5 tips for mental health for self employed illustrators

5 tips for mental health for self employed illustrators

So I realised that when I moved my website to this new Shopify platform that I lost a few blogposts including one I wrote on mental health tips for people who are working from home so I thought I’d take a new look at this topic from a post pandemic and post-natal perspective - all the posts!

I imagine the tips are pretty much the same or slightly tweaked but my belief in them has been compounded by these two experiences - these things really work and if I don’t do all these things regularly I’m not my best self so make sure you’re including a combo of all the below in your weekly routine :)

  1. So everyone’s - work space - is going to be different, some people are laptop-ping and sketchbook-ing in cafes, while others have a dedicated studio space like a shed in the garden or a co-working space, the thing that I think is important is if possible to keep your rest and work spaces separate. So ideally don’t work from your bedroom, as that can really affect your bodies ability to understand whether it should be in a restful or awake state. This could impact your sleep which is intrinsically linked to your mental health. So be really mindful of this, scrolling on your phone at night checking out competitors instagrams is also sending your body mixed messages so watch a funny cat video instead!! 
  2. Get outside - seriously I spent my entire maternity leave pounding pavement and it’s what kept me sane especially as my sleep was non existent and my circadian rhythm shot. Nothing is a better reset than getting outside, ideally somewhere green or to a body of water or even better both! Why not take your sketchbook and fave drawing materials with you and do some low pressure sketching while you’re there? I'm finding Raj Kaur's Substack really inspiring for this, being outside is really good for your sleep and body clock. I think sometimes when we’re super busy or conversely between jobs we feel like we must chain ourselves to the desk in order to hit that deadline or drum up new work. But this leads to grinding yourself into burnout and actually I find I’m so much more productive when I take regular breaks and mix things up, the longer I sit at my computer doing one task the slower I get!      
  3. Related and also different - Move your body - this could be going for a walk outside to combine with point 2 but what works for me is hitting the gym. I love a group class I’ve been going to for years as I see familiar faces have a chat, banter with the instructor and most importantly get my heart rate up and the blood circulating around my body! Goodbye brain I’ve forgotten all about my illustration projects and I'm lost in the exercise - woohoo! Now I’m walking home and three problem solving ideas have popped into my head because my brain has had a rest and now it’s firing on all cylinders! I took a really long break from the gym postpartum and after a year and a half I recently went back and was immediately kicking myself, what was I waiting for? This makes me feel so much better! But it’s easy to forget what a positive effect exercise can have on your mental health. I also struggle with carpel tunnel in my wrist from repetitive movements from drawing and the other added benefits of circulation tend to ease my symptoms and I’m sure I’m not the only illustrator with this problem! If the gym isn't for you I totally get it why not find a yoga video to follow on You tube on meet up with a creative or otherwise friend for a walk and chat.
  4. Community - Again you’re going to see the relation to my last point, part of what improves my mood about attending classes is the community. Being an illustrator can be such a solitary career unless you are in a shared studio. So building community is so important, there’s lots of ways to find community online but I think that IRL is where the true value lies. For me I’ve loved going to events like Ladies Wine & Design and I’ve also found so much value in the creative market community I take part in way less events now but back in the day I was a regular at Crafty Fox and the illustrators fair etc and I met so many friends and colleagues through this which led to fun collaborations and frank chats about the realities of being a self employed creative, ultimately nothing beats a frank chat.
  5. Personal Work - Being an illustrator has a lot of challenges - irregular work and dry periods are something I always struggle with and it’s the reason that I started my online shop selling my own products and the that reason that that became such a large part of my business. I find that in the quiet times I can only send so many emails looking for work, ultimately I want to use the time to create something new for my portfolio and I hope that that new work will eventually lead to a nice job so I spend my time creating illustrations and applying them to products to sell to my audience. Creating new work has a positive effect on my psyche as the mindfulness of drawing and painting is always positive for me especially when I get in that flow state! Jacqueline's illustrated products including tea towels, art prints and a book are laid out on a mint background

I really hope these tips were helpful for you in you Freelance illustrator journey and if you have time leave a comment with your best tip so we can gather together more good ideas! 

Jacqueline x

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