Running your own business can be a rewarding and empowering experience but there can also be a lot of day-to-day pressure and stress to manage. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week we spoke to Matthew Knight, the founder of Leapers, a global community that supports the mental health of self-employed people.
We spoke to Matthew about the unique pressures facing freelancers and small business owners and the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on the community in recent weeks. We also asked Matthew for his advice on maintaining good mental health and emotional wellbeing when dealing with the pressures of being self-employed. Here are some practical tips that we took away from the conversation.
Keep a journal
As a freelancer or small business owner you have many roles to perform, from your day-to-day work to marketing, sales and accounting. All these responsibilities take a lot of time and effort and with so much going on, it can be easy to overlook or dismiss how you’re feeling. When Leapers asked over 500 self-employed people whether their work affected their mental health, 94% of participants agreed that it did. Matthew says that keeping a daily diary or journal can be an effective way of keeping track of how you’re feeling. “Journaling helps you get stuff out of your head and on paper”, Matthew told us. “You can then reflect upon it later. It allows you to spot patterns and changes over time.”
Build healthy routines
We’re living in unprecedented times and some of the changes we’ve had to make to our daily routines may be taking a toll on our mental health. “Lots of self-employed people are reporting they’re now sleeping too much or that they’re feeling really sluggish and have no motivation or energy”, Matthew told us. “People are settling into their new coronavirus routines and forgetting good practices like exercising, eating well and having a routine. It’s important to create a proper difference between work and home. It can be really hard if you’re at home to know the difference between the two, which means you never really switch off.” If you’re keen to breathe new life into your day-to-day routine, take a look at some of our tips for refreshing your working from home habits.
Connect with others in the community
SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) make up 99% of the business population in the UK. Meanwhile, 4.5 million businesses have no employees. While working for yourself may feel isolating at times, it can be comforting to know that you’re part of a large group of people who are all sharing the same experiences. In our discussion, Matthew reflected on how the coronavirus crisis has brought the small business and freelancer community together to support one another. “Right now, it’s about building a bit of a support network, finding others to work with and to potentially share the load”, he told us.
Celebrate the small stuff
If you’re unable to run your business as you normally would during the coronavirus crisis, you may well feel frustrated. However, there are other ways you can be productive. “Maybe you managed to do your end of month accounts, took a lunch break or updated your website”, Matthew suggested. “All of those things are still awesome. Share them with other people and turn those little wins into points of conversation.”
Take extra care of yourself in these uncertain times
While lockdown has allowed some people to pause and take a break, for many self-employed people it’s been a very different story. “We haven’t been able to pause,” Matthew reflected in our conversation. “In lots of ways, we’ve had to double down on how hard we’re working. As your own boss, it’s important to keep your own health a priority and to recognise when you do need a break or some support.” For more advice on caring for your mental wellbeing during these uncertain times, check out these resources from Leapers.
We hope these tips help you to take care of your wellbeing as you navigate the highs and lows of working for yourself. If you’re looking to connect with others who are self-employed, join Leapers and say hello to Matthew and the lovely people from the community in their Slack channel.
For more information about what the coronavirus crisis could mean for your business and to stay up to date with the latest news, take a look at our small business coronavirus hub.