of creativity it strong, healing, it can help you through those tough days.
Because even on your darkest days, there’s still a little fire glowing inside. One that you can build into something that warms every inch of your soul and allows you to grow, breathe, dance, walk, and dream. After all, we are still a generation of doers, dreamers, and believers. We just have to remember to be kinder to ourselves, make time for the things we love and just take one step at a time.