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  • Writer's picturekirstiewright

A Guide to Mental Health for Freelancers

Updated: Jan 4

The Creative Industries can be really rewarding, you get to work on what you love, creating new things, working with like-minded people. There are also challenges that can come with working in the creative industries. One of them is that many of the work is freelance.

As a freelancer, you have the freedom to work on your own terms, but it can also be challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Freelance work can come with working long hours, not knowing when the next pay check is, feeling isolated, lack of HR and not feeling able to say no to work, this can have an impact on freelancers mental health. It can also mean we have to wear many different ‘hats’ including accountant, admin, marketing and HR on top of your main role! It's easy to get caught up in work and forget to take care of yourself but neglecting your wellbeing can lead to burnout, stress, and anxiety.

This article is going to focus on things you can do as a freelancer to manage your mental health and wellbeing. I acknowledge that there are wider systemic factors in the creative industries that also impact freelancers mental health in this industry. This includes high levels of bullying and discrimination (the Looking Glass Report). I agree this needs to change and future articles will focus on this but today I focus on what you can do to manage your wellbeing.

Freelance Mental Health
Freelance Mental Health

Here are some wellbeing tips that can help you to maintain a healthy balance:

1. Set boundaries: One of the biggest challenges for freelancers is setting boundaries between work and personal life, this can have a big impact on freelancers mental health. Let people know when you will be contactable. If this feels hard, start with letting people know when you absolutely can’t be contacted (even if to start with this is only when you have medical appointments and build up your boundaries over time!). Take breaks in the day to recharge, even if this is just getting a cup of tea. Ensure you take time off work. Really take time to think about what your boundaries are then implement them.

2. Stay active: We feel better and reduce our blood sugar levels if we are more active. Take regular breaks to stretch your legs, go for a walk or exercise. Even a short 10-minute walk can help boost your mood and energy levels.

3. Connect: Connection to others has been shown to have a positive impact on wellbeing. Connect with other freelancers, join online communities, and seek support when you need it, this can have a positive impact on mental health. You may feel like you talk to people all day, but do you really connect with others? Do you really listen? Or are you thinking of the next thing on your to do list? Take at least 5 minutes to really connect with someone you are working with. Contact a loved one. Don't hesitate to seek professional help if you're struggling with anxiety, depression or stress.

4. Practice self-care: Make time for self-care activities such as meditation, yoga, fishing, gardening, or reading. If you are busy, it can be tempting to cut these activities, but these are often what make us feel good and keep us replenished. If you are busy do a hobby for a shorter amount of time. It's essential to take care of yourself both physically and mentally to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

5. Set realistic goals: As a freelancer, it's easy to take on too much work and feel overwhelmed. Set realistic goals for yourself, and prioritize tasks based on their importance. Don't be afraid to delegate tasks or outsource work to other freelancers if necessary.

6. Environment: Take note of your environment. Do you have access to natural daylight? Are you working in extreme temperatures? If you don’t have access to natural daylight, could you take breaks outside or sit near a window? Daylight helps regulate our day/night patterns and impacts sleep so ensuring our body has access to daylight can positively impact sleep and our mood. If we feel extremely hot or cold our body is focusing on regulating our temperature which can make it difficult to focus on our job and feel our best. Therefore, keep an eye on temperature and try to maintain a good body temperature. Ask yourself are there things that you can do in your environment to help your wellbeing?

7. Stay Hydrated: When you are busy it can be easy to forget to drink but we have all heard how important drinking water is for concentration. So ensure you drink plenty.

8. Diet: We have all heard ‘you are what you eat’ so I wont labour this point too much. When things are busy we tend to stop doing the basics including eating healthy food but this is what keeps us going. Ensure a balanced diet even if it means quicker versions of what you would usually eat e.g. chucking vegetables together to make a salad rather than cooking different meats etc to go with it. Beware that when we are tired our body will crave sugar. Lack of sleep causes the hunger-stimulating hormones to increase, which causes you to crave more sugary food. This will short term give you a buzz but will not provide all you nutrition, so you seek more sugary food and the cycle continues. Try to break this cycle or at least limit it a little.

Freelancing can be a rewarding and provide great flexibility, but it's crucial to prioritize your wellbeing. Set boundaries, stay active, connect, practice self-care, set realistic goals, and adapt your environment to positively impact your wellbeing if you can. By taking care of yourself, you'll be able to maintain a healthy work-life balance and thrive as a freelancer.

If you would like one to one therapy with fully qualified therapists who also understand the creative industries, including the freelance life contact us by visiting our website

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