As part of Time to Talk Day we're hearing from Creativity Works: Content Production alumna, Elsa Gore on how she deals with her anxiety as a creative.
You are going to an amazing event, with a panel talk on young creatives. On the journey there, thoughts of how wonderful the event will be fill you mind. Images of a beautiful venue, with lovely creative people and good food fill you with warmth. As the venue nears, a thought pops in, simple in nature, yet, inquisitive.
'Is this event for me? Or is it for those who are already established in their career?' You feel your heart starting to race as you wonder if you will only cause yourself embarrassment. That one thought seems to have opened the flood gates of worry.
'Maybe I should come back when I have done more or feel more prepared.' Muscles are tensing, clenching tighter and tighter. Sweat glands are working overtime, and every step towards the venue seems to intensify this feeling.
'I'm already worked up.' You think to yourself. 'Even if it turns out to not be that bad, I will not be able to see that.'
You stop. Turn around, and go home.
This is a scenario that has happened to me, when going to events, interviews, and work placements, because I have anxiety.
In this blog, I hope to shed light on how I try to cope with anxiety facing the creative industry. Detailing how I cope with my anxiety, I hope to encourage everyone reading to have a deeper understanding of their own anxiety, and pursue any chosen career in coexistence with every aspect of yourself.
I love so much about the creative industry, but it is a social one, which can feel draining at times. From pitching ideas, networking, self-promotion, to collaborating with a wide variety of people on projects. Due to the amount of interactions, it feels tempting at times to long for my retail days, where there was a lot more certainty even though I hated it. But, only by giving up on dreams and happiness can anxiety rule your life. I used to hope that with time, I would grow out of it, but now I recognise it is a legitimate part of me that makes me unique.
I like to remind myself that anxiety is a natural instinct, that keeps us from danger. It reminds me that everyone gets anxious at some point in their life. Some people just experience it more, and rather often.
The most common triggers of anxiety are: feeling overwhelmed in large social settings, stress, negative thoughts, as well as many more. These can be normal, but they can also spiral out of control.
There are different symptoms you might experience when your mind is communicating to your body that is uncomfortable. Some receive these symptoms in overt physical manner. For example, when my heart starts racing, muscles tense, and I am unable to talk myself down from it, I know I need to go easy on myself.
Others may feel as though their anxiety sneaks up on them through subtle changes in thought patterns from positive to dominant negative thoughts. At this point, the mind can feel uncomfortable or even unwelcoming.
I have a good mixture of both physical and mental symptoms, with my main triggers being most social settings or any level of uncertainty. Yet the creative industry is full of both, and it’s part of what makes me love it. I barely noticed I was alive in retail, but here? I can't forget! My heart racing every 5 minutes reminds me. It also forces me to work hard on self-care so I am the best version of me every day.
For this reason, I have listed three tips on managing anxiety, based on my experience.
1 - Know your anxiety:
I have already touched on this. But in general, it is important to understand yourself, the same way you would for a friend. How do you respond to different environments, and what seems to make you uncomfortable?
I like to write in a diary, as we grow and change, as does our anxiety.
2 - Know your limit:
It is only this year that I have learnt the importance of taking a break before feeling overwhelmed. I detailed earlier the symptoms that allow me to know if I am feeling overwhelmed and draw the line based on that. In reality, I find it challenging to balance the boundary between challenging myself to be out there, whilst taking care of myself. So, I recommend exercising patience with yourself.
3 - If you are struggling seek professional advice:
Recognition that mental health is legitimate, is stronger than ever, which means there is more help available than ever, even if that help is just talking to someone. The creative industry itself provides far more understanding than a lot of other industries. So, if you need help, please seek it out. IAPT, NHS, support groups, it is always worthwhile looking around until you find the help that works for you.
At the start of the Creativity Works: Content Production course I joined with Create Jobs, we had a wonderful woman named Naana Orleans-Amissah give a workshop on storytelling. During it she mentioned a book titled 'Your silence will not protect you' by Audre Lorde. This book is a collection of amazing Poems and Letters written by Lorde, and to close this blog I would like to share my favourite quote with you.
"Tell them about how you're never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there's always that one part inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder, and hotter and hotter and if you don't speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside."