Why Freelancers Should Take Mental Health Days
On Thursday, I couldn’t seem to get anything done.
I wasn’t physically sick, but I definitely was not feeling well. To avoid further explaining myself, I told people that my stomach was acting up. (Because no one wants to further explore that.)
The truth? My mental state was so off that I couldn’t focus on anything. My insomnia had picked up, my stress had compounded, and a looming sense of apathy had swallowed almost all of my projects.
As someone who hates idleness and unproductivity, can you imagine the struggle when one part of my brain was saying, “Hey, lazy, what’s the deal?” and the other was saying, “Hold up, honey, I need a breather!”?
On Thursday, I was struggling more than normal, and I think it was because I’m freelancing now. Even though it felt weird taking a mental health day while working a corporate role, I eventually got over it because, well, I was still getting paid.
As a freelance writer, the saying “Time is money” has never felt truer, meaning that taking even one unplanned day off creates an underlying sense of guilt.
But, as I looked at my bedraggled, dizzied self in the reflection of my dimmed computer, I couldn’t help but feel like freelancers should take mental health days, too. Here’s why:
Because creativity and innovation dwindle when you’re not mentally sharp.
You may feel like you’re massively derailing your projects if you take even one day off. But, when you take a step back and evaluate your overall productivity, you’ll notice that it’s pretty tough to make progress when you’re mentally and emotionally dulled. Giving myself Thursday to mentally reset allowed Friday to be one of my most productive days in a while.
Because perfection is never the answer.
Although it’s difficult for creativity and perfectionism to successfully coexist, many creative freelancers display perfectionist tendencies (which can be good). If you feel like you can’t step away from a project, can’t miss a day of work, can’t not write at least 500 words a day… I applaud your tenacity, but sacrificing health in favor of perfectionism isn’t the answer. Break your streak, let yourself rest, and remember sociologist Brené Brown’s advice: People don’t succeed because of their perfectionism but despite it.
Because balance is up to us.
As a freelancer, you set your own hours, pace, clients, and pretty much everything else. That’s the beauty of working for yourself! But, while this flexibility may make you feel like you don’t need a break, those blurred boundaries will eventually cause you to work (or be thinking about work) 24/7. Once I had dubbed Thursday a “brain day”, I realized that was the first time in forever I hadn’t thought about my business. The work-life balance has never been more necessary, my friends, and setting that balance is up to you. Start by giving your brain a break.
Because it feels goooood.
Hey, who doesn’t like a midday nap? What about finally having the time to complete that personal to-do list? Better yet, how does an afternoon adventure sound? Just because you’ve admitted your need for and committed to a mental health day doesn’t meet you have to wallow around your house. Research shows that anything from extra sleep to new experiences can boost your happiness and help you realign your mind. How did I spend Thursday? I baked (and ate) way too many cookies…for pretty much no reason whatsoever.
Now, I’m not advocating the use of mental health breaks to explain away days you just don’t feel like working. Mental health and motivation don’t (always) go hand-in-hand. But, to those who are struggling to allow themselves even one afternoon off: Take a mental health day before it becomes a mental health crisis. The same brain that helps you succeed in your creative freelance career deserves a break, too.