How Self-Employment Can Affect Your Mental Health
I’ll be the first to admit it — being self-employed is magical. My schedule is flexible, I don’t have to worry about superiors who I undoubtedly will have issues with at some point, and I’m free to take my creativity in whatever direction I desire.
A lot of my time, however, is spent in front of my phone or my computer: answering emails, invoicing, planning content, writing content, etc. What is highlighted on Instagram are the times when I’m actually away from those things because no one wants to see 12454 stories of my computer monitor in various states of contenting (is that a word? It is now).
There’s the obvious tough parts of working for yourself such as time management and lack of accountability, but combine those with periods of mental health issues and it can become even more challenging. In some ways self-employment is better for these lulls and in some ways it’s worse.
I lived much of my life putting on a mask for the world around me, so whenever I had a 9-5 job, I showed up no matter what. I knew other people were depending on me and I forced myself to go to work and get it done even if I had had a fight with a significant other or it was just really difficult to drag myself out of bed. Without that pressure, it can be harder to motivate myself to hit my own deadlines. I always make sure to get work done for clients, but it’s easy to push things down on my to-do list and snuggle with my dog instead.
During the couple months when I was dealing with another bout of depression, my creativity felt stunted, I was tired, and I had a really tough time trying to think of content that was worthwhile. It was a time that I had to work through and thankfully part of that process is writing for me, but it didn’t help that my lack of motivation increased my panic about work and finances, which in turn contributed further to my depression.
Self-employment is wonderful, but there are pros and cons as with any job. To safeguard my mental health in the process, here are some things that I’ve found to help. If you have any of your own, please share them below!
Obviously therapy has tremendous benefits, but one of the things that helps me the most is that my therapist gives me deadlines. When things are going well, I may not need as much external help, but if I’m going through a period that makes it hard for me to get things done (I’m a chronic avoider in those times), we set another appointment and by the time that date comes I need to have done x, y, and z.
This works well for me because I hate disappointing people and sometimes I just need someone to hold me accountable. This is how I finally emailed my accountant about taxes, set up payroll, and got back into working on my book.
I used to make excuses that I couldn’t work anywhere but home because it took too long and I found it distracting. I have a very specific set up at home that puts me in the best mindset to do work: breakfast (scrambled eggs + English muffin) and tea which I then take over the computer. It serves as an indication that this begins my work day and I feel very at peace when I’m able to carry it out.
The few times that I’ve worked somewhere else, I’ve been extremely efficient. This is due in part to the fact that I want to get back home so I work quickly (ha), there’s no way for me to dawdle around and get snacks from the kitchen or clean that dusty counter, and I’m more stimulated. When finishing up the re-worked chapters for my book proposal, I found THE PERFECT place to work and banged out 2000 words in 2 hours. It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do for your well being.
Use the calendar
I have a lot of things on my calendar between personal training and things for the blog. Before, I would only use it for those two things and the time in between I would know was for writing and other random tasks. What I’ve started doing is actually marking off those in-between times as “work” and then listing what things I need to get done in that time frame. It makes me less likely to blow off those times because they are actually scheduled work hours.
I really, really love isolation, but it’s a slippery slope for me. It’s a place where I can succumb to my own self-doubt and insecurities surrounding my work and my future. It doesn’t allow any outside perspectives or ideas I may not have had.
Try to schedule some time to interact with others. Thankfully, the fact that I still train clients gives me a good break and helpful interactions, as well as my workouts first thing in the morning. Make sure to text, call, or even meet with a friend to avoid spending all of your time with yourself.
Ask for help
Just last week, after the topic of business and financial goals came up between Neil and I, it became evident that I needed to ask for some help. I brought Neil on to tackle things like finances and accounting, because as much as I’ve tried to stay on top of all of it, I’m really, really bad at it. If it were up to me, as long as I was doing better than last year, I wouldn’t give it much thought.
Neil is one of those people who reads nonfiction books for fun. Not cool nonfiction books about history or how things work, but business-related nonfiction about workplace relationships and basically just everything that makes my brain shut down when I think about it. Neil actually likes business and graphs and long term goals so it was really a no brainer. If there are things that you’re not good at or that are simply overwhelming you, ask for help!