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Navigating The Creative Space & Balancing Your Mental Health

Mental health is such an important and delicate topic that needs to be acknowledged. Thankfully, in recent years there has been more advocacy on an issue that has ravaged generations upon generations without any avenue of healing. Despite the education and sensitization on this important topic, there is still a way to go as people battle with mental health issues on a daily basis. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally 1 out of every 4 people will be impacted by mental illness at some point in their lives. These are huge numbers that are escalated by a variety of factors in our daily lives. For those of us who have decided to live as creatives, the pressure kicks up a notch as several studies and extensive research draw a link between creativity and mental health. You either draw inspiration from your current mental state into your creative work or your current mental state draws you away from your creative work. It is a delicate balance that has to be fought for to maintain constantly. 

Every creative space is a realm of boundless imagination, innovation, and expression. However, it is also a domain fraught with emotional highs and lows, pressure, and sometimes, isolation. The same can be said about the Ghanaian creative space we find ourselves in. For many creatives, maintaining a healthy balance between their artistic pursuits and mental well-being is a constant challenge. The choice to create art for a living in any level of capacity is a constant challenge for anyone.. Art in all its mediums can be a solitary business and, while losing yourself in your creativity is one of the great joys of making art, it’s a good idea to have a couple of tricks for dealing with any downsides, however robust your mental health.

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Navigating the creative space while staying true to your art regardless of your mental state is a journey that can only be described as stressful. Finding time to create in this ever-moving world, creating on your own terms, battling societal pressures, juggling relationships, worrying about finances in an ailing economy, and coping by engaging in vices are all common situations creatives may find themselves facing. All these things further heighten mental health issues in creatives making it difficult to stay the course on their journey to success. 

Even though none of us have it together entirely, these are some trusted tips to use that can help you navigate the creative space and balance mental health:

Setting Boundaries

One of the foremost steps in balancing creativity and mental health is setting clear boundaries. Establishing regular work hours can help prevent burnout, a common issue among creatives who often work irregular hours or feel compelled to create continuously. Designate a specific workspace to separate creative endeavors from relaxation areas mentally. This physical boundary can provide a sense of structure and help delineate work time from personal time.

Practicing Self-Care

Self-care is crucial for maintaining mental health. Physical health significantly impacts mental well-being, so regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep are vital. Additionally, taking mental breaks is essential. Engage in activities that you find relaxing and enjoyable, such as reading, walking, or spending time with loved ones. These breaks help rejuvenate your mind and can even spark new creative ideas.

Managing Expectations

Creatives often set high expectations for themselves, leading to unnecessary stress and disappointment. Setting realistic goals and deadlines can help manage these pressures. Understand that not every creative endeavor will be perfect or successful. Learning to accept and learn from failures is part of the creative process. This acceptance can reduce self-criticism and foster a healthier relationship with your work.

Developing a Routine

Having a consistent routine can provide structure and reduce anxiety. Incorporate small rituals into your routine, like having a cup of tea before starting work, to signal your brain that it’s time to focus. This consistency can make the creative process feel more manageable and less overwhelming.

Seeking Support

Engage with fellow creatives and seek support from those who understand the unique challenges of the creative space. Joining groups or forums to share experiences and get advice can be incredibly beneficial. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy or counseling can provide valuable tools and perspectives to navigate your challenges.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness practices can help you stay grounded and present, reducing stress and improving focus. Regular meditation can also be a powerful tool for managing anxiety and maintaining mental clarity. These practices can enhance your ability to handle the emotional ups and downs of the creative process.

Expressing Emotions

Using your creative work as an outlet for your emotions can be therapeutic. Journaling is another effective way to process thoughts and feelings. Writing about your experiences can provide clarity and release pent-up emotions, helping you understand and manage your mental state better.

Celebrating Achievements

Recognize and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Celebrating achievements can boost your confidence and motivate you to keep going. Treat yourself when you complete a project or reach a milestone to reinforce positive behavior and success.

Avoiding Comparison

In the age of social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Remember, everyone’s creative journey is unique. Focus on your path and avoid comparisons that can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Taking breaks from social media can also help reduce these negative feelings.

Some of these tips for your life, will significantly increase your creative output and keep your mental health in check. It is still not easy because you may do all these and still need help. Overall, take breaks and with time you will understand your body. Even though we now have some tips, here are some personal ways some creatives are navigating the creative space and maintaining their mental health;

Nana Kojo Mula (Writer/Publicist)

“The Creative space can be a lot to handle and the current situation in the country doesn’t make it easier. But setting priorities straight can help you balance things out. How to do things and when to do them helps me a lot. If I don’t put structure into things, it becomes overwhelming. To avoid that, I work on things ahead of time to get ample time to make changes. Prayer also helps and a bottle or two of chilled orijin comes in handy too.”

Zechariah Mako (Fashion Designer/Stylist)

“Navigating creative spaces while balancing my mental health is like dancing on a tightrope. With ADHD and a bit of autism, my brain is always buzzing with ideas—both a blessing and a challenge. I’ve trained my mind over time to find its own rhythm amidst the chaos of creative work. I don’t use detailed lists or timers; I trust my instincts and natural flow to guide me through tasks. Taking breaks is key for me—stepping away to do something fun or stimulating helps reset my focus and keeps burnout at bay. Social interactions can be draining, so I make sure to carve out alone time to recharge. Mindfulness and grounding techniques help me stay present when my thoughts start racing. It’s all about finding a balance that respects my unique mind, allowing me to thrive in my creative endeavors while maintaining my mental well-being.”

Joey (Co-Founder of Camouflart)

“Honestly it’s all about going at your own pace. I have good days. I have bad days. I just try my best to not let whatever i’m going through consume me because I am the constant not my issues. One thing that really helps me whenever i feel low, is Animé (especially Naruto). We all need time to reset. Going back to do some things the Child in us would love brings so much clarity to the Adult You. Oh yeah, Beaches and Waterfalls also help me a lot!”

Michael Angelo Taylor (Model/Culture Curator/Brand Owner)

“The world of a creative can be a very hectic place, a lot of the time the battles we face are largely internal as we try to ignore the imposter syndrome and thoughts of people never appreciating or valuing our work. In my personal experience it’s been tough dealing with all of that at least in the beginning of my career. There is a lot of fakeness in this industry and I found that a great way to navigate this is to try surround yourself with people who not only genuinely love, respect and value you for what you do but are also able to be honest with you and remind you of who you are and why you do what you do. It’s also necessary to take some time away from it all, try new things, rest your mind and reconnect with yourself which can be difficult when you’re going through the motions of trying to put together a project. My go to when I’m not modelling or putting events together is music and a good nap and of course spending quality time with my friends and family. The creative space can be a beautiful place filled with amazing things and amazingly talented people and I am forever grateful to be viewed as a creator, however I’m grateful I get to unplug for a while even if not for too long and just exist if that makes sense.”

Frederick Adjavon (Writer/Curator)

“The Creative Space when looked at from the outside seems to be a bed of roses and although it does come with all its fun activities, glitz, and glamour, it comes with its struggles, pain, disappointments, and stress. Navigating the space, you learn to be vigilant and wary of the next guy; not knowing who to trust or who’s just trying to use you can be very stressful. Learning to adapt and lean into a persona that protects you from the harsh realities of the creative space while also making sure not to lose your true self takes a toll on your mental health. The workload as well; if you’re in a space where your skills are needed constantly without breaks, your mental and physical health wanes over time.” 

“In order not to break down, I do a lot of little exercises and activities that keep me sane enough for the next day. Taking long walks at night when the streets are empty so I can randomly scream into the air, going to the beach to soak in nature, and watching an anime episode between work just to laugh, helps to alleviate the stress a lot. Music is also my go-to medium for therapy. I create an extensive playlist of songs that I like or have been queuing up to listen to and just immerse myself in the beats and melodies. It helps a lot. I am also blessed to have people around me who listen and allow me to be my true self without judgement. I can’t stress enough about talking to someone you TRUST about your issues from time to time. As the saying goes, “A problem shared is a problem half solved””.

Usher Takudzwa (Writer)

“As a creative navigating the  industry you face alot of challenges particularly with mental health. The need to constantly produce quality can sometimes feel overwhelming as we are victims of our own standards. Your mental health is like a plant you need to look after everyday. Sometimes it might mean pruning which means cutting off toxic elements, or watering the plant which would look like feeding yourself with affirmations, gratitude and rest. As creatives we often feel under pressure to look for the next big idea. Sometimes the beauty of the craft is in the process.”

Ohemeng Oware Jr. (Datartgod) [Digital Creator]

“Mental health is often overlooked but it’s an important part of what makes us effective. As a creative, I take my mental health very seriously. After years of tediously devoting my life and time to creating, there were times where I didn’t notice the effects it had on my mental health due to how passionate I was and how single minded I was in my approach. Eventually I came to realize that strain on my mental health was the forefront for what caused my stress. In dealing with that I had to learn to manage that stress by setting realistic goals, celebrating my achievements, taking breaks and building a supportive network. I started to take self care more importantly, hence making time for activities that recharge me.”

Jéermain (Afro Pop Artist & Creative Director)

“Hi, my name is Jéermain I’m an alternate pop artist and creative Director from Ghana. Mental health really requires patience and attention and I’m trying to pay attention by feeding it the right atmosphere. I try to keep myself busy. Anytime I stay without work or activity I tend to become angry, sad or worried. Sometimes I really want to relax, have time and take everything in but as a man and the first born every second matters. The little things are really good. They bring me joy. I take advantage of everything that makes me happy. If you’re close to me and you’re a funny person I’ll always want to be around you. This things keep me from going over the edge.”

Ahnxnsi (DJ)

“For me, I don’t think I’m that deeply in the Creative Space. I consider it a path I seriously take but I also have the opportunity to step away from it a lot. That is why I don’t spend a lot of time on social media because I feel it’s quite exhausting. I am also privileged to have something else that I do on the day-to-day basis. It also helps that I have a community that understands what it is that I am doing and have become people that I can rely on. I am privileged to play what I want to play and I’m not forced to post anything on social media. I have my own posting schedule and I can take long breaks away from it. I have several interests. I am committed to my sports. I play a lot of sports. For someone who is not social trying to be in a social creative space, spending a lot of time from it has been very helpful.”

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The iMullar is the voice of emerging African music and the lifestyle that surrounds it, showcasing exceptional talent from all around the globe focused on promoting the most distinctive new artists and original sounds, we are the authority on who is next.