The year 2020 was one of the most defining years of this century, marking the presence of the unexpectedly threatening virus – Sars CoV-2.
It was a blow to many people, but especially those with a mental health condition. As a creative writer, I knew for a fact that being confined and worrying constantly about the effects of this devastating virus made me edgy and anxious.
I wondered how other creative people were handling this situation. To know a bit more about this, I interviewed a mental health professional – Shraddha Namjoshi from Pune, India.
Q. How would you say, as a psychologist, has the Sars-CoV-2 been affecting the mental health of professionals?
Shraddha: I think one of the most important aspects to remember is – the unexpected nature of this pandemic. This was one of the major stressors and preparedness for that was a major problem. Many professionals who relied on their work process to cope with their stress have been finding the lockdown difficult. Similarly, a lot of individuals have to work from home, and they have to be constantly productive. This was psychologically and mentally taxing for many, as there was a very thin line of separation between the workplace and home environment. This caused a lot of conflict and time management issues for many.
A positive aspect of this lockdown was the awareness of mental health issues. People realized that wherever you go – work or home, your mental health goes along with you, and hence coping with your mental health needs to be done proactively.
Q. How is it affecting the creatives differently?
S: This lockdown has definitely affected the creative professionals differently. Probably the process of creativity is limited in a closed environment for some people. Therefore, those who draw inspiration from nature could’ve been affected. For example, some professions like photography or the creation of content that requires to be outdoors were definitely affected. However, it was psychologically more frustrating, because people didn’t feel want or feel like being productive, because they were home all the time and creativity does happen in a vacuum. They felt that they might have reached a point of stagnation and this also affected their motivation to work and create new content.
However, there were many who tried to explore their creative side and many people also realized that creative professions will continue despite the pandemic. Because, people want art and beauty in their life, and this has given people an impetus to start working towards it.
Q. How important do you feel it is for creatives to address these issues affecting them?
S: It is very important for creative individuals to address these issues because this is going to have an impact on their overall well-being. These individuals need to ensure that their mental health is not overlooked and should be able to ask for help if they’re finding it difficult to cope. It is important for creative professionals to address these issues because creativity is not only a form of livelihood for them but also one thing that keeps them stress-free and a gives a way to better tackle their mental health.
The uncertainty that is surrounding the creative industry at the moment is one of the biggest concerns of many, including me. This is because, this uncertainty leads to stress, anxiety, and hopelessness, which is unhealthy. Therefore, it is important to realize that these emotions need to be tackled effectively by seeking help from the right people.
Q. What are the measures that might be effective for the creative industry professionals to cope with the after-effects COVID-19?
S: One important statement that I told a lot of people during this time individually and in various workshops is – we have to change the definition of success and productivity. For a lot of people, especially the creative professionals, the amount of work that they produce or the amount of content they create is perceived as an indicator of success by them.
During the lockdown, when the methods of displaying of creativity were limited, social media feeds had and still are a battleground for popularity. Success is not something that is hard and fast, and your popularity and success are not defined by the social media platform. These are unprecedented times, and therefore your goals have to keep changing and be dynamic.
When the situation demands it, our definition of success has to change accordingly. We have to realign our goals, because if we keep holding ourselves to the standards to when the things were normal, then it is going to hurt us.
Q. What are your long-term suggestions to stay mentally healthy in a post-COVID-19 world?
S: A lot of people are expecting that the world will suddenly change its perspective after the COVID-19 crisis. And certainly, a lot of people did change their perspective. But we have to remember that there are certain areas where things might not improve. Rather they’ll decline for a while, before bouncing back to the pre-COVID-19 stage.
Unfortunately, we have built a world that is super-fast, and any little pause or obstacle is causing it problems. And this definitely is one of the bigger pauses we have experienced. Therefore, preparing yourself mentally that things might be different is the need of the hour. As I said earlier, re-examining your definition of success and resetting your goals according to them is very important. It is also important to give some time to ourselves and be run over by our expectations and our work.
Most importantly, it is important to learn to say NO to things that are not good for you and your mental health. Stress Management is not a one-time thing, especially for creative professionals. Being aware of your own thoughts and emotions, belief and self-address on a daily basis is a very important act. If your self-talks are unhealthy, then we need to work on changing them. It is also vital to develop effective coping strategies for your problems.
In the end, it is very easy to think that it is going to be different, but with the change, there is will be its own different discomfort and stressor. So, keeping an open mind and a balanced view of things.
We all need to remember that creatives do things differently, have varied methods of productivity and coping with stress. It is okay to feel overwhelmed or unproductive because you know that as long as you seek help whenever needed, it will be possible to overcome the situation.
**Shraddha is trained in Health and Counselling Psychology, the co-founder of Namaste Psychology (a group working on raising awareness about mental health and its importance), and an LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapist.
Image courtesy: BBC