How This Photographer Reconnected With Her Creativity After Experiencing Burnout
"After six months alone, I was not in a good place mentally."
Sundays are a day to recharge and reset by hanging with friends, turning off your phone, bathing for hours on end, or doing whatever else works for you. In this column (in conjunction with our Instagram Self-Care Sunday series), we ask editors, experts, influencers, writers, and more what a perfect self-care Sunday means to them, from tending to their mental and physical health to connecting with their community to indulging in personal joys. We want to know why Sundays are important and how people enjoy them, from morning to night.
Before Jasmine Purdie became the Photo Editor at HelloGiggles, she was an elementary school teacher. But even though she loved teaching, she admits that she was not content in her career path. "Photography had become more than a hobby, so in my mid-20s, I made the decision to make a career change," the now-31-year-old tells HelloGiggles. So after four years of teaching, she decided to go to grad school for photography and begin her new career. "It was difficult to start over in a new career, but it was also the beginning of putting my needs and wants first," she says.
Once Purdie graduated, she began pursuing photography full time. She worked for Bustle, as a photo researcher, as well as AARP, as an assistant photo editor; at the beginning of this year, she came on-board HelloGiggles. "In my current role, I work with the editorial team to make sure each article has a great image," Purdie explains. "Most of my days are spent at my desk working on images in Photoshop. It is always special when we get to photograph original images for the site."
But when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit shortly after Purdie started her new job, her life and mental health started to shift. "For the first few months of the pandemic, I was just enjoying being at home and had neglected expressing myself creatively. Being in a new city can be very lonely and isolating in itself but when coupled with the pandemic and social injustices, the loneliness became crushing," she says. "When I started to feel burnout, I remembered that I need to exercise my creative muscles."
To help with her mental health, Purdie started giving herself photo assignments every week as a challenge. For instance, "this month as we test beauty products, I am working on beauty still-life photos because still-life is a style that I don't normally photograph," she explains. "The Self-Care assignment [I did a few months back] challenged me to make socially distanced portraits outdoors. Most of my photo work is made in the studio with a whole production crew. Since it's just me, I'm trying all the roles from making props to food styling. It has been a fun way to keep myself occupied and learn new skills."
Purdie adds that one of her "favorite books to go to when I get a creative block" is The Photographer's Playbook.
For this week’s Self-Care Sunday, we spoke to Purdie to learn more about her mental health journey, her go-to self-care rituals, and her experience as a Black woman living in 2020.
HelloGiggles (HG): How would you describe your relationship with mental health? And how do you feel like it has changed this year?
Jasmine Purdie (JP): Taking care of my mental health has been an ongoing journey. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I figured out that I needed professional help to move past the trauma, anxiety, and depression that had plagued me for years. Today, I am very in tune with my mental health and make it a priority to take care of my whole self.
At the beginning of this year, I was in a great place. I started a new job, moved to New York City permanently, and was making strides on my personal goals. Less than a month after my move, everything shut down. Leaving me alone in the epicenter of a pandemic. After six months alone, I was not in a good place mentally. Facetime with my family was my lifeline during those months. I was telling myself that I was ok because I didn't want to risk going home and infecting my family. In reality, I was on autopilot and barely making it day to day. I am grateful for my support system who convinced me that it was ok to go home. I made the best decision for my mental health and moved home to Northern Virginia to be with my family.
HG: What are some practices or regimens you do to help when things feel down?
JP: I am a big advocate for therapy. I look forward to my bi-weekly appointment because it gives me a place to talk freely. Therapy has helped me with learning to be in tune with what I need, honor it, and act on it. Sometimes it is doing something creative like taking a walk with my camera or painting. Other times, it’s binging a TV show I’ve seen a million times. Some of my favorites are Living Single, One on One, New Girl, and The Office.
I also free write in a journal when I have big feelings. The words usually look like chicken scratch when I’m done but I am able to leave my feelings on the paper and not continuously replay them in my mind.
HG: What physical activities have you been doing lately to help you connect with your mind and body?
JP: I do a few deep stretches every morning and before I go to bed. This really helps me warm-up for the day and relax for the evening by releasing tension. I try to take a walk every day to get some fresh air. Walking in New York City was just a natural part of my everyday routine, and I’ve made an effort to continue that while living at home.
HG: What do you wish people understood and acknowledged about the Black community and how do you suggest others show up and give support?
JP: First, Black people are not a monolith. We are so varied beyond our physical skin color. Each of us has an individual lived experience that shapes who we are. The Black viewpoint cannot be summed up by one representative that does not have the input of the greater community. This is why I feel that diversity and inclusion have to go beyond having one Black person on a team or committee.
Second, actions speak louder than words. This summer, we saw so many people saying Black Lives Matter, making efforts to learn about systemic racism and examining their own beliefs. As predicted, a large amount of those words were performative. You can’t just read about the problem and then think it will magically fix itself. Show up in your communities by advocating for the Black people who live there, volunteer to help organizations that support the Black community, speak up when you see injustices in your workplace.
HG: How do you personally define community care?
JP: I think that community care starts at home. Checking in with my family and friends to make sure they are doing well during this difficult time is very important to me. I want my personal community to know they are supported.
Volunteering and giving back throughout the year are also very important to me. Every year during the holiday season my family and I sponsor children in our community through organizations like Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation’s Christmas With the Greens and The Salvation Army Angel Tree.
HG: What are some ways you’ve been connecting with your personal joy?
JP: Christmas is my favorite holiday and this year, I’ve really been leaning into all the cheer. Putting up a tree, decorating the house, and buying presents have brought me so much joy.
I’ve also been creating art just for myself. Most of the work will never be seen by anyone else but it brings me joy to express myself creatively.
HG: If you could give Jasmine at the beginning of this year one piece of advice for 2020, what would that be?
JP: My advice would be to go with the flow. This year has brought so many twists and turns that were all unexpected. Even though everyone was going through the same thing, it was easy to see the pauses and setbacks as deeply personal. A few months ago, I had a talk with my best friend, and she said that she has been approaching these times like a detour. Following the path knowing that eventually, we will come out on the other side.