By Amanda Smyth Connor
Tight deadlines. Evil editors. Family matters. Finances. These common stress-inducers are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a day in the life of a freelancer. We all handle stress differently. Everyone has their own little tricks to dealing with stress. If you don’t, you should. Here are my top five ways of dealing with stress and finding zen in little moments to help get me through the day.
5. Stay organized. Nothing is worse than feeling that hysterical, out of control sense of disorganization. Staying organized is your best ally in combating stress, and while this won’t lessen your work load, it will make you aware of where you stand and will help you prioritize tasks. Tackling each item on your to-do list in order of most important to least important will create small victories and accomplishments as you check off each item. You can’t do it all at once, but you can focus on one thing at a time.
4. Take one full hour of quiet time every day. I go to the gym for one hour several days a week, not because I am some fitness freak, but because I get no cell reception in the gym. I also can’t manage a computer while I’m on a treadmill, thus forcing myself to have one refreshingly brainless hour of my day while I watch guilty pleasure TV or clear my head and focus on not falling or having a heart attack. Going to the gym isn’t necessary for finding quiet time (although it is good for you for many other reasons.) What is necessary is finding that one hour of solitude so that you can clear your head and let the creativity and ideas flow freely without distraction.
3. Learn to say no. It’s easy to say yes to every opportunity, project and responsibility that comes your way, but casting your net too wide makes for sloppy results. Learn when to acknowledge your tipping point and accept that it’s ok to say “no, I can’t take on that project. My plate is full.” The same rule applies to your social life. Learning to say “no” to social obligations, is tough, but attending two dinner parties, a wedding and a birthday lunch all in the same week isn’t realistic. It’s hard to walk away from fun, but you need built-in breathing time each week, and saying no to extra social obligations will free up some much needed down time.
2. Outsource your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you need to call on family members to pull a little more weight around the house while you work or whether you need to hire a virtual assistant, the concept of outsourcing minor everyday tasks is not new but is growing in popularity. Virtual assistants can help with travel booking, eBay sales, returning phone calls (tell everyone that you have your own receptionist,) editing or SEO linking. Think of all the time you spend doing millions of little tasks. This adds up to hours spent dealing with details. Why not spend a very small amount of money to outsource your needs, allowing you to focus on bigger, heavier projects that can then bring in more revenue?
1. Get sleep. Easier said than done. It’s a terrible cycle. We get stressed, can’t sleep, get more stressed, lose more sleep. At the end of the day, getting sleep is top priority when it comes to reducing stress. Sleep deprivation leads to lower quality work, sloppy mistakes and a tendency to make decisions based on emotions. Take a bath or a warm shower before bed. Soak your feet. Stretch out, yoga-style. Read one chapter of a calming book. Listen to some soothing music. Whatever you need to decompress before bed is vital.
Or you can do as I do and scream into a pillow until you feel better or pass out. I don’t recommend this.