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The self-employed’s guide to mental wellness

From the outside, it might seem like not much has changed for those who’ve always worked at home and been self-employed. But, the pandemic has changed life for all of us, whatever our work situation and those who are self-employed may find themselves suffering from added stress, anxiety, and loneliness that regular employed folks can perhaps avoid thanks to regular check-ins with colleagues, and the stability of a regular paycheck. Here are some tips on how to help mitigate the negative mental health effects of the pandemic on your self-employed life.

Structure your days

If you’re struggling to stay motivated - a common problem that many people are facing right now - setting out your day can help ensure you meet goals, and do all the things that you need to stay healthy and productive.

  • Insert everything into your calendar, in time slots. You could check and respond to email first thing, then divide other tasks up and set them through the day. Include a break for lunch, exercise, call mom or your best friend, whatever - just lay it all out and know what to tackle when. Adding in the fun stuff gives you things to look forward to each day.
  • Struggling to stay on task? Try using the Pomodoro method, where you divide each task into 25 minutes chunks, set a timer for those 25 minutes, stopping only when the timer goes off and giving yourself a five-minute break to stretch your legs/ grab a glass of water etc, before sitting down to tackle the next chunk.
  • Not into online calendars and reminders? Buy a bullet journal or productivity planner to help organize your tasks. There’s something about actually putting pen to paper that helps, and a lot of satisfaction to be found in physically ticking off a box when you’ve completed a task.

Take care of your body and mind

As we get deeper into winter and face more time than we’d like to confined to our homes, getting regular exercise and checking on where we are at with our mental health becomes vitally important.

  • If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, don’t wait to seek professional help. Look into getting a therapist and setting up regular appointments as soon as possible.
  • Check-in regularly with friends. Schedule Zoom or Facetime coffee dates, maybe even get a group of similarly minded self-employed folks lined up for a weekly call. In the evening, try doing something social every day - whether it be playing games online with pals, or picking up the phone and chatting with an old friend. This is a great time to reconnect with people that you miss, especially those you were always too busy to get together with in pre-pandemic times.
  • Plan to get outside whatever the weather, even if it is just for a little while each day. Even if you’ve never embraced the cold, adopt the Norwegian adage that “there’s no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” and order yourself winter gear that’ll make those minus temps more bearable. Just a short walk in the fresh air will lift your spirits, give you a shot of vitamin D, and raise your heart-rate.
  • Find exercise that you can do outside of the gym - snowshoeing is easy and has a low price of entry, or strap on skates if you live near an outdoor rink - or inside your house, whether that be using a treadmill while you watch TV or taking an online dance, yoga, or fitness class. Plenty of fitness studios are offering online classes right now so you can still interact with others, but you can also find pre-recorded video classes you like if that’s more your thing.
  • Try a meditation app or podcast and get into the habit of meditating to help bring mindfulness to your day. Meditation has been proven time and time again to lower feelings of stress and anxiety, and all you have to do is lay there (or sit comfortably) and listen to reap the benefits.

Check your media consumption

One thing that’s guaranteed right now is that if you read, watch, or listen to the news you’re going to hear about some negative news. Limiting your consumption is no-doubt going to help your mood.

  • Wait to check your phone in the morning. Have a coffee, a shower, start your day off on the right foot before you even consider checking the news or social media.
  • Even if you’ve listened to the news every morning all morning for as long as you can remember, it is a good time to give that habit a break! Maybe you listen to or watch the news once or twice a day, but that’s all you need.
  • Also, turn off your phone an hour before going to bed, and definitely don’t lay under the covers “doom-scrolling.” Instead, read, take a hot bath, or do a sleep meditation to help you drift away into a restorative sleep.
  • Consider changing the tempo of the shows you are watching, and embrace comedies and reality shows where people are nice to each other (baking challenge shows are great for this) as opposed to crime thrillers and anything overly dramatic.

Adopt some gentle hobbies

If much of your life pre-pandemic involved heading out to bars and restaurants, and plenty of socializing with friends, it can be hard to see how you’ll fill your time without those things. Taking up a new hobby can really help, especially if it is something you’ve always thought you’d like to try but never got around to. Studies have shown that hobbies can lower blood pressure and stress, as well as provide a host of other benefits.

    • Picking up a new craft such as knitting or crochet can be incredibly soothing, and addictive. In the past year or so lots of companies have started offering cool kits that contain everything you need to get started, with full instructional videos on their websites.
    • Buying into a meal order kit plan is a fun way to develop your cooking skills, get out of your culinary comfort zone, and ensure that you eat a variety of healthy meals. All ingredients and detailed instructions come delivered in a box, perfectly portioned for however many people you’ll be cooking for.
    • Consider learning a new language or brushing up on one you studied in the past, as part of an online class or via an app like Duolingo (free to use and lots of fun).
    • Always wanted to play guitar/ ukulele/ keyboard? Now is the perfect time to teach yourself.

Cover your added costs

As a self-employed person, the buck stops, and starts, with you. Investing money into your mental and physical health is essential, and fortunately purchasing health insurance is a tax-deduction that’ll help you navigate many situations that you may find yourself in. Knowing that you’re covered by self-employed health insurance will help you deal with health issues without the added stress and worry of affording the care you need.