Taking time out to disconnect

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It’s very rare that I truly take some valuable me time. If I’m not at the full-time graphic design job, I’m at home slugging away on freelance work. If I’m not doing some sort of graphic design I’m training in the gym or renovating the house. It’s been pretty full on recently.

So, when the family and I packed our bags for a week in Cornwall in the middle of July, some time to disconnect and have valuable me time was on the cards.

Even before the break I had checked out mentally. My social media presence had reduced to almost nothing. Running the blog was not on my radar. Keeping the portfolio side of the website updated had been slacking for too long, which is why I had focused most of my attention to Instagram. But even that was now becoming more of a chore and hassle than a fun part of running a business.

I think it’s very common to hit a plateau in business. Staying motivated on your own can be demanding mentally. It’s very easy to second guess yourself. Compare yourself to others, and get completely absorbed in the culture of likes, follows, retweets and other analytics. None of which actually measure your personal success.

When I travelled to London in June for the National Freelancers Day event held by IPSE, I realised just how bad my work/life balance had become. Speaking on a panel for mental health I was preaching how you should put yourself first and focus less on what other people are doing. But I wasn’t necessarily practicing what I was preaching.

I left the event in good spirits though. I’ve always been someone where it’s either all or nothing. I was still taking on freelance work, but other elements of running the business didn’t seem so important.

My career as a freelancer began before social media was really a thing. So, why did I need it now?  It seemed to be the thing everyone was doing. It’s what all the books and blog posts tell you to do. “To be noticed and build your brand you should post on Instagram daily.” “You must only post on Twitter X number of times a day or you engagement will decrease.”

One key takeaway from National Freelancers Day was when a fellow freelancer asked us on the mental health panel how we cope when people are writing posts about how they made £100,000 in the space of three months. I couldn’t hold back my response when I simply said that it was probably a lie. However, I’ve read plenty of these articles.

Do they work for me? Not at all. I truthfully told this person not to get absorbed by these types of posts. I went down the rabbit hole of saying how social media is actually incredibly bad for our mental health. It’s telling us how to be, what to post and when to post. Maybe, that’s not a lot of pressure for a corporation with a social media team, but when it’s just you as a sole-trader it’s very easy to get overwhelmed about all the things you should be doing.

A week in Cornwall put things into perspective. I remembered the reasons why I freelance as well as work full-time. Freelancing allows me the freedom financially to save money to go on holiday and do the renovation work on the house. Freelancing allows me to have the life I want to have. Sure, it’s great to manage my workload and take on projects I may not get in the full-time job, but it’s so much more than just being my own boss. There’s satisfaction and a sense of pride when you get a new account. I get even more pride when I come home from work everyday to a house that I bought as a result of all the freelancing I did over the years.

Taking the time to disconnect on holiday was what I really needed. I’ve barely touched social media for business since I returned, and the work is still coming in. This reminds me that I made a career before social media. My career still has longevity with or without the cultured pressure of promoting myself on a daily basis for the sake of a few follows and likes.

I’m not saying my social media detox is a permanent thing. We all go through stages where we’re more active than others. At the end of the day, it’s the most known way to run a business in our growing technological world. But I will aim to put less pressure on myself. Create for myself, update for myself, and share progress for myself to keep track of. From where I started many years ago, to where I am now professionally is because of all the hard work I’ve put in over the years, and all the work I’ll continue to do over the years to come. Social media is just a small part of the success I’ve achieved. It’s not the big picture to a successful career or business.

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fuck this: living with mental health