What do you do every day that is good for your mind? Julia Payne shares some 5-a-day ‘Mindapples’ that have been helping artists and creative freelancers nurture their mental health through lockdown and beyond.
It’s World Mental Health Day on 10th October. This is a timely reminder that, while we’re all still struggling to understand how to live and make a living in light of Covid, protecting our mental health must be at the top of every to do list. We need our wits about us more than ever – even if we’re feeling we’re actually at our wits’ end.
Even pre-Covid, those working in the creative sector were three times more likely to develop a mental health condition than the average UK adult and recent research suggests that disparity is worsening. It’s against this backdrop that we launched our Balance programme in May, with the aim of helping those working in the creative and cultural sector to take better care of their minds.
Hundreds of people – artists, producers, directors and label managers amongst them – have taken part in monthly talks and drop in sessions. Many people are feeling isolated, under-valued and uncertain. Some don’t even know what tense to use about what they do for a living: ‘Am I still a designer, or is that just what I used to do?’ asked one participant recently. So it’s been lovely to see a sense of community emerge; we’re all much smarter if we share more of what we know.
Every month, our participants help us crowdsource a treasure trove of tips, good reads and top listens, covering everything from coping with uncertainty and boosting creative thinking to better business planning, all of which we share more widely via blogs and socials.
As you can imagine, we’ve had plenty to talk about. Our first session explored exactly why we need to balance our minds if we want to balance our books; the July talk deals with anxiety, stress, overwhelm and uncertainty at this time of seismic change; August brought insights into staying motivated, identifying what matters and finding the path that might help you re-discover your purpose and energy. And most recently – if the past few months have taken their toll on your supplies of creativity and ingenuity – the session on creative thinking and productivity might help you refuel.
Are you getting your 5-a-day?
We’ve been co-hosting our talks with Mindapples. I’ve been a fan since I first worked with them 10 years ago when curating a festival about happiness. A key part of the charity’s work is encouraging people to share their mental health ‘5-a-day’: things they do every day that are good for their minds. Since June, our participants have been building their own Mindapples ‘orchard’ for creatives, full of nourishing ideas for how we can all take better care of our minds.
Here are a few varieties we’ve grown in the orchard that add up to a great recipe for better mental health:
- Prioritising self care: You can’t take of anything else if you’re not taking care of yourself, so don’t feel guilty about this. Identify your own Mindapples, rest, preserve your energy.
- Getting creative: From discovering a love of writing to picking up a musical instrument and baking through moments of panic, like millions of others we’ve turned to the arts to feed our minds, bodies and souls.
- Spending time in nature: The power of the outdoors is clear, whether exploring your neighbourhood, country walks, weeding the garden or tree bathing (look it up!).
- Exercise: It’s widely recognised that exercise is good for the mind and our participants have found particular value in walking, running and swimming outdoors, yoga and pilates. Oh, and kitchen discos of course!
- Meditation and mindfulness: We’ve heard time and time again how developing a meditation habit has helped. Staring at the sea or sky and journaling have helped too.
- Playing: … not just to keep the kids entertained, but because it’s absorbing, distracts our minds and makes life more fun. From lego and board games to playing in the garden, rediscovering the art of play has been key.
- Being curious: Learning new things, uncovering old things and exploring where the new opportunities are, we’ve talked a lot about choosing curiosity over fear.
- Turning off: Deleting our social media, turning off alerts, switching off the news – all good ways of coping for a lot of us.
- Tuning in: Lots of us have escaped into other worlds via a box set binge, devouring new podcasts and making friends with radio again.
To mark World Mental Health Day, the hub will be running a day of talks, workshops, coaching sessions – plus a living room disco! – designed to help artists and creative freelancers boost their minds, bodies and souls.
Balancing our minds and our books is important. So too is sharing what we know, working with what we have, doing what we can, being part of a community. At a time of relentless change and uncertainty, these are the things that will help see us through to a brighter future.
Julia Payne is Director of the hub, which has been leading the Balance programme, supported by the Creative Industries Federation and Mindapples, and funded by Colchester Borough Council and South East Creatives.
Find more on the World Mental Health Day Balance OneDayer.