7 ways I cope with stress as a freelancer
As freelancers, there are so many things that can make us stressed that when I started thinking of a list it felt never ending! There’s money – and having to generate our own income – and dealing with all the things that come with that (invoices, taxes, chasing late payments). The stress of finding new clients, working with them, worrying that we’re doing it right, and the stresses that come with being the ‘everything’ for our business, from the marketing to the IT to the HR to being the bookkeeper and social media…
I'm not the best at dealing with stress. I’m reactionary. I cry, I even scream, I get angry and I get panicked. I have anxiety when I am stressed, to the point where I can even break down in tears. I’m sharing this because I want to be honest – I can’t say ‘I cope with stress all the time, and you can too’.
The theme for this year’s awareness month is ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’. I really love that. To me, it’s saying ‘ok, fine, we know we are stressed, but let’s try and move forward from it, not to overcome or beat it, but regaining. It’s pressing reset, in a way. That’s what often happens to me, when the stress fades, there’s a reset. Whether it’s the stress of something immediate (an email in your inbox that’s someone else’s ‘urgent’) or money, workload (or lack of it) or pressure on yourself to be the best. When the calm comes, I sometimes learn a lesson about how I could have done things differently in that situation.
Here’s what has worked for me:
Yes, I know this is an ‘if you can afford it’ one. But it could be that with some maths, you realise that you can afford it, and perhaps it could actually help you generate more income long-term. One thing I outsourced earlier this year was a revamp of my website and I don’t regret it at all! First up, the time you’d spend on something to ‘save’ the money that outsourcing it would cost is then taken away from your earning time. Secondly, outsourcing is like a magic wand that erases the stress of the task from your mind.
Obvious, right? Well, I think we all forget to do it, and most importantly we forget to do the exercise we actually like. But I imagine that when you do, you feel less stressed. So, this one’s twofold – doing exercise, but exercise you like to do. Personally, I’m counting the days until the local Lido reopens. I used to run a lot but actually found it quite stressful (sports bras have a lot to answer for). Maybe team sports are your go-to, or long walks, or you’ll be first in the queue for the gym again.
Stop. Breathe. Slowly, deeply. Use an app to help calm your breathing if you’d like to. But take time to breathe, to let the air in and out of your lungs. I’d also recommend taking a breath (or ten) before replying to an annoying email, to answering a call that says ‘unknown number’ or looking at social media (again).
Oh god, you think, she’s said it again?! But then you still have ‘that’ account you follow which stresses you out, don’t you? I’ll say it once more IT’S OK TO UNFOLLOW. This is something that came up in a recent podcast episode with Fiona Thomas, and she has lots of other fab advice in her episode too and her book, Out of Office.
I really like watching TV. And it definitely de-stresses me! Especially ‘guilty pleasure’ TV like 90 Day Fiancé, Married at First Sight Australia or Say Yes to the Dress. Coronation Street, Line of Duty… I’m not a TV snob, in fact quite the opposite. It's a great way to escape the stress I find.
6. Singing and dancing
Ok, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to do this with a lot of people, but for now, stopping to put on some favourite tunes can be a real stress buster. For me, it’s always 80s music that does the trick. As I type I'm listening to 80s music day on 6Music - Hoorah!
If you follow me on Instagram (although I understand if you’ve unfollowed for some reason!) then you’ll most likely have seen Florence and Roger, our dogs. Roger is basically a giant hugging machine. And yes, while they do bring me stresses, they are also the most amazing stress relievers. Time wasters, too. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you don’t have or can’t get a pet, then try seeing if you can borrow one – a friend might let you pet sit once we can go indoors again, or perhaps you can meet a friend who has a dog for a walk.
This post is an edited extract from the Freelance Feels newsletter. Subscribe at www.freelancefeels.substack.com