I live by myself, own two dogs and run my own freelance business. Suffice it to say, I’ve accumulated my fair share of stress over the past several years.
Back in the spring, I suffered from a severe adrenal insufficiency caused by my inability to properly handle the stress in my life. I had moved away from my family, grown my business exponentially, and face several issues in my personal life. All this led to a breakdown of cortisol production in my body. It led to being bedridden for a month, losing clients and led to my ultimate decision of taking a sabbatical from freelancing.
During my time off, I’ve established a variety of routines and habits to manage the daily throngs of a self-employed lifestyle. Because I know I’m not the only one who has suffered with unmanaged stress, I wanted to write a post about what I do to cope.
I hope they help you out. And if you use any of these or have other ideas, please let me know in the comments at the bottom of this post.
1. Morning Meditation
When I first began meditating, it was just a 10-minute fight with my mind’s narrative of how I should be doing other things instead of sitting still. And that’s exactly why I continued.
Over time, it’s become such a great way to start the day. By just taking a few minutes to be present allows me to approach the rest of the day from a place of proactivity instead of reactivity. That alone reduces my stress levels, but a regular meditation practice has a myriad of other mental health benefits as well.
2. Turn Off Phone Notifications
When I first really started focusing on sales and rapidly expanding my freelance business, my phone would constantly ‘ding’ with email notifications. Because a rapid response to sale prospects increases chances of closing the sale, I would react immediately regardless of where I was or what I was doing.
Again, this left me in constant state of living reactively. I never knew when the phone would buzz and work would require my attention. This meant my mind could never just relax. I would wake up in the middle of the night and respond to emails – it was that bad.
Turning off push notifications for Gmail was one of the best things I did for my stress levels. Now, I inform clients that I’m only checking email a couple times each day and to call during business hours if it’s an emergency. (There’s never an emergency; it’s freelance writing.)
For sales, I have a system for making sure I get those emails immediately. Again, it increases chances of closing the deal. But that’s an article for a different day.
3. Pre-Pitch Power Poses
Okay, this is one of my absolute favorite stress relievers. Unlike the others, you probably won’t use it every day. (Though, you definitely could!) However, when you do implement it, the technique works wonders for your mindset and physical response to stress.
I use it for any sales or client calls. The technique is power poses and it’s changed my life. Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, explains it well in her TED Talk.
Does it feel silly to get in these poses for 2-minutes? Sure. But we’re freelancers. Half the fun of our career is that we can look ridiculous and no one would know. If you don’t try any of these other techniques, I’d seriously advise you to do this next time you feel anxious about something.
4. A Healthy Diet
Through 2015 and early 2016, I was making more money in a month than I had in all my years of freelancing combined. It required a bit of work to keep up, and I convinced myself that ordering-in for dinner was a better use of my time instead of cooking.
(Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t.)
By eating unhealthy foods, I refused to give my body the enormous benefits of a healthy diet. This led to weight gain, fatigue and just feeling bad about myself.
In September, I started a ketogenic diet – something that has worked for me in the past. Since, I’ve lost 20 pounds, have greater clarity and feel more motivated to stay consistent with my goals. You may not enjoy keto, but the key is to find a nutrition plan to fuel your mind and body.
5. Proper Hydration
This ties into proper nutrition, but deserves its own section because of how powerful it is for freelance business owners. I’m currently drinking a minimum of 125oz of water a day, sometimes even more.
“… a 1.5 percent drop in water can lead to mild dehydration and mess with focus, alertness and short-term memory.” – Jack J. Shamama, Seeker
Did you read that? Mild dehydration can cause those symptoms. No wonder we aren’t experiencing the levels of growth we desire! When I can focus, remain alert and actually remember what a client requested in a meeting, everything runs smoother.
6. Strength Training
I mentioned earlier that I’ve lost 20 pounds in the past two months. Just today, actually, I began a strength training regimen. Even though it just started, I wanted to include it on the list because I’ve done it in the past and can attest to its benefits.
There are plenty of specific benefits I won’t go into here. However, I’d like to share the thing I love most about it: I get out of my own head.
My mind is constantly running through ideas, strategies, to-dos, and on and on. The repetitive (ie, boring) nature of cardio makes this internal rigamarole thrive. But when I lift weights, it brings me back to the present moment. Stressing, strategizing and over-thinking becomes a lot less important when you are just trying not to drop the barbell and embarrass yourself.
Okay, so I don’t do a full yoga routine everyday. In fact, you would probably classify it more as just plain ol’ stretching. Nevertheless, it’s an important stress reliever for my day.
I incorporated it when I developed back pain and noticed my hamstrings were really tight. This happens when you work in front of a computer all day. A Huffington Post article had this to say:
“There are a lot of very negative physical reactions created when the body’s not in movement,” Vyda Bielkus, certified yoga instructor and founder of Health Yoga Life Studio in Boston, tells The Huffington Post. “Between sitting eight hours a day and then being in the elevator looking at your smartphone, you’re totally misaligning the spine.”
My routine is very simple, and it’s been great to feel the pain relief in my back and legs.
- Use foam roller to roll out back.
- Stretch to reach left toes while sitting for 10 breaths.
- Stretch to reach right toes while sitting for 10 breaths.
- Stretch abductors for 10 breaths.
This is one of the most relaxing parts of my day. I absolutely love the calm I feel when finishing this small routine before bed each evening.
There you have it! 7 ways I’m managing stress as a freelancer. I hope it’s been valuable for you, and I’m looking forward to reading your feedback/ideas in the comments!