6 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health While on the Grind

The hustle is real, but burnout doesn’t have to be

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The world of entrepreneurship and/or freelancing is rife with the reputation of people feeling burnt out, and not for lack of proof. One in five American adults has a mental illness, and 49 percent of entrepreneurs fall into that pool. When you work for yourself—setting your own schedule, deadlines and hours of availability—it’s easy to lose focus on when you should sprint and when you should rest. Here are some tips to help maintain your inner balance and keep tabs on your mental health while on the grind.

Note: These pertain to issues related to overworking and exhaustion. If you’re experiencing other serious mental health symptoms, please consult a mental health professional.

1. Your Body: Exercise, Sleep and Diet

It may seem like an obvious first step to take care of your body physically to help with the mental, but it can be easier said than done on a tight schedule. Give yourself plenty of time to exercise (whatever that may be, from Crossfit to a five-minute walk), get a full night’s sleep of at least seven to nine hours for young adults, and get a variety of nutrition your body needs as fuel. (No, energy bars and coffee alone don’t count.) It may seem trivial, but emphasizing physiological health can do wonders for mental health.

2. Support

Support can come in a variety of avenues, from a network of friends and family to check on you, to talking with a licensed mental health professional. It’s up to each person to decide what level of support they need to thrive, but there is no shame in having it regardless of the source. Thankfully, therapy has become less stigmatized in recent years, but mental health professionals in some areas may still be too expensive or not in-network for patients’ providers. No matter the source, having someone to vent to can make all the difference in the world.

3. Schedule Time Off

You’d request off and schedule the time out of office in a full-time company job, so why not implement the same rule for yourself? The entrepreneurial instinct says to “go, go, go,” especially in a time where you can work anywhere on a laptop, but setting aside vacation time and sticking to it is crucial to avoid burnout. Whether it’s just a long weekend or a weeks-long trip, set aside time and delete your access to check email, Slack, etc. You can always re-download them when you’re back.

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4. Avoid Comparison

In an age of social media where not only every business but also every person has become a “brand,” it’s easy to compare yourself or your business to others. But as the adage goes, "comparison is the thief of joy." Someone else’s journey or business model does not nor should represent your own, and to compare your success to someone else’s is a recipe for disaster (and cognitive stress). Focus on your own path, identify how you can improve at the rate and level that works for you and block out the noise. Your mind will thank you.

5. Self Check-In

Set some time to do a self-audit of where you are mentally and how you’re feeling in a recurring time frame that works for you. I personally started doing a monthly stock inventory on how things are in my life—in business, my personal life and my mental health—and it has really helped with taking the temperature on my mental state. Plus, having a track record to look back on can help you analyze patterns and where behaviors or burnout could be coming from. It could be written, it could be a quick thumbs up or down—whatever you’d like to make it. Just doing something to reflect will help you feel more in control of your life and your mental wellness.

6. De-Stress

This can take different forms for different people, but find some way to de-stress and let out all the tension from hustling. It could be scheduling some time for hobbies—yoga, painting, reading, etc.—or maybe it could be accomplished by another list item, like exercising or speaking with a therapist. Regardless of the method, having some way to relieve stress and recalibrate yourself is essential to maintaining mental wellness. Schedule the time for it (just like with vacations) and honor it. Not only will it help with mental health, but it’ll also fundamentally implement more work-life balance.

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