In fact, if anything, life as a freelancer can be just as stressful–or even more so–than life as an employee.
When business is bad, we worry about bills, what we’ll feed our children next week, or where our next client is going to come from. When business is good, we struggle with deadlines and the fact that there are ONLY 24 hours in a day.
Whether our workload is heavy or light, we may have to contend with isolation (no more chats at the water cooler), lack of sunshine and exercise… all of which add up to one stressed out freelancer.
In this post, I’ll identify ten techniques you can use to zap your own stress.
How to Zap Your Stress
Remember what they say about death and taxes? Add stress to that list. I’m pretty sure even the women of leisure in Hollywood have stress.
So, if we can’t escape stress, we must learn to manage it.
Here are ten of my favorite stress zappers:
- Water. Did you know the human body is made up mostly of water? Of course, you already knew that. When you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, and you sense a headache coming on, drink a full glass of water. And maybe another one. It’ll help.
- Physical Activity. Exercise produces feel-good hormones in our body. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, either. For me, a few minutes of gentle yoga can do the trick. A few months ago, I suffered from severe headaches. I thought they were caused by eye problems, high blood pressure or something worse. After medical tests, my family doctor identified the cause: tension in my shoulders. After doing yoga for a few days, my headaches completely disappeared. If you’re looking for something new or different, check out Tai Chi or Shiva Nata. Also, try these yoga moves you can do at your desk.
- Change of Scene. Maybe your shoulders are tight because you’ve been working in the same position for four hours straight. Get up, bring your laptop to the kitchen, and work standing up for a change. Work in a different room. If you’re indoors, go outdoors. Or head to the park.
- Self Care. When was the last time you gave yourself permission to be pampered? Ladies, how about a facial and deep tissue massage? Or a few minutes in the sauna at the gym? Even a 20-minute soak in the tub (with no kids screaming on the other side of the door) can be enough to unkink those tense muscles.
- Deep Breathing. Here’s another simple but effective stress zapper: deep breathing! Last time I was having insomnia, I put on my earphones and played a meditation app on my iPod Touch. I hadn’t even finished the breathing exercises when I fell fast asleep. Proper breathing works. There are many ways to use breathing for relaxation. The simplest one is to breathe in to the (slow) count of three, hold for three counts, then exhale for three counts. You can also use this simple technique when you’re going through something stressful, like getting a blood sample drawn.
- Interaction. If your stress stems from the fact that you haven’t talked to another human being in two days, then it’s time to call some friends for a cup of coffee. Sometimes just being able to hang out and share the frustrations (and joys) of freelancing with someone we trust is enough to recharge us for more intense freelancing. If your friends are too busy to meet for lunch, a short phone call can do the trick.
- Hobbies. Remember your hobbies? I’ll bet you enjoy yours so much you’d quickly get into a “flow” state when doing it. Why not set aside even a brief period of time to rediscover your hobby? Even just thumbing through my sewing and knitting books, or browsing Amazon for new releases, can be relaxing enough for me.
- Spirituality. Whatever your spiritual affiliation, performing certain rituals and practices can have a calming effect. Prayer is akin to meditation, for example. Especially when you’re faced with a problem you have no control over, sometimes the best way to manage is to surrender to the power that’s greater than any of us. I’ve made it a habit to spend at least 30 minutes every day in prayer. Not only does this force me to slow down, but I’ve found that I’m actually getting MORE things done, not less.
- Eating. Hang on, I’m not promoting emotional eating. I just want to point out that hunger exacerbates stress. It lowers your blood sugar levels, which can lead to decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, and headache. I don’t know about you, but being hungry makes me very, very cranky. So if you’re feeling stressed out, try to remember when your last meal was. If it’s been more than four hours, grab a healthy snack or meal. You’ll feel better.
- Shopping. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but shopping sure is fun! Don’t get carried away, though, because a huge credit card bill will give you even more stress at the end of the month. But, if it’s possible, give yourself a small treat now and then. Something that won’t break your budget, but will make you feel better. For me, that would be a new book. Figure out what your retail therapy fix is.
How Do You Manage Stress?
Do you turn to the same things I listed above to help you manage stress? Or do you rely on other stress zappers I haven’t mentioned here? Please share your stress tips in the comments below. I can always use more new ones.