Working from home is a dreamy prospect for many. However, as someone with lifelong mental health conditions I felt it important to talk about this topic in relation to working from home. If any of you are thinking of becoming full time writers/self-employed/freelancers, it’s definitely something to consider.
Like any major change in lifestyle, it’s going to have an effect on your mental well being – whether in a good or bad way. So far, I think working from home has helped me, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are some key concerns that I need to keep an eye on.
Mental health worries from working alone
- Working alone – I’m an introvert and socially anxious so I don’t need constant socialisation. But is working alone 100% of the time ever a good thing? It’s something that needs to be seriously considered.
- More time to wallow – I wallow a lot anyway, but with less noise and fewer distractions, I’m left with a brain talking louder than ever. This could be a major downside unless I’m kept busy.
- Becoming a bit of a hermit – I’ve always preferred indoors and staying at home. By working from home I rarely need to leave the house (woohoo) but this isn’t particularly healthy for anyone and needs to be addressed.
Things you can do to maintain good mental health
Boo! I hear you say. I said the same thing too. But exercise is really good for your mental and physical health. It’s not going to cure anyone any time soon but in a lot of cases, mental health is about managing rather than curing. Developing positive habits like exercise can help you manage your moods a bit better. Pretty much every expert out there says exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve your mood. It can also help you watch your weight if that’s something that’s been getting you down.
One of the key benefits of working from home and setting your own working hours is that you can fit in exercise a lot more easily. I’ve got a mini home gym with weights and a cross trainer. I’m trying to do a little bit each day and have noticed it leaves me feeling more positive. My muscles are slowly starting to become more defined which is nice also.
Setting your own working hours means you can go the gym at any time of day – including off-peak times which can mean cheaper memberships and fewer crowds. You can go for a run on lunch and not have to spend the rest of the day in an office feeling sticky, you can shower at home.
I don’t know about anyone else but working in an office all day was a nice big excuse for me to pull out whenever I simply couldn’t be arsed exercising. Now, I have no excuse.
Go for walks
Getting out, even in the minimal sun we have now is good for your mental health. It helps to break the day up, gives you some exercise, the chance to meet others and also helps you stock up on essential vitamins.
It could be a wander to the shop, walking the dog or just jogging around the block. Try to get out a least once a day. This is something I really need to work on…
Join a class
Have a hobby or interest you were too busy to pursue in the past? When you work as a freelancer, you have more free time to pursue hobbies and interests. You don’t have to spend 8 hours a day doing work and then pretending to work for the rest of the time. Then there’s a commute on top of that. You can just work the hours you need to, and have fun the rest of the time. A lot of people wake up really early to get all their work out of the way quickly, so they’ve got the rest of the day to spend how they want.
Take regular breaks and set a schedule
There are usually two breeds of freelancer – those that don’t know when to stop and those that don’t know when to start.
Working from home can lead to a reduced work output for some people, but in other cases it can lead to work consuming all your free time.
Without established breaks, it’s so easy to just carry on working. And that’s no good for anyone. You need to step away from the computer and take time to relax.
It may help to schedule breaks by setting alarm reminders or through an app on your phone.
The common advice for remote workers is to set strict working hours. This helps you stick to your plans and also not overwork yourself. However, that doesn’t mean you need to do the 9-5, if that just doesn’t suit you. Whatever schedule you choose, try to stick with it.
Work from a co-working space or cafe
Getting out of the house to work is a great way to get some fresh air, change your scenery, spark new ideas and interact with others.
I personally find cafes quite distracting and noisy so it’s hard for me to work in them. Co-working spaces are a good alternative if you have one nearby but they can get expensive. Other options include libraries, parks or even hotel lobbies. It doesn’t have to be all day, it can just be for an hour or two.
The great thing about this lifestyle is how flexible it is. You can try lots of different methods of working to find one that suits you best. This can have such a good effect on your mental well being alone. Feeling in control, and building a day that takes all your concerns into account can be a huge relief.
I’d love to hear what other freelancers do to manage their mental health. How do you stay positive? Have you identified any triggers or risks to working alone?