Life + Work

How Self-Employment Affected My Mental Health (+ 6 Ways I Manage It)

February 27, 2018

I’ll always remember how I felt when I made the decision at age 31 to leave my 9-to-5 and join the freelance life. It was a massive risk for me to leave a well-paying job when I was living in a different country, all to start over and try something totally new. I was hella […]

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Mental health Self-Employed

I’ll always remember how I felt when I made the decision at age 31 to leave my 9-to-5 and join the freelance life.

It was a massive risk for me to leave a well-paying job when I was living in a different country, all to start over and try something totally new. I was hella nervous, but so excited to start a fresh journey in my life – turning my passion into my job, creating the life I always wanted. I knew that working for myself was going to give me back my time and that joie de vivre that I was craving so much, and I had never felt so motivated to hustle to make it work.

And it did all of that.

But what I didn’t expect, and what no one really talks about, is how self-employment would affect my mental well-being.

No one tells you about the days spent completely alone, the isolation of being your own boss, or how hard it can be to hustle so hard without recognition. How opening yourself up to the online world can also open the floodgates for criticism, how easy it is to compare your level of success to someone else’s, and how quickly you can get sucked in to a whirlpool of negative thoughts. How your phone can go from being your best friend to your worst enemy. And with 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing a mental health or addiction problem each year, it’s not hard to see how even the most successful self-employed people can become part of that growing statistic.

No one tells you about the days spent completely alone, the isolation of being your own boss, or how hard it can be to hustle so hard without recognition.

It’s been three years now since I’ve started working for myself and I gotta say – those first couple of years were a struggle. It’s so easy to get inside of your own head and become overwhelmed with feelings of stress or anxiety or uncertainty. It was a period when I was trying to develop my identity, my voice and my brand, yet constantly looking to others for satisfaction, approval and inspiration.

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Although I still get bouts of anxiety from time to time, this past year, I’ve become much more comfortable with my brand and biz and where I’m at. Here are 6 daily routines that have helped me to manage my mental health and combat feelings of anxiety, worry and loneliness.*

(*Because whether you’re self-employed full-time or running your own biz as a side hustle, it’s important to take care of YOU first and foremost, my friends)

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1 Talk through your anxiety with BEACON.

I actually just discovered BEACON, and after trying it out extensively, was super impressed with it as an option for affordable mental health care. BEACON is a web and mobile digital solution that provides effective, affordable and accessible therapy to improve mental and emotional well-being, leveraging the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT helps change negative and anxious thoughts so that a person feels and functions better, improving their quality of life.

There are so many freelancers and self-employed peeps that struggle with stress, anxiety or depression, and that don’t have benefits to cover therapy sessions or specialist visits (like me!). BEACON is an awesome alternative that can lower the cost of treatment up to 80%, but still give premium services like a customized care path and ongoing therapist treatment on an “anywhere, anytime” model. I used Beacon when I was going through a period of winter sadness and overwhelm, and my eTherapist, Robin, not only talked me through the problems I was dealing with, but created customized modules for me to work through to better understand my individual issues.

*(BEACON is already available in most provinces, and will fully available across the country in the next few weeks. If the platform isn’t available in your area right now, a rep will reach out to let you know when the platform becomes available).

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2 Make time for other people.

Instead of talking with clients or partners over e-mail, see if you can take the conversation offline. Arrange for coffee dates or lunch meetings where you can not only communicate your ideas more effectively and clearly, but also have a moment of interaction with another human (instead of talking to your dog all day). I also sometimes arrange for work dates with other freelancer friends – working on our own projects, but in the same space for some company and to bounce my thoughts off of.

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3 Schedule social media time.

Checking social media 8,674 times a day isn’t only distracting, but it will likely start you down the rabbit hole of comparison with your peers. If you’re prone to get anxious when looking at your feeds, limit your social media usage and schedule specific times to check it (later in the work day is best, so your day isn’t dictated by the content you see first thing in the morning).

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4 Work outside of the house.

Sure, it’s great to work from home (and your PJ’s in the winter), but sometimes spending the whole day inside your home alone can become a catalyst for anxiety. Go to a local coffeeshop for a couple of hours or become a member at a co-working space in your neighbourhood. Even if you’re plugged in to headphones, being in the presence of other people might help to tackle feelings of loneliness or worry.

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5 Take breaks throughout the day.

Walk the dog, hit the gym, or relax on the couch and read for an hour. The best part of being self-employed is choosing your own schedule, so make sure you schedule regular breaks from work, just like you would in an office. Feeling overwhelmed? Try practicing midday meditation to clear your head and refocus your energy.

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6 Keep a journal.

One of the simplest and most effective additions I’ve made to my routine. When I’m going through periods of uncertainty or anxiety, I keep a gratitude journal that helps me to focus on the positives in my life and flush out the negative thoughts. You can keep a simple diary format, or use the 5-Minute Journal like I do, starting each day with intentions and ending with reflection.

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This post was done in partnership with BEACON,
though all words, images and opinions are my own (as always).

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How Self-Employment Impacts Your Mental Health

 

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  1. Philip and I were just talking about this and how working full-time as a blogger can be very isolating. Really enjoyed your tips and agree that working outside your home (and out of your PJs) with the presence of others can make you feel connected. We also credit a lot to our 5 minute journal. Great read, Lauren.

  2. Dana McClellan says:

    I can SO relate to this. I’m caretaking for my mom right now and at the same time getting ready to dive into digital marketing for the first time. I’m a little overwhelmed and suffering that “winter sadness.” I do get out and hike a lot tho! It clears it all away (for a few hours anyway).

    By the way, I love your writing style. You feel very familiar and remind me of me. Not that I’m some outstanding and reputable writer, I just think we communicate similarly.
    I’m glad I found you! 🙂

    Dana

  3. […] How Self-Employment Affected My Mental Health (+ 6 Ways I Manage It) via This Renegade Love […]

  4. Wow, finding this is a huge deal for me….I can’t even type, I’m crying! I dealt with similar issues last year and just “came back” after the new year. I’ve doing things differently this time, about 4/6 of your list is on mine! I’m working on a post very similar to this one, about my own story and I plan to link back to this. Thank you for your courage and sharing your story. I’m so glad that you’re managing the natural issues that must come up for LOTS of us. You’re awesome 🙂 xoxo, Jess

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