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Freelancer Self-Care: 5 Steps To Take When Burnout Hits

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Most freelancers are passionate about what they do. Whether it’s writing, photography, design, or any other creative outlet, it’s easy for a freelancer to find a lot of joy in hir or her career. However, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to burnout. 

Unfortunately, for as many benefits as there are to freelancing, there are also some potential drawbacks. You have a flexible schedule, but you might have to work long hours to keep up with deadlines. It can be stressful to find and keep quality clients. Maybe you’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

If any of those issues sound familiar, you could be closer to experiencing burnout than you might think. Maybe you’re already experiencing it and trying to figure out how to combat it. 

The good news is that you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 2 in 5 freelancers experience high levels of stress that can lead to burnout. Unfortunately, that can end up causing a vicious cycle – the more burnt out you are, the more stressed you’ll become. 

So, what can you do when burnout hits? How can you take care of yourself mentally and physically to fight back against the stress that’s pinning you down? Let’s look at five steps you can take to avoid freelancer burnout or handle it effectively and quickly when you’re already struggling.

1. Get Moving

Staying active and prioritizing exercise are great ways to combat burnout. Most people know the obvious benefits of exercise, but did you know it can also benefit your mental health and work to prevent certain physical conditions? From a mental health standpoint, physical activity helps to: 

  • Reduce stress
  • Boost your mood
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Give you more energy
  • Improve self-esteem

Staying active can also help to boost your creativity levels — a must for freelancers, especially if you’re starting to feel burnt out or like you’re stuck in a rut. When you have more energy and you’re in a better mood, you’re less likely to lose motivation for the work you’re doing. 

Physically, exercise helps with more than just maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your muscles strong. As a freelancer, you probably spend more time sitting than standing. Working long hours at a desk and staring at a computer can take its toll on your health. It often results in short-term discomfort but can lead to long-term health issues, including vein disease, eye strain, neck and back issues, and even wrist issues that get worse with age. 

You don’t necessarily need to join a gym or run ten miles a day to reap the benefits of physical activity. Instead, focus on getting 30 minutes of light to moderate activity most days of the week. Try to do something you enjoy, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Join a dance class, do yoga in the park, or try workout videos in the comfort of your own home. 

2. Develop Healthy Habits

Exercise is absolutely a form of self-care, but it’s just the beginning.

Self-care isn’t selfish — it’s a necessity for everyone. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or time prioritizing your well-being each day, as long as you’re actively doing at least one thing for yourself. Self-care looks different for everyone, especially when you spend most of your time at home. If you’re stuck trying to come up with ideas, try some of the following to build better self-care habits:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Connecting with loved ones
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Getting good quality sleep

By making self-care a priority, you’ll start to develop healthier habits each day. Not only will that make it easier to fight back against burnout, but you’ll feel better mentally and physically, and have more energy and drive to get your work done. 

3. Strike a Work-Life Balance

It’s easy for freelancers to struggle with striking a healthy work-life balance, especially when they work at home. While there’s a lot of flexibility that comes with being your own boss, it can also take its toll if you don’t establish healthy routines and take time for your personal life as well as your professional life. 

If you’re struggling to find a healthy work-life balance, try some of the following tips: 

  • Dedicate certain hours to working each day
  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Have a separate office space at home
  • Don’t overcommit to things you know you don’t have time for

You have to balance your wellness with freelance work. When you have a better work-life balance, you’ll be able to spend more time doing the things you love and being around the people who make you feel good. That’s extremely beneficial to your mental health and can make it easier to stay productive during your designated working hours. 

4. Find a New Hobby

Taking time for yourself every day is important, but what you do with that time might be even more crucial. If you’re experiencing the effects of burnout, try to pick up a new hobby, or invest in something you’ve had an interest in for years. Hobbies are wonderful for sparking creativity and reducing stress, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can do. You might even end up finding a new skill or talent, or a hidden passion that was waiting to be uncovered. 

Your hobby choices are up to you, of course. Maybe you’ll unleash your creative side by working on art or putting together a workshop to build furniture. Maybe you’ll enjoy the benefits of being outdoors by gardening or hiking. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to your hobby. Trying new things or rediscovering old passions can quickly help to pull you out of your rut with work and rejuvenate your mind and body. 

5. Take Time Off

Burnout is nothing to take lightly. It can lead to feelings of exhaustion, isolation, and irritability. Unfortunately, it’s easy to ignore the early signs and push through until you’ve completely run yourself down. 

While the steps above can be incredibly effective for combatting burnout, you might have to take more “extreme” measures if you’re really struggling and it’s impacting both your personal and professional lives. 

If you’re really feeling the effects of burnout, take some real time away from work. That includes more than just stepping away for a few minutes each day. Take a vacation. Get away from your everyday routine. Explore a new place. Traveling has countless health benefits, including reduced stress and increased happiness. Whether you buy a plane ticket to travel somewhere new or you hop in the car for a road trip, taking time away from work for a few days (or weeks!) can make a big difference in how you feel. 

More importantly, you’ll return feeling rejuvenated, energized, and not bogged down by your career. You can also return with a commitment to avoid burnout in the future by being proactive about your well-being. 

There are so many benefits to freelancing, and it can be a great career option for those looking for flexibility and freedom. However, it can also cause you to work too much and take on a heavier load than necessary. Don’t fall into that trap. Take care of yourself every day, and you’ll be less likely to experience burnout from your career. If you’re already struggling with the effects of it, it’s never too late to prioritize your mental and physical health, and use these steps to beat the burnout.