12 tips for taking care of your mental health as a freelancer

What is the connection between remote work and mental health? And more importantly, how can we remain mentally healthy as we do our remote work from home?

Arno Yeramyan
Arno Yeramyan

Suppose you made a breakthrough at last, became a freelancer and left your high-stress work environment or you started to take up freelance jobs in addition to your full-time job for extra income. Whatever the reason may be, we soon discover that challenges concerning our mental health rise while we perform freelance gigs.

But how does remote work affect mental health? After all, the sheer fact that we got rid of daily commuting, nine to five office tasks and being stuck in our cubicles to gain a higher level of autonomy is not exactly equal to having a stress-free remote work environment. But what is the connection between remote work and mental health? And more importantly, how can we remain mentally healthy as we do our remote work from home?

If these are your current concerns in your solo career, then we believe that the 12 tips we have for you in this article are definitely worth giving a try!

Don’t forget to socialize!

Self-employed jobs can sometimes be tricky for not having a clear separation between time for personal matters and time for professional matters. We think that getting all the work done will make us feel relieved. But mostly, what happens is that we get caught up in a cycle of freelance projects and spend days, sometimes even weeks, without socializing.

As freelancers, we need to be aware that we are in complete charge of managing our time. This means things we didn’t have to plan before becoming a freelancer, such as trying not to be indoors for an entire week, now need to be carefully considered and assessed according to their priority levels.

Maintaining your interaction with friends, family members, partners and colleagues places itself on top of our list of tips. If you wonder about how to take time off from work for mental health, then keep in mind that one of the best ways to maintain a positive attitude towards life and have your mental health balanced is to be in touch with people you love and care about.

Incorporate daily exercises into your routine

Having an all-sedentary life is probably one of the worst things we can do to our body and our soul. Although the immediate effects of being sedentary are often neglected, the long-term hazards of an immobile lifestyle are impossible to turn a blind eye to.  It is now estimated by the healthcare community that sitting all day long has multiple side effects, both physical and mental.

What is often misunderstood about daily exercise is that when people think of daily exercise they often think of long hours spent at the gym lifting weight or running on the treadmill. This deceptive image usually leads us to conclude that we can’t be physically active since we don’t have time to go to the gym or do other sports regularly.

Needless to say, going to the gym is just one way of doing daily exercises. There are countless other ways to incorporate some level of daily physical activity into our routine. You can take a walk around the neighborhood before or after work. Alternatively, you can simply use less public transport for short and mid distances whenever you need to go somewhere.

Practice mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is one of the most accessible go-to options when it comes to how to work on our mental health. In the past, people often presumed that mindfulness and meditation were things related to spiritual practices such as Buddhism and Hinduism. But the fact is that practicing mindfulness doesn’t necessarily have to be about spirituality.

Being mindful simply means being aware of what is going on both internally and externally in the present moment. In recent decades the benefits of mindfulness such as improved mental health and decreased levels of stress are understood better. Brief meditation sessions of 10-20 minutes per day can make a huge positive difference on your mental health and well-being.

Separate your workspace and living space

Back when we were working in offices, stressing work-life balance was somewhat less important. Now that the separation between workspace and living space tends to disappear, we face a higher risk of carrying the stress related to work into our private life and personal space.

If you have the chance to do so, try allocating space for work only. Don’t bring any work-related material to other rooms or corners of your house and try not to spend any time in that workspace except when you have freelance projects to do. Unfortunately, many freelancers miss this point and they end up engaging in work-related issues long after they finish their formal daily tasks.

This separation of spaces will give you a sense of order, regularity, and consistency. Such arrangements often communicate to us, on a deeper level, that the everyday stress of our freelancer jobs is left behind once we are out of the allocated space.

Join a co-working space

You may be living in a small house, a one-bedroom apartment or sharing limited living space with flatmates.  If separating your work and living space in your apartment is not a viable option, alternatively, you can consider joining a co-working space.

Most of the major cities have co-working spaces where you can rent an office space, a desk, or a spot in a common area for affordable prices. Joining a co-working space comes with other perks too. You can build a network, meet new people and take part in business as well as leisure events organized in such co-working spaces.  

Take regular breaks

All of us feel the intuitive need to take a break once in a while when we are tired. But here, the takeaway should be the notion of regularity that we underline. Try taking a break once an hour, once every half an hour and so on. Believe us: taking regular breaks are actually very productive and they ensure an increase in the quality of the freelance work you are doing.

To do this, you can set an alarm to remember when to take a break and not get caught up in the pace of what you are doing. You can also combine your daily exercises and your breaks. This means you can do some indoor exercises during your break or take a short walk around the neighborhood. In order to organize your time better, you can always use free time-tracking tools.

Separate your personal and professional identities

This tip comes especially handy when you have too many clients, tasks and colleagues. Separating these two identities can come in many shapes and ways. For instance, having two email accounts or two phone numbers, one for business and one for personal purposes, is just one way of having such a separation. But don’t forget to use your business correspondence strictly for business or else there isn’t much point to it.

Similarly, you can try building your personal relationships on the basis that you aspire to become friends with as many people as you like who have different jobs and life goals. Such differentiation will make you understand and internalize the fact that there is much more to life than what we do and what we like. The spectrum is wide and the more we are aware of it the better it is.

Set a work routine

Up to this point, all the tips we provided were somewhat related to regularity and having some consistency in our lives. Well, this tip is no different. Setting a work routine is one of the building blocks of maintaining good and stable mental health, after all, we can’t engage in our freelance projects 24/7 and hope to be in mentally good shape.

That’s why establishing a routine, and more importantly, sticking to it is crucial for our wellbeing. One of the best things about being a freelancer is mastering our own time, so why not take this advantage and be in complete charge of it?

As long as you know when to start, when to stop and at what point to take a break and exercise, you can set your work routine depending on your habits and needs. It doesn’t necessarily have to require you to get up with the sunrise and do all the work until the afternoon or vice versa. Remember that essence here is regularity so that you can make time for activities other than work.

Let’s pause for a moment and think about how our mental health affects our work performance.  It is as bright as day that when we suffer because of an issue related to our mental health a decrease in our overall performance is surely expected. One way to avoid overloading our system to the point where we can’t function anymore is to make a routine and stick to it. You can make a daily or weekly chart of tasks and free time in order to have a clear picture of what you should expect next.

Get enough sleep

Getting the necessary amount of sleep helps us boost energy, rest, have a strong immune system, and psychologically prepare us for the upcoming day. Being sleep-deprived will not only have various negative side effects concerning your physical and mental health, but it will also affect your overall performance and productivity. Make sure you get enough sleep on a daily basis.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Freelancing and doing remote work are quite novel phenomena. Neither the previous generation nor the one before experienced such a swift change in the mode of work and workspace. Therefore, complications that we didn’t foresee arising, such as being emotionally overwhelmed because of working remotely, are likely to occur.  However, these shouldn’t bring us down for there will always be people you can consult and ask for guidance.

You can choose to talk to a friend, a family member, your partner, or a mental health professional like a counselor or psychologist asking for help. A trained counselor or a mental health professional can navigate and support you through hard times and help you come clear of them.  The key here is to keep in mind that you are not in this and that many people feel challenged and, from time to time, overwhelmed by working in solitude as a freelancer.

Master the art of saying no

The basic understanding is that unfortunately it’s not possible to make time for everyone and everything is a lifesaver.  As freelancers, we need to be able to assess our capabilities and needs in order to prioritize certain tasks, social gatherings and people over others.  Learning when and how to say no helps us make time for ourselves and to recharge our batteries.

Arno Yeramyan

Arno Yeramyan is a polyglot who’s a fan of constantly learning new languages.