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Image credit: Harsh Goenka
Taking care of your mental health as a freelancer is about more than just practicing meditation or scheduling days off.
Especially when freelancers have SO many mental tabs open. And it’s not just freelancers suffering:
You'll get better results when you tackle the root of the problem. That's how you can beat burnout - or at least recognize it and recover if you fall victim.
But as anyone who's ever tried to take care of their mental health can tell you, it isn't easy. Whether you’re a seasoned freelancer or a beginner with no experience, it can be tough to stay on top of things. Sometimes you need a few useful tips to help you on your way.
So here are seven self-care strategies that can set you on your path to better mental health.
Let’s dive right in...
Burnout is a real danger for freelancers.
The fact that you have all the control over your business makes it easy to work 24/7 and spread yourself thin. But, if you don't take care of yourself, you'll burnout which is bad for your career and your health.
Burnout Syndrome is a term coined by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s. The symptoms impact a person’s entire system: physical health, mental health, social and family relationships, work productivity, etc.
Although burnout as a phenomenon first came to public attention in the 70s, burnout is on the rise. In fact, 71% of workers experienced burnout at least once in 2020 according to Asana’s Anatomy of Work report.
When people experience the symptoms of burnout their productivity usually suffers. They may also lose their passion for work and life in general.
Burnout also negatively impacts your health, potentially causing loneliness and health and mental conditions that lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and anxiety.
Studies have shown that Millennials experience burnout at higher rates than previous generations. Not to mention, in a survey of more than 500 independent workers, 46% said freelancing negatively impacts their health
That’s why it’s important to spot the onset of burnout early and take steps to address the issue.
It’s difficult to diagnose burnout because it’s not a medical condition. Plus, some studies suggest more than 100 symptoms for burnout so freelancers should be aware of their own signs and tendencies. Here are some common warning signs to look out for.
These are just some of the warning signs. A Winona State University study and other research say there are five stages of burnout: Honeymoon; Balancing Act; Chronic Symptoms; Crisis; and Enmeshment (other sources like psychologist Herbert Freudenberger -- who coined the term "Burnout Syndrome" --and his colleague Gail North say there are 12 distinct phases of burnout syndrome.).
As freelancers, our goal is to be actively involved in positive self-care with an eye towards prevention.
Most common advice says to prioritize rest, relax, and everything will be OK but that won't fix the root of burnout.
Burnout stems from chronic stress at work. It also has serious consequences on people's mental and physical health.
Truly addressing the root causes of burnout will take work, but it must begin with looking at the root cause — and doing the hard work to make necessary changes. Anything else is akin to putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.
According to Dr. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis, “Burnout is a risk factor for depression. It's a risk factor for substance use. It's a risk factor for suicidal ideations or suicidal thoughts. And so if you are burnt out, you should deal with it.”
How do you make sure you’re addressing the cause of burnout? Here’s what won't help your burnout:
Here is what will help your burnout:
Making tough decisions that lead to real changes.
First, you should analyze the situation. Next, identify the main source of your stress and work to come up with a solution.
For example, say a demanding schedule is the cause of your burnout. You could limit the amount of time you allot for work (Remember Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”). You could also consider reducing your workload, extending project timelines, and learning to set healthy boundaries by saying "no".
Although you can’t keep stress from happening, you can anticipate it and choose how you respond to it.
If you’re experiencing severe burnout, you may need professional attention, but otherwise here are seven ways freelancers can practice self-care and promote good mental health.
Freelancing is not for everyone.
But for those who’ve committed to the freelance lifestyle, it’s important to take control of your career.
You might consider yourself a capable freelancer who can overcome mental hurdles and adversity.
But freelancers are particularly at risk of burning out because we tend to have a less organized work structure. Think: irregular work hours, increased responsibility, less job security, and in many cases isolation, especially if you're working from home.
There's no end to what you can do when you've got a feeling of control and the energy to start, manage and grow a freelancing business.
If you want to become an unstoppable freelancer, you need a way to get in control and stay on top of all your work in one place: proposals, project management, payments, accounting, and business development.
Hectic will equip you with all the tools needed to keep you on deadline and thriving with minimal stress.
Combine that with your initiative and Hectic’s built-in personalized community to help freelancers connect with others, develop and refine their craft, and get help from experts...
Then you will be unstoppable.
Learn more about Hectic, a single digital workspace with all the tools needed to start, manage and grow a freelancing business.