7 signs you should be concerned about your mental health as a freelancer

If you've worked a 9-5 and then switched to remote work or freelancing work, many times, the reason is that you want more control, you want more time, you want to enjoy more moments, you don't want to stick to a routine, you don't want to be confined to a space. But when you start freelancing, you realise that it is different but it also has its similarities. While you might not be working the typical 9-5, you still have work deadlines. While you might not be in an office space, you still have to be in a workstation or create a space at home for work.

Even if your company or client doesn't need you to be there in person, you still have to be available when your work needs you. 

Balancing Freelance Life

Many people who work from home like the flexibility and no commute, but it can sometimes be tough. As a freelancer, you can take on more jobs because you control your time. But this can affect your sleep, lifestyle, eating habits, and health. This happens not only when you have too much work but also when you have too little. The pressure and anxiety of finding clients or facing rejections can add to your stress.

If you're experienced and have many gigs, the pressure to meet clients' expectations and juggle tasks can get to you. You might end up working more than a regular 9-5 job, at odd hours, and start feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.

On the other hand, fear, anxiety, distractions at home, and trying to focus can all pile up the pressure on you. Because you work from home and are around your loved ones, you might spend half your day on non-work stuff, which adds to the stress. During these times, it's important to check not just your physical health but also your mental health.

Recognizing Mental Health Signs

Here are seven signs that might indicate you need to take a closer look at your mental health. 

  1. You have an unexplainable feeling of sadness. When you start to feel less productive and sad for no clear reason, it might be time to check on yourself. 
  2. You want to stay away from people you love. When you start to withdraw from the people you love, like friends and family, and texting or calling feels exhausting, that could be more than just needing alone time. It could be another sign you’re trying to deal with a deeper issue. 
  3. Endlessly scrolling on social media. Scrolling on social media for hours mindlessly, without wanting to engage can also indicate a problem. 
  4. You lose interest in the things you love to do. If the thought of doing the things you used to love, like hobbies or going out, constantly feels exhausting and you don't feel like doing anything, that's another warning sign. 
  5. Feeling constantly tired no matter how long you sleep and finding it hard to get out of bed may also mean something is wrong. 
  6. Changes in your sleep pattern, like having trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much, are important signs too. Disruptions to your sleep may also have a big impact on your life.
  7. Turning to alcohol or other substances more frequently to cope with stress or numb your feelings may also be another red flag. 

What You Can Do

Recognizing these signs means your mental health needs attention. Remember, it's okay to not be okay, and it's important to seek help when you need it. Here are some things you can do: 

Talk to someone who understands—whether it's a loved one, friend, family member, therapist, or religious leader. Having an outlet to express your feelings can help you start feeling better. 

Also, try to manage your workload to reduce stress. Avoid taking on too much at once. Focus on one project at a time and then move on to the next. On days you feel more productive and energetic, get as much done as possible. On days when you don't feel as productive, take a break and do things you enjoy. 

It's important to prioritise yourself. Have set days for work and rest. Just because you work from home doesn't mean you can't take breaks. You could work Monday to Friday and rest on weekends, or choose another schedule that works for you, like working on Tuesdays to Saturdays. The good thing is you can decide what works best for you.

If you're feeling anxious or depressed, there are helplines you can call and support groups you can join (if you’re in Nigeria, call this number. You can also do a quick Google search for your country’s helpline if you’re outside of Nigeria). You can also talk to a medical professional for help.

Remember, bad days happen, especially when times are tough. But if bad days come too often, it might be a sign you need help. Your mental health is important. You matter. What you do matters. So take better care of yourself even as you climb your way to success.