Artists and Anxiety

Why are artists more prone to burnout symptoms than others? It's simple really, artists are both more vulnerable in their characters, as well as putting themselves in more vulnerable positions. It may sound strange, but from a psychical perspective, artists experience the same as soldiers, policemen or health workers with trauma's: they have been put in a situation where there body makes a lot of stress hormones. So, today, let's learn how vulnerability works.

All artists have one thing in common: they absorb a lot of the world around them. In a bit of a clinical description one could say that 'input is output': the more inspiration flows in, the more art flows out. The less clinical description is that artists can easily step in a vulnerable state. They are vulnerable in quite a literal way therefore and can adopt a state of mind where they are open and aware to what the world around them is doing and feeling.

This vulnerability is increased when they release their art or perform it. They experience stage frights, pre-release anxiety or other comparable stresses. Of course it is not the same as traumas that soldiers or doctors experience, but the body does do the same as in those situations and produces a lot of stress hormones. If the outcome is successful, these can be turned into endorphins. However, you'd still need some recovery time.

So, artists open up to the context, they are vulnerable at releases or performances, while naturally picking up on a lot of the emotions around them, both consciously and subconsciously, which they then translate into their own art. This process is known as letting the 'muse', 'universal energy' or 'divine inspiration' flow through you in those moments, which you then mold into something with a personal artistic touch.

That's the upside. The downside is that artists can absorb negative emotions as much as positive ones. And because of their built-in vulnerability, they can become a big conduit of bad feelings, which can lead to strained relationships, substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors. That output of that 'muse' flowing through them basically turns sour, at least for a while. If an artist is not prepared mentally for blockages and emotional abuse, both from others and themselves, things could end up badly. Believe me I know, especially as a musician, I've been there.

Fortunately these days our relationship with artists has changed in society. We don't see artists as outliers anymore because we value creativity higher than we did in older days. These days we see artists more as relatively normal people, albeit with an extra sensitive side, who are easier to reach and better to understand than before, and simply spark our imaginations. This creative side is valued much higher than before as well, especially in business, where we used to look down on it.

This means as a society we have a better overall acceptance of the vulnerabilities of artists. We also have much better tools at our disposal to deal with them. The whole mindfulness movement with all of its meditation, yoga, acceptance and openness to feelings is such an example, next to scientific leaps we are making in better understanding our emotions and businesses who now stimulate our vulnerable sides, instead of pushing them away.

So if you are an artist or have a strong artistic side, just having this extra awareness is already a huge step into alleviating anxiety. Accept and nurture this side of you, and you'll be fine.

Take it easy as always,