Did you know that entrepreneurs are much more likely to have mental health problems than the general population? Business owners are twice as likely to suffer from depression and six times as likely to have ADHD. Running a business on your own can be incredibly stressful because everything falls on you, which can create or contribute to mental health problems.
Although I had anxiety before I started my writing business, the feast or famine nature of freelancing has made my mental health worse at times. I love my job, but it definitely has its challenges. To keep up with the demands of being a solopreneur, I have to take good care of myself. Here are three coping strategies that help me run a successful writing business while managing my anxiety.
Don’t Overschedule Yourself
Being in control of your schedule can be one of the best or worst parts of freelancing depending on how you handle it. You can take advantage of the flexibility to create a schedule that allows ample time for rest and self-care, or you can run yourself ragged. Because freelancers don’t have a set eight or nine to five schedule, we can easily slip into working at all hours of the day, speaking from experience.
When I first started my business, I overcommitted and took on too many clients hoping to avoid the feast and famine cycle that often comes with freelancing. I would write for 12+ hours a day many days, thinking that was normal. Pushing myself that hard raised my stress levels and increased my anxiety until I reached a breaking point and had to pull back.
Now I make sure my schedule includes plenty of breathing room so I don’t feel like I’m constantly in a race against the clock. If I need to take an afternoon off to relax, watch movies, and snuggle my dog, I can without missing deadlines. Instead of attempting to fight through bad days when my anxiety is too high to work efficiently, I allow my body and mind to rest.
This is the key to making freelancing sustainable long-term. If you’re prone to mental health problems and don’t give yourself sick days here and there, you’ll burn out like I did.
Trust Your Business Decisions
Anxiety can cause you to second guess yourself and question your business decisions and client interactions. It can also make you afraid that you’ll lose all your clients at once and be left without any income.
But you can’t listen to these intrusive thoughts and give into imposter syndrome. You have to remind yourself that you have strong professional capabilities and will land on your feet. Even if you lose clients, you have the skills to find new ones. Trust that the marketing you’re doing will pay off and have faith in yourself as an entrepreneur.
You know your business inside and out and are more than capable of making well-informed, strategic business decisions for your company. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes, which are inevitable. But don’t doubt your instincts too much—after all, they’ve gotten you to where you are today.
If I get stuck in a bad feedback loop of negative thoughts and can’t stop obsessing over a perceived failure, sometimes it helps to post in a business-related Facebook group like Freelancing Females to get some advice and perspective. Doing something to shift my mindset is important so I don’t spend too much time and energy worrying and deplete myself emotionally. For you that could look like reading motivational blog posts, taking a bath, journaling, or calling your mom. Just try not to allow yourself to dwell on your mistakes too much or get caught up in an anxiety spiral. Spending too much time ruminating can cause you to burn out, which is the last thing you want.
Last but not least, try to make some friends, preferably people in your local area. As a freelancer who works from home, it’s all too easy for me to hole up in my office and rarely go outside. Connecting with other freelancers online is great and can help stave off the loneliness that often comes with freelancing. But as we all learned during the pandemic, there’s really no substitute for in-person social interaction.
If you’re an introverted, anxious entrepreneur like me, the urge to sit on the couch all day is strong. But you have to fight it for the good of your company and yourself. Forming relationships is important for your mental wellbeing and your business because making new connections often leads to client referrals. So try to grab drinks or coffee with a family member or friend this weekend. You’ll feel much better after you have fun with your loved ones and get out of your own head for a while.
How do you manage anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues while running a business? Share your tips and experiences in the comments section below.
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.