How to cope with Mental Health conditions as an artist is not an easy topic! Discussing the state of your mental health has been a concern that society has pushed aside for many, many years. Whether from reasons of fear of public discrimination, embarrassment or being perceived differently among your peers; Being sought as a “loser” to society or a “hopeless individual” is something to not feel proud about.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2019, 1 out of every 5 adults in the United States (~20.6% of the U.S. population-51 Million people), have some form of mental illness.
That’s not including the growing numbers between 2020 & 2021, adolescent’s, or amount of artists that fall within those categories. Nourishing your mental state of being should be as important as taking care of your physical health, period!
So, why are we so afraid to openly speak about this on-going issue? Where do we look for answers? And who do we go to when we find ourselves not feeling the same as we used to?
I never really knew that I had mental health issues only until this year when I finally gained the courage to seek professional help.
Growing up, I was hyperactive, on the go and frequently changed interests once anything got boring. I had lots of “highs” full of ecstasy, but constantly found myself spiraling into deep depressive episodes once they vanished. I didn’t know why it happened, who had answers, or how to cope with this melancholy.
At large social events, I’d become so worried from the fear something bad was going to happen, I felt paralyzed; Curling up into my personal bubble, reminding myself to get through this while massaging my hands or standing in silence as everyone around went about having a good time.
Yeah this was not a good feeling at all! It sucked! It was sad and I fucking hated it! The worst part was feeling alone! I didn’t know how to let others know what was going on inside. Even my closest friends. Just reminiscing about those situations, makes me pity the person I used to be. Revisiting them, however, gives me a sense of relief because accepting that truth contributes significantly to the healing process.
Escaping through Art
I turned to art because it made me feel that I belonged to something greater and better than myself. It became this temporal space that allowed me to place my full attention on whatever was being created. And letting go of all that pain, worry, and anxiety made me feel whole again.
Like many out there, art, particularly nature photography, was an escape from dealing with my mental health problems.
Escaping from society became a norm during difficult times in life. I’d set off on my own to rural locations just to photograph the essence of nature. It helped me develop a stronger appreciation towards it and gave me a break from my normal life. Every time I set foot on the land or in the ocean, judgements of myself magically diminished.
Mother Earth whispered kind and loving words every time I went about photographing these places. As if she was giving me a tight hug that never wanted to let go; Something that I wish that many dealing with depression could feel too.
Despite this temporary safety net, life still had to go on. Dealing with work, school, and society is inevitable and there was no way around it no matter how hard you try to ignore it.
Ways to Cope with Anxiety & Depression
I’ve lost friends that committed suicide who were some of the most happy, grateful, and loving individuals that showed nothing, but unconditional love to others. For some reason, this pain went unspoken and eventually led to taking their own life.
But, why was this? Was it from the shame of not being heard? Or not being able to find help? Did they really try every possible thing to get help with the internal problems they were dealing with? Or did they did they end up losing faith in the possibilities of getting better?
Although those answer will probably never be answered, here are a few things that I can suggest for people dealing with anxiety or depression:
Journaling your thoughts can be very beneficial to your mental health. It can help you recognize triggers of mental breakdowns, track your symptoms and is a safe place to release energy from within. Jotting down thoughts relieves symptoms by giving a chance to fully express the feelings felt inside. It also allows for reflection and prioritization of those feelings and helps with discovering ways to take control of them.
The best part of starting a journal is that there’s no rules! You can simply write (or type) your feelings or thoughts of your day (or current state of mind) and let them flow out freely. The main point is to allow all this bottled-up energy held inside, out into the universe. So don’t hold back! Only YOU know what goes on in your mind, so be honest and truthful with yourself.
After you’re finished, remember to re-read your journal entry at least once. This could be difficult at first especially if you’re new, but it gives you a chance to deal with your problems face-to-face. It can offer you new perspectives on how you reacted to certain situations and can help you develop ways to prevent them from reoccurring.
Lastly, list down all the good that happened in your day. Whether it was waking up on time, being able to watch a sunset, seeing a smile from a stranger or even not having to deal with the public. Write them down. This will restore all the negative energy you let out with positive ones.
2.Connect with Nature
There’s scientific proof that connecting with nature can help improve your overall well-being. Taking a stroll on a beach, forest, or local trail can lower activity in your frontal cortex which is responsible for repetitive negative thoughts. It can also lower blood pressure and levels in the stress hormone, Cortisol. Even listening to sounds of nature or viewing nature images can be very beneficial to your mental health.
Performing Meditation on a regular basis can recondition your depressed or anxious brain by altering its reactions to negative thoughts and events. It provides room to separate your thoughts and the way you act or feel towards those thoughts. Like connecting with nature, meditation lowers stress levels, and blood pressure. It can also break connections of a person’s amygdala (the region in your brain that controls fear) and a hyperactive medial prefrontal cortex (the brain region that repeats negative thoughts about oneself). To put in simpler terms, meditating teaches your brain to think less negatively about yourself or the things happening around you.
Creating a list of daily affirmations is another way to help you cope with anxiety and depression. Affirming positive core values or experiences are proven to activate the brain’s rewards system (aka as the ventral striatum (VS) and ventral medial prefrontal cortex). It can also recondition your mind to think more positively about yourself thanks our brain’s neuroplasticity and its ability to change and adapt.
Simple affirmations such as: “Today, I will be happy, “I am Loved”, or “I am Safe” can actually manifest itself in your life. All you have to do is list them down, read them to yourself and truly believe in those words and they will eventually become true. It’s like the old saying, “You are what you think of.” The more you practice thinking positively, the more positive things will happen in your life.
5.Seek Professional Help
The best advice I can give to anyone dealing with mental health problems is to seek professional help. I waited until I was 32 to finally gain the courage and ask for help help and I regret waiting that long. The faster you seek help, the faster you could be on your way to living a better, more fulfilling life.
Medical Professionals have answers and they want to help. They’ve helped people in the same situation(s) that you’re going through and know how to treat mental health problems properly. So don’t ever feel like you are alone in this. We are all human. We all have problems in life so don’t ever feel ashamed to talk to someone about it. And just remember, YOU ARE LOVED and WE NEED YOU HERE!
Below are a few resources that provide help to those dealing with mental health issues. If you or anyone you know is going through a tough situation in life right now, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Text “HELLO” to 74741
1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 OR You can Also Text 838255
1-800-799-4899 (For the Hearing Impaired)
Life can feel tough sometimes, but remember that that feeling is only temporary. If you are having a rough time at the moment, seek the help you need. Find happiness by surrounding yourself with positive and loving people. Remember that you are not alone and that the world needs you here. You were placed on this earth for a reason and any issues or mental health conditions you are dealing with can and will be fixed.