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 in their daily lives, and 56% of people say it affects their work performance.
If you fall into this 56%, you’re probably not doing your best work when you feel like this. 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 day to day responsibilities. There’s no one there to share the burden with — it all falls to you.
We’re here to help! If you find that stress is impacting your work, follow these 3 simple steps to calm down.
1. Focus on your breath to calm down at work
Yes, something as simple as deep breathing can really help lower your anxiety! 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 relax.
When you’re stressed, your heart rate increases, your breathing quickens, and your blood pressure rises. In case you haven’t caught on, stress isn’t good for the body. Taking deep breaths relaxes your body and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
Try this! The next time you’re feeling stressed, stop what you’re doing and take a few deep breaths. It’s important to breathe from your abdomen, so place a hand on your lower belly to check. If you’re breathing 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 depends 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, but 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 either. :)
3. Get outside and move
One of the perks of working from home is building your own 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! 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.
Remember, we all do our best work when we’re relaxed and in a clear headspace! If you find yourself too stressed to do anything, take a beat, and try practicing these 3 techniques. Even if you just do one, that’s a start! And the first step is always starting!