Being a freelancer isn’t for the weak: We’re thick-skinned, hardworking, know what works best outside of the typical office and take on multiple projects while making our own schedule.
However, these quick-deadline traits can lead to quicker burnout, which requires taking a step back and focusing on our overall wellbeing. As someone who’s struggled with my own mental health since 2019, I’ve been able to collect some insight into re-booting your brain so as to better make a buck.
Five signs of decline
- Getting agitated or losing interest in the things that once interested you: Whether work you once loved is either not getting done or is most likely taking longer to get done because of a new lack of interest? It’s a red flag.
- Acting out or shutting down for no reason: This behavior is most likely tied to a mood disorder like what I myself have. Typically at work, either in the office or freelancing, we’re expected to communicate like adults and not like big babies.
- Isolating from everyone: This is most likely tied to depression, and with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) being more prominent in the seasons with less light such as fall and winter, depression can worsen over time. We can’t force people who isolate to want to talk to us on the outside — what we can do is offer support and be there for the other person when they’re ready to communicate.
- Partaking in risky behaviors: Is a loved one all of a sudden being overly provocative, borrowing and spending money in excess without the intention of ever repaying or unable to sleep? Those are signs of potential bipolar disorder. Go see a psychiatrist and don’t rely on me, someone that actually has this ailment, to diagnose you. Mania can only get worse if left untreated.
- Disassociating: This is basically a term for disconnecting from reality. I wouldn’t go far to classify disassociating as a full-on mental break, but for some people, that might be the case.
Mental health options as a freelancer:
- Go to the nearest hospital, preferably one with a psychiatric emergency room: It sounds extreme, but hear me out. If this is truly an emergency, you need to show up for yourself and get the help that you need at the moment. This is especially true if you’re thinking about harming yourself or somebody else. What most psych ERs can do is keep you for a 72-hour hold to monitor the severity of the case. If it’s concerning enough, expect to go to the psych ward. If not, follow my next step.
- Gather up a treatment team that is comprised of a psychiatrist/psychiatric nurse practitioner or a therapist: Most quality psychiatrists don’t accept insurance, making them super expensive for freelancers. You can submit a superbill to your insurance each month and get partially reimbursed, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that you’re still paying upfront. With psychiatric nurse practitioners, not only can they basically do the exact same things as a psychiatrist, but they’re far less expensive. I saw one for a few months that used private pay whilst seeing my general nurse practitioner who takes insurance. In terms of seeing a therapist, ignore the “paying someone to be your friend” myth. Maybe you have some turbulence in your life that you need help going through, and it’s always a great idea to talk to a licensed professional who has experience dealing with these issues. There are SO many types of therapy to choose from, so if one doesn’t work for you, you can always switch. Some modalities include EDMR, CBT, DBT, and MBT.
- Evaluate your support network: It’s important to remember that just because someone lets you talk to them doesn’t mean that they genuinely care about your issues. You also never know what they’re saying about you behind your back if anything at all. You need people who are authentic — not snakes.
- Call or text the crisis hotline: These are two different options with two different purposes. The Suicide Hotine is if ending it all seems like the only option and you have no one else to talk to while the Crisis Text Line is if you’re in a very bad fix and need advice in the moment.