Protecting Your Mental Health When You're Multi-Passionate
Why exploring several passions can feel exciting and terrifying.
Posted Sep 21, 2018
Ever since I decided to choose psychotherapy as my path of choice, I knew that it would take a long time before it could become my one and only job. In his book, The Gifts of Therapy, Irvin Yalom gives a life lesson to all of us young therapists: "Don't start off by making psychotherapy your only job, it's too much pressure for you and for your patients." I took this idea and ran with it.
Since then, I've always explored other ventures in addition to psychotherapy: writing, public speaking, workshop facilitation, learning support specialist at a school, adjunct professor. The problem is that I fell in love with each and every one of them. To the point where I – similar to what Marie Forleo recognizes in herself – dread the question people love to ask, "So, Mariana, what do you do?"
How do I start to explain all of the themes and paths I'm passionate about? What do I say first? How do I prioritize them when they all form an important part of what I do? When all of them form an important part of who I am.
That's why I felt such relief when I stumbled upon a book by a successful multi-passionate woman, for people going precisely through the same anxieties I'd been going through. Inadvertently helping me come at ease with being a multi-passionate, Emma Gannon – author of The Multi-Hyphen Method – crafted a book about "diversifying skills, designing your own career and working LESS, not more."
What does it mean being a multi-hyphenate?
"The Multi-Hyphen Method is a practical look at how we can reinvent ourselves, the workplace, our environment, and our own definition of personal success," explains Emma in her book. It's about creating a career that will adapt to the new world we are embarking on. A world that understands that the traditional workplace might not be set out for everyone. One that sets mental health as the cornerstone of their business and company's policies and philosophy. A world that understands that flexible workplaces help to tackle important issues like mental health, gender inequality, gender pay gap, and work-life balance.
Not to be confused with multi-tasking – which Emma explains in her book as a failed attempt to handle all your hyphens at the same time – multi-passionate individuals break free from the box and labels that the traditional workplace and society want to place us in. As Emma reminds us, "multi-tasking is bad for our mental health." Instead, it's about exploring our personal and professional motivations and honoring the variety of aspects that make up our personal brand.
But, how do we avoid our mind from jumping from one project to another? Especially, when all of the hyphenates, passions or "side-hustles" you're pursuing, ignite that spark inside of you. "I try to do 90 minutes of deep work on each project instead of constantly stopping to scroll," she recommends, "make sure that each project has my sole focus at one time."
What do you need to become a multi-hyphenate?
Rather than expertise or titles, the multi-hyphenate method is all about refining skills. "I'd say you need good social skills, be it online or in real life," Emma explains. "Time management skills are important because there will be times when you have to work on projects side by side. [And] you have to be good at setting boundaries."
In her book, Emma mentions that one of the biggest concerns for multi-hyphenates is precisely that: the blurriness of the work-life balance. Because we enjoy what we do so much, we might forget when we need to stop and take a break. Which is why she recommends it's indispensable to make self-care as one of your hyphenates, particularly in this burnout culture.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 1 in 5 highly engaged employees are at risk of burnout. "This is one of the reasons I left my office job, because going to the same desk every single day absolutely killed my creativity and didn't help with my productivity either", Emma explains, "I think sometimes we forget that we need to change our surroundings to become inspired again or see things from a new perspective."
How to protect your mental health when you're exploring different paths?
Emma recommends several different ways to take care of your mental health, especially as to counteract the blurred lines of the work-life balance:
- Embrace a slow-living lifestyle. A way to be mindful and stop rushing ahead. For example, actively identifying and challenging the times when you're scrolling mindlessly through social media. Or watching the rain instead of checking our phones. As Brook McAlary mentions in her book Slow, "paying attention to your life and spending time in the noticing."
- Design your workday mindfully. "I find myself getting anxious and overwhelmed if I book too much in. I make sure my days aren’t jam-packed and have realistic goals for the day. That means choosing to do one or two things really well, rather than writing a to-do list of ten things," Emma explains.
- Be realistic. As Emma writes in her book, "as a society, we have a tendency to take something and take a nicely lit photo of it and turn it into a utopian fantasy." Making your multi-passions profitable is possible, but it takes time and sacrifice. So, be careful of the comparison traps.
- Reach out to others IRL. Being a solopreneur and following your passions is incredibly rewarding, but it can get pretty lonely, sometimes. Make an effort to schedule a coffee or a breakfast meeting and turn that digital acquaintance into a real one.
- Talk about the money. Putting a value on your work is one of the most difficult parts of venturing away from the traditional workplace. But, we must get comfortable with the uncomfortable if we want to make this a profitable a choice. As women, we need to know it's not the end of the world when we discuss money.
- Reclaim your time. Ask about flexible working schedules and set apart time for you and your business. If you don't make time for it, why should anyone else make time for it?
- Be open to change. Embarking on this journey requires a lot of adjusting. Your time, your space, your routine, your productivity windows. As Emma so carefully expresses in her book, "let's not be afraid of being many different things."
- Embrace your humanness. How do you stay authentic (or human) in a world where we're not only curating our content but ourselves as well? Emma responds with this: "It's about integrity with the decisions you make, and staying true to who you are. Authenticity is simply about telling the truth, apologizing when you get things wrong, being yourself and following your gut."
You can read more of Emma Gannon's work here.