Practicing Self-Care As a Freelancer

Self-care is a concept that everyone has heard of at least once or twice but not everyone understands. If you’re a freelancer and want to start taking care of yourself, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explain what self-care is and how you can start practicing it today.

how to practice self-care as a freelancerWhat is Self-Care?

Before we can get to the good part, you should first understand what self-care is. Even though it’s been branded as something very specific by the media, self-care doesn’t look the same to everyone. It simply describes any activity that promotes self-love and well-being. As long as what you do feels nurturing and allows you to cultivate your needs, you’re on the right track. Keep reading to learn how to start taking care of yourself.

Why is Practicing Self-Care As a Freelancer Important?

In many people’s eyes being self-employed is the easier option; after all, you get to work on your terms and often from the comfort of your home. However, being your own boss comes with many different challenges, which is why taking care of yourself while being self-employed is extremely important.

1. It promotes better mental health

Being a freelancer gives you a lot of flexibility but also means that you don’t get paid until you’ve completed a project and there’s no sick pay to support you financially if you’re too ill to work. Since your income pretty much depends on you and your well-being, practicing self-care as a freelancer is extremely important. If you’re not mentally well, you don’t have the motivation to work and if you don’t have the motivation to work, your mental health might suffer even more.

2. It helps maintain physical health

A huge part of self-care is looking after your body. If you work from home and don’t have scheduled rest time, you might end up hunched over your laptop for many hours, which will eventually have a negative impact on your posture. Incorporating self-care into your routine can help you become more attuned to what your body needs and keep it healthy despite your working style. For example, even if you have to work long hours, you can still make sure that you give your body a little stretch every hour.

3. It can boost your self-esteem

If you regularly treat yourself with kindness, you end up seeing yourself in a kinder light too. Being self-confident and believing in your abilities is half of the success when you’re a freelancer – you have to prepare yourself for many rejections but persist regardless if you want to be successful.

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4. It helps maintain work/life balance

Self-care is most effective when you engage in it regularly and if you incorporate it into your daily routine, your work day will become more structured. The more structured it is, the more time you’ll have for your family, other commitments or doing your hobbies.

How to Practice Self-Care As a Freelancer

One of the most challenging parts of being a freelancer is maintaining a work/life balance. Even though being self-employed often means more flexibility, it also means that you’re the one who has to create a work structure for yourself, which can be tricky and takes a lot of discipline. While self-care isn’t a magic pill that can make you always motivated to work, it can boost your mood and help you deal with stress which can maximize your productivity.

1. Don’t give in to the pressure

Have you ever come across those Instagram accounts that urge you to get up at the break of dawn, have a cold shower, meditate and then write in your journal to start the day right? The concept of self-care is often misused to promote an obsession with a healthy lifestyle, which seems beneficial at first glance but doesn’t serve your physical or mental health. No matter what some influencers want you to believe, self-care doesn’t mean that you have to change your lifestyle completely and become a new, healthy version of yourself. Sometimes what it takes is just one small adjustment and allowing yourself to do something enjoyable without wondering if you’re doing enough. Instead of trying to improve every minute of your day, come up with one thing that makes you feel good about yourself and aim to make it a part of your daily routine. For example, you could start singing while having a shower or putting on makeup even if you’re not going out. Remember to start small; if you pressure yourself to do many things at once, they will become a chore, which defeats the purpose.

2. Recognize your needs

Self-care isn’t one-size-fits-all and just because a certain activity is promoted as healthy, doesn’t necessarily mean it will benefit you. For example, while swimming can improve one’s mental and physical health, visiting the swimming pool every day might feel more like a chore than relaxation if you have to drive to the other part of town and get stressed when stuck in traffic. Similarly, if you were picked on for being overweight when you were at school, any sport activity that reminds you of PE might have the opposite effect that you want. The rule of thumb is to choose an activity that makes you happy, nothing more, nothing less. For example, many people like watching TV in their free time but feel guilty about lying on the couch and not doing anything productive – in that case, it’s not self-care unless you can learn how to allow yourself to enjoy it without negative feelings. But if you truly enjoy watching your favorite shows, go for it. Taking care of yourself is sometimes synonymous with being ‘lazy’.

3. Get rid of the guilt

Freelancers tend to be hard-working individuals who recognize that making effort is even more important than talent but it can be a double-edged sword as many struggle to let themselves take a break as often as they need it. If you’re a perfectionist, you might feel guilty every time you allow yourself to rest, which will make it difficult to benefit from self-care. So from now on every time you’re having a break, remind yourself that you deserve to pamper yourself. And whenever you’ve completed a task, even if it feels like you could have tried harder, tell yourself that you’ve done your best. Repeating these kinds of affirmations on daily basis will help you enjoy your free time without guilt.

4. Reconnect with your childhood hobbies

When we’re children, our world is usually much simpler than when we become adults; we don’t have huge responsibilities, we don’t have to worry about paying bills or work on career progression. And perhaps most importantly, we tend to do things just because we enjoy doing them, not caring if we do them well or not. Nowadays, social media promotes the idea that success and the end-product matter more than the joy and the process itself – you rarely see people posting something that doesn’t live up to their standards and isn’t polished in some ways. The problem with this trend is that it makes people feel like they aren’t good enough – after all, there’ll always be someone who does it better out there – and kills their passion. To get a sense of purpose unrelated to your job, try to learn a new skill without worrying about becoming good at it. For example, you could have a go at cooking or skating. This will help you let go of perfection and prepare you to reconnect with your old hobby.

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5. Learn how to set boundaries

When you’re a freelancer and don’t have a specific work structure, it’s easy to let the line between work and your personal life blur. As a result, you might say yes to new projects even though taking on more work will mean you’ll have to compromise on seeing your family or doing your hobbies. Sometimes the inability to say no comes from insecurity – freelancers who are new to the industry might worry that rejecting extra work from their client will result in contract termination or think that the same opportunity won’t come twice. However, doing too many tasks at once is overwhelming and can lead to burnout, which might be impossible to treat without therapy and time off. If you want to avoid future problems and start taking care of yourself, learn how to set boundaries. You can start small; for example, tell your friend not to send you late-night texts. Becoming more assertive can help you value yourself more and make more time for your personal life, which benefits your mental health.

6. Celebrate small wins

When you’re a freelancer, there’s always a way to achieve more and improve your skills, and there’s no one who supervises your career progression. As a result, you might be conditioned to focus on the future instead of living in the present and congratulating yourself on the success you’ve already made. When you constantly wait for a bigger thing to celebrate, you send yourself a message that nothing you do is good enough and give yourself fewer opportunities to feel joy. There’s no better self-care than being your best cheerleader and appreciating all your hard work. There’s always something positive to be grateful for in your career, whether it’s feedback from clients, increased website views or even someone taking the time to reject your proposal instead of ignoring your email. Celebrating small wins can shift your perspective, make you more resilient when your business isn’t doing well, help you live in the present and improve your mental health.

7. Practice living in the present

Freelancers are always busy, always chasing a new client, taking on new projects or thinking of ways to improve their business, which might seem like a great strategy to progress their career but also means that they might struggle to enjoy the present moment and appreciate little things that make life so beautiful. Mindfulness requires regular practice but it’s easy enough to incorporate into your daily routine; all you have to do is focus on being in the present while doing mundane tasks. For example, when you’re washing the dishes, try not to think about the next thing on your to-do list and focus on the task at hand instead. The main rule is to name what you can feel, see, smell, touch and hear.

8. Try a digital detox

Even though social media can be an extremely helpful tool for freelancers as it allows you to promote your business and connect with like-minded people, it might be harmful as it also encourages comparison. When you follow freelancers who work in the same industry and have more followers or appear to be more successful, it might be difficult not to wonder if you’re doing something wrong. A digital detox might not only help you focus on your business path without worrying about what everyone else is doing but can improve your mental health as you’ll have no one to compare yourself to but yourself. The key is introducing the changes gradually. For example, in the first week you can plug out 2 hours before bed, then start reducing the time you spend on social media every day. If you remain consistent, you’ll realize how much your mental health has improved and you’ll suddenly have a lot more free time.

9. Find ways to connect with other people

Even if you’re one of those freelancers who like to keep to themselves, we can all benefit from emotional connection. Seeing your friends or family is a great way to destress and take your mind off work. If you don’t have the time to meet your loved ones regularly, you can always find a way to connect with them on daily basis. For example, you can send them a good morning text, schedule video calls or remember to share funny pictures you find online. We all get busy and tend to prioritize work over social life but it’s important to make effort to cultivate relationships as they can help us become more resilient and happier overall. 

Learn more about contributor, Joanna Cakala

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