5 Tips on How to Support Your Mental Health as a Freelancer
The global market for freelancers is growing and more and more experts are deciding to take the step into self-employment. The reasons for this include the desire for flexibility and autonomy. But being self-employed also means displaying a high degree of self-discipline and motivation. The severe issue of mental health should not be pushed into the background, and as a freelancer, it is important to take proactive steps in managing your health. Here are some valuable tips for improving and maintaining your mental well-being as a freelancer.
Since freelancers can schedule their working hours flexibly, clients often expect them to be available around the clock, even on weekends. That's why it's all the more important that you set clear boundaries with your clients right from the start. To avoid stress and overtime, talk openly about the expectations and requirements on both sides at the beginning of the relationship. This includes communicating when you are available and when you are not working, taking calls, texting or answering emails. Try to draw the line between work and free time by sticking to specific work schedules and prioritizing tasks properly. Take time for yourself to pursue your personal interests and recharge your batteries. Disconnect from your devices, messaging services, and emails so you're not tempted to respond to incoming business messages during your free time. Also learn to say no and reject new customer requests when you run out of capacity.
Find ways to connect
Working remotely can be very isolating. Most of the time, freelancers work autonomously and are not part of a team. Unlike in the office, there is no regular exchange with colleagues. So, it's important to stay in touch with friends, family and clients, both online and offline. For example, you can work from a co-working space, or arrange to work with other remote workers or freelancers at your home. If your client lives in the same city, take the opportunity to arrange a face-to-face meeting for coffee or lunch - alternatively, this can be done online. Also, use platforms and freelancer communities and participate in networking events for freelancers to meet like-minded people and stay in touch. The more opportunities you create to talk with other freelancers, family members or friends, the less lonely and isolated you will feel.
Change your work environment regularly
Changing the place of work every now and then is not only advisable because of the social contacts. Staying in the same place all day, sometimes even not leaving the house at all,
can cause mental health problems over time. Make sure to get out in the fresh air daily, do regular physical exercise, and get new input and stimulation through a change of scenery and social interaction. Also, whenever possible, try to get some sunlight. This causes our body to produce valuable vitamin D. A lack of vitamin D can have a negative effect on mental health and lead to exhaustion and fatigue.
Inform yourself about the topic of mental health and recognize signs early on
In order to recognize signals and symptoms of poor mental health, it is necessary to be aware of this topic and related clinical pictures in order to identify the first signs as such in the first place. If you notice indications of burnout or depression, you should do something about it by adjusting your routines and habits or seeking professional support.
There are also many options for app-based mental health services like Mindshine, Calm or Happify, and apps that offer online therapy services like BetterHelp or Talkspace.
Establish healthy routines
Researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand found in a study that sleep - and sleep quality in particular - is the strongest factor in mental health. Physical activity and diet are secondary but still significant factors. Establishing healthy routines, such as a morning sports session, not using electronic devices before going to bed, or preparing a healthy dinner can have a positive effect on mental well-being.
Freelancing offers a great deal of freedom and flexibility. However, serving many clients at the same time and managing your own tasks can lead to enormous stress and a negative impact on your work-life balance. Set boundaries, establish routines and take care of your own mental health. You don't have to change all your habits overnight, but creating awareness, listening to your own needs, and seeking professional help if necessary, are steps in the right direction.