When was the last time that someone asked you, “how are things?” and you answered honestly? Because I can’t tell you the last time that I did. My usual response (& everyone else’s too) – “BUSY!”
THINGS ARE BUSY, THINGS ARE GREAT, JUST REALLY BUSY, YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE!!!!!
Now cut to right now. I want you to honestly think about your answer and be truthful – “how are YOU?”
How do you FEEL right now? Tired? Overwhelmed? Happy? Content? Joyful?
I personally right now…am tired. I’m overwhelmed as I mentally compile a list of things that need to be done before our wedding next month, before a big international trip in a few weeks, and before wedding season starts. Let’s let that sink in for a second – YES, I am busy, but YES I am also truly thinking about how I’m currently feeling.
LET’S STOP GLORIFYING BUSY, SHALL WE?
I’m someone who thrives on stress. Truly. I’m a weirdo. My full time job before I started photography was as an EMT, so you KNOW that I’m very into doing my job in super stressful situations. I like to push myself (especially now that I’m an adult – I didn’t do this as much when I was younger). I like to self impose impossible deadlines to push my own personal boundaries. I like to be TOO busy. Even when I watch TV at night, I have to be doing something else as well. As I get older though, I’m starting to see the impact of my busy-ness on my mental and physical health.
Before this year, I’d never struggled with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issues. I always joked about how my “anxiety was through the roof” and never meant it until I piled so much onto myself that my anxiety was LITERALLY THROUGH THE ROOF. I wasn’t sleeping well – I would lay awake for hours each night and wake up in the middle of each night just like clockwork. I took Melatonin. I tried to go to bed earlier. I tried to limit my phone time before bed. I tried to read. Nothing worked.
One day in October as I was sitting at my desk, I had a panic attack. I’d never had one before but recognized it from the tightness in my chest and my inability to breathe. I started to sob out of nowhere and didn’t understand what was happening to me. Thinking back on it, I see now how short I was with friends and family during the fall – I felt like people were coming at me from every angle constantly asking me questions but never asking *how* I was. I started to just repeat “oh, busy, but good!” over and over like a mantra while pasting a smile on my face. I didn’t realize how stressed I was until that panic attack and when I ended up getting SO sick a few days after and remaining sick for almost the entirety of October (ya know, just one of the most jam packed months I had). That day I immediately “quieted” my social media and restricted my phone hours (social media is a DRAIN, but don’t worry we’ll talk about that too) and I almost immediately started to see a difference. I started taking mandatory breaks and tried to step away from my computer each night.
Since then, I’ve tried (so, SO hard) to maintain strategies like that to keep my stress and anxiety at bay. I get frustrated and angry with myself easily and have been attempting to give myself a little more grace than normal, but MAN IS IT HARD. One of my goals for this year is a major overhaul of my work/life balance (BALANCE is my word of the year – let’s all just laugh together, shall we?) – starting with office hours (can we just please talk about how hard it is when your office is in your house?), and walking away from emails at a certain time. Last year, when JB was at work (on 24 hr shifts), there were nights I would FORGET TO EAT DINNER because I’d just keep working until 9 or 10 pm. HOW.
Mental health is STILL a stigma even in 2019 (also, HOW), but it’s something that’s even less discussed in the creative world. People tell you all the time, “WOW it must be SO great to not have a boss and to work for yourself” – which yeah, it is great but at the same time there isn’t anyone giving me office hours, there isn’t someone stopping by my desk to say hi, there isn’t someone to sit with at lunch. We are (for the most part) alone during our work days, and that can be suffocating and sad. Before you say, “BUT YOU HAVE SUCH A FUN AND GREAT JOB!” let’s take a minute to think of all the famous creatives who we lost in 2018 – and think of how many people told them they had a great job and think of how many times they had to paste smiles on and tell people “LIFE IS GREAT, JUST BUSY!!”
So, here’s your homework.
The next time you see someone (ESPECIALLY A CREATIVE OR A BUSINESS OWNER), don’t ask them the general “how are you?” Ask them, “how are YOU feeling? Do you want to chat? Do you want to grab lunch?” Pay attention to them. Ask questions.
And if you’re a creative or a business owner, DON’T shy away from the vague answers, answer honestly. At least once a day, ask yourself, “How AM I?”
“Do I need a break?”
“Do I need to talk to someone?”
“Do I need to get out of the house?”
“Should I take a half an hour today to wash my hair instead of throwing it up in a bun and spraying it with dry shampoo for the 4th day in a row?” <Y’ALL THAT IS SELF CARE. When you can’t take the extra few minutes to WASH YOUR HAIR because you don’t have the time? – well – that’s a problem.
And then IMPLEMENT your answers. Take a break. Get up and walk around your house. Throw a load of laundry in. Make a cup of coffee. Snuggle with your baby. Play a game of fetch with your dog. Go make a snow angel. Read a magazine. Do some yoga. TAKE YOUR MIND OFF OF BUSY.
If you feel like maybe you’ve got more on your plate than you think you can handle, do NOT be ashamed. Ask for help. I’ve included some important numbers here at the bottom, but just know – asking for help isn’t weakness. It’s STRENGTH. It’s taking control of your life. It’s handling your BUSY. So, everyone – let’s take a deep breath. In & out. Don’t you feel better already?
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text “home” to 741741
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
(This post is part of a new series diving into mental health in creatives & business owners.)