Late of the Pier's Sam Potter and music industry expert and creative consultant Florence Jimenez Otto share three essential practices for emotional awareness and creativity.
It’s no secret. the creative industries are a hotbed for mental health issues. Everyone’s always known it, but Help Musicians UK’s landmark 2016 survey – the largest ever of its kind globally – brought some staggering figures to the table. 65 percent of respondents reported they had suffered from depression, while 71 percent believed they had experienced anxiety and panic attacks – and that’s just in music.
At Catalyst, the mental health conversation is always open, and we’re forever looking for new ways to support our students. Talking is great, but taking it one step further into action is even better. Florence Jimenez Otto and Sam Potter’s recent presentation on emotional awareness and creativity provided our students with an empowering mental health toolkit. The sentiment of the day: feeling good!
Sam Potter is a musician, artist and author, who you might know from cult band Late of the Pier. His current work focuses on helping people reconnect to the emotional properties of sound. Ecstatic Data Sets, his recent book for Rough Trade, explores emerging technology’s role in better understanding who we are through music. Sam is also a creative consultant, with MONOM, Domino Recording Company and Franz Ferdinand amongst his clients.
Florence Jimenez Otto has been working in the music industry for the past seven years. After seeing various artists and colleagues struggling – and also experiencing total exhaustion herself – she developed a special interest in mental well-being. On the road to recovery, Florence realised that there were shockingly few psychological resources within her profession. She decided to harness her sociology and psychology studies to train in systemic coaching. Now, Florence guides her clients through a transformative process. “Emotional intelligence is a good starting point in observing your thoughts and feelings,” she told us, “and trying to stay in the present moment, ideally preventing burn out and depression.”
So how does one build an emotional intelligence toolkit? Well, the good news is that it’s way easier, more satisfying and longer lasting than anything you’ll ever attempt to botch from IKEA. Following the insightful presentation, Florence took the time to share the fundamental steps and strategies that everyone should incorporate into their daily lives. Check them out below!
Emotions can often be split into two categories: psychological and physical. The psychological component is the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that underlie most of our feelings. The physical part is the bodily sensations that usually accompany different emotional states. One example is nervousness, which may be a mixture of thoughts (‘I’m not good at this’ or ‘I’m scared I’m going to fail’) and sensations (‘I have butterflies in my stomach’).
How can we employ self-awareness? It’s all about stepping back and trying to observe the feeling. The first level of emotional awareness is recognising when certain feelings are present. We become aware of the feeling when we first think about it or realise we feel something at that moment. We may not know exactly what the feeling is. But if we notice and acknowledge that we have some feeling, we have taken the first step. We can identify and name our feelings once we realize we have them.
- Pause for a moment and watch your emotions as a passive observer, instead of acting on them impulsively
- Channel your emotions in a new, constructive way. You could try exercising or going out for a short walk, creating as catharsis, listening to positive music, or taking ten deep breaths when a difficult emotion arises.
- Change perspective. For example, imagine yourself at 90 years old; what kind of advice would you give your current self? Or think what a friend would recommend you.
- Be grateful. Every evening, note five things that you are grateful for. They could be tiny, such as not having missed public transport or a smiling shop assistant. Unfortunately, we are used to paying attention to threats, landing ourselves in fight-or-flight mode. However, your brain is a muscle and you can train it to focus on the positives.
- Create a positive social circle. If you have a close friend or family member, try to talk to them about the stressful situation. Alternatively, seek out people who have a positive influence on you. It’s simple; if you hang around with positive and optimistic people, you’re likely to adopt a similar mindset. These individuals are not always easy to find, but a great way is joining a class or course in something you’re interested in, or going to the gym or participating in team sports. Other community activities such as festivals, concerts and art shows are amazing too.
Understanding your own emotions is only half of emotional intelligence; the other half is understanding the emotions of others. When we improve our self-awareness, we also improve our “other-awareness.” We are able to distinguish between our own thoughts and feelings and those of others. Of course, we can never understand another person’s mind completely, but we can actively learn about their inner thoughts and feelings by paying attention to what they are communicating – both verbally and non-verbally. It’s a compassionate feedback loop.
For more life-changing tips from Florence, head to her website.
For more on this topic, read culture journalist Anna Codrea-Rado's recap of our Dialogues series on mental health and creativity.