Recently tennis star and 4-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka made headlines for withdrawing from the French Open in part because of a decision to not attend press conferences to protect her mental health.
Osaka’s decision to put her health and well-being before her career is admirable and noteworthy. In the United States alone:
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year*
1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year*
Even before COVID-19, mental illness among adults was increasing. In 2017-2018, 19% of adults experienced a mental illness, an increase of 1.5 million people over the previous year *
As you can see, mental health issues (and treatment options) are definitely something we need to pay attention to.
Want to see how you can find support for mental health for freelancers(or learn why freelancers are at particular risk of mental health issues)and make your life easier?
Sorry freelancers, but there’s no way you can ignore mental health
Freelancers are more likely to suffer from certain mental health issues because they’re particularly at risk of burning out due to a less organized work structure. Factors like irregular work hours, increased responsibility, less job security, and in many cases isolation, also play a part in freelance mental health issues.
According to a survey from UK workplace solutions firm Viking, 55% of freelancers said they’ve suffered from depression as a result of their job, 64% say their job makes them feel lonely on a daily basis, and 62% say they feel stressed as a result of work.
The freedom and independence that comes with being your own boss is seductive, but people who spend most of their time working at home are more likely to contend with an absence of support for mental health issues.
Tamsin Balcanquall, a freelance costume daily shared her experiences with mental health issues like anxiety, loneliness, and isolation, “the anxiety of it all can be the most destructive.” “Right now is a good example because my job [a freelance contract] of a month and a half is coming to an end and I don't have anything lined up to start right away. That sense of the unknown can really bring me down when I'm having a bad day."
Freelancing can be a lonely path. But many of us are facing similar issues.
Anxiety. Isolation. Failure. These affect all freelancers — though some do a better job at hiding it than others.
It's easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we're "special snowflakes" and that we’ve got it all figured out. But, we’ve talked about how freelancers are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems before and it’s time to admit it’s OK if you don’t have everything figured out.
Let's be honest, most of us have mental health issues that could benefit from a little extra attention
If you’ve mastered every facet of your mental health and emotional well-being, wonderful!
But evidence suggests that most freelancers are either highly susceptible to mental health issues or already suffering from one or more problems.
Data from Mental Health at Work, a UK charity, shows 60% of freelancers say mental health has negatively affected their ability to work. No surprise considering freelancers may have to manage irregular income, relationships with clients, and loneliness and isolation. In fact, more people than you may think are suffering from health and mental health issues. Consider:
46% of freelancers say freelancing negatively impacts their health*
1 in 3 adults are experiencing anxiety or depression related to COVID-19*
A study by Aldermore found that 40% of freelancers feel lonely and not having camaraderie with co-workers or positive face-to-face feedback from clients or bosses increases your susceptibility to depression and anxiety*
One study found the number of self-employed people saying they have ‘poor' or ‘very poor' mental health has increased from 6% to 26% since the beginning of the pandemic while another study found at the start of the pandemic 68% of freelancers said they had ‘good' or ‘excellent' mental health, now only 39% say so.*
Pandemic or not, it seems the question at hand is how are you going to protect your greatest asset – yourself?
5 Mental health tips & resources for freelancers
As a freelancer, it may seem as if there is a lack of support for mental health issues. The truth is, you can find resources and support if you know where to look.
Cultivate connections -- Connect with other freelancers using support groups, communities, forums, Slack channels, Facebook groups, etc. Schedule Zoom coffee breaks with fellow freelancers. Here are a few ways to connect:
Leapers -- According to their website, “Leapers supports the mental health of freelancers and the self-employed. We're a free and inclusive community project for anyone who works differently.”
The Freelance Institute -- This is a community for freelancers & remote workers that offers freelancing resources, interest groups, live events, and even project leads.
Freelancers Union’s SPARK -- These free monthly member meetups are for freelancers to come together, learn, and build a local community. SPARK meets on the first Wednesday of every month across the country.
Freelance Chat on Twitter -- The #FreelanceChat is a weekly Twitter chat for freelancers and self-employed consultants hosted by Michelle Garrett.
Meetup -- Even though this site is known for in-person events, groups and get-togethers, they also have virtual meetups you can join.
The r/freelance subreddit -- This subreddit has almost 160,000 members. It’s a place where you can ask questions, get encouragement or tips from other freelancers.
Partner with professionals --Take advantage of telehealth, therapy, mental health helplines, etc.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ NAMI HelpLine is available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m., ET. at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email@example.com
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. You can reach it 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
The Telehealth.HHS.gov website provides information for health care providers and patients about the latest federal efforts to support and promote virtual health care, known as telehealth. It was built by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Rest, recharge, and regroup -- Sometimes a change of scene or a change of pace can be good for your mental health. Here are a few ways to recuperate and relax:
Take a vacation -- I know this from firsthand experience. Sometimes you just need to get away. If you can’t go to a different location, stay local and plan some time to relax. For example, just checking into a hotel, Airbnb, or bed-and-breakfast for a day or two can be enough to give you a mental reset.
Take a break -- When needed, take Mental Health Breaks. Anything that allows you to step back, relax, and recharge your mind can be considered a mental health break. Research shows relaxation relieves stress and anxiety, and improves mood.
Take a walk -- Get out of the house and get some fresh air and sunshine. Head to the park. According to Walking for Health walking, "reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. Physically active people have up to a 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed, and staying active helps those who are depressed recover."
Take a nap -- Sleep it off. A study found that people who napped for 45 to 60 minutes had lower blood pressure after going through mental stress. Experts say afternoon naps benefit people of any age by resting the brain and clearing out our jumble of daily thoughts.
Take time to yourself -- If you feel overwhelmed or stressed, enjoy some activities that replenish your mind and body. In other words, do things that make you feel better.
Learn how to cover the costs --There are cost-effective ways you can take advantage of available mental health resources.
Self-employed filers who itemize their deductions can deduct mental health expenses that exceed 7.5%
Platforms like TalkSpace and Better Help offer therapy for as little as $35 per session, while mobile apps like Bloom offer digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The Association of Illustrators, in partnership with Society of Authors and Association of Photographers has a resource around mental health and creative freelancers.
Watch out for your well-being -- Invest in your well-being by adopting and maintaining good habits and a healthy lifestyle. The following five levers will help you improve your health:
Exercise regularly -- According to HelpGuide.org, “Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. As one example, a recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.”
Eat a healthy diet -- According to the Mental Health Foundation, "research shows a link between what we eat and how we feel." And Harvard Health Publishing says, "Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression."
Get enough sleep -- Research shows brain activity during sleep has profound effects on emotional and mental health. Other studies show sleep difficulties like insomnia are a causal factor in the occurrence of psychotic experiences and other mental health problems.
Set healthy boundaries -- It’s important to exercise control over what you let in or allow. Communicate with your clients and family and let them know what to expect.
Do something you enjoy -- Indulge in hobbies and pursuits that have nothing to do with work. This will help you to relieve stress and unwind.
There is one more resource you can use to manage the freelance frenzy and make your life easier...
Introducing Hectic: a powerful digital workspace for ambitious freelancers
You can use Hectic to reduce your mental load by automating tasks in your freelance business.
Sure, there are loads of tools and software solutions out there to help you run your business. But why not simplify your business? Rather than paying for and learning to use a confusing patchwork of tools, why not use one solution that can keep you on deadline and thriving with minimal stress?
What can you do with Hectic?
You can manage projects, track time, accept payments, send proposals, contracts, invoices, and more. Plus, you can get started for free and upgrade as you grow. And, there’s no credit card required.
And because the Hectic team are freelancers themselves, they’re even sharing this guide to starting and growing your freelancing career.
People often don’t get the mental health services they need because they don’t know where to start. Hopefully these tips and resources will help you improve your freelance career and your health.
Learn more about Hectic, a single digital workspace with all the tools needed to start, manage, and grow a freelancing business.