Why we all need to look after our Mental Health
Stage Weight was conceived during a moment of flightless abandon. I had been running so much – trying to fly and I burnt out, project after project in a never ending cycle of juggling jobs and ideas and what people expected and wanted.
Having a solid understanding of what its like to freelance as an artist on top of mental health awareness and facilitation skills as a Dramatherapist, I knew I wanted to discover how to give a bolster up to the flightless or ground the over reaching. I started to think what would I want when I was creating work? What helped me?
Arts practitioners have a tough time:
• We work project to project, long hours, intense periods of connection with other practitioners… and then its all gone, just like that.
• At the end of projects we crawl home, as if in a delicious dazed dream full of all the wonders of creation….then when we wake the next day the dawn of realisation that we have to start it all over again or as is often the case in freelancing….nothing…
• We are taught that if we really want this job we have to work hard as there are plenty of other people that will take our place if we don’t (and yes we are taught that there is only one place at the arts table vacant at any time….)
• We are taught that the industry is full of flamboyant delicate flowers and we can decide we don’t want to be one of them and become STRONG or we feel like our mental health IS our art…..
• We take job after job sometimes traveling up the imaginary ladder, sometimes skipping across to another ladder and every so often we meet a snake and feel like we have ended right back at the start.
But it’s ok right because we love what we do….so much it is almost impossible to turn off, there is always another gallery opening that we need to attend, another poetry event, theatre opening night….and our faces need to be seen right?
So how do we cope?
Well we can’t can we? Just look at the above, so much to do, so much to cram in to life, there are a only so many hours in the day.
Often we tell ourselves that our art is our self care, that it is our down time……and that would be true if, like the people that we facilitate in the Arts4Health workshops, it was done from a place of leisure and experimentation, a tool to place our very souls into and explore who we are. But Arts Council funding bids need a little more than that. We rarely get commission where art is for arts sake these days, resulting in art rarely being a cathartic experience for those working within the industry.
How do we self care in this environment?
• Intense bursts of energy on a bike/walking around a park
• Tea breaks lots of tea breaks
• Red Wine
• 10 mins of mindfulness every day (Every day??) well once a week…
• Talking to colleagues who feel the same and feeling less alone.
How do you know what works for you?
The above is my plan – created after years of experimenting with how to care for my own wellbeing. Noticing and reading the signs when things become overwhelming. But when do we give ourselves time to stop…..settled down into a comfy chair and think, “ahhhhh, this is what I need right now”.
How can we ensure that when we are running at 10,000 miles an hour on a project or feeling like we can’t get out of bed because yet another project has passed us by, we know what to do. Taking time out to have a clear strategy to pull us from this place can be invaluable.
Stage Weight aims to become a space for artists to look after themselves.
From the Arts4Health project your working on which is pulling on your boundaries and ability to sleep, to the producer who is pulled in 50 billion directions by project demands, to the Autobiographical piece of work you are creating which keeps sticking at a certain point. We all need to be grounded sometimes, to help plan clear strategies to help ourselves and the audiences we work with.
Putting our self care first ensures that the work we produce is the best it can be for our audiences.
Connection to self = connection to others.
Nikki Disney works as a creative therapist and wellbeing practitioner in the arts. Having been in various roles in the industry she knows only too well what the pressure of work in the arts can impact on wellbeing and is an advocate of support for artists and companies to support wellbeing in the arts.