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How to manage stress as a creative

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

Identifying as a “creative” can often come with a lot of expectations. On a daily basis we try to invent something that doesn't exist, advice businesses on big decisions, hunt for new jobs and manage people’s expectations. Sounds like a breeze right? The sheer pressure of having ideas for a living makes a lot of creatives exhausted and we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves. If you have not noticed, stress is the antidote to creativity. So how do you stay motivated and keep the running thoughts from taking over? Amongst the daily grind, how can you make sure you still feel excited about the work you do? For me, it is all about perspective, personal goals and cutting yourself some slack, in a constructive way of course.

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  • Don’t try to do everything

  • Look back, not just forward

  • Lighten the pressure cooker

  • Take a GYST day

  • Challenge yourself

The power of specialising

It's tempting to be the solution to every problem a client can think of. However, in the pursuit of pleasing everyone, you might find yourself Googling how to create a newsletter at 10pm. It is great to develop your skills, but constantly working on something outside your comfort zone can leave you feeling nervous and out of control. The more you specialise, the more you can become an expert in your field. You will start to anticipate the challenges ahead and can focus your energy on delivering brilliant work.

Look backwards, not just forward

There is no denying that competition is high for creative jobs. Winning a client or getting your dream job means always setting new and higher goals. Because you are always learning, it is easy to miss how much you grow over time. I suggest keeping copies of your work and look back every few months. If you feel embarrassed by your old work, it means you have become better. If you love it, then give yourself a retrospective high five. I kept my very first portfolio and often take it out to laugh when I feel stressed.

Lighten the pressure cooker

Stress makes us procrastinate. Stress makes us lose perspective and stress kills creativity. Sooo….what can you do about it? In your stressed mind, the last thing you want to hear is “take some me time”. A hot bubble bath while frantically making a list in your head and telling yourself to just relax, no thank you. I find the best way to stop stressing is to put things in to perspective. Do you have too much to do or does it just feel that way? Will anyone actually be upset if you ask for another day to work on something? Can you break your tasks down into more manageable chunks? What is the worst thing that can happen?

If none of this helps, perhaps it is time to ask for someone to join you or take over some of the work. If you can not afford to hire someone, try and raise your prices so that you can have a manageable workload and still have a stable income.

Take a GYST day

Often times, the small nagging tasks like doing your books, organising files or following up with leads take a lot of mental energy. A GYST (get your shit together) day is a day when you deal with all the little tasks that you have been putting off. This is similar to having a spring cleaning day for your house, but applied to your work life. Make sure to turn off any distractions, put on a great podcast and tick off the items on your list.

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Challenge yourself

Sometimes, we get stressed out by feeling like we are not moving forward. This often happens when we have been in the same job or running our business for a while. It is easy to become a perfectionist and loose some of that exploration mindset that you have when you learn something for the first time. If you try something that you think you will love but usually don't have time for, like getting better at typography, learning animation or taking up pottery, you can improve your creative skills while having some fun. Places like Skillshare or classes by The Futur are a great place to start if you need inspiration for your new project.

If you feel stressed or have a great tip to share, please join our Facebook group and help others feel better too.

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