Taking Care of Your Mental Health as a Freelance Writer
4 tips for the hard-working writer who’s been feeling a bit overworked lately.
4 tips for the hard-working writer who’s been feeling a bit overworked lately.
In today’s world, hustling is seen as a badge of honor.
Working long hours and exhausting yourself to the point that you can’t function anymore are seen as symbols of being a hard worker. It’s almost as if without being an achiever, you can’t have a sense of self-worth.
But it’s all of that really true? Do we really need to work ourselves to the bone just so that we can say that we’ve had a productive day?
Things can get even worse when you are a freelance writer. As a self-employed person, there aren’t any schedules you’re needed to stick to. The more time you spend in front of a screen, the better your prospects can be. And so, you get sucked into that constant loop of working, reworking, and overworking, until you reach the point where you don’t know day from night.
May is mental health awareness month. And it’s super important now more than ever to highlight the importance of taking care of your mental health, especially when you work as a freelance writer.
In this post, I’m discussing the four ways freelance writers can take care of their mental health. These tips apply to salaried individuals as well but are especially relevant for the people who are their own bosses.
1. Plan now so you can chill later
Extensive research has continuously proved how important breaks are for your productivity, creativity, and peace of mind.
If you keep working for most of your waking hours, you’ll be exhausted. Your brain won’t have the space for new and creative ideas. To make sure you don’t reach this stage of burnout, it’s imperative to take frequent and regular breaks.
As a freelancer, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the screen. But planning in advance helps you do so without the guilt of not working enough.
How I make sure I take enough breaks
I time-book the next day before retiring for the night. I make a note of all the things that need to be accomplished the next day with a particular time slot for those specific tasks.
When I wake up in the morning, I have a clear idea of what needs to be done. I don’t run the risk of working too much or spending too much time on one single task. Of course, I can’t adhere to my strict time blocks every single time.
But I try. And on some days, that’s all that matters.
Planning in advance can also help you take longer breaks. For example, if you need to go on a vacation, planning your life around your work for at least a month before you leave can save you a lot of headaches during your holiday.
Planning also gives you better control over your time and helps you get rid of that overwhelming guilt of not working enough.
2. Stop and look back at how far you’ve come
Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly reviews could be your best friends as a freelance writer.
You can do all the planning in the world. But if you don’t pause and take a moment to review your progress over the past timeframe, you won’t be able to get the full benefits of your planning. Periodic reviews help you appreciate how far you’ve come.
They also give you a sense of which tasks take up the most time, drag you down, or make you feel demotivated. Reviews give you clarity on what tasks you can outsource, automate, or let go of completely, because sometimes, your mental peace is more important than ticking off the items on your to-do list.
How I plan my reviews around my work
As I mentioned before, I make daily plans before retiring for the night. Before I make a plan for the next day, I also review the tasks of the previous day and see how many tasks I was able to accomplish. I do thorough monthly reviews before moving into a new month.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come as a freelancer.
This is especially true when you’ve achieved most of your goals and are struggling with your new and even tougher goals. You start thinking of yourself as worthless if you can’t get the results that you craved. In such moments, looking back helps.
A few days ago, I was in a similar position. My recent ventures weren’t getting the traction I wanted. I was about to go down the spiral of brutal self-retribution. Some instinct of self-preservation made me pick up my journal. I started reviewing my previous year. This put things into perspective.
As I realized how far I’d come in just one year of being a freelance writer, I realized that some of my current goals were unrealistic to achieve, especially in such a short phase of time. This helped me stay away from that spiral of self-loathing.
3. Don’t be in it alone
Life as a freelance writer can get lonely. You spend most of your time staring at the computer screen without interacting with anyone else.
In my previous day job, I talked to at least ten different people in a day. But now, I only talk to my housemates and my dog. If I didn’t have a robust community of online friends, I’d feel so lost and alone.
This brings me to the third way you can take care of your mental health as a freelance writer: to have a community that supports you.
It doesn’t have to be in-person conversations. In 2022, it’s possible to have healthy relationships with people you’ve never met. Currently, most of my best friends are people I’ve never met in my life. And yet the kind of support they offer is something I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world.
If you don’t know where you can find fellow writers to be friends with, Twitter and LinkedIn are great places to start. If you browse through your feed for a few moments using the relevant hashtags, you’ll easily find several creators whose posts make it feel as if they’d be great best friends to you.
Then, all you need to do is send them a message and start talking. Of course, every conversation won’t click, but a few of them might turn into lifelong friendships.
4. Set strict boundaries with yourself
You need to set some self-care boundaries for yourself, and you need to be super strict about following them.
As I mentioned previously, it’s easy to get lost in your work and continue staring at the screen for several hours at a time just because you know it’s going to make you more money.
But what use is money if you aren’t in the health or spirits to enjoy its benefits?
To make sure it doesn’t happen, you need to set strict boundaries with yourself when it comes to self-care.
How I’m learning to be strict with myself
In 2022, I have a new rule of working for only five hours a day.
Sometimes, it does harm my work and I might have missed some important meetings. But at this stage, my mental health is more important to me than a few extra bucks.
I also have a strict “no laptop policy” for the weekends. Aside from that, I make sure I take holidays every two or three months so that I can get a break from the monotony of my current surroundings. The featured image for this article was taken during one such vacation in April 2022.
If you aren’t in the stage where you can only survive by working five hours a day, that’s completely fine. Every person’s definition of success is different. It has taken me eight years of writing online to finally reach this stage. You can work with whatever hours you can afford, but make sure to set a strict deadline of when you’d turn off your computer and retire for the night. Also, make sure to take enough vacations by planning for them beforehand.
After all, work isn’t a hundred percent of your life. And it’s not supposed to be that way either. A healthy work-life balance is the only way you can have stable mental health as a freelance writer.
When you make your passion for writing into a profession, it becomes very hard to distinguish between work and pleasure. But it’s important to make sure there’s a balance between the two so you don’t burn yourself out.
Here are the four ways you can take care of your mental health as a freelance writer:
- Plan your day in advance so you don’t take on more work than you have to.
- Do regular reviews so you don’t spend unnecessary time on tasks you can automate, outsource, or let go of.
- Surround yourself with people in a similar profession so you get some moral support.
- Set strict boundaries with yourself and make self-care a priority.
Which of these points resonated with you? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments.