While freelancers are gifted with the kind of freedom many regular workers envy, the fact is the freelance life simply isn’t for everyone. The biggest reason for this are the long stretches of isolation freelancers may often have to endure.
Sure, freelancers may be able to use social media and chat with their virtual coworkers. But this isn’t exactly the perfect substitute for regular human contact. After a while, many freelancers get withdrawn, irritable, and unable to relate with people – all classic symptoms of depression and loneliness.
Even setting aside the very serious threat this represents to one’s mental health, this isolation can have a very real negative effect on the quality of work a freelancer can produce. When not managed correctly, depression and loneliness can also severely impede or even completely derail one’s ability to work in a freelance setting.
If you’re interested in managing your mental health as a freelancer, here are some proven ways to offset some of the negative effects of leading such a solitary lifestyle.
Having pets around the house can significantly reduce stress levels and help you manage depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Many people also find talking to pets can help them make better sense of their problems by allowing them to actually express them verbally, rather than keeping them bottled up in their head spaces.
2.) Regular exercise
Leading a sedentary lifestyle can accelerate many of the worst effects of depression and isolation. Staying active will not only help to break that cycle but pump up your brain’s dopamine levels, boosting your happiness and productivity.
3.) Catch up with friends over coffee
One good thing about being a freelancer is that you can probably work virtually anywhere there is a decent internet connection. Sometimes, it can be good to hit up old friends and have coffee or lunch with them near their workplace. Chances are, they’d appreciate it too!
4.) Dump toxic clients
If you have annoying clients that take up too much of your time but don’t actually pay you that much, consider getting rid of them once and for all. There’re thousands of better clients out there who are more deserving of your time.
If you freelance, you have a lifestyle most people can only dream about. Make use of your flexibility to avoid cabin fever and isolation that often comes with freelance work. Try to work outside of your home at least once a month at the very least to avoid feeling trapped in a routine.
6.) Get professional help
If your feelings of depression and isolation are starting to impact your work, get in touch with a mental health professional at the first opportunity. This can help you identify and control bad habits that negatively impact your mental health before they become unmanageable.
7.) Invest in a hobby
Most people get positive benefits from having a hobby that is not directly related to the type of work you do. Looking into ways to further enhance things that you already enjoy can be a good start. However, you may also want to look into completely new things that you haven’t experienced before. New hobbies can open up a whole new world of experiences and they may even help you gain a new perspective in your professional life.
8.) Use coworking spaces regularly
While coworking spaces aren’t likely to be better for productivity than a home office that you’ve fine-tuned to your specific purposes, they do offer an opportunity to socialize with other freelancers. Many freelancers also report having found their current clients through other freelancers they’ve met in coworking spaces.
9.) Attend networking events
Networking with other freelancers and people you share common interests with can go a long way towards helping prevent feelings of loneliness that often come with working alone. They can also open up many professional opportunities, which are essential for surviving in today’s competitive freelancing scene.
10.) Do volunteer work
Engaging in work that you feel is meaningful can do wonders for your sense of purpose and help you gain a more realistic perspective of different challenges you may have to face on a day-to-day basis. If you find yourself talking about certain political or social causes more than others, then it may be time to stop talking and start doing.
11.) Keep tabs on your progress
In most cases, growth is slow and imperceptible in the moment. It takes a lot of repetition before we hit a breakthrough or a serious realization. When you do, it can be important to take note so that you are able to manage your own growth. For this, a journal can be an invaluable tool not just for one’s mental health, but also for their professional and personal growth.
Without a journal, it can be difficult to assess the direction you are taking your practice and your own personal skills. This can lead to a serious disconnect with your sense of being and your work, which can easily lead to depression.
Keeping a journal of milestones can be especially important for freelancers considering that they do not generally have an HR department or a manager closely check upon their performance. Generally, relationships with clients are purely transactional, and little, if any, thought is given to the freelancer’s development, as it is implied to be their own responsibility.
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