How to improve your wellbeing if you’re self-employed

A recent report by the Centre for Research on Self-Employment (CRSE), entitled ‘The Way to Wellbeing’, measured self-employed people’s overall satisfaction and wellbeing, based on various aspects of their lives – including jobs, income, health, family life and leisure.

Its key recommendations included creating a more appreciative culture where business failures are embraced as part of entrepreunrial life, and ensuring better and quicker access to mentoring and training for start-ups to help reduce stress and improve confidence.

The CRSE also recommended creating more co-working spaces to combat the isolation felt by so many self-employed people and improving their long-term financial sustainability by encouraging the DWP and pension providers to introduce financial products for the self-employed.

There are also a number of small, daily changes self-employed people can make to improve their wellbeing and confidence. Here are our top tips.

Exercise

Susan Gafsen, co-founder and director of Pep & Lekker, a natural food company, says getting out there and exercising first thing is the best start to the working day. “The time I would otherwise have spent commuting I now exercise. This refreshes and sets me up for the day, so I don’t feel guilty about it.”

Set clear boundaries

Setting boundaries between work time and family time also helps. “It’s very easy to work 24/7 when you’re running your own business but I always try and set aside time for our family dinner in the evening,” Gafsen notes. “This is a priority as you need the support of family and friends to remain grounded.”

Gafsen believes it’s important to enforce a social media curfew too. “I try not to look at my emails or social media after 10pm so there is time to unwind before bed,” she says.

Talk to people who get it

“As supportive as your friends will be no matter what they do, sometimes it helps to turn to someone who’s in the same position,” Ellen Manning, freelance writer and blogger, says. “Find people who also run their own businesses or work for themselves and do it in a similar way to you. That way, they already know some of the pitfalls and can commiserate, advise and generally ‘get’ what you’re going through. Feeling like there’s someone there who understands is absolutely invaluable when it comes to your mental and emotional wellbeing.”

Outsource

Mentor Nicola Van Dyke says it’s important to allow yourself to be supported in any areas you’re not an expert in. “Wasting frustrating hours on figuring out a technical issue on your website is pointless. Invest wisely in support so you can concentrate on doing what you do best. Your passion is your power!” she notes.

Set your own hours

Geraldine Joaquim, founder of Mind Your Business wellbeing consultancy, says: “The 9-5 is a rather out-dated framework which came into being during the industrial revolution, and in today’s modern world it doesn’t necessarily suit people’s lifestyles.” Instead, self-employed people should make their work day fit around them. “You could try making some changes to suit you – perhaps taking a break between 3 and 6 to spend time with the children and then spending a couple of hours in the evening or getting up early to get a couple of hours work in before the school run,” Joaquim advises.

Stop multitasking

“This is a common issue whether you’re self-employed or not,” says Joaquim. “We often have several jobs on the go: that email you started this morning, the blog you need to finish, the bank statement you were checking. But this constant switching of attention is ineffective.” Joaquim believes it’s a misconception that we can multitask. “In fact we can only focus on one thing at a time but we have become adept at switching that focus. This actually exhausts our brains and leaves us feeling tired and like we haven’t achieved very much at the end of the day.”

Take a break

Taking short breaks throughout the day should help you stay motivated, according to Joaquim. “Our brains are designed to rest every 90 minutes or so, so that we can process the things we have experienced or learned,” she says. “Most of us are familiar with that sensation of ‘zoning out’ for a time (usually when we’re driving from A to B and don’t remember the journey!), that’s the brain doing it’s processing.  When we don’t allow the break, we push it into our sleep period which can end up overloading us and lead to broken sleep patterns. Taking the dog for a quick walk or going to make a coffee is an ideal break – as long as you leave your mobile behind!”

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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