Have you ever found yourself too stressed to work? Maybe you've found yourself sitting at your desk re-reading the same line of an email over and over again, unable to concentrate (hi!). You're not alone! According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 72% of people experience stress daily, and 56% say it affects their work performance.
For freelancers, it might be even more apparent since you, and you alone, are in charge of your clients, your business, and taking care of all the daily responsibilities. There's no one to share the burden with — it all falls to you. We're here to help! In this lesson, we’ll share 3 helpful ways to calm down when feeling stressed as a freelancer.
3 steps on how to calm down when feeling stressed at work
One of the best ways to manage stress at work is to deal with it immediately. Here are three practical steps on how to handle stress at work:
1. Focus on your breath to calm down at work
Yes, something as simple as deep breathing exercises can help lower your anxiety and stress at work! And if you don’t believe me, listen to the scientists. When you breathe deeply, you send a message to your brain to calm down and relieve stress.
When stressed, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, and blood pressure increases. If you haven't caught on, stress isn't good for the body. Taking deep breaths relaxes your body and lowers your heart rate and nervous system.
Try this! The next time you’re feeling stressed, stop what you’re doing and take a few deep breaths. Breathing from your abdomen is important, so place a hand on your lower belly to check. If you're doing it correctly, you should feel your hand rise and fall with each breath. It also might help to practice the 4-4-4 breathing technique.
Exhale all the air from your body and then inhale through your nose to the count of 4. Hold your breath for another 4 counts, and then exhale for 4 more counts. Repeat this breathing until your heart rate slows. The deep breaths will help relax you, and the counting will force your mind to focus on something other than what is stressing you out. Seriously, try it! It’s a game-changer (we speak from experience).
2. Practice encouraging self-talk
When you feel overwhelmed and anxious, it's easy to get down on yourself. This is even truer when your business and livelihood depend on you. As a freelancer, you might think, "I've got too much on my plate' or "I don't know how I'm going to get everything done."
Instead of focusing on the negatives, try changing your thinking. We know this is much easier said than done, but this is such an important skill to practice. Your thinking has the power to change your behavior!
Take a moment to acknowledge your anxious thoughts, then follow them up with "It’s okay, this will pass" or "I'm okay. I'm just having a moment, and that's okay." There's no point in getting down on yourself when you're already feeling low. Remember to practice kindness. If what you're thinking wouldn't be something you would share aloud with a friend or loved one, then it's probably not something you should be telling yourself. :)
3. Get outside and move
One of the perks of working from home is building your schedule. You have the flexibility to make your schedule work for you. If you're having a particularly hard day or you're too stressed to concentrate, consider taking a longer lunch, going for a walk, or just moving your body.
If you can get outside for a quick 10-15 minute walk, do it and get some fresh air! Not only will the change of scenery be a welcome distraction, but your endorphins will kick in, which will help calm your body.
If you can't get outside, stand up from your desk and do a few jumping jacks, stretch, throw some punches in the air, or just move around to release those endorphins. Do whatever helps you feel better! As long as you get your body moving, you’ll be helping yourself calm down.
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Remember, we all do our best work when relaxed and in a clear headspace! If you find yourself too stressed to do anything, take a beat, and try practicing these three techniques. Even if you just do one, that's a start! And the first step is always starting!
What causes workplace stress as a freelancer?
Many factors can create stressful situations in your workplace. The specific triggers can differ based on the type of freelance work you do. However, failure to manage time effectively and feeling the weight of work pressure can significantly elevate stress levels.
Sometimes, personal life issues can also affect your professional setting. Here are some of the common factors that cause job stress:
- Excessive pressure of work
- Long working hours
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Feeling anxious about performance
- Lack of resources and necessary equipment
- Insufficient skills
- High job demands
- Poor communication with clients
- Uncomfortable work environment
- Tedious projects
- Personal issues
- Lack of motivation
- Working in isolation
How does stress impact freelancers' mental health and productivity?
As a freelancer, it's not uncommon to experience some mental health challenges from time to time. These struggles can significantly distract you from work and may hurt your overall performance and productivity.
A recent survey by Leaper shed some light on this issue, revealing that a whopping 60% of freelancers have experienced setbacks in their work due to poor mental health. The study also revealed other stressors that commonly affect freelancers:
- 85% of participants identified irregular income as a stress factor.
- 84% of freelancers feel unproductive due to stress.
- Irregular working hours cause distress to 56.8% of freelancers.
- 63.8% suffer from mental health problems for not having someone to share stress with. It sometimes even brings negative thoughts due to loneliness.
- 53% of freelancers feel unskilled for the job, which creates a stressful situation.
- Unreasonable client expectations have put 69% of the respondents under stress.
- Lack of clarity about the project affects the mental health of a whopping 78% of independent workers.
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Besides your mental health, workload, and mental stress can also affect your physical health. Fatigues and headaches are the most common stress symptoms, including deteriorating existing health conditions.
In addition, the constant release of the stress hormone cortisol negatively affects your immune system and increases the chances of Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, coping with the work stress that affects your overall health is necessary. Here are some warning signs you should be aware of:
- Poor sleep quality
- Inability to relax
- Loss of appetite
- Uninterested in social interactions
- Get angered easily
- Start to cry abruptly
- Feeling hopeless
- Increased intake of drugs or alcohol
- Feeling depressed
Why don't freelancers take breaks?
When you are working as a freelancer, every minute counts towards your bottom line. So, taking too many breaks for reasons such as feeling unwell or going on a vacation can end up costing you in terms of lost income.
Many freelancers push themselves to their limits to maximize their earning potential, even when feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Unfortunately, this can often result in a noticeable drop in the quality of their work.
It's for this reason that stress management is so critical for freelancers. By learning effective techniques to manage stress, you can maintain your focus and produce high-quality work without burning out.
Ways of coping with stress as a freelancer
You must be proactive about managing your stress levels and mental health. Ignoring these issues won't make them disappear, and they can become more difficult to deal with over time. Finding a coping mechanism is necessary, whether that means taking a break or seeking professional help.
But how to deal with stress at work? Here are some methods to develop your skills in managing stress at work as a freelancer:
If you're looking for a way to reduce stress and sleep disturbances, progressive muscle relaxation can be a great exercise to try out. This particular exercise can help alleviate muscle tension commonly associated with anxiety.
Find a comfortable place to sit and close your eyes to give it a go. Starting with your feet and working your way up, tense and then relax each significant muscle group. Hold each muscle tension for about 10 to 15 seconds, then release it. Repeat this process multiple times, with a 20-second break between each set.
Incorporating this exercise into your routine can help reduce work-related stress and maintain focus and concentration throughout the day. Give it a try and see how it works for you.
We unnecessarily beat ourselves up over past mistakes and future worries. Unfortunately, this can all contribute to heightened stress levels, taking a toll on our professional work.
Practicing mindfulness is an effective way to bring our focus back to the present moment. Break the cycle of these unhelpful thought patterns by accepting yourself and living in the moment.
Cultivating mindfulness at work may help boost productivity and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
It's a straightforward technique where you learn to tackle a challenge step-by-step, which helps you regain control and reduce stress levels.
To practice active problem-solving, start by identifying the issue at hand. Then, brainstorm potential solutions and categorize them. Finally, select the most effective solution and put it into action.
But how exactly can this technique help with stress? When you focus on finding a solution to a problem, you shift your attention away from the stress itself. This can help you feel more empowered and less overwhelmed.
Make your happy moments a priority
Between managing your time, dealing with stress, and feeling the pressure to produce results, it's no wonder that many freelancers end up struggling with their mental health.
Focusing solely on work will make you feel burnt out and drained. So, setting aside some time for activities that bring you joy and fulfillment is crucial. Spend quality time with family members, do social interaction, and ensure good nutrition to stay healthy mentally and physically.
Feeling overwhelmed with work-related stress can lead to burnout and other severe physical and mental problems. Follow our suggested techniques to calm down at work and avoid a mental breakdown. However, you should seek help from mental health professionals if work-related stress is getting out of hand. It's better to take action and get support early on to prevent the problem from escalating.
Indy can help you reduce stress by giving you the right tools to manage heavier workloads, such as to-do lists, Kanban boards, and custom workflows that automate your daily tasks and reduce the time you spend working. Check out how you can easily manage projects with Indy.