First of all, it sounds counter-intuitive, but owning a freelance business can be therapeutic for someone with anxiety.
Think about it…
Much anxiety can come from…
- Having to report to people when you don’t need “managing.”
- Un-sureness about your job, even if you’re a good worker, because you just never know.
- Office politics and cliques and wondering about what’s being said behind closed doors.
- Difficult people who just aren’t satisfied with anything.
- Commuting, which may make you lose an hour of your day every work day!
- Time pressures of deadlines and launches.
- Emails. Emails. Emails. Communicating with computers.
- Leaving children behind, as they cry with arms outstretched to you (ouchy!)
- Gray cubicles deep inside a building with overhanging artificial lights.
- Not seeing the light of day…
Those are MAJOR anxiety triggers! Major triggers that all went away when I decided to start my own business. Ah, the freedom of that alone! It changes a person!
People have commented about the difference they see in my face even!
Hubster even says I’m quite a different person. And noticing things like that aren’t his strong suit. But even he noticed.
Now, you know in your mind what being location-free might look like.
But it’s an entirely different life shift when you actually experience it.
Ok, get real woman.
Being my own boss isn’t all glitter and polka dots all the time, but it’s mostly that same feeling you get inside the polka dotted party store.
It speaks of opportunity and togetherness and celebration and pretty things.
Sometimes a kid walks in and throws party favors all over the floor like confetti.
Yeah, that happens every day around here.
And sometimes someone walks in with a glum face and needs to return hundreds of dollars of party supplies for a celebration that was called off.
Or someone passes out from breathing the helium.
But there’s still glitter and polka dots everywhere.
Ok, moving on from that analogy.
So, being self-employed has filled me with gratitude for the way it plays out…
- When you wake up and you can’t wait to get started.
- When you get to work in the comfort of your leggings next to lit candles (a fire hazard at most jobs).
- When you take as many breaks as you need to readjust your focus.
- When you can tend to your medicinal herb garden on your lunch break.
- When your babysitter can give your baby access to you for boo-boo kisses through the office door.
- When you can take a personal day anytime you need to. Oh wait, I haven’t needed to since there’s nothing to escape from! Just one day when I developed an infection, nbd.
- When you don’t have to go anywhere! Hallelujah, no more commute! No more facing blizzards and rush hour and endless endless driving.
- When you can set your rates and your use of time on your terms.
- When you can spend a week with your husband in a semi and still get your work done.
- When you can work from a picnic table at a local park with a view of the river and changing trees.
- When you can roll backward on your medicine ball for a good stretch without looking like a moron.
- When the coffee and tea and cheese (and wine) are just a few rooms away. No more desperate afternoon searches through the drawers to find a completely unappetizing snack. Ha, I can drink on a workday if I wanna! I don’t, but I could.
- When you can listen to the rain and thunderstorms through the screened-in door.
- When you can check on your dog and kitties and caterpillar collection at regular intervals.
- When you can keep a tighter ship around your house because you’re there. Even though I don’t clean during work hours (although it IS hard to ignore the laundry), I’m still able to keep it cleaner around here, because I’m here, which makes me a much less anxious person.
- When you don’t have to leave the house during snowstorms, or a day or two after.
This guy needs supervision
Okay, okay…you get the point.
Not trying to gloat, just show my gratitude.
My purpose in listing all of that — and that was just the stuff off the top of my head — was to stir up some emotions and desires inside of you. If you long for that type of life, this is for you.
If you have a desire, and you see that it’s possible, and you see that someone else is doing it, you might just realize that you can have it for yourself.
And if you’re really serious about it, you’ll actually do something about it;)
So, you can see how these pieces of glitter could make a person less anxious, right? How it could lift that heaviness and melt that nervous energy.
Once you become a freelance writer, it doesn’t mean the anxiety will automatically fall away though. You still have to have use some proactive strategies to steer your mind. Because when that one kid walks in and destroys the glitter and polka dots, you need to know where the vacuum is.
These are my strategies, the practices I do Every.Single.Day to tame that beastly worrier inside my head.
Top 10 Strategies for Tackling Anxiety as a Freelance Writer
- Journal every morning: I journal every morning for at least 15 minutes, no matter what. I journal about what I want my day to be about, what I’m going to do today to make progress toward my goals, what’s holding me back, etc.Now, this might seem like an easy task to disregard, especially when you’re short on time, but actually journaling gives me more time. I feel like I have more time and space to create meaningful work after journaling because it makes me more intentional with my time rather than reactive to whatever happens to me.
I also use journaling to turn around my entire vibe. If I’m feeling low or flat, I’ve learned how to use journaling to reverse it. I get to choose how I feel! I get to proactively change my mental state. This is one of the most momentous tools I’ve found for my anxiety. That’s why it’s number one!
- Take hourly breaks: I have a Fitbit Charge 2 that’s literally changing my life right now. It vibrates at me every hour to get up out of my desk. It also has a meditation function built right in. So, if I’m feeling particularly charged up, I can breathe for a few minutes to refocus.Everyone who suffers from anxiety knows how miraculous meditation and deep breathing are…if they actually do it. Breathing in and out with that little expanding circle is somehow really effective at calming that nervous energy. Well done, Fitbit.
Breathing and mindfulness make a huge difference for managing anxiety, so try all the tools you can.
- Exercise: I exercise 6 days a week consistently. Always. No exceptions. Some days, I can feel my runs or weight lifting squeezing the anxiety right out of my body. Other days, I know my body needs yoga and I feel noticeably rejuvenated afterward.Countless studies show the affect of exercise on mood. A quick Google search will lead you to plenty of material about exercise being a great mood stabilizer.
You can even step the benefits up a notch by taking your workout outdoors. Even more studies point to the benefits of being in nature and sunlight. Combine exercise and nature to really turn your mood around.
Make exercise a non-negotiable part of your day.
- Get out into nature: Okay, I mentioned this above, but I think it deserves it’s own mention. I make it a point to get out into nature every day. In winter, when it’s more difficult to get outside in WI, I use my sun lamp every day to charge myself with light.Nature has such a profound grounding effect. So much so that it’s becoming a “thing” to go forest bathing. Earthing re-calibrates your body. The sun pushes away the blues. There’s just something about being outside that makes us feel good and it just happens to melt away frenzied energy.
- Be selective: Only take clients that you love. Only say “yes” to events that will truly make a positive difference in your life. Overwhelm is a problem with us anxious types, and this is a great way to tame it.We anxious types also find gratification in doing what we love, which translates into all kinds of mental health benefits. Writing about health and fitness, my bread and butter, all day gives me fewer things to be anxious about.
This could be an entire different post (or book) but there’s something to be said about doing your life’s purpose work that heals that underlying anxiety that stems from knowing you’re not doing the work you were meant to be doing.
- Build in social time: Working alone every day is the bomb dot com when you’re a professional introvert like me. Answering customer calls is just about the last thing on earth I’d want to be doing, and it just causes anxiety thinking about it. So the nature of my job is perfect for me and my fragile spirit.However, being with friends is also paramount and lifts the spirit in indefinable ways. I miss being with my people. So, I make sure to get into town and plan social activities regularly because there’s no one on the other side of my desk to tell about the weird thing that just happened to me.
Although one side of me loves being a homebody, another side of me knows that making time with friends feeds that energetic part of me. Social time is healthy, and I’m all about healthy.
- Write about anxiety: I’ve written a few articles for The Mighty and I’ve discovered that every time I try to put my anxiety or depression into words, I learn something about my anxiety on a little bit deeper level. Finding the lesson in the scary parts, finding the sense in the nonsense, discovering the blessings in the darkest times–writing gives you that!Even if you’re not a writer, you can pretend to write an article like 4 Ways Anxiety Makes Me a Better Mom or This ONE strategy nips my anxiety before it ever starts. This is kinda an extension of the journaling listed above. Putting your experience into words and working through your thoughts in a real tangible way like this gives you better awareness of your anxiety.
I always hope my published words resonate with and touch other people too. I like to think that my articles might give people the reassuring sense that “someone out there gets it.”
- Get dressed: Taking a shower and getting dressed are part of a healthy self-care routine. A healthy self-care routine you’re sometimes too overwhelmed to perform when you’re in the midst of a panicFor that reason, I get dressed and shower every single day. Even if I don’t want to. It’s kinda one of those fake-it-till-you-make-it scenarios where you take care of yourself like you would when you’re in your best states of mind. Anxiety can cause a snowball effect in your life, right down to self-care. So showering and getting dressed are two controllable factors you have at your disposal to push back on that snowball.
Sometimes I put earrings on even if I’m not leaving my house. I even work better when I’m dressed. It’s good for my productivity and it makes me feel human. Feeling icky is not good for mental health. Showers are.
- Keep a schedule: Knowing what I’m doing and when helps on those days when I need to work on autopilot because I can’t work any other way. I have a set of routine tasks I do in the mornings and a pretty predictable way of working each day/week.That way, if I come upon a day, or an entire phase, of anxiety, I can just go through the motions rather than skip life those days entirely. Make sure, when you’re feeling good, that you establish this set routine so that when you come upon an anxious phase, you can “just do it,” as Nike so famously coined.
I also find that there’s reassurance in having predictable habits. Anxious people don’t necessarily thrive on change, so having a regular schedule helps keep our nerves on a steady keel.
- 3, 2, 1, blastoff strategy from Mel Robbins. I’ve pulled out this strategy when I’ve needed to, on those days when I just can’t get out of bed and my mind is screaming at me to get some ish done while my body is not cooperating.All you do is count down, like you’re a spaceship about to launch, “3-2-1 blastoff,” and you jump out of bed. It sounds stupid. Even Mel Robbins admits it’s stupid. But somehow, you just get out of bed, which is the hardest part. Once the hardest part is out of the way, you can get to living.
So my strategies are pretty textbook. Except maybe that last one or maybe my approach to them. A therapist would suggest many of these. So would every anxiety guidebook out there. So, if you were looking for something more profound, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t practice these regularly.
The trick is to actually do them. To actually practice them.
Try the silly little expanding circle breathing exercise on the Fitbit. And keep trying it for several days in a row, and you might start to experience noticeable effects.
Look, I know some of them sound rudimentary, but they’re freaking effective! The most effective. There’s a reason you hear about them all the time. Because they work.
My anxiety is at an all-time low right now. I feel amazing. It’s a combination of warm weather, autonomy, goal alignment, and personal fulfillment. Yes, I take medication to help temper some of my biological anxiety, but my lifestyle adjustments contribute immensely.
I hope something in this article strikes you and helps you. Maybe even just hearing it from someone who’s gone through it makes you feel a little better. I want to let you know that you are definitely not alone.
I’d love to connect with any other anxiety warriors out there. Tell me in the comments who you are and what you do to tame your wild anxiety;)