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Every year the same round of articles appear about Blue Monday - there’s those which remind us the original data was hokum, there’s those who give ways of battling the blues, and there’s those who seem to completely miss the concept completely and use it to sell us carpets or a new type of jam.
Not unlike any day which reminds of the importance of mental wellbeing, the idea of having a single day in the calendar where you remember to think about stress or emotional health is not the most effective approach - it’s akin to running once a year and expecting to see a result - and more importantly, prompting people when at their supposed lowest point is probably the least effective method of bringing about change.
But, when things are feeling fine - it can also be so very easy to de-prioritise actions to look after our own mental health - things aren’t bad, so why worry?
Mental health - not unlike physical health - is a continuum, we all have ups and downs. Just as we generally we do what we can to prevent any sort of slipping into poorer physical health (we wrap up warm, we eat our greens, we get good sleep, we avoid others sneezing upon us) rather than turning to the lemsip and chicken soup when we do get ill, having a proactive and preventative mindset when it comes to mental health is essential too, taking actions to prevent falling into poorer mental health.
When you’re self-employed - there’s no option for a sick day. If you fall unwell and cannot work without notice, it could have devastating effects and raises a host of questions: Who completes the work? Might the client get frustrated? How long will you be unable to work? These concerns naturally add to your list of worries, and don’t help you return quickly to health. So investing in preventative actions - that help you take care off your wellbeing - needs to be a critical part of your business plan - not a nice to have, and not something you do only when not feeling great.
Our new research into mental health and freelancing shows that a large proportion of the self-employed spend very little time investing into their own mental health at work - only 29% say that looking after their own mental health is part of their business plan, and over a third are spending fewer than 2 hours a week investing in their own mental health on average, but even more worrying is even if freelancers are looking to improve things, 64% don't know where they'd be able to get support for their mental health at work, as a self-employed professional.
In fact - that’s our focus for 2021 - to help anyone working for themselves to actively think about and take actions to look after their mental health at work, to enable better signposting and access to resources and community, and to make it easier to make mental health a critical part of your business plan - so it’s something you do every day, not just when someone reminds you.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach for this, of course. Everyone’s own mental health is influenced in different ways - what causes stress and anxiety in one person might make another thrive - so it takes time to understand your own needs, your own stressors, your own plan to maintain your wellbeing.
Taking it one step at a time is essential, so you’re not overwhelming yourself, but rather seeing it as a process.
It doesn’t need to be a huge amount, and you don’t need to transform your approach overnight - but at the very least, making your own mental health something you’re proactively thinking around, rather than waiting for any type of blue day, is one task which you shouldn’t ever cross off your to-do list.
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