Culture 19/05/2020 Megan Rae

Mental health and creativity during lockdown

As society deals with the consequences of a global pandemic, it is essential to our health that we live full lives under lockdown, taking social and business interactions online. The downside is that this is having dramatic implications for mental health globally, as a large proportion of people report feelings of anxiety and depression during the lockdown.

This is something we are particularly mindful of at Echo. As revealed in a 2018 study by wellbeing charity Inspire and Ulster University, people working in the creative industries are three times more likely to suffer from mental health problems than the general public.

Remember, we will get through this, and we will get through it together!

Megan, Marketing and Business Development

During these challenging times, it is likely that most of us will have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days. When I have a bad day, I like to immerse myself in music. My day will include intermittent breaks, where I take time out to play the piano or sing. I find that this releases endorphins, calming me so that I can re-focus on my work.

On good days, making use of my daily work plan ensures that I am using my time efficiently and prevents my mind from wandering to anxious thoughts. Even on a good day, leaving my desk is still important, and I like to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, at least at lunchtime.

However, I am not claiming that distracting activities will relieve mental anxiety. It is so easy to feel disheartened when you see the Instagram newsfeed providing a constant stream of sourdough and banana bread making, or the latest addition to someone’s meticulously crafted painting collection. You may question why you aren’t as productive with your time. It is important to know that it’s also totally okay to have days where you are only just able to get by; where you don’t leave the house and have completed very little of your to-do list. Most of us have those days – just remember, only people’s good days tend to make it to social media. Productivity comes in waves and during those times it is best to just to take it one day at a time – you will do your best creative work when you are in a good headspace.

Nick Dormon, Managing Director 

I have found the most mentally exhausting part of lockdown is continuously looking at a computer screen through the working day. When the team met in person, we had time away from the screen, but now that respite has gone. So rather than watching Netflix as relaxation I have found engaging with the physical world, like cooking, making and even DIY, to be the best tonic and way to rest and reset my brain.

Marina Sedra, Finance 

I don’t really follow a specific protocol. Occasionally I share my worries with trusted friends and family and seek their advice. Likewise, listening and being there for others is important to me. I have always found great joy in helping others and try to create a happy atmosphere around me. At the office, I loved to share chocolate (it also provided a little bribery to get people to complete their timesheets!), and now, I make the effort to check in with them as often as I am able.

Everything has been put into perspective and I feel grateful of what I have – I am in lockdown with my two boys and a loving husband, and they have been an amazing support network during these strange times.

In my spare time I focus on fund raising for my church. The church is such a vital part of my life and it’s a great way to feel connected to my community.

Tashi, Director of Innovation

I’m excited by the potential of this time to experiment and reset. To strip away old habits and studio norms. To work out what the right conditions are for our own state of mind, creativity and productivity.

I’ve discovered that my best ideas lurk in unexpected places like halfway down a bike path, under my bed in the mornings or on the landing on the stairs. They’re less common at my desk during ‘office hours’, and never found while umbilically connected to Microsoft Teams. So, I’m being more conscious about setting boundaries with technology and choosing the right time of day, environment and activities to foster creativity. Much of it has to do with physical sensors. Being barefoot outdoors with a pad and pen grounds and focuses me, while the fresh air and scenery help boost my positivity and spark the imagination. I also employ simple, repetitive physical tasks like peeling vegetables, jogging or hanging the laundry. This places my mind in a slipstream where it subconsciously processes things. Plus, these modest tasks also give a very grounding sense of accomplishment!

Andy Capper, Creative Director 

Planning & creativity is best way for me to stay healthy in both mind and body during the lockdown.

Firstly, planning ahead and bringing structure to my day and my week has really helped me have a balance to both focus on my work and then have things to look forward to. Rather than the head-down 8 hour working day, I’ve extended it, broken it down into 30-minute blocks interspersed with positive stuff like planning dinner, baking, short bursts of exercise and reading. Having those hourly, daily and weekly goals is essential and makes sure one day doesn’t simply merge into the next.

Secondly, I find having a creative outlet (other than work!) is a fantastic way to relax my mind and generate a real sense of achievement and positivity. Whether it’s life drawing, baking bread or doing some DIY, it’s hard to not concentrate totally on the activity at hand. And in these troubling times and the worry and endless digital noise of social media, it’s invaluable to be able to switch off and focus.

Jordan Allen – Designer 

Music keeps me going, I’d be lost without it, it’s my get up and go, my motivation. You’re never alone when you have music in your ears.

I have been able to keep myself busy through work, but most importantly, being able to switch off with a hobby like re-piecing the car that’s in a thousand bits in the garage.

I miss my friends, my sister, and my little nephew, but I know they are all only a FaceTime away. If anything, I see them more than ever, and it has brought me closer to them.

In these awful times, I hope all is well with you. I know it shouldn’t have taken a disaster like this for things to change positively, but maybe when this has all passed, the NHS will finally get the respect it deserves. Maybe families, friends and neighbours will become closer. Maybe you’ll finally be able to make your house a home and be more inclined to help others in need. Maybe you’ve finally had time to spend on yourself and learned to enjoy your own company.