No more lockdown blues! The freelancer’s guide to feeling productive, happy, and motivated in 2020

Life has been very different since March. Many of us have changed our personal and working lives, we've all avoided spending time with people we care about, and we're going through hand sanitiser like water! 2020 was definitely not supposed to be like this...

Lockdown has been tough on us. The number of people experiencing symptoms of depression has doubled - going from 1 in 10 to 1 in 5. We're also feeling lonelier, worrying about the future, and struggling to access mental health services.

If you're struggling to get things done, feeling low, or your business has stagnated during lockdown, this is how to pick up the pieces and feel better.

Lower your expectations slightly

It might sound a bit pessimistic to start with this. However, life is far from normal so expecting normality and not achieving it is inevitably going to make you feel rubbish.

If 2020 was supposed to be the year you did x, but now Coronavirus has made it impossible, adjust your priorities. If you're struggling to work the hours you did pre-Covid because of other commitments, low mood, or just general lockdown-related exhaustion, accept and value the hours you can work. You're living through a pandemic - be kind to yourself.

Take control of your WFH schedule

Lockdown has been restrictive but you could have a lot more freedom than you think. As a freelancer or solo entrepreneur, you're probably an old hand at working from home. The time you start, finish, when you take breaks, and what days you work are also very much up to you (even if it doesn't feel like it).

When your time is your own, structure it in a way that really works for you. That could mean carving out regular family time every day, shutting everything down at 5pm with no exceptions, or working into the night so you can enjoy your mornings instead. Whatever will help you work and live better during the coming weeks and months, make it a priority in your daily routine.

Don't compare yourself

At the start of lockdown it felt like everyone was launching brand new 'quarantine projects', working out in their own at-home cross fit studio, or becoming a master sourdough maker. If you were just trying to stay sane, you'd be forgiven for feeling like you were 'failing at lockdown' compared to everyone else.

Now the country is slowly opening up again, there's even more stuff to compare yourself to and potentially more self doubt creeping in. Are you working as hard as other people? Have you made the most of your time indoors? Are you trying to get back to normal at the same pace as everyone else?

The fact is there is no normal. There's no normal way to respond to a pandemic and nationwide lockdown. When you feel yourself sinking into self criticism, turn off social media, talk to people who make you feel good, and focus on the stuff that genuinely matters to you - whether you're 'smashing it' or not.

Give yourself a wellbeing MOT

Mental health problems can creep up on you, especially when you're trying to stay busy and productive. Don't ignore your feelings of anxiety, worry, or low mood - respond to them and treat them. Small adjustments to your day can make a massive difference to your mood and wellbeing.

Mental health charity Mind have created a wellbeing checklist for anyone that wants to stay well while they're isolating at home or just generally feeling the strain of lockdown. It includes everything from keeping a routine to making sure you get outside regularly.

Set some small, achievable goals

Life will return to a version of normal, even if it takes a bit of time. In the meantime, your life shouldn't come to a complete standstill. You can look forward.

Freelancers and business owners like you are driven by future goals and ambitions. Think about what's achievable in the next few months (even if it's really tiny) and make a plan to work towards it. After months of feeling like the world has been paused, looking ahead in a positive way can do you the world of good. You'll feel even better when you achieve it.

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