Being one of those unbelievers who thought self-care was some sort of marketing sham for the gullible, it was a great surprise to find myself having a panic attack at 3am on a weekday after feeling completely overloaded with the stresses of running my own publishing company while juggling daily freelance jobs on the side. Suddenly I was aware that, oh, right, self-care is simply looking after yourself – nothing to be cynical about! It’s a crucial part of the freelancing toolkit and one you should learn to hone as much as the skills you sell.
Find and uphold your own calming ritual
From a cup of tea to a scientifically created calming soundscape, find an item or routine that can immediately take you out of a stressful situation and into a more grounded frame of mind to reset, if just for 5 minutes. I personally like websites such as Rainy Moodto bring my blood pressure down and relax. Knowing a quick failsafe to catch yourself before you fall into a stress spiral can be the most valuable tool.
Take weekends off
Easier said than done, I know. Sometimes you’ll absolutely need to work through weekends to meet deadlines but try not to let this become the norm. I did, and it took months to build a healthier routine. You need time off to be refreshed and rested enough to do your best work. Watch your Netflix, read your book, have a night out, whatever your poison, just get away from the laptop!
Check in on friends and family
Get in touch and see how they’re doing. It’s one thing to open up about your tricky times, but another to altruistically reach out to be there for your loved ones. Ask how they are and if they’re free to catch up – I find it a great way to gain some perspective and remember I’m not alone in this.
Don’t be a slave to social media
As a freelancer you probably feel the pressure to be constantly professional on social media. Sure, work may come along through social media occasionally, but don’t censor yourself for the sake of potential employers. Use social media exactly how you want to (or not at all!) and if an employer doesn’t like what you say, well, you probably don’t want to work with them anyway.
Also, know when to step away from social media. It’s more divisive and angry than ever and even those who love it have to put it away and step outside to breathe. See it as a tool, not a crutch.
Finally, and most importantly, SLEEP!
A good 40 winks is something I refuse to give up. If you encounter any fellow freelancer boasting about their string of all-nighters, don’t listen to or congratulate them. They’re perpetuating a dangerous culture of over-working and, let’s be honest, are probably underperforming. Have as much rest as you can and jump into your work refreshed so it’s the best it can be.
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