In stressful times, anxiety can put a strain on your creative drive. Try these tips for reigniting your creativity and supporting your mental health during times of isolation.

Artists in creative industries discuss mental health and anxiety frequently, particularly freelancers. Dealing with isolation and independence is something that artists have had to grapple with long before countries stressed the importance of self-isolation and social distancing to manage the COVID-19 outbreak.

Anyone who’s ever been self-employed, or been in charge of some aspect of a self-started business, will be familiar with the anxiety and insecurity of freelance and contract work. In one study in the UK, nearly 50% of all freelancers surveyed found their work environment “lonely” and “isolating.” In this article, we explore a few techniques and insights to support the mental health of the creative community during times of stress.

Coping with Crisis: Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Mental Health — Freelancers Found Work Environment Lonely and Isolating
At home work environments can feel lonely and isolating. Image by GoodStudio.

All across the world, there are a plethora of people working from home and self-isolating, sometimes in complete solitude. The solitary nature of freelance work is now something that many of us are facing, and the strains of that work can have a detrimental effect on your mental health.

The fact is, staying productive and motivated can be a huge challenge when you are faced with a crisis. A pandemic is a very stressful event for both individuals and communities. It’s normal to feel some stress and anxiety, and that stress can be amplified by your work or home environment while you’re social distancing from others.

Coping with Crisis: Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Mental Health —Practicing Social Distancing and Self-Isolation
The world is practicing social distancing and self-isolation. Image by ivector.

How creativity supports mental health

The average person has over 50,000 thoughts in a single day. Participating in a creative act can help focus the mind and let go of the stress and anxiety of external circumstances. The link between creativity and mental health has been studied profusely. Creativity has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, and also helps process trauma and crisis. Another study states that “artistic self-expression can contribute to maintenance or reconstruction of a positive identity.”

As individuals in the creative industry, we can use some of the tools we typically use in our work to help support our personal mental health and stay positive in the midst of this pandemic.

Coping with Crisis: Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Mental Health — How Creativity Supports Mental Health
Creativity has the power to support your personal mental health. Image by mspoint.

Accepting what you can and can’t control

When planned creative projects cancel due to crisis, it is difficult not to take it to heart. Within a short period of time, many freelance creatives experienced a restriction on the work they can create. Travel bloggers can no longer travel. Portrait photographers can no longer capture images of people. Artists can no longer seek inspiration from galleries and artistic events.

It can be difficult not to think of the negativity of it all, but there are always positives worth exploring. When sudden change occurs, we all need to take a step back to process how we feel. But after that step? It’s time to think about what’s ahead and what we can control as creative thinkers.

Coping with Crisis: Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Mental Health — Processing Isolation and Depression
Processing how you feel is important to supporting your mental health. Image by GoodStudio.

Those tasks you’ve never been able to tackle? Now might be the time

Every day is going to be different, and some days you just simply will not have the drive to do anything.

That’s okay.

We need to remember that it’s okay not to be okay all the time. But when you do have some time, think of the long-awaited projects you’ve wanted to explore. Maybe it’s finally time to start that YouTube channel you’ve put off. Or maybe you can simply catch up on your business administration and organize for the future.

Coping with Crisis: Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Mental Health — Get Around to Those Tasks You've Been Meaning to Tackle
Knocking off the productivity list. Image by GoodStudio.

Here are a few different ideas for creatives to tackle from home to stay inspired.

Creative projects ideas from home

  • Create a dream project: Zoom with your fellow creatives, and band together to plan a dream project you’ve always wanted to accomplish. Not only will this provide you with some much-needed social time, it may lead to a new exploration of your creativity you would have otherwise never discovered.
  • Read the books you’ve always wanted to read: We all have inspiring creatives that we’ve always wanted to know more about, but never had the time (Mine? Georgia O’Keefe). Now’s the time. Take a moment to learn about creatives who inspire you. You may find that their struggles have similarities to your own.
  • Write a script: Videographers, this ones for you. Have you always wanted to create your own story, your own movie? Now’s the time to start storyboarding. Write out that incredible story you’ve had burning in the back of your mind, and think about how you can start to produce it and make it a reality.
  • Learn a new skill: Is there an editing software you’ve always wanted to explore? A photographic technique you’ve wanted to master? Or do you have new tools you want to use in your art? Educate yourself through online resources and tutorials to learn how you can start mastering these skills and apply them to your work. Skillshare is a great place to start.
Coping with Crisis: Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Mental Health — Learn a New Skill
Spend time thinking creatively to boost mental health. Image by Walnut Bird.

Nurturing personal creativity for your mental health 

Creativity doesn’t mean just focusing on what you do for work. Nurturing your personal creativity is just as important as your professional creativity, and it’s something we rarely have time for. Your creativity does not always need to be funneled into how you make money.

Remember when you were a kid, and what truly gave you joy? What started you on your creative journey? Maybe it was a cooking class in school, where you first learned about your love for food. Or that feeling when the first flower you planted began to sprout. Something as simple as gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural antidepressant.

Coping with Crisis: Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Mental Health — Nurturing Personal Creativity for Your Mental Health
Nurture whatever sparks your creativity. Image by Marish.

Here are a few personal experiences that might spark your creative juices and support your mental health while you’re at home.

Personal creativity ideas to support mental health

  • Plant a flower: Do you have one window in your house that gets sunlight? Plant a small flower or herb and watch it grow. Horticulture is a great way to release your inner nurturer and helps boost self-esteem and moods, as well. 
  • Paint a picture: This is for the illustrators and artists out there. Remember the joy you had when you were a kid, and you painted just simply to paint? Create a fun challenge and paint a portrait of your loved ones, or of a subject in your home you’ve wanted to capture. Art therapy has proven benefits for improving mental health.
  • Start a journal: Jotting down your thoughts and feelings can be an excellent way to process your emotions. It can even help you prioritize problems and come up with solutions by tracking your feelings day-to-day to better recognize triggers. Journaling also provides a great resource for positive self-talk, and can help your understanding of the world around you. Your journal can be creative or literal. It’s up to you to decide how you want to journal your personal perspective.
  • Try therapeutic photography: Photographer Bryce Evans started The One Project to support his own mental health journey. Therapeutic photography involves taking, analyzing, and using photos for the purpose of personal healing, growth, or understanding, whether consciously or unconsciously. The One Project has a community of photographers who share their stories through creative writing and photography to help their mental health journey. 
Coping with Crisis: Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Mental Health — Personal Creativity to Support Mental Health
Experiment with art therapy and therapeutic photography. Image by GoodStudio.

The most important thing to remember is that your mental health comes first. Reach out to your support community, share kindness amongst fellow creatives, and take things slow. You accomplish more in a single day than you think.

Whether it’s as simple as choosing to wake up in the morning and read a book, or starting a new project you’ve long put off, every action that you take is something worth celebrating. Little things have the power to support our mental health and nurture our minds more than you think. Support your friends and colleagues in the creative industry, and remember that we’re all in this together.


Featured illustration by Jess Rodrigues.

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