Every year on 10th October, World Mental Health Day is observed to raise awareness of mental health issues and to highlight the importance of supporting mental health in all aspects of life. We discuss mental health with regards to how contractors, freelancers and self-employed professionals can be impacted.
Mental health issues can be just as common as physical illnesses. In our world of technology and constantly rushing about, supporting mental health is more important than ever.
Self-employment and mental health
It’s possible for environmental factors such as career stress or financial troubles to trigger mental health problems. For example for contractors, the imminent 2019 Loan Charge has been cited as a trigger for anxiety and depression.
Fifteen per cent of UK workers now work for themselves in some capacity. Whilst there are many rewards to be had including increased earnings potential and greater flexibility, many of these 4.6 million people face at least one of the issues we have highlighted here:
- Finding work – Contractors and freelancers are responsible for sourcing their own work. Some who find themselves on the bench without abundant savings to tide them over can end up facing anxiety and stress. Have an action plan in place – including a strong CV and professional network; this is key to avoiding breaks between work.
- Working alone – Those who work on their own, from a home office for example, can occasionally feel lonely and isolated from the rest of the world. It’s important to be able to check in with loved ones and take regular fresh-air breaks. You can also try working remotely in cafes and collaborative meeting spaces for a change of scenery.
- Being your own boss – Contractors, freelancers and the self-employed are regarded as incredibly hard-working – but this ongoing commitment comes with instability, fewer employment rights and lack of recognition. Focus on your goals and positive affirmations – this is important to overcoming uncertainties.
- Never switching off – Forever being tuned in to your work is part of the nature of self-employment unless you’re lucky to have an office-hours only contract role (common in IT, finance and temp office roles). Even so, feeling overwhelmed, overworked or stressed can be common – especially for those who are new to contracting. Remember to take holidays and breaks for yourself when you need them.
If you’re prone to stress and anxiety, a great way to address this is to educate yourself. Sometimes what seems like a big problem actually has a simple solution. Reaching out to a loved one for moral support, or asking a professional for advice (if relevant) can be the first step to relief.
Supporting your own mental health as a contractor/freelancer
As someone without an ‘employer’ as such for support, you need to be even more conscious of your mental health needs. With all the rewards that come with self-employment, taking good care of yourself (both physically and mentally) will ensure you can enjoy all the benefits of working for yourself.
There are resources you can access to build a support network whilst you are working for yourself, including forums such as ContractorUK.
If you experience mental health problems for whatever reason, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Some helpful resources for supporting your mental health, not just in your career but in any capacity, include:
- Mind UK – the mental health charity
- Samaritans – for resources/someone to talk to
- Let’s Talk IAPT – the NHS-led initiative to improving access to therapy
Do you have any questions about how contracting or freelancing can impact your lifestyle? Visit our guide ‘Employment to Contracting’ to read more.