Our hours are long, and our work never seems to end. Working in the arts in a wonderful, exciting and exhausting industry. The immense pressure we place on ourselves and each other takes a toll as arts workers are at greater risk of anxiety, depression and substance abuse than our peers outside of the sector. Creative entrepreneurs, portfolio driven creatives and arts workers in institutions all know too well that creeping feeling of burnout which happens to us all, making our projects and selves fizzle out, doing no one any good.
Here are 7 small ways we can each help ourselves practice wellness to ensure greater productivity, longevity and stability for ourselves.
1. Setting specific limits on the hours you are working.
Although many arts workers are contracted for 38 hour weeks, we all know that can very, very easily creep upward throughout the year, and remain that way. Yes, we all need to pitch in and get work done, but we also need to recognise that if we’re all burnt out the work will suffer, just as we are. Taking specific time to unplug everyday and lead a fulfilling lie beyond our work is important. We can come back to our projects, refreshed and ready.
2. Sticking to your commitments and knowing what you can handle.
Life comes at you fast. And in the arts we don’t always know when the next opportunity will come along. For many of us that leads to a ‘yes, absolutely’ for almost all opportunities that come our way. To avoid the stress and signs of burn out it is important that we realise what our limits are. We can always remain open to opportunities, without taking on more than we should for our mental health.
3. Knowing when you can say ‘no’.
No surprises with this one making the list. Saying ‘no’ is hard. Really hard. And in the arts we’re averse to it. We don’t want to shut down an opportunity or next big thing when we have the chance to be on board. But knowing your limits and what you can offer will ensure that the work you are producing is the best it can be. So, if your approaching someone you’ve previously said ‘no’ too, your work will shine as testament to your ability to work well and know your limits.
4. Saying ‘no’ can be extended to that cheeky wine at an opening.
This one is harder to do. The arts is saturated in alcohol
. Much of the commentary of Australians and booze focus on the sporting and games industry. However, we must also look at ourselves here. Alcohol is rife in our sector and with all associated mental and physical health risks, we need to recognise that its very very ok for us to say ‘no’ to that wine, while we enjoy an opening.
5. Talking to others when things are stressful.
We’re all in this together, and when it is all too much, when we get a little overwhelmed on the day to day, we should be turning to our peers and saying just that. Reaching out and letting those who experience the same stresses as we do can help, not only us, but people around us as we create the cultural change of talking openly in the arts.
6. If it is too much, talk to someone professionally.
When it goes beyond this, when it is just all too much, we as a sector need to make it accessible and accessible for us to talk to professionals about this. There must be a push for greater understanding when people need the time to talk and to enable the strategies needed to improve mental wellbeing provided by mental health care professionals.
7. Being comfortable that there is a degree of guilt in taking time for yourself, to do things that are not related to work.
It’s hard. Taking time out from the projects and passions we love. Guilt can creep in: I could have gotten that task completed, I could have those emails done. But, in taking time, even small amounts for ourselves everyday we allow our brains to rest, recuperate and come back stronger. Setting any guilt aside, allowing for small amounts of self care is important for all arts workers to remember when we have some well deserved down time.