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October 10th is World Mental Health Day, an important day for mental health awareness and education, as well as advocating against social stigma.
The importance of discussing the mental health of bloggers
The effect of social media on the mental health of young people is a topic of regular discussion in the news these days. The younger generations are spending more and more of their time on platforms such as Instagram which is causing them to unrealistically compare themselves to the lives of others and consequentially feel left out and even depressed.
Now I’m not disagreeing with this point whatsoever, this is an ongoing issue which I agree needs to be tackled. But what I think is also important to discuss is the fact that bloggers and social media content creators are often painted in a negative light in this ongoing debate. We are the ones portraying ‘the perfect life’ and posting about our regular social events or jealousy-inducing travels online, resulting in the negative mental health of others. The problem with this is that it doesn’t leave much scope for bloggers to talk or think about their own mental health, or for this to even be addressed as an issue.
For me personally, when I tell people that I’m a full-time blogger and freelancer people only see the positives… The fact that I get to work from my bed and set my own hours. The fancy events and free gifts. The amazing travel opportunities. I’m not saying that these aren’t all great and that I don’t love what I do (I’ll happily tell everyone I have the coolest job going!), however, like most jobs out there, it does also have its downsides and can have an effect on your mental health.
This is why today, on World Mental Health Day, I’ve decided to open up and talk about the importance of looking after your mental health as a blogger…
Ways to look after your mental health as a full-time blogger
Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re lonely
I think this is probably the biggest one for bloggers, freelancers and anyone who works for themselves. Yes we attend networking events and conferences and travel a lot, and this is the side of our lives that get plastered across social media. However, what most people don’t see is the days on end we spend locked in our room writing up content, editing photos and emailing clients. The days with absolutely zero real human interaction.
Working at home from the comfort of your bed can be great for a day or two, but unless you’re the most introverted person going, it can soon get very lonely. It was only when I left my full-time office job that I realised how much I took human interaction for granted, from the casual workplace banter to team lunches and the quick pint at the end of the day. When I first started in the world of blogging and freelancing I could sometimes go days without even getting out of my PJs or having a proper conversation with someone, and it was driving me mad!
For me, the first step to dealing with this was to admit it to myself and to others. Although I loved working for myself, I was too much of an extrovert to be alone for large periods of time. I started to reach out to other people in similar positions and began spending more time working in co-working spaces or coffee shops around London. Now I have a great network of bloggers and freelancer friends who I know I can count on whenever I’m feeling lonely and need some human interaction on a quiet week.
Of course, finding a co-working space or a network of others isn’t always as easy for some people, particularly if you’re not based in a big city, but there are plenty of other ways to tackle loneliness as a blogger. Check out one of my favourite posts on the topic by the lovely Monica at The Travel Hack who talks about how she tackled loneliness by getting her dog Louie.
Managing stress and not being so hard on yourself
One major thing I’ve learnt since I started blogging full-time is that the worse boss you will ever have is yourself! At first I struggled a little with self-discipline, milking that fact that I could set my own hours and manage my own workload. However, as the business started to take off I quickly took things to the opposite extreme.
I started to feel guilty every time I stepped away from my computer or get angry at myself if I found something too difficult. Balancing working on my own blog with the work for my freelance clients had me in a constant state of stress. I also definitely had impostor syndrome, regularly freaking out that I actually had no idea what I was doing and that I wasn’t good enough to work for myself or create a viable business because I wasn’t an overnight success.
But then I decided to take a step back and breathe.
I decided to become more organised and started writing to do lists at the start of each week. I started splitting projects into bite-sized chunks and setting myself manageable deadlines. I also decided to start writing down my accomplishments and tracking my blog’s growth more regularly to prove to myself that I was getting somewhere. Finally, I talked to other bloggers and people who had started their own businesses and I learnt that being successful really doesn’t happen overnight.
When you work for yourself you are solely responsible for the success of your business and that is going to be stressful, but at the end of the day it is just a job and you need to remember to cut yourself some slack and look after your mental health as well.
Check out this extremely relatable post ‘things no one told me about becoming a travel blogger‘ by Lisa from Fjords and Beaches.
Taking a break every now and again
When you work for yourself, and particularly when you love what you do, it can be all too easy to keep working and working all day until you look over at the clock and suddenly its 2am. There’s a client deadline or a post you really want to get published so why not work a solid 14 hour day? This is fine up until the point that you completely burn out and have a mental breakdown because you’re not leaving any time for yourself.
I know it sounds silly, but a way in which I’ve personally learnt to take breaks is to get back into watching TV/Netflix series. When I’m working from home and go to grab my lunch, instead of eating it at my desk while working, I throw on an episode and make sure to take at least 45 minutes for myself. Plus, on evenings when I have no events or plans it also encourages me to switch off for a while by watching a couple of episodes before I go to sleep.
Another great piece of advice is to join a nearby gym or sports club to encourage yourself to get out of the house a couple of times a week for a bit of exercise. A double win for taking care of your mental health!
Monitoring your drinking
We’re told this again and again, drinking is not good for your mental health. As well as the obvious health problems excessive drinking can have, it has also been linked to the likes of depression and anxiety.
It’s hard enough avoiding alcohol when you live in London, the city with one of the biggest social drinking cultures in the world, but being a blogger in London just adds to this even further. Every event or meet-up we’re invited to has alcohol involved, from rum cocktails with a Caribbean tourism board on a Tuesday night to prosecco at 10am on a Sunday morning for the launch of a new brunch spot. When someone is handing you free booze it’s all too tempting to keep taking it.
Although I wouldn’t say that drinking was directly affecting my mental health, on far more occasions than I care to admit a few too many mid-week drinks has certainly had me feeling too groggy for a productive morning the next day, adding to a backlog of work and therefore more stress in the long run. Now I’ve learnt my lesson (okay most of the time) and I’m not afraid to say no when another glass of prosecco is thrust into my hand.