Are you a photographer who sometimes struggles with mental health issues? In this episode psychologist, Tiril Hauan dives into the topic of the creative mind and mental health.
In doing both the creative and business sides of photography, many of us tend to feel or get drained mentally. When it comes to mental illness or burnout, it is important for photographers like us to know how we can help ourselves bounce back.
Tiril Hauan is a psychologist turned photographer who is now living in Stavanger, Norway with her partner, two girls, and a gentle giant of a dog. With a rather stubborn need to create and to always keep learning, she thrives when on my way to someplace new (both literally and metaphorically.) As a photographer, she’s a storyteller and her favorite parts of the story are always the quirky, weird, and vulnerable ones – that is where true beauty resides. She works with families with kids of all ages, including newborns. She’s also into working with small businesses, doing workshops, online courses, mentoring, and developing and selling editing tools or presets.
In doing both the creative and business sides of photography, many of us tend to feel or get drained mentally. Mental health for photographers is a huge discussion among many in the photography industry. When it comes to mental illness or burnout, it is important for photographers like us to know how we can help ourselves bounce back.
As Tiril mentioned in this podcast episode, Aristotle made the observation that great creative minds in different fields often suffered from what he called melancholia, a sort of depression. This is common in many photographers, and Tiril shared how can we help ourselves become better in handling our mental health.
But first things first, how can we have a sustainable business?
Sustainability and finding the balance
Sustainability in your photography business means having your whole life fit in together in a way that feels good for you. It’s a business that does not leave you depressed, burned out, or depleted.
Running a business and balancing between getting enough money and also being creative can seem like a bit too much to handle. When you overthink, this drains your mental health. Instead, do whatever works for you. Sustainability is closely linked to freedom. The freedom to structure your business and live your life the way that feels good for you is the way to go.
But how are you going to find that balance and manage your mental health?
Mental health for photographers matter
A lot of photographers possess a kind of enhanced sensitivity to the world around them, both aesthetically and visually. We notice things in the way the world looks that a lot of people just don’t see. Like how the winter light paints the kitchen wall, or how a certain color just calls out to us. We have a thinner emotional skin and that’s what makes us good photographers. It’s linked to a strong and sometimes overwhelming emotional experience and presence.
How to manage mental health for photographers and still be creative
- Appreciate that life is a gift. Being this close to the world can be incredibly overwhelming.
- Be able to shield yourself when you need it. When you have too much going on and you have emotional responses to almost everything, it’s exhausting.
- Be selective about how you use yourself in this world. There will be mental health struggles but choose your battles.
- Manage expectations and avoid being overstimulated by social media. Most of what you see are about the sunny sides of photographers’ lives but that isn’t how life works. Life can be hard and there are days when it’s light and dark.
- Allow yourself to have hard, boring, and unproductive days without beating yourself up about it.
- When the situation triggers your mental health, ask yourself, “what would you say to a friend in the same situation?”. Because when you’re speaking to someone else that you care about, you will have a lot better answers than when you’re just speaking to yourself.
But the most important thing is, the better that you know yourself, the more you know what you actually need. It’s essential to create a business that supports you in what you need. Because if you’re a sensitive person and you’re forced to work with a lot of clients, you could be draining yourself. So you have to know what you need and find a way to work with fewer clients instead of just taking on as much as possible. That’s how you manage your mental health as a photographer.
Going with the “Flow“
We all have different strengths and skills, and instead of trying to be the best at all things, if you can just focus on the things that you do best and enjoy the most, that’s when you’re gonna have fulfillment and feel your best.
Reaching that “flow” state means doing the things that make you so happy that you become engrossed in doing it. And in that state sometimes, you’re so focused that you cannot think of anything else. An example would be taking photos that you love doing. It’s to the extent that you sort of stopped noticing yourself and you don’t really feel hunger or cold or tiredness at all. And you are one with the process of taking pictures. And when you look at the time, you realize you’ve completely lost track of time.
Flow is when you’re doing something you love to do, but also the task demands something of you. It’s a task that lets you use your unique qualities and skills, but it is also sufficiently demanding.
But what happens when you get tired of the same scenario? When nothing is working and nothing is flowing? You can try to add new elements to your process. Experiment and do things differently.
What to avoid to continue your flow
It’s so easy to sort of get lost in how everybody else is doing it, so try taking a step back and not just looking at stuff other people are creating, but think, “what do I want”? What speaks to me? What do I feel?
Looking at what others do and finding your way of doing things is probably the worst way of doing it because you need to do things your way instead of trying to copy them. Instead of thinking that the solution is magically going to come from others’ way of doing it because they could never be you.
Remember that people need people. Even introverted people need people. Having someone to talk to and share your thoughts and feelings with will help you.
What Tiril wants you to know
We have ups and downs, all of us, and stop beating yourself up about it and try to do something that helps instead. Knowledge about flow, the connection between mental health and creativity, and perhaps a more nuanced understanding of what “mental health disorders” “are” of course, with diagnoses, just being one end of a scale on which we all are, every day.
Connect with Tiril
Ingvild Kolnes is the host of Sustainable Photography, as well as an educator for photographers, and is ready to help you with your photography business.
hi, i'm ingvild
This podcast is all about education and inspiration for photographers. A sustainable business is profitable and lasting. Instead of short-term wins you want to make sure you’re doing things that matter. Both to yourself, and to create the business you want. The goal of this podcast is that it will help you build and structure your business around your life, instead of the other way around.