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Interior designers’ mental health: Avoid burnout and foster your creativity

There’s no design worth your mental health – take your wellness seriously and catalyse change in your design practice

Architect and interior designer working on a design while improving their mental health
Interior designers’ mental health: Avoid burnout and foster your creativity
Clara Carlino de Paz
July 20, 2022

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This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

Interior designers work in highly pressurised environments where creativity is on-demand and against the constraints of time, budget and space. With enough overlapping projects, email chains and complex clients, these industry quirks can become tiresome on the brain – and plain tough on mental health.

As much as the role of an interior designer is highly romanticised, the reality is that the job is diverse and demanding. However, not all hope is lost (or any in fact!). There are many ways we can work to be more gentle on ourselves – and in turn more productive and innovative in our solutions. 

Now, breathe in, breathe out, and take a moment to think about your daily routine. Together, we can slowly introduce changes that will build healthier practices. Don’t take this list as the mental health bible – more like a toolbox meant to be customised to your own needs.

Mens sana in corpore sano

This might seem basic, but it is truly the foundation to all other changes you could make: take care of your body. This can mean sleeping over seven hours a day, reducing your screen time outside of work, eating home-made meals that make you feel good, or moving your body in ways that feel like rewards and not punishments. 

I can imagine what you’re thinking: “I don’t have time for all of that!”. I understand. Instead of trying to incorporate everything at once, prioritise your weakest areas first to have the most impact. If you’re eating out a lot but you exercise semi-regularly, then focus on the eating, not on increasing your exercise right now.

When you’re about to start making changes to your health, chances are you might feel overwhelmed. Try making one change at a time, and sticking to it for 30 days before quitting or introducing another. Allow your choices to feel like habits, and if you fluke sometimes, don’t be too hard on yourself: it’s all part of the journey.

Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress

As creatives, our worst enemy is our own self-talk. In many ways, we are our own worst managers. We only have negative feedback to share, we don’t allow excuses for anything and we work ourselves to exhaustion; if possible, we’d send ourselves to HR. And that’s not a way to live.

If you find it difficult to handle your own patterns at work, imagine yourself as a friend, or a younger version of yourself. How would you talk to them? How would you redirect their work if it’s misguided? How would you show kindness when things don’t go as planned?

Being brutal on yourself is not a sign of strength. Practice, experiment, and let yourself try. No artist became great by throwing the canvas away when things got strange. Forgive your mistakes and keep it moving, ‘cause life’s too short to be your own frenemy.

Set blocks of time to be creative – and to do admin

Life as a designer is not all huge ideas, hex codes and golden rust finishes. There are emails, client updates, excel sheets, sample library organising sessions… The list is endless. Creative tasks use our brain in different ways than administrative tasks do, so set yourself up for success by doing the mechanical tasks in batches when you need to. Then, you’ll have more time to be creative and think outside the box; without being interrupted with small tasks that stunt your growth.

Lastly, share, share, share: and do the same for others

Tasks. Knowing when to delegate is a talent we don’t talk about enough. As much as it can be in our nature to be detail-oriented and take control of everything, we can’t think of the big things when we’re bogged down by the small. If you have a team or a peer who can help you share the load, do so. When the time comes, you can also help back: and potentially change your rhythms and try something new. You never know how someone else’s tasks can inspire something in you!

Thoughts. There’s a reason why we call therapy “the talking cure”. Talking about our feelings releases something within us and helps us regain perspective when we need it. If you’re feeling stressed out at work, talk about it and explore your options. Leaving things to grow unattended doesn’t help anyone, and it might cause problems in the long run. If you notice someone isn’t doing so well around you, reach out too. Life’s a two-way street.

Ideas. Can’t think of many things much better than productive brainstorming sessions. The excitement, buzz and joy in the air is hard to obtain elsewhere. If you’re finding it difficult to come up with original ideas, share what you have with others and see where the bouncing back gets you. Also, share your ideas with people outside of your work circle. We all have unique references we draw from, and your next eureka moment may be hand-in-hand with tomorrow’s coffee date.