World Mental Health Day is every year on October 10th.
And as someone who started my own business and has worked from home for over 5 years, I know the struggles that freelancers, virtual assistants, and self-employed people can have with their mental health.
Protecting your mental health is not just #selfcare, bubble baths, and chocolate.
(Though those things are nice, too!)
To really protect your mind, body, and spirit as an entrepreneur, you need to strengthen yourself regularly.
So you can keep bringing the best of yourself to your life AND your business!
What is World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Day was first observed on October 10th, 1992. Millions around the world are burdened with mental illness, chronic stress, and other effects of our increasingly teched-in and psyched-out world.
And now, more than ever, the challenges of a pandemic have made caring for our mental health all the more important.
Mental Health Challenges for Virtual Assistants
As a virtual assistant and work-from-home freelancer for over 5 years, I know the unique mental health challenges that face self-employed people like us!
Related Post: What is a Virtual Assistant? (And What Do They Do?)
At times, virtual assistants can feel:
- Lonely and isolated
- Overstressed and overworked
- Burnt out
- In over their head
- Pulled in every direction (especially when juggling other responsibilities like housework and childcare)
- Unmotivated and unproductive
- Like their dream job has become a nightmare
I totally understand these feelings, and from time to time, I’ve felt all of the above! So, please know, if you feel this way, you are NOT alone. And there is something you can do about it.
You don’t deserve to suffer in silence.
Sometimes you may feel like you aren’t “allowed” to share these feelings of overwhelm and unhappiness because it would undermine your decision to become a VA.
Just because you chose to become a virtual assistant does NOT mean you can never be unhappy, tired, or disappointed with the way that looks right now.
If you’re finding the self-employed life more challenging than you expected when you started, you may also struggle with feelings of guilt for not being grateful to work from home or be self-employed.
The layers of negative emotions can become extremely toxic in your life when left unchecked.
I want to be quite clear: you are allowed to feel your feelings, even when those feelings are “negative.” You deserve to be heard and understood.
And you are entitled to the help and support you need to keep going each day, whatever that means for you.
5 Mental Health Tips for Virtual Assistants
In this post, I’m sharing some of the resources and advice I have personally used to help maintain my mental health and protect myself from the rigors of being a self-employed person.
If you are struggling with extremely negative thoughts and think that your feelings are more serious than you can handle on your own, please contact your doctor and get help.
There is no shame in getting the help you need. So, please, make the call if you need to.
1. Go to therapy
I first went to therapy in 2017 to deal with my anxiety and stress. Lots of things were uncovered during those sessions, but most importantly, it revealed that a lot of my anxiety stemmed from poor boundaries I had set for myself that allowed clients to ask too much of me.
You see, by this time in my business, I was almost 2 years into my life as a full-time self-employed virtual assistant, and I was burning myself out fast.
I was putting all of myself into my client work (with the mentality that “I can sleep when I’m dead!”). That left very little of my energy to put into myself, my family, or anything else besides work.
Through therapy, I found ways to take better care of myself, set strong boundaries and expectations with clients (and others!), and find strategies to do better work without burning myself out.
You don’t necessarily need to have experienced traumatic things to need therapy. Even if you’ve never considered getting therapy before, I strongly encourage you to explore it as an option!
I recently started working with Brandi Jackson Wellness. Her holistic approach to therapy, mindset, and health make her the ideal person to advocate for me, challenge me, and encourage me on my path to set better habits in every area of my life!
2. Do some mindset work
In just a few minutes a day, you can reorient your mind to focus on the things that are really important so you can bring out the best of yourself.
Some people keep a gratitude journal, which they write in daily or weekly to remind themselves of the good things in life.
Some people set daily intentions to provide some guidance for what drives them.
And some people (like me!) do a bit of both!
I recently got a copy of The You Do You Journal by Andrea Robinson. This journal helps you do the mindset work of clearing your brain of the clutter, setting a daily intention, and focusing on gratitude.
This 90-day journal will help you remember to love yourself so you can love others more fully, too.
Filling in my journal for the day is one of my favorite things to do each morning!
3. Read a book
I don’t always make time to read, so if I’m going to sit down and crack a book, it has to bring some value to my life.
I loved You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. This is definitely a self-help book, but it’s ideal for anyone who doesn’t “feel” like they need self-help.
Read this like a how-to guide in short, easy-to-digest chapters to help you stop your self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors. Full of funny and inspiring stories, advice, and simple exercises, You Are a Badass is great for anyone who wants to level up in their life.
You Are a Badass is the self-help book for people who desperately want to improve their lives but don't want to get busted doing it.
I also really love The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks.
This book is all about breaking down the walls and internal limits we each carry around with us that are preventing us from living life the way we wish we could. If you need to liberate your authentic self and gain the skills to be the captain of your own ship, this is a must-read.
With over 100,000 copies sold, New York Times bestselling author Gay Hendricks demonstrates how to go beyond your internal limits, release outdated fears and learn a whole new set of powerful skills and habits to liberate your authentic greatness.
4. Listen and relax
It can be surprisingly easy — especially when you work from home — to find that you are working right up until bedtime, only to flop into your bed totally exhausted but way too wired to sleep.
Setting boundaries within your day is important so you don’t find yourself working 16 hours a day and wanting to implode come Friday. (Been there, done that!)
One boundary I have found is super helpful is having a meditative bedtime routine.
And I usually use the Calm app on my phone to do it!
As I get ready for bed, I put on some nature sounds and drop essential oils into my bedroom diffuser. When I climb into bed, I sometimes lay warm massage stones on my abdomen and face for a few minutes while I lay there and absorb the soothing warmth, sounds, and smells. And by the time I’m through, I have totally switched from “work brain” to “sleep brain.”
I am sleeping soooo much better since I started using this routine.
And because I’m getting better sleep, I am doing better work during the day, too!
5. Focus on what you can control
There are lots of things we worry about that we actually have no influence over. The year 2020 has been a roller coaster (with no promise that it will ever let up its train of crazy, stress, and anxiety).
But it has also been a lesson in the importance of controlling what you can control and letting go of the rest.
Because you can make a decision to change in your own life, but you can’t turn the tide for the whole world, too.
So focus on what you have the ability to control and accept the changes you can make there.
(You might be surprised by how much change you can create when you start in your own home and neighborhood!)
Why you should make mental health a priority
In honor of World Mental Health Day, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to think about protecting your own mental health.
Millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues, but you don’t have to do it alone.
I hope some of these resources I’ve shared are helpful to you!
What do you do to take care of your mental health? Comment below and share your best tips for taking care of yourself!