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Top Tips for Managing your Mental Health as a Creative Freelancer

Working as a freelancer within music and other creative industries can often be a faced-paced, stressful and sometimes lonely profession. Managing your mental health, especially in freelance communities, is vital to ensure you are in the best mindset for achieving your professional and personal goals.

Get The Basics Right: Eat well, exercise and get a good night’s sleep

Now, this is going to sound very simple, but when working from home or as a freelancer, often the simplest things that benefit our mental & physical health the most can be left astray. Keeping well-hydrated for example is not often prioritized on a hectic schedule yet is proven to improve our health, stamina and mental capacity. So it’s imperative to drink plenty of water on the job.

Diet and mental health are also closely linked. There is a strong connection between the quality of your diet and the way that your brain functions, particularly when it comes to your mood. You are what you eat as they say. A nice balanced diet with plenty of fresh and raw fruit and vegetables as well as cooked food is recognised to be part of a healthy diet. This will not only improve your health but lift your spirits over the workday as you enjoy a satisfying meal rather than a quick meal deal.

Any exercise that you can also fit into your week can also be massively beneficial to your overall health. Even if it’s just 20 minutes a day or a few times a week, all exercise is good for your physical well-being and your mental alertness.

There is also a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Poor sleep can harm your mental health and living with mental health illness affects the quality of your sleep. Taking care of yourself both physically and mentally will aid you in getting a better night's sleep.

Set and Manage realistic expectations

Setting and managing expectations is easier said than done but essential in keeping healthy relationships between you and your clients. And this starts from the very beginning, you must begin your journey being entirely honest and transparent, especially regarding cost, goals and timing.

Some clients may want you to be available 24/7 & overachieve for a price that doesn’t break the bank. This is why being transparent and honest is key, asking enough questions from a client to check you are on the same page, offering clear options and updating or flagging any issues or considerations can make the world of difference for their expectations and satisfaction. It is much more important to under-promise and over-deliver rather than the other way around.

Go outside and take regular breaks

Being in front of the screen all day can have significant effects on your mood. It’s important to get away from your desk and get some fresh air each day. Exposing your lungs to fresh air, and the wonderful scents of nature can have a great effect in relieving stress and anxiety. Oxygen is thought to affect the levels of serotonin released in the body, contributing to feelings of happiness and general relaxation.

Regular breaks in your day-to-day are also proven to improve your performance and overall well-being. Taking those moments to detach from your work can be just what you need to lift your mood, increase performance, and decrease your fatigue at work.

Schedule time off!

Time off work is necessary for you to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle. As a freelancer, it sometimes feels like you're required to work on weekends whilst accepting all possible jobs that come our way to develop in your creative field. However, it is much more important to find a better work/life balance to ensure you are as productive as possible and avoid burnout at all costs. Being overworked can majorly affect your mental health as well as your personal and professional relationships. Don’t also feel you have to say ‘yes’ to every job if you feel you need a break or some time away. Think about whether the job will be worth it - is it paid? Are you gaining new contacts? Does it make sense for you and your field?

Always do what is best for you, and you will know whether it is time for you to take time off to relax and focus on other interests that make you happy.

Celebrate YOUR wins

In any industry, it is key to celebrate your achievements no matter how big or small. Many of us in music and other creative industries feel a level of imposter syndrome - meaning you’re more likely to feel fraudulent when you cannot live up to these impossible standards. You probably also feel unsatisfied even with a job well done – like you don’t deserve the recognition for it, or were just “in the right place at the right time”.

This is rarely the case, which is why celebrating your achievements and accepting that you play a major role in your own success is so very important in aid of your mental health. Numerous studies have shown the significant benefits of celebrating your achievements, including improved physical health and better coping strategies. People who take time to reflect on - and celebrate - their successes are generally more optimistic, take better care of themselves and tend to be less stressed.

So the next time you make a big win, remember that it was you! … and celebrate appropriately.

If you feel in need of additional support for your mental health, please check out the following resources below:

NHS Depression and Anxiety self-assessment:

Further NHS mental health support:

Addaction provides free, confidential support with alcohol, drugs or mental health.

Alcoholics Anonymous If you think you might have a drinking problem. Al-Anon is a mutual
support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.

Anxiety UK is a user-led organisation that supports anyone with anxiety, phobias, panic
attacks or other anxiety related disorders.

Black Minds Matter connects Black individuals and families with free mental health services.

CALM is a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the biggest killer of men under the age
of 45.

Maytree offers confidential advice for people having suicidal feelings (see also Samaritans).

Words: Ryan Cahalin