Post-pandemic burnout? How to re-energise yourself and your freelance work

51% of small business owners surveyed say they've experienced burnout since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

Even though freelancers, solo entrepreneurs, and business owners are enjoying the freedom of working from home, wearing whatever they want, and sleeping in instead of commuting, they're reportedly working longer hours and more conscious of burnout than ever.

Burnout can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health, including stress, poor sleep, weight loss/gain, chronic pain, depression, and more. This is what to do if you're feeling it.

Implement your own 'mental health policy'

Employers have been judged on their ability to look after their staff lately. Some have been praised for taking real action on wellbeing while others have been criticised for ignoring it or pushing their staff back into the office ASAP.

As a self-employed person you're responsible for your own mental health policy and it's very easy to think you don't need one. Treat yourself like you'd would want an employer to treat you:

  • Remember the value of time off and a flexible working day.
  • Ask yourself regularly what you need to get a particular project done well and on time. An extension? Time on your own to focus? A break?
  • Be aware of the signs of burnout and check in with yourself if you're not feeling good.

The more you listen to yourself and consider your own wellbeing, the less likely you are to suffer from burnout. If it helps, write your policy down and save it to your desktop so you can refer back.

Walk, run, swim, cycle, meditate...

Exercise was a lot of people's sanctuary during deepest lockdown. Our social lives are a bit more diverse than walking in the park these days, but the value of regular exercise hasn't gone away.

35% of surveyed business owners and freelancers took up walking for their wellbeing during the pandemic, 23% are exercising regularly, and 18% are meditating and doing mindful activities.

Recognise when you're just too busy

We're all guilty of martyring ourselves to busy-ness sometimes. Having a full day with lots of projects is what many freelancers dream of, but there often comes a point where even the most motivated and productive people have to take a step back.

Look at your current schedule and try to be objective - is it just too full? Are you regularly cancelling social plans to finish work or sacrificing your Saturdays? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you doing good work or rushing through it?

...and do something about it

We stuff our calendars to bursting point for lots of different reasons. It could be you're keen to meet your clients' expectations (no matter how unrealistic). It could be part of your personality to always want to stay busy. It could even be a sign you're scared of losing work and financial stability.

Making your work diary more manageable can be as simple as making reasonable deadline suggestions and talking to clients about timescales that work for both of you. Marking down time on your calendar or having a cut off point for work each day can also be a regular reminder.

Talk to someone

Sometimes you need help from a professional. The first person to go to is your GP, who can help with medication, referrals to counselling services, and more. Private therapy is also an option if it's affordable.

Mental health services like The Samaritans, Mind and, local NHS mental health helplines can also help if you're in crisis or need some practical self-help advice.

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