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8 Ways to Manage Anxiety as a Full-Time Freelancer

You don't need to be a perfect freelancer. You just need a system that works for you.

March 3, 2021
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Lunch break
Photo Credit: Namphuong Van | Unsplash

The following tips and suggestions are provided for informational and educational purposes only. This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you struggle with anxiety or another form of mental illness, please seek advice from a mental health professional or qualified health provider.


Managing anxiety in your everyday life is one thing. But as a full-time freelancer, managing anxiety is a whole different ball game. On the surface, it may seem like becoming a full-time freelancer wouldn't mix well with anxiety. Taking risks? Stepping outside your comfort zone? Handling rejection and criticism? Sounds like a hotbed for disaster.


Most people who struggle with some form of anxiety (and there are many forms) will agree that developing ways of dealing with it daily is a must. It is important to apply this approach to your business as well. After all, even the most confident freelancers will experience fear in some form. Fear of making enough income, concern with paying bills, imposter syndrome when sending cold pitches, the list goes on.


Unfortunately, I can't heal your anxiety. But I can offer some tips on how to manage it as a freelancer. The key to managing anxiety is coming up with ways to relax your mind. This applies to your everyday life and your freelance career. A focused mind starts with a calm mind.


So without further ado, here are eight ways you can manage your anxiety as a full-time freelancer.


We'll start with a tough one, but also the best piece of advice I can offer:


1. See a counselor

I know this isn't easy. Arranging to see a counselor or therapist is not only expensive, but it's also scary. It was one of the scariest things I ever did, and it required some financial sacrifices to make it work. But it has been worth it and so much more, not just for my freelance writing business but also my personal life.


I use an online counseling and therapy services tool, and it's been a godsend. With online access through the app and website, I can customize appointments to fit my schedule and schedule appointments as often as I want. The app did a great job of matching me with a counselor based on my preferences (such as religious views and areas of expertise). The online option made the entire process much easier.


Even so, whether you book a counselor through an online platform or in your local area, it's not easy to ask for help. But with the right counselor or therapist, it's a powerful tool. A good counselor can help you overcome not only the past but also keep your future bright.


2. Journaling

Not everyone is into journaling, and that's completely okay. But it would be a disservice not to include this tip since there are many mental and physical health benefits of journaling.


Journaling can take many forms, so there is no right or wrong way to journal. Some people like to write down their thoughts. Some use journaling for specific prompts, such as prayer, meditation, gratitude, or mindset. Some include drawing, doodling, or pictures along with writing.


There is much freedom in discovering what journaling style works for you. Write every day, or use a more on-and-off approach.


3. Eat well

Again, you don't have to be super culty with this tip, but the food you eat can play a massive role in your anxiety symptoms.


You don't need to completely revamp your current dieting habits with a brand-new diet (though you certainly can if you want to - be sure to consult with your doctor!). Drink lots of water. Avoid packaged or heavily-processed foods. Or reduce anxiety-triggering ingredients such as sugar, alcohol, or caffeine. Even small changes like these can make a difference.


4. Go outside


Whether for an entire day hiking at a local park or ten minutes on the patio while you enjoy your morning coffee, getting fresh air has many benefits. Again, there's no right or wrong way to enjoy time outside. Go on a walk by yourself, or take your dog with you. Walk around the block, or drive to a national park or a local nature center.


Depending on the weather and where you live, you may find yourself stuck indoors from time to time, but don't let it get to you. Even an outdoor adventure once in a while can help unravel your anxious mind.


5. Set your work schedule in advance


Apps and tools like Trello or Asana are super handy with managing projects and tasks. One trick when using these tools is deciding what you're going to do the day before. That way, you don't have to scramble through all your tasks and projects, unsure of what you're doing or what should be done first.

Time management apps are excellent tools, but remember, they can't organize your life and workload for you. You'll need to practice some self-discipline to make these tools work for you. But you'll save gobs of time as a result.


6. Use a timer

Keeping track of your time is not easy when you're working at home. Whether you use an online time-tracking tool like Clockify or the timer on your phone, you can organize your day much easier with a timer. Your brain can zone out for larger or longer tasks, and you have more control over your schedule.

I use a physical timer. Depending on the project, I turn the timer away from view, so I'm not checking and double-checking it. With a timer, you can keep your mind from multi-tasking and wondering where you are in your work.


7. Take breaks

Contrary to the "time is money" trap many newbies get stuck in, breaks are vital to success.


As a freelance writer, I've learned that taking breaks is an essential part of my writing process. I don't take breaks to be lazy or neglectful of my work; I take breaks to give my eyes a fresh look at what I'm writing. The more I type away at blog posts and samples, the more immune my eyes become to typos, bad flow, poorly-organized structure, and bad writing.


With breaks, I can spot areas of improvement much easier. Plus, the process becomes less stressful or frustrating, which allows me to enjoy writing all the more.


Don't feel guilty for taking regular breaks. If large companies have taken notice of the benefits of giving their employees breaks, you should take a break too.


8. Enjoy your days off

No, this tip is not the same as tip 7, but it's similar.


Like breaks during work shifts, days off and vacations serve as an opportunity to rest and recharge. Even the "Sabbath," or "a day of rest" in some major religions, has many health benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety.


Make the most of your days off. If there's work to do, schedule time to do it. But don't let the pressure of getting work done stop you from taking care of yourself. Remember: regular time off work makes you more productive, not less. Get some exercise, dive into your hobbies, spend time with loved ones, or finish that house project. Have fun!


Conclusion

It's normal to worry about the future of your business. And it's normal to have a lot to do. But don't let the pressure of getting work done stop you from taking care of yourself. With these tips, you can help reduce anxiety and find joy in your business rather than stress.


Anxiety hasn't gone away in my mind, and it likely never will. But to me, success in my life and my freelance career isn't measured by how much or little anxiety I have. Success is measured by what I choose to do in spite of my anxiety.


I hope you find the same for yourself and your business.