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Artist-Related Stress

Desiree Woehrle

What is Artist-Related Stress?

Artist-Related stress describes the anxieties, hesitations, concentration difficulties, mental blocks, low energy and other mental health symptoms caused by one’s creative career and the real or imagined, internal or external demands.

Since opening my private practice, I’ve had the pleasure of working with talented visual artists, dancers, writers, chefs, designers, writers, comedians, actors and the like. What I’ve noticed is the tendency towards self-doubt due to overthinking, procrastination, comparison, and low self-esteem.

Artist-Related stress tends to be higher in individuals without family or other support regarding their career choice. If there has been a long history of being bankers or lawyers in your family, you may feel discomfort forging a path of your own in a field that can be seen as less-lucrative.

Scarcity Mindset

Scarcity mindset can creep in when anxiety is increasing and profits and account balances decrease in size. The biggest problem here is that stress and tension do not increase creativity. They can sometimes boost motivation into hyperfocus mode if you’re prone to inattention, but usually not quality well-rounded work.

Owning your own creative business is a stress on its own, as is being between jobs, holding on to the belief that yes, this is a real career. No, you don’t have to settle for some meaningless gig because that person or voice in your head told you this is far-fetched.

Being On Display

Being in the public eye and having your work critiqued is another aspect of the stress. For creatives, your final products are like your babies, putting much of yourself into them before sending them off into the world. Acceptance or at least tolerance of negative criticism is required for putting yourself and you art out there, allowing it to be seen and experienced by others who may not get it.

How Therapy Can Help Artists

Many clients find it helpful to read the Artists Way while in therapy, processing their findings and clarifying lingering questions. One of the most popularized practices from the book is called Morning Pages, a daily practice of writing five pages of free-association, whatever comes to mind writing. The purpose being a mental dump of what’s been on your mind, AND getting the creative juices flowing. Finding peers and colleagues in creative fields can help validate the value and need for your specialty. Collaborating and finding mentors to learn from will inspire while building strength and confidence. It’s not easy creating a life and career from scratch on your own terms, especially in a world quick to defund the arts or see it as a luxury.  

The sheer intimidation of the metaphorical “blank canvas” can be stressful for some as well. After working your way up the ranks, putting your time in toiling away on tedious assignments, getting to direct the art or manage the project, can be quite intimidating. Some are so thrown off by what it feels like to finally be sitting in that director’s chair, that they become frozen, unable to perform, unable to connect with flow, your highest source of creative energy. In this case, I work with clients to find specific stress-management and embodiment techniques to help re-connect them with their purpose, brilliance, values, truth, gift and message they want to share with the world.

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Artist-Related Stress


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About the Author

Desiree W. B., LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and holistic health coach born in Brooklyn. She has provided Mental Health support in NYC for over 13 years serving as a community mental health counselor, group facilitator, researcher and program director before opening her private practice in 2017. Specializing in neurodiversity, chronic anxiety, depression and trauma, therapy with Desiree is a weekly commitment you'll be looking forward to. You'll find yourself able to deeply explore, with increasing ease, the feelings, thoughts, fears, blocks and limitations that have been preventing you from growth, authenticity, security and joy. You can contact Desiree on her MyWellbeing profile or directly on her website here.