Post
Ashley PoynterApr 215 min read

How to prioritize your mental health as a freelancer

Updated: Jun 25

More than 300 million people around the world are living with depression. On top of that one in six people are living with a mental health issue like PTSD, anxiety, or depression. Many suffer in silence at the workplace, where anxieties can peak and where burn-out can exacerbate some mental health symptoms. In some cases, people choose to move out of office work and into freelancing or self-employment as a way to reduce some of those symptoms.

On one hand, it appears that self-employment may be a way to restore some sense of work/life balance and perhaps alleviate stressors that can trigger anxiety and depression. On the other hand, work-related stress and burn-out are not relegated to working in an office. What’s more, solo entrepreneurs often find that work can be lonely and isolating. Freelancers are just as susceptible to mental health issues and symptoms as their 9-to-5 counterparts, making it critical to prioritize mental health. We put together some tips to keep mental health in check as a self-employed individual.

1. Add movement to your routine

Physical activity and exercise can be a great way to blow off steam and de-stress after a long day. In addition to burning calories, improving sleep, and reducing stress, physical activity can actually help you focus.

Even if you’re not sure you want to incorporate a 2-hour workout routine into your day, even the smallest bit of movement can help. Think about scheduling a time to go for a walk or light jog every day. Even adding a bit of stretching to your morning routine can be a great way to start the day.

If you do feel motivated to incorporate a more rigorous exercise routine into your day, consider joining your local gym, hiring a personal trainer, or checking out a local yoga class. The bonus benefit is that each of these can also get you out of the house, which is always a plus for those who work from home.

2. Bend an ear

Since many freelancers often work alone and isolated from others, scheduling time to connect is essential. While introverts may wince at the thought of this, it can actually go a long way in improving mood. Social interaction is important; without it, self-employed individuals can get lost in their own heads.

Talking with someone may be as simple as reaching out to a friend or family member each day or several times each week to connect and chat. It may be getting on a friend’s schedule to meet for coffee or even co-working with another freelancer at a shared space.

Self-employed individuals should not shy away from seeking out a professional ear, either. Talking to a professional therapist or counselor or psychologist can help people get through difficult times, talk through mental health crises, or just to have someone in your corner. You may consider seeking out a professional at their office or even online.

3. Prioritize self-care

Self-care is important for all humans, but often gets neglected by those of us who work for ourselves. We don’t have the same work/life boundaries that our 9-to-5 counterparts have automatically built into their lives. That makes it harder for us to separate work from other life. It also makes freelancers more prone to burn-out from an inability to “shut down” or “turn off” from work.

Find ways to take time for yourself. While you are responsible for your work and your clients, you’ll expand your productivity by keeping yourself happy and well-rested. Consider signing up for a class (unrelated to work) that interests you, like photography or painting. Schedule a spa day or a massage. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep and drinking enough water.

Get better at setting boundaries. Be sure to only do work within your dedicated workspace and that you leave work behind when you are finished. Set regular work hours for yourself and stick to them. Try to take weekends off. Be sure you’re allowing yourself to enjoy holidays and take vacations.

4. Build up a support system

In addition to finding ways to connect with others, be sure you are keeping in touch with a wider array of people who make up your support system. This may consist of friends, family, a therapist, other freelancers, and in-person or online communities. People who are employed by other businesses tend to lean on coworkers as support systems. Freelancers lack this built-in system, so it’s important to create one.

Be sure to connect with these people regularly, whether through phone calls, FaceTime, networking events, coffee, or instant messenger. While technology is a great way to keep in touch, be sure to meet up with people face-to-face, too. Nothing beats the real-life version of the people you care about. This network is an important part of being successful as a self-employed person.

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