3 Strategies to Prioritize Your Mental Health as a Creative Professional

Woman meditating and keeping her peace and chaos happens around her illustrated by Lo Harris
Illustration by Lo Harris. See more of my work here.

People of any profession can face mental health challenges at some point in their career. But as artists and creatives, we grapple with unique pressures that can pose an even bigger threat to our mental health. 

Unique Mental Health Challenges Artists Can Face

Our job opportunities can be inconsistent and unpredictable and therefore so is our income. We often deal with self-doubt and imposter syndrome on a deeper, more intense level because our work – which we often feel is a reflection of us as a person – is constantly critiqued. We often work alone which can foster feelings of isolation. And facing a creative block can feel like the end of the world and even cause us to question our self-worth. 

In other words, when you’re a professional creative it’s very easy for your work to send you spiraling down to the land of dark and twisty. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

How to Prioritize Your Mental Health

Here are 3 tips to help you set intentions, create space and prioritize your mental health as a creative professional.

1. Establish a balanced routine. 

This one is for all of my freelancers out there! When you feel like you have a lot to do, it's super easy to get sucked into working hours upon hours at night or even on the weekends. But this is a fast track to burnout. 

Instead, designate work hours and off hours and stick to the plan. I cannot emphasize to you enough the importance of planning your week. And when you’re planning, be sure to schedule in some time for self-care. 

You should also choose to focus on certain parts of your creative business on certain days. For example, Monday could be your day to handle administrative tasks. Tuesday could be your day for brand building and social media. 

Being an artist is so many different roles. So it is important that you learn how to compartmentalize and strategize your time accordingly.

By establishing boundaries around which days of the week correlate with which parts of your business you'd like to focus on, you allow yourself the freedom to focus on your priorities for the day and  the peace of mind to step away from your work on off-hours.

2. Unplug from social media. 

I know it's easier said than done since, as artists and creatives, so much of our business comes from networking with others online. But you need to give yourself a break. I set timers for TikTok and for Instagram on my phone. Once I go over my limit (which is usually one or two hours) my screen turns gray and I must log off. 

If the weather is nice, use that time away from your screen to go outside. Spending time in nature is linked to a host of mental health benefits including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even an increase in empathy and cooperation. So put down your phone and go for a walk in your neighborhood or at a local city park. 

If you can’t go outside, find some way to move your body indoors. Hit the gym or find some fitness dance instruction videos on YouTube and get moving at home. In fact, research shows that exercise can reduce the risk of major depression. 

Make time to hang out with other artists too. Having someone to talk to who understands what it’s like to be a professional creative can make a world of difference. 

You can also try journaling to process your feelings. (I personally like recording voice notes!) Sometimes getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper or a recording can help ease your anxiety. 

3. Find a therapist.

Journaling, exercise, and hanging out with friends can all help boost your mood but if you’re dealing with serious mental health issues, you need to see a therapist. If possible, try to find one who has experience working with freelancers and creatives. As an artist I find that some of my problems might not be relatable to my friends with more traditional jobs. Seek out a therapist who can tackle industry specific challenges with you such as work-life balance, feast or famine mentality, and relationships with money. 

What do you do to prioritize your mental health?

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lo harris poses with her choice illustration markers

Lo Harris is an NYC-based artist, educator and children’s book illustrator who champions vibrance, confidence and joy.

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In an effort to make life as an artist more accessible and approachable for all, I’ll be sharing tips, tricks and resources to help you thrive while navigating a career as an artist, designer, or freelance creative. If you like what I do, consider making a donation to help support me in sharing with my creative community.
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