My personal mental health wellbeing tips for the self-employed.
Helping you improve your marketing and grow your business is what this wider blog and website are all about. But none of this will be of any use if you have a deeper issue to deal with - your mental health.
We are finally moving away from mental health issues being a taboo topic, which is why I wrote this article for Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2017, originally published on LinkedIn. I’ve recently noticed more articles, more people speaking out and that’s all for the good. I also wanted to share some of the things I’ve done to create a more positive state of mind in my own self-employed world.
We are not alone
The UK now has record numbers of self-employed people. An estimated 4.8 million, around 15% of the workforce now work for ourselves. MIND says that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. If one in four of the self-employed suffer from some form of mental illness, that’s a scary number of people, trying to get by and, in many instances, with little or no support.
In corporate life, the chances are there might be an initiative to help. The self-employed have no such safety net. We have to work it out for ourselves - if we can.
So, here are a few of my personal mental health wellbeing tips:
Do the right kind of work
And what’s more, work with the right kind of people. One of the best aspects of self-employment is the freedom to chose the work we want to do. But we can’t always be picky, especially in the early days. As soon as is possible, try to move towards the kind of work that will energise your day and the people and clients that share your values. Both will have a positive affect on how you feel about your day. It’s your right to say no to work that you don’t feel is for you, so listen to your instincts - they’ll almost certainly be right.
Focus on what makes you confident
Isolation and anxiety can lead to a gradual lack of confidence, especially when we try to sell our services. It is all too easy to forget that we are actually really quite good at what we do. When I talk to other self-employed people, I sometimes find that lack of confidence masks their obvious ability. It can be scary selling ‘brand you’ but I find that focusing on what I am most confident about (and enjoy) delivering is a big positive, especially at networking meetings.
Keep and build your network
Remember those colleagues you used to have? The people you shared the office banter with? They are still out there so keep in touch, share your experiences - the chances are they’ll be full of admiration and support for your new venture. And as you grow, make a point of keeping in touch with those new fellow travellers on the self-employed highway. I am fortunate to have built a network of lovely, trusted people who can relate to my challenges and turn my day around.
The MIND website, Mindfulness and Ruby Wax
Looking for support for the self-employed led me to the website for MIND. They have an excellent page on every day living which led me to Mindfulness - a technique which can help people manage their mental health or simply gain more enjoyment from life. I popped ‘Mindfulness’ into Amazon and am now reading the books of Ruby Wax who writes with humour and honesty about her mental health challenges.
Gardening as therapy
Gardening was the unexpected antidote to stress in my previous roles - so much so that I would return home late and garden by floodlight, just to get my hands on some soil. Many years later it still works and I completely agree with Monty Don who has written about how it helps him beat depression. Personally it helps me come up with great ideas I wouldn’t have from behind a desk - and I get satisfaction in creating something I’m proud of.
The taboo is lifting
With more and more people either going freelance or starting businesses, the mental health issues affecting the self-employed are going to become more mainstream - and deserve to be. But at the moment the options for support are far less clear than in the employed world. However, with more self-employed people feeling able to share what’s on their minds to people good enough to listen, I hope the taboo is slowly and surely lifting. Thanks for reading.Back