Mental health is health. Say it with us. Mental health is health. According to a screening conducted by Mental Health America, the number of people seeking mental health and anxiety assistance skyrocketed during the ongoing pandemic. Physical health concerns and isolation from loved ones and peers compounded by an almost overnight shift in working conditions highlighted just how crucial our interactions (or lack thereof) with others impact our day to day.
One such group significantly affected by mental health concerns even prior to the pandemic are freelancers. While the freedom to work from anywhere without the constraints of the traditional 9 to 5 is liberating, freelancers have reported suffering from symptoms such as anxiety, loneliness, and depression. With no set office space and cohesive team, freelancers are left to their own devices to stay on top of their own schedules and deadlines and miss out on the traditional office atmosphere. So if you’re a freelancer feeling the strain, read on to learn some tips and coping mechanisms to get the space you need when it feels like the four walls are closing in.
No one could have predicted 2020 (okay, maybe we were due for a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic, but who thought that it would happen now). With offices going remote, some businesses even going under, and millions of workers laid off or furloughed, instability in the job market is definitely one of the top stressors that have continued into the new year. For freelancers, this stress is magnified. Not only do freelancers in most countries not receive traditional health, unemployment, or retirement benefits set forth by most employers, but their workflow can be so dynamic and fickle that they are the first expendable assets during difficult financial times.
Reassess Your Money Strategy
On top of losing clients, many have had to adjust their rates to stay competitive in a saturated market, making it difficult to save up a nest egg for a rainy day when work is slow. Irregularity in workflow requires freelancers to be strategic about their finances and budget constraints since unforeseen circumstances and late payments may occur.
If your wallet is feeling the pinch, restructure both your business and personal budgets. Be sure to set aside money for taxes, health insurance and retirement within your financial plan to help give you a better idea of your discretionary income. When all is said and done, ask yourself if you really need that new KitchenAid mixer or expensive card stock. If the items on your wish list don’t play a direct role in improving your business or wellbeing, you can do without them until you feel more secure.
If you haven’t set up an investment fund, yet want to try something new with your savings plan, try out a financial app like Acorns, a micro-investing account that lets you invest spare change or money left over from each paycheck. You can set up an account in less time than it takes to make coffee, and it will help provide a feeling of accomplishment towards your future financial goals.
In addition – nix the UberEats and GrubHub in favor of home cooked meals. Sure it’s easy to order takeaway right from your phone, but are the additional fees and surcharges really worth it on a regular basis? You will save money by doing a weekly foodshop and meal prep even if you do splurge on the occasional delivery. And if you really hate the idea of saying goodbye to takeaway altogether, why not go for a happy medium with a meal delivery plan? You can order fresh ingredients right to your door and learn some new easy to follow recipes while still sticking to a budget.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Integrate the use of digital tools to improve your workflow process, keep you on track, and take the guesswork out of managing your task list. Start by creating a digital task and to-do list and prioritize your tasks in order of importance or deadlines. Staying organized will be your most helpful sidekick through 2021 and beyond.
Review the systems you use for invoicing, time tracking and more. Are they in need of a revamp? Updating the right tools to manage your business will help you save time and automate processes.
As a freelancer, things can get pretty lonely. Do some research and find groups you can network with over the internet to make connections and new friends. There are plenty of online digital nomad and freelancing groups to join, it’s simply a matter of finding the right group for your area and specialty. There are also virtual meetup groups you can join based on your personal interests. Meetup.com offers virtual talks and events on everything from the outdoors to tech and sci-fi. Some groups hold regular meetups (which are now mostly virtual), and all have a very collaborative and open atmosphere.
Scheduling regular video chats with friends and loved ones will also help you feel more connected when far apart. Setting aside time on your calendar for video calls will help provide structure to your schedule and give you something to look forward to. Whether you choose to use Zoom, FaceTime, or even Spike’s free video conferencing solution, short weekly check-in’s will help keep the chill of isolation away.
With everything going on, you owe it to yourself to take a step back and focus inward. Taking care of your physical and mental health is top priority, because if you don’t feel good about yourself, those feelings are likely to seep into other facets of your life, including your work.
We all have negative thoughts. We’re human, it happens. But it becomes a problem when those negative thoughts overwhelm our overall mindset and become detrimental to our wellbeing. Positive affirmations can be used to challenge and redirect negative thoughts. Affirmations are a phrase or set of phrases that you can repeat to affirm a belief or thought, training your mind to make positivity it’s default.
There are many positive affirmation resources you can access like the app I Am. Free for the first three days, and $20 per year after that, I Am is a great mobile app that sends users uplifting affirmations several times a day, and even has a section to assist users with self care. By incorporating affirmations into your daily routine, you can set intention to your day.
Set aside 20 to 30 minutes a day to get your thoughts physically down on paper. Write about your day, your concerns, and topics that you would discuss with a mental health professional. By writing down what is going on in your mind, you are able to organize your thoughts better and see and deal with them in a way that is actionable. Research shows that journaling:
There are many different ways and styles you can journal. Try them out and see what works best for you. And don’t worry if life gets in the way – journaling is a habit that can be picked up and restarted at any time.
Reach your guru even if you can’t physically sit in front of them on a mat. Try out some guided meditations to recenter yourself and align your chakras to get you back into the groove of feeling good. Meditation has been scientifically proven to ameliorate the symptoms of:
High blood pressure
Meditation can also:
Improve sleep and overall mood
Decrease job burnout
If you’ve never meditated before and need a beginners crash course, check out this 10-minute starter guide.
It’s no secret that physical activity improves our overall health and wellbeing. It is recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day for maintenance, and possibly more if you have other goals such as weight loss that you wish to attain. According to Harvard:
“Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.”
Exercise provides an outlet, helping us get away from daily stressors and focus on ourselves. When our bodies are busy, our minds tend to quiet, allowing us more space to think calmly and creatively.
While gyms most places may still be closed, there are plenty of ways you can get in your daily exercise. Try out some free at-home workouts, or invest in some home gym equipment if it’s in your budget. A little activity per day is a great investment towards yourself.
Hire a Professional
When in doubt, and you feel like you need a boost, finding a certified mental health professional to help you navigate through stress and anxiety has become easier than ever before. If you have insurance, see if there’s a provider in your area that’s covered. Due to the pandemic, some states have also made mental health counseling services available through the state. If these options are not available to you, employ the help of services like Better Help and Talkspace (you can compare them here). Be sure to check with your CPA about the possibility of deducting out-of-pocket medical costs on your yearly taxes.
Interested in more tips and tricks on freelancing, productivity, and mindfulness? Check out the Spike blog. Thoughts on this article or suggestions for additional mental wellness tips? Tweet us @SpikeNowHQ.