The freelance life doesn’t usually come with typical office drama. You’re not annoyed by colleagues and their personal phone conversations, smelly lunches or loud music coming from their earbuds. You don’t have a boss popping by with questions or wanting to chat. When you’re a freelancer, you’re able to focus more on your work.
But don’t be fooled. It comes with different stressors. I often find myself trying to make sure I can respond to people’s emails. My sources and editors come first. I’m constantly on the lookout for short, quick-turnaround stories and new, feature pitches. And then around 5:45 p.m. I’ll remember that I needed to remind another client about an unpaid invoice. Will I be financially destitute for another couple of weeks? Yep. That’s a snippet of my stream of consciousness during a stressful day.
Luckily, most of my workday is spent at home, which means I can take a moment to care for myself without disturbing anything else. Whenever I get frustrated or stressed out, I use one or two (okay, sometimes three :) to find peace:
Yoga: During my last semester of college, I decided to try yoga classes, which Columbia offered for free on campus. At first, I had a hard time learning the poses and focusing on reconnecting with my body, but I was hooked by the end of my first lesson. Now, whenever I feel myself getting overwhelmed, I roll out my yoga mat for a quick 20 to 30-minute practice. Yoga has been proven to help with anxiety and depression. For beginners, you don’t need to splurge on an expensive class membership. I would start at home with my favorite yoga YouTube series, Yoga with Adriene. Here’s a link to a 16-minute video for stress and anxiety.
Music: Easy listening, specifically light jazz or classical music, is recommended for relaxation. I have a couple of Pandora stations dedicated to classical and jazz, which feature music by and similar to Miles Davis, Claude Debussy, and Fryderyk Chopin. If music doesn’t keep you calm, don’t turn it on. That can actually make things worst. For me, music can change my whole mood and get me back in tune with my spirit. If it does for you, create a playlist for moments when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Walk away: Achieving perfection is impossible. And yet, to an extent, I find myself striving for perfection. Get every name spelled correctly. Get this done on time. Stay within your word count! It’s frustrating. Getting flustered doesn’t get you anywhere. Get up and walk away from the thing that’s stressing you out. Take a walk. Meditate. Do whatever you need to do to tackle it with a fresh mindset. I sometimes do what I call “productive procrastination,” meaning I do something else like clean or send an email in order to shift my mindset elsewhere.
Reflection: Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. I’m a journalist because I want to help people understand what’s going on in the world around them. In moments when I’m feeling low, I recall why I pursued journalism. Sometimes I’ll pull up positive emails from sources or readers to remind myself of the impact that my work has.
Exercise: Yoga is calming, but of course running and walking or other fitness are great for stress. I like walking on the treadmill and listening to rap music, but that’s just me.
Call for reinforcements: Whether it’s your best friend, your mom or dad, or a therapist, have an arsenal of people you can call when you need it the most. They’ll keep you grounded, make you laugh and help you get back in touch with yourself. Actually, if you have loved ones like mine, you’ll be cackling quite loudly.
What are some of your methods for keeping calm? Leave a comment or send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Yes, the email will make it to me.)