Self-employed stress relief: how to keep calm and freelance on

Workplace and wellbeing

8 November 2016

After the summer slump, the welcome arrival of new clients and work can quickly turn to panic as your to-do list expands.

As a sole trader or freelancer it can seem as though you just have to bottle it up and battle on, but the truth is that it pays to understand and manage stress. Not just for your health, but for the long-term success of your business.

Understanding stress

Not all stress is bad. Your body produces ‘fight or flight’ hormones in response to a dangerous situation. That could be anything from the sudden appearance of a crocodile or a looming 6pm deadline – it’s all the same to your brain.

As a result, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises and your senses focus, all of which can be productive in the right context.

If it bleeds into your everyday life, however, stress can become a chronic condition. This starts with difficulty relaxing after work and trouble sleeping, and can turn into loss of appetite or libido, heart palpitations and odd aches and pains.

Avoiding chronic stress

To prevent stress getting out of control, start by keeping it in those productive spaces. Saying no is important. Make a realistic assessment of what you can take on before accepting new jobs or tight deadlines.

During working hours, adjust your schedule to match your biorhythms. If you’re a morning person, for example, get the tough stuff out of the way early and keep simple tasks for the wind-down at the end of the day.

Remember to factor in time off. Lunch, evenings and weekends are vital for your body to recover from work-related stress. Try to avoid calls and email during these times in order to relax.

Managing stress, avoiding burnout

Even with the best-laid plans, many freelancers succumb to stress – but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in control. If you’re aware that stress could be an issue, look for people who can help you. Consider attending meetups or Facebook events for other self-employed people, so you can discuss the natural fears and anxieties surrounding your role, blow off a bit of steam and pick up some coping strategies.

If you’re still worried, your GP can help. One in five visits to the GP relates to psychological problems like stress, anxiety and depression, so you’re not alone.