Freelancing has always been the dream of many – to break the barriers of the monotonous office jobs and make money doing what you love from anywhere. The aesthetic and the freedom of it has always been attractive. The dark side of being a freelancer is its repercussions on mental health – having to manage your personal and professional life on your own, tackle finances, deal with loneliness and the constant anxiety that comes with this. You could be at home, working from your favourite cafe or being a digital nomad and enjoying the benefits of remote work and it wouldn’t change a thing.
Given that, here is how we think you can deal with the many mental health challenges that come with freelancing.
Burn that anxiety away!
There is no better (legal and healthy!) way to deal with anxiety and stress than through exercise. A good intense HIIT workout, a run, half an hour of skipping rope, lifting weights, yoga, swimming, even dancing or just slow paced walking in your neighbourhood could work wonders. All those good hormones will get pumping and get you feeling better by the end. Your mind will also have this welcome distraction where your thoughts will stray from everything that’s pestering you. This will help you get the space you need to think things clearly and make decisions. There are many triggers when you’re freelancing and there’s not enough alcohol in the world to fix things! On the other hand,there are plenty of workouts to get done, even when you’re stuck at home due to a crazy pandemic!
Find your freelancing community, wherever you are
When you talk to people who’re in the same boat and storm as you, or better, someone who has managed to tame it, it definitely helps. Every freelancer has been through the stress and anxiety of freelancing, of managing things and being stressed to a burnout. Coworking is a wonderful way to find your community. You can share, discuss and maybe see if they have any tips up their sleeves. If nothing else, you’ll know you’re not alone and there is someone out there who gets what you’re going through. It is easy to get carried away though. Make sure you stick around people who have found healthy (not alcohol, no!) ways to deal with their problems. Most things feel scarier when you’re on your own, especially if you’re working remotely.
Planning is something that most of us can vouch for. Anxiety can be triggered by uncertainty and the best way to tackle it is to plan it out of your life!
Here are a few ways to get into planning-
Put your freelancing worries on paper
Writing down your goals, your feelings, ideas, wishes can help put things into perspective. You can then prioritise and organise so you don’t have to tackle anything unplanned. It’ll also help get rid of things from your head and on to paper for you to go over later. When you come back to it later, you can try identifying situations or people who can be potential triggers and then act on them accordingly. Figure out what helps or what helped previously and make a note to remember it the next time. As someone who’s trying to manage multiple clients at once, I stand by this. As a freelancer, there will be 10 things being thrown from 10 different directions at you. You’ll tackle them easily if you’re ready for them beforehand.
Master scheduling client calls
A very nice tip I came across was to schedule calls with clients so they are done in the first half of the day. Write down points you’d like to put forth or be firm about and things you know you should avoid saying. Remember to breathe and tick it off of your to-do list! Pat yourself on the back, take a break and prepare for the next thing. Trust me, your mental health and your business will thank you for it.
Create a system and leave anxiety out of it!
Here’s the first rule of the freelancing club, or any hustler’s club actually – make a to-do list. Write down all your tasks for the next day on the previous day. Not only will this motivate you to wake up, but will help you feel calmer. Structure, system, schedules are anxiety’s worst enemy. When you know what will be coming at you next, you won’t be afraid of it. Even if you are, you can figure out ways to deal with it! Make sure to squeeze in a workout too!
Another tip is to schedule your deadlines a few days before the actual deadlines so your last minute hustle isn’t really last minute. Geddit? You can buy desk calendars or stick to the good ol Google Calendars for reminders and scheduling. Apart from that, the internet has plenty of apps like Trello, Asana, Basecamp and Google Keep to manage tasks.
What do you mean freelancers don’t take breaks?
A part of planning is taking breaks. Well-deserved breaks to recuperate and replenish can go a long way. You can go for a short walk, listen to music, practice a stress-busting hobby or call up a friend, especially if you’re on your own. The one mistake that most of us make is to let those small worries pile up within us until they overflow. It’s easier to empty a bucket than to mop an entire flooded floor, duh! So tale breaks, shamelessly! Do things that make you feel better, discover creative hobbies and try not to think about work. Maybe at the end, take some time to plan your next task in detail and prepare for it.
Know when to ask for help
If nothing helps and your mental health has started affecting your productivity, seek the help of a professional. A therapist can do wonders with their insight. Make sure you ask them questions and figure out the right therapist for you. Not all are the same and not all will be able to give what you need. Don’t be afraid, it’s no black magic. A third person’s perspective can help you see things differently. If nothing, you’ll get to rant for an hour. A good rant never hurt did it? Here’s a link to get in touch with affordable therapists if you ever need to.
I know there is no one-size-fits-all thing for this. We’re all different, our anxieties and triggers are unique and need to be dealt with such. The suggestions above are some things that have helped many to win some battles and we hope they work for you too. But seeking a professional’s help is always the best solution to put your mental health at ease. Freelancing requires courage and planning to help you get to the end. We think a well-equipped freelancer with their espressos and planners and unwavering determination could win the world!