Mental health has been a buzzword of late and not just because of COVID-19. I heard an interview on a radio show with an advertising executive, sharing how he had suffered I think three heart attacks by the time he was 50. The fast pace, high pressure, random deadlines kept taking a toll on him but this is what he did so push on. This inspired him to start a mental health initiative for creatives in the media and advertising industry. I think it’s Headspace Kenya or something, I was in a matatu and this was about two years ago so these details are hazy.
It has always been a thing that in the creative industry, being a little stir crazy is encouraged. Artists are wild, right? I mean, Van Gogh had his Absinthe, James Brown had cocaine, Snoop Dogg and maryjane, the list is endless. We know and laud them for their greatness and either brush their addictions and mental issues aside or glorify them for being part of the process. At least Snoop is still alive but countless creatives have ended up going out in a tragedy at which point only then do we recognise and pay attention to the deeper problems. Millennials have done a good job of speaking out, calling out a gap to address it and acknowledging that your mind can be unwell just as your body has its days. I pose that it is not just a creatives’ thing. There is a thing as overthinking, it breeds anxiety. Destination happiness will put a lot of strain on your inner peace. Competition can be unhealthy and some coping mechanisms both in the corporate and creative space lead to more destruction than gain.
Now, that boundary between work and home is invisible. It gets harder to either switch off from work or switch off from rest. Then the loss of control has just driven up the level of uncertainty that it takes all your will power to stay calm.
In a sermon the other day, this guy was complaining that the problem with the pandemic and the sudden shift in the work process had him more rattled than before. Now, that boundary between work and home is invisible. It gets harder to either switch off from work or switch off from rest. Then the loss of control has just driven up the level of uncertainty that it takes all your will power to stay calm. Before all this happened, I was already having discussions with a few friends on taking time off to just rest our minds and build inner peace. There are a few people who have not taken time off for so long, there’s this one person who had almost 6 months worth of pending leave. I was so confused!!! The thing about these new work hours is that we assume that because I can sleep in a little longer and am not at the office all through, I am very well-rested. But the mind is a muscle and the weights we put on it are not easily released, opening it up to a lot of overwork. And just like any other muscle it will strain and be damaged.
This crossed-out line between work, rest and play has put the brain on overdrive. For work relationships, it can create a huge silo where there was none before and thoroughly breakdown the system where there were issues already. On the individual level, even the most introverted person can only work so much in their bubble. We work best together and this pandemic has exaggerated silos with no breaks to connect with your teammates unless you have that one sanguine who will bully everyone together.
The gratitude guilt trip hits hardest when it’s someone close to you who’s lost their job, has two children, no side hustle and is the main income earner. It feels so guilty to be grateful when they have so much bigger problems than yours.
A new phenomenon I have encountered has been the gratitude guilt trip, easily a product of the overworking mind. When all this started, we were all braced for the worst; less or no work meant less or no money. We braced ourselves for the jobs that were to be lost and the increased expenses. Fact is that there are people who have been hit very hard and we have seen the posts on social media and been reminded to be grateful for what we have. But how should you feel if you are one of the lucky few who hasn’t suffered too much? The gratitude guilt trip hits hardest when it’s someone close to you who’s lost their job, has two children, no side hustle and is the main income earner. It feels so guilty to be grateful when they have so much bigger problems than yours. Or your friend who started a business in January but you are still getting calls for new clients. Or they were planning to wed in April and the marriage registry has slowed almost to a stop but you planned and successfully went through yours in February.
My partner this week, called me out on my gratitude guilt trip. First, get out of your head. Our thoughts are abstract and if you dwell in your head more than you do in reality, you obscure the opportunities that are right in front of you. The likelihood of things going back to how they were is slim. Perhaps change up your routine, get a new exercise plan, rearrange your office days, stop the autopilot from giving your mind too much time to wander. Second, your problems are yours and so are your opportunities. If you can not do anything for your friend, do what you can for yourself and you might open opportunities for them. Indeed, be grateful for what you have and use it as encouragement. “When you speak healing words, you offer others fruit from the tree of life. But unhealthy negative words do nothing but crush their hope.” And hope, my friends, is all we can ever have.
“When you speak healing words, you offer others fruit from the tree of life.”
I hope to one day have a medical cover that covers therapy just as we have inpatient and dental cover. Your mind affects your physical health too. What is the point of endless painkillers, that could lead to addiction if the real issue is never treated, when 5k for one session could literally talk you into good health? Wherever you are working from, give your mind a break.