Social innovation & emotional balance : 3 tips to release emotions and remain mentally healthy.

I have always made it a point to get a job that would have a positive impact on society. Today this translated into a passion to design for social innovation. As a designer researcher, this means I potentially have to dive into the lives of people that have been through very difficult events.

Empathy is an essential skill for a designer but it can also fragilise you. Thus, it is important to know about which mechanisms to put in place to protect yourself. To me, it is mostly about knowing how to release emotions regularly to avoid saturation point. Here are three tips that I gained from working on a design project with refugees :

  • Make jokes. You always have to respect the fact that people that you will interview have had a difficult life, but humour when it comes at the right time is a savior. No one ever, should be not deprived from the right of laughing. It can be with your interviewee or with your team. I have been regularly talking to a refugee from Syria and our conversation is regularly punctuated by small, insignificant jokes that connect us and also relieve from the seriousness of the topic. This should be used carefully of course, and it is up to you to appreciate whether the moment is appropriate, but when it is on point, it adds this little light to the conversation.
  • Meditate every day. This sentence from S.N. Goenka stuck with me : “Would you ever consider not washing your body everyday? How come you don’t do the same with your mind?”. Particularly if you specialize in design research, knowing it or not, you will emotionally respond to your interviews and those emotions will accumulate somewhere in your mind and pile up until your break down and release them eventually. Practicing meditation every day (even for just 15 minutes before going to bed) will help you keep your mind clean from emotional clutter.
  • Regularly take REAL days off and practice an activity that empties your mind. For this purpose, I personally avoid going to the cinema or reading since I feel like this is adding extra information to my already full mind. Remember that it is about releasing and not taking in. For me, the real deal is music. There is nothing like a good night of clubbing and a lazy following day listening to good tunes to completely reboot me.

Do you have any other tips? I would be happy to hear about them!