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6 Ways the Gig Economy is Good for Your Mental Health

(Exercising Your Mind) By Sheila Johnson

While the term “gig economy” has a handful of definitions, most professionals perceive it as the opportunity for flexible work. Though the gig economy is beneficial for many reasons—and perhaps not so helpful for a few others—it can be a boon for mental health, whether you are struggling with trauma, depression, or another mental health issue. Here are six ways the gig economy is a positive thing for individuals with mental health disorders.

1. Gig Work is Flexible

The beauty of gig work is that it’s completely flexible. Regardless of your skills or industry, you can take as much or as little work as you want. As a freelancer, you can work from home or seek out roles near you.

Checking out freelance job boards can show you how many options there are—from marketing to content creation to customer service. Many job boards also allow you to promote your skills to potential employers by posting projects and pricing them accordingly.

Plenty of gig opportunities are short-term or part-time. And, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) confirms that gig workers tend to make more money than full-time workers performing similar jobs. The added income could mean you can take more (or more frequent) mental health days as necessary.

2. Working at Home Can Reduce Stress

If you feel stressed over social interactions or workplace norms, just heading into work can wreak havoc on your health. As the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains, long-term stress can negatively affect your mental health and worsen depression or anxiety.

Unfortunately, 40 percent of workers reported that their job was “very or extremely” stressful, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS). Many other workers said they felt burned out due to work. Plus, that’s without even considering the presence of a mental health diagnosis.

3. Avoiding Triggers Might Be Easier

Many people joke about being antisocial as a reason to work from home. But for those experiencing a mental health challenge, it can be even more important to avoid demanding social situations—such as working in an office building.

Skipping workplace drama in favor of remote jobs is a great way to preserve your mental health and avoid triggers. Then, you can work on identifying and overcoming those triggers—one step at a time.

4. More Time for Self-Reflection

When your work schedule is smoother—and custom-tailored to your needs—it’s easier to invest more in “me time.” Whether you find professional help to work on your personal challenges or just take the time to relax, an open and flexible schedule can be helpful.

Self-help strategies like deep breathing and emotional awareness are easier to utilize when you’re not stuck in a cubicle. Feeling more comfortable at home can also help relieve your nerves, no matter what type of mental health scenario you’re dealing with.

5. Communicating Virtually Eliminates Boundaries

Having a sit-down in a private office can be nerve-wracking for anyone. But if you’re recovering from trauma, such an event can feel uncomfortable and even threatening.

Plus, studies show that people who are dealing with depression often find it affects their ability to communicate. People with depression tend to pause longer than those without, and nonverbal communication differs, too.

If you recognize this trait in yourself, embracing gig work could help avoid these uncomfortable scenarios. In many cases, you’ll use email and other online communication tools that take speech and gestures out of the equation entirely. 

6. Being Your Own Boss Can Boost Your Confidence

It can be intimidating to venture into the gig economy after working a regular 9 to 5 job. But becoming your own boss—and being choosy about the roles you accept—can help boost your confidence. Of course, you might need a few tools and strategies for building confidence, no matter where or how you work.

Living with a mental illness or recovering from trauma can feel daunting. Especially when you need to continue working to support yourself or your family, you might feel overwhelmed with the lack of options. Fortunately, the gig economy offers countless benefits for people who need more time and resources to manage their mental health.

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