World Mental Health Day: Freelancers and Mental Health

Last week was World Mental Health Day, so it seems like a pertinent time to talk about freelancers and mental health. At any one time, one in six people suffer from a mental health problem, and freelancers particularly seem to struggle with specific issues such as isolation. So today, we’ll look at the issues and possible ways to improve freelancers’ mental health.

Freelance mental health concerns

According to various studies, the most common mental health problems for freelancers are loneliness and anxiety. Interestingly, this is also the case for those who are traditionally employed but work from home, and this is often due to social exclusion and a lack of routine, both of which can have seriously negative effects on our mental health.

One study of freelancers’ wellbeing found that:

  • 48% of freelancers find it lonely
  • 42% find it isolating
  • 32% miss office banter
  • 29% miss being part of a team

These figures are quite alarming, so what can we do about it?

Improving freelance wellbeing

The good news is that there are plenty of things freelancers can do to improve their mental health, from small things to big changes.

It’s amazing how little changes can have a big effect, so if you’re experiencing isolation or anxiety as a freelancer, consider these options:

  • Try setting a routine for yourself to see whether it improves your wellbeing.
  • Plan one day a week where you work from another location, such as a library or coffee shop. (If you’re worried about cost, Dispace offer free venues for coworking.)
  • Get out of the house every day and take a walk.
  • Make sure you speak to someone every day, even if it’s on the phone.
  • Exercise at least a few times a week.
  • Arrange to meet other freelancers for a cup of tea every week.
  • When it’s warm enough, work from the garden or a park to get some fresh air.

If you need something more drastic, consider these options:

  • Adjust your working pattern to match your friends and family so you can maximise your time with them.
  • Permanently work from a co-working venue or shared office.
  • Attend coworking events.
  • Ask other freelancers whether they’d consider coworking with you regularly.
  • Build a team of “colleagues” through your freelance network and meet regularly.
  • See your GP if things don’t improve.

Build a network

A recent survey by the Myers-Briggs Institute found that relationships are the biggest contributor to workplace wellbeing, and this can be extended to freelancers in terms of positive client relationships and a strong freelance support network. As a freelancer, it’s vital that you have a strong support network, both in your personal life and in your working life. Having people you can talk to, bounce ideas off, and turn to for support makes a big difference, helping you to avoid feeling isolated or lonely. If you don’t have a strong network, then focus on building a network (you can find out how here.)

Love your work

The Myers-Briggs study also found that meaning, accomplishments, engagement, and positive emotions had a strong influence on workplace wellbeing. In other words, the more satisfied you are with your job, the better your overall wellbeing. The good news is that freelancers are in a great position to improve this as they’re completely in control of their work. You can improve your freelance wellbeing by ensuring you’re happy with your freelance work, have purpose, and enjoy what you do. If not, then it’s time to make some adjustments.

Stay tuned for more freelance tips and insights every week on A Freelance Life.

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