14th May 2019
While working for yourself is one of the most rewarding things we can do, life as a Contractor has its challenges. Many of us struggle to switch off from work and our mobile phone, and may even feel guilty for taking time out. Let alone the stress of balancing your finances and securing your next contract. Looking after our mental health however is just as important as looking after our physical health, so we should pay as much attention to it.
In the UK, approximately 1 in 4 adults suffer from a mental health problem each year and only 1 in 8 suffering from a mental health problem are currently receiving treatment. We know that, as a busy Contractor, you may not necessarily have the time to reflect on your mental wellbeing, so here are some tips that are easy to fit into your busy lifestyle that may improve your mental health.
Get a good night sleep and establish good sleep hygiene – When you don’t work the regular 9 to 5, it’s difficult to know when to stop. As a Contractor, it’s easy to prioritise work over getting rest but going to bed at a reasonable time can increase the chance of deep REM sleep, which happens at the end of a sleep cycle – giving you more energy for the day ahead. In addition, developing good rituals before bed, including avoiding screens, can be part of good sleep hygiene and aid a restful night.
Set goals – They don’t have to be big, but writing down a set of goals that you’d like to achieve will help you look toward the future. Your goal may be to buy a house or to develop and expand upon one of your industry skills, whatever it may be, achieving it will make you more positive about yourself.
Take a break – When a situation becomes too overwhelming, whether you’re struggling to reason with a client or have hit a wall, it’s good to take a break. Take a few minutes to do a breathing exercise or get away from your desk and go for a walk – anything to mentally or physically get out of the situation. This way you will be able to tackle the challenge with a clearer head.
Talk to others – While talking about issues you might be struggling with can feel overwhelming, studies show that talking can have positive impact on your mental health. Working through learned behaviours around displaying emotion and unhelpful stigmas could enable you to do this with more ease and enjoy the benefits of talking as a result. You might even find it valuable investing in counselling.
Take a breath – Breathing intentionally and effectively is another scientifically proven way to positively impact your mental health and any feelings of stress. This Telegraph article explains, “Sandeman says having a few breathing techniques in your toolkit can allow us to tune out of the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight response, and into our parasympathetic nervous system, rest and digest.”
Give to others – This can be as small as saying thank you or saying a kind word or as big as donating money or volunteering your time. Whatever you choose to do can drastically improve your mental wellbeing and help you feel part of a community.
Monitor what you eat – We all know to eat healthily but it’s easier said than done. Simple changes to your diet can help improve your mental health. Protein contains amino acids which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. Make sure you incorporate some fish, eggs, nuts and seeds into your diet.
Though we are not experts in this area, we hope these tips help. If you or anyone you know is struggling, please do seek professional help. Below are some helplines and support groups that offer expert advice.
CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35
Phone: 0800 58 58 58
Mental Health Foundation – Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Mind – Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393
Samaritans – Confident support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24 hour helpline)
All content is accurate at the time of publication