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Trying to cultivate a positive Mindset.

April 30, 2019

Mike Hesketh

Part of the new name is the word 'mind'. This was a deliberate integration to reflect that we are a mindful studio... or at least we try to be. Mental health has never been more openly talked about more than it is now, but places of work still largely leave the subject untouched. I don't think there's a person alive who hasn't experienced stress, fear or sadness at some point and one of the big triggers of this centres around work and money.

Whether you are an employee or employer, you are no more or less immune to the pressure and burdens that can be placed upon you by your job. Deadlines, targets, disputes, cash flow and disappointments all way heavily on the mind and effect how you feel about your work and how you feel about yourself. Creatives find themselves especially in the firing line with the requirement of a 'thick skin' to be developed early on. 'Thick skin' still seems to be a term thrown out to any budding young designer or developer in place of any actual advice and is more a signal to any student, intern or newly graduated designer or developer that you will just have to learn to take criticism, toughen up and move on. That's all very well and good but there's hope given beyond the suggestion that over time you will have got knocked down and eviscerated so many times that you will get used to it.

Personally, I have been conscious of my mental health from my early teens and aware of the cause and effect status of my brain. It's been a challenging journey to learn about myself and how I tick but I will always be open to learning more about myself with acceptance of the twists and turns as they come. In recent years the challenges have increased but my ability to handle them has risen to match. How I personally handle my stress and anxiety is a topic for another time. It's been important to learn that we are all different colours on a vast spectrum within our minds and how things affect each of us is very individual, as is the process to deal with and heal your mind.

Unfortunately, designers and developers will always and forever find themselves in the firing line of criticism due to the subjective nature of our profession. It is as inevitable as it is unavoidable. I am not suggesting that it's in any way unfair or unjust that we should be put in that position. It is a necessary by-product of the creative process and creative journey. We can't get it right all the time and even if we think we can, the client is entitled to a mind of their own and will always provide the final ruling on your work. To shield or protect yourself from criticism is not a realistic prospect or even a course of action that you should consider. Criticism is essential to the growth of any designer and it is how we become better.

To avoid some degree of stress or negativity in any job is an impossibility. So what do we do? Well... if you are an employer it is as much your responsibility to consider the mental wellbeing of your staff as it is to protect their health and safety. We must come to familiarise ourselves with what the shades on the spectrum look like and consider the individuality of the people who work within your team. At Mindset we encourage openness to talk about mental health and believe that it is not a subject that you should feel embarrassed to approach. This is not an expectation, because that would be ludicrous. To force that environment would be a mistake and instead it should feel like an 'open mic' to bring up any concerns or struggles. This can be privately or publicly, but it must remain at the discretion of the individual team member.

For us, I felt it was best to lead by example. I knew that if I was open about my mental health and showed honesty and confidence, it would diffuse any stigma attached to opening up or sharing about mental health. This is what worked for us, but I appreciate that may not be a path open to other employers or team leaders. It is, by extension, the cornerstone of any good leader's principles to show honesty, openness and mindfulness of the individuals that make a part of a team. We now have an environment where, depending on the heaviness of the topic, we have team members who are happy to discuss their mental health openly in front of the team and for the heavier topics, time is made for a coffee and chat. It's important that no one feels alone.

As an employee, it's a matter of peace. Struggles will come and take you down both personally and professionally, but they will go again. It's about putting one foot in front of the other in the knowledge that there is an end to any bad time in your life and when you reach that end you are the stronger for surviving it. Accept that there will be clients and projects that will challenge you, both positively and negatively, but embrace the challenge as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, about your work, about how to handle a situation like this when it arises again. Do not take it on silently. Don't just put on this 'thick skin' under the belief that you have no right to feel how you do because you have been lead to believe every other designer does. No, you are a human with thoughts and feelings and it is ok to feel what you feel. Embrace it, share it, learn from it and take encouragement that you will be better for the survival of it.