Is A Full Time Career In The Arts Harmful To Your Mental Health?

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Written by Jenna Dreisenstock

For every creative, the idea of our passion for the arts becoming a full-time career is one of the most sought after aspirations for many. Being fully self sufficient by solely focusing on the art we create, the idea of recognition for all our hard work; whether it be as a visual artist, filmmaker, game developer, writer or musician (and so on) – it would feel like a dream. However, is our perspective regarding art as a full time career overly idealistic? With our livelihood solely depending on our creativity, and specifically for many who are entertainers and performers who tour the world – the glamour and glitz we imagine may actually be detrimental not only to only our creativity, but our physical and mental health as well.

As fans, we often forget that for many of the musician we admire, performing and entertaining is a full time job. They too, are human beings, with careers that they are required to maintain to be successful; and forgetting that, we often hold these artists to extremely high standards that are simply too much for them to handle. The idea of touring the world may seem glamorous – but can you imagine the stress of constantly traveling, city to city, country to country; very often with consecutive dates, concerts and shows scheduled one day after the other – with the extreme pressure to live up to the public’s expectation of you every single day?

So many artists when travelling, are barely even able to get a good nights rest, or maintain a healthy eating plan – they are unable to really look after their physical and mental needs as – hey, you’re onalright, the shows over, time for the next cityyou’ve had 4 hours of sleep? Hey, you’re on, get ready. These creatives are required to constantly perform, live up to expectations; hold a perfect performance at every single show or be dragged by the public and fans. This amount of travelling, stress, little time to take care of oneself and the pressure to perform to the highest of standards; that can’t be healthy for anyone, really. On top of that, does that take away from that creative spark that got them there in the first place?

There are those who can maintain a healthy schedule and balance between work, play and personal life; but unfortunately in the entertainment industry, it’s not uncommon to watch many artists turn to dangerous lifestyles, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol. For those of us who have a steady income from something we may enjoy, yet isn’t in the creative field we are particularly passionate about the most; this structure may very well be what we need to create stunning works of art while still being able to share them with the world, but with the freedom to be flexible and most importantly still being able to look after ourselves.

From personal experience, I have realised that I am the type of person that, I don’t particularly believe, is able to pour myself into a 9 – 5 career focused solely on an artform I’m passionate about. When I was studying in university, that was the wake-up call for me – I have so many ambitions, artworks I want to create and share with the public; yet each day at art school broke me down as a creative step by step. It started feeling as though what I love was becoming a chore, something that stripped me of my creativity as my mental health suffered from working long hours to achieve top marks; I so often became sick with stress, and despite my achievements I just couldn’t do it anymore. The whole process became the opposite of everything I adore in the various creative fields that are most important to me. This is my own personal experience, and may not be true for many – but it was a punch in the gut, I was learning all of these new and amazing skills but each day it felt as though my creativity just kept diminishing; until my love for creating turned into full-blown anxiety and I was just creating without purpose, out of exhaustion.

I often wonder if the downfall of many performers in the music industry is due to the lifestyles involved, and the true inability to take time to look after oneself as a person – instead of being sucked into harmful, perpetuated cycles that these industries encourage. This is not true for all, but perhaps the idea of this glitz and glamour could actually cause many of us more harm than good.