If you're self-employed or work predominantly from home, it can be challenging for your mental health. Self-employment can be a really rewarding career, but it involves a lot of pressure, uncertainty, rejection, and a lack of routine, and it can also encourage you to never get out of your sweatpants. People with traditional 9-to-5 jobs leave the house and come home on a regular schedule, have the chance to socialize with coworkers, and have a clear demarcation between working and off-time. But people in self-employed industries or who work remotely get a very different workplace experience, and that can have mental health consequences, such as depression and anxiety.
Self-care tips for self-employed people are a practical necessity for folks in this career type.
"I tend to get anxious or depressed when things don't work out,"
PR consultant Melissa Remo tells Bustle, "because this business is all I have control over and it's what supports me. A lot of the time, it's all I can ever think about."
big advantages to striking out on your own, but there are also potential costs and things to keep in mind. However, there's a lot of advice around on how to keep a good mental equilibrium, whether you've just started self-employment or have been doing it for years. It's not unusual to struggle with self-employment's isolation and lack of routine, or to find it challenging; many people in self-employment experience both highs and lows, and that's part of the cycle. But it is important to manage your working time in ways that help you stay healthy and maintain a good relationship with your career.
Make Space For Non-Work Time Before You Sleep
It's tempting to just keep working if you don't have a commute to demarcate the day. But that's not necessarily great for your mental health.
"If you work at home, try to set boundaries between your work life and home life," Remo tells Bustle. "I do my best to work 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and while in the PR industry, it's very uncommon (especially working with clients on the west coast), I try to unplug at the end of the day," she says. Even if it's just a small period, try to maintain a routine where pre-bedtime is a work-free zone, spent on yourself, partners, kids or chatting with friends.
A recent study has shown that it's much better for peoples' sleep quality if they're
more capable of "turning off" in the period after work, before they go to sleep — so remembering to maintain that buffer, even if it's just an hour, where you don't do any work or have work-related thoughts, can help your sleep quality — and in turn, your mental health.
Arranging your office space and style so that you feel professional even at home is a common piece of advice for self-employed people. "Many of us initially work from home to save money, which can mean we are in eyesight of the kitchen all day,"
nutritionist Erin Wathen tells Bustle. "The idea of working in our yoga pants might have initially been appealing, but wearing clothes we associate with leisure isn't necessarily the best when it comes to putting us in the right frame of mind to getting to work."
Make Sure You Know What's Important
If you depend on yourself to set your own schedule, it can be easy to have things slip through the cracks, especially at first
. And then things you care about don't get done. Figuring out what tasks are important is particularly crucial when you have a family. Doña Bumgarner, who runs the blog Nurtured Mama, tells Bustle, "What helps me most is to be really clear about my priorities. First in life — my highest priority is to be at home and available when my daughter is not at school. So how do I fit my business around that? And then in my business, my top priorities are working with clients I love — what tasks are most effective and efficient to make that happen?"
Working on your own has one massive drawback: it can be lonely. And that can be tough for your mental equilibrium. "I think it is so important to have a strong support system. When you are working on your own, it can be really easy to allow failures, short comings and inner critic thoughts to take you down hard,"
life coach Ashley Bradley tells Bustle. "For those of us that are self-employed, we have to cultivate our own community of like-minded individuals that give us the support we need when we are having trouble finding it on our own." Her advice? Create a support group. They'll help out and give you someone to call when things are going wrong.
Even if you don't work a straight, eight-hour day and don't ever technically have to leave the couch, it's still a good idea to get out of the house from time to time. Being in nature has been shown to be a mental health booster, and it's one you can miss out on if your work is all indoors at your house. "Those who are self-employed easily fall into the trap of working non-stop,"
consultant toxicologist Renee Hartsook tells Bustle. "Those who are self-employed easily fall into the trap of working non-stop. This is why it is critical to start each day with self-care. For me, that’s a 90 minute walk with a friend. Even if I’m worried about my billable hours for the month, I commit to this hike each morning because it helps me focus and reminds me why I made this choice."
"As far as mental health challenges I've faced, I would have to say anxiety is the biggest and most enduring,"
brand designer Lucy Gregory tells Bustle. The reality is that self-employment and entrepreneurship are stressful. "Starting your own business is like a really long stress test and, once you're in the thick of it, you can't exactly just hop off the machine because you're tired," Gregory says. "It's that anxiety that probably drives me a lot of the time, but it can also ruin productivity, so it's important to find ways to keep it in check and the things I've listed above are vital for me in doing that." This is a common issue, but it's also one that you need to monitor. If you're finding your anxiety over your business is getting out of control, it's a good idea to go talk to a therapist or a support group about it.
Remo has another top tip for people who are self-employed to keep themselves balanced: make organization a priority. "Have a designated work space," she tells Bustle. "Give yourself deadlines because no one else will do it for you. Make to-do lists, have a calendar handy, and set priorities for what needs to be done this morning, what can wait until tomorrow, and what meetings to schedule in order for you to serve your clients in the best way possible." Without these structures in place you might start to feel overwhelmed and disorganized, which is a recipe for stress and mental health issues.
Some people struggle with the adjustment to the self-employed lifestyle, and that can make detrimental habits pretty tempting, particularly if you're lonely.
"I used to drink but that made things worse,"
Tyler Browne, who runs an online business, tells Bustle. "Now I leave my office to participate in group activities such as crossfit, swimming or cooking class where I can have conversations with others on similar schedules and in similar work environments." Working on your own terms doesn't mean you have more of an excuse to pick up dangerous coping mechanisms.
Along with the environmental issues of isolation and a lack of routine, self-employment can also bring up one big potential mood-crusher: rejection. If you're in an industry where you need to put yourself out there, you need to build mental resilience. "Many people who are self-employed already struggle with the thought of low job security,"
holistic expert Caleb Backe tells Bustle. "It takes a tremendous amount of discipline and wherewithal to manage their emotions and continue pushing themselves in the right direction." But there can be a good side to getting that knock-back. "One of the only ways to overcome rejection is to utilize it as a positive learning experience and seek out feedback," Backe advises. And if putting yourself on the line is taking a toll, a therapist may be a good option — or just a collection of other self-employed people to buoy you up in your time of need.