How I Learned to Work Well Alongside Anxiety and Depression

Hustle. It tends to be a rally-cry for the creative tribe. But to be honest, hustle didn’t work for me.

Instead, I’ve learned I want to work as a creative small business owner from a place of rest, not hustle.

And I believe it’s possible.

How I Got Addicted to Hustle

For years, I thought perfectionism was a virtue and that “eating weird” was a quirk. Thought everyone that worked in PR struggled with chronic anxiety and insomnia. Thought my friends would be horrified if I told them, that I would lose my job if I took medical leave of absence to recover (um, newsflash, you can’t because of FMLA). Thought I wasn’t a good woman of faith for wondering what it would be like to not exist. For years, I thought I was alone.

Mental illness and perfectionism got wound up in my profession: creativity and marketing and media and speed and such.

Seeking to control anything in my busy exhaustion, I created this food bank in my head. Miserable idea, but I ran the books on that bank, decided if a withdrawal or deposit was allowed each day. Everything could be spinning out of control, anxiety and depression could start knocking on panic attack’s door, but I — I could control what I ate.

I left my job in February as a publicist after years of work in agency and for private corporations, trading it in for a small, home office with two puppies as coworkers. I still write marketing copy and strategy, but this time, it’s for creative business owners like me. And when my hands aren’t rapping a keyboard? They’re forming more words with a calligraphy pen and ink.

Who knew. It is possible to work, publicize, and market my business from a place of rest.

How I Know I’m Not the Only Creative Wired this Way

For those of us who create, who meander through life with a “high EQ,” this is the truly temperament to which we may be prone. Fascinating research is out there that 20% of the population is a Highly-Sensitive Person (HSP).

“They … notice things others miss, and have stronger emotional reactions, both positive and negative,” Elaine N. Aron, Ph. D says. “Noticing so much, feeling so much, and thinking about everything so much naturally means that they also get more easily overwhelmed. They need more down time and are more bothered by things like noise or having too much to do at once.”

One in three entrepreneurs has to learn to manage depression. And hey, some of us have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Bipolar Disorders, and more.

And that’s ok.

“I would see a doctor if my arm was broken,” my small business ladyboss friend said.

“So why do I think it is so weird to see a therapist when my emotions are broken?”

Preach.

What Does it Look Like to Work from a Place of Rest

The longer the ebbs and flow of recovery span in length, I see this truth emerge: recovery doesn’t mean healed, as it means equipped.

How I Learned to Work Well Alongside Anxiety & Depression | via the Rising Tide Society

Credit: SC Stockshop

I’m still hot mess express, but I’m figuring it out. And I’ll skip the “stand up and take a walk every 50 minutes/don’t sleep with your phone” stuff — going out on a limb that you’ve heard that.

Here’s what working from a place of rest looks like for me:

First, declare fearlessly that you’re worth it. Don’t live in pencil, ‘cause fair pencil strokes are less fulfilling than fat, inky lines. Commit to the ink, commit to the mess.

I dare you to bump up self-care on your to-do list.

I triple dog dare you to start saying no to things, and to not live how others expect you to.

If you think you need help, get help. Know that prescription medication doesn’t render you weak. Leah rounded up some awesome resources in her blog post.

Talk back to your thoughts. Index-card halves with affirmative phrases sharpied across them were taped to every mirror this past winter. I mean, I take them down when we have house guests, but leave them there mostly. Mostly as a redemption sign. A stack of stones like the Israelites. I love them.

Know your number of clients to book. Hit it each month. Then rest.

Go get ‘em tiger. Call “hustle” on its bluff from time to time, and above all, know you’re not alone.

Get freebie wallpaper download: “Work from a place of rest, not hustle.”

Ashlyn Carter

Ashlyn writes bespoke, meaningful words for creative women as a copywriter & calligrapher. She left her job as a publicist to go full-time with her calligraphy biz for brides–and realized there were lots of creative women fumbling with their message and sales copy (you can take the girl out of the PR agency … ).

She traded clients like Delta Air Lines and Chick-fil-A to work with creative industry dreamies like Jenna Kutcher, Katelyn James, Hilary Rushford, Justin & Mary Marantz, and dozens more, crafting conversion copy. When not writing about herself in third person, she’s usually trying to scratch the ink off her fingernails or grabbing margs and tacos with her husband.

12 comments

  1. Alison Jefferies

    What an affirming and life-giving post! I am one of the “one in three” creative entrepreneurs who manages depression with a side of anxiety in addition to running the show, and working from a place of rest has been my best strategy. I’ve learned to allow myself to have self-care times (sometimes full days when my brain chemistry just isn’t having it) because I can make up for that time with very focused, intense bursts of work. It’s taken a long time and the right balance of medications, but I’ve found a flexible method that works for me & my business.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts & experiences here. Sending you hugs, Ashlyn!

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  2. Such a wonderful & encouraging post and great reminder to love ourselves well and allow for rest in the moments of anxiety! Thanks for sharing, Ashlyn!

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  3. This was so great! In a world were we get glimpses of people’s perfect put together lives and we strive for the same. It’s encouraging to know and see that everyone has there own sets of struggles and when we share them with each other it helps others but it also helps ourselves. So proud of you sweet Ashlyn!

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  4. Love this post, thank you so very, very much for being so open and real here! My sister is a counselor – https://lydiaminear.com/ – and talks with many patients with these struggles. I know she’s helped me a lot!

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  5. I NEEDED this today. Such a perfect post to come across. Mental health is no joke and absolutely something that needs to be higher on our to-do lists!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this. People with and without mental illness need to know that anxiety, depression and other disorders are a real thing. They need to know what they can do to a person. They also need to know that these conditions are very manageable. The more we educate each other the happier we all will be.

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  6. Yikes, I needed this today. Thank you for sharing, it brought tears to my eyes.

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  7. This is an amazing post! I have also recently left a job of several years to pursue both my life long dream and my own health. It’s nice to know someone understands that being unstressed and having room to breathe is really something to shoot for.

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  8. This, this, this! Thank you so much for this post Ashlyn and RTS! As a one-woman show who has battled anxiety, I love that this post highlights knowing yourself and setting limits to therefore limit your anxious feelings! Anxiety is a very real thing that produces feelings of overwhelm that is tough to express into words. And self-care is a huge part of keeping anxiety away. Whether it’s taking Sundays AND Mondays off during your busy season to having a standing stress relief massage appointment to visiting a family counselor monthly, it’s imperative to make room in your life for this type of self-care! Lots of hugs xo

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  9. My friend from college was diagnosed with depression and I really want to help her. Thanks for the tip of talking back to one’s own thoughts with affirmations. Such handy tip!

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  10. Hi, Thanks For Your Top-Notch Article. Most Likely, Depression Is Caused By A Combination Of Genetic, Biological, Environmental, And Psychological Factors, According To The NIMH. Certain Medical Conditions May Also Trigger Depression, Including An Underactive Thyroid Gland, Cancer, Heart Disease, Prolonged Pain, And Other Significant Illnesses.

    Reply

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