11 Ways to Keep Anxiety at Bay and Focus on Freelancing
Freelancers have a lot to worry about these days. Some of us have already lost freelance work due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Most of us will lose a little, some, or a lot of work. Anxiety is our natural response to stress and uncertainty about what’s to come when the pandemic ends.
Focusing on freelancing is harder now. Along with the anxiety that makes it hard to concentrate, many of us have spouses/significant others and/or kids at home. Our days are disrupted and our loved ones need more of our time.
Yet, to succeed in the coronavirus economy, we need to stay focused on what we can do to prepare now.
How to Have Less Anxiety and More Focus
Here are 11 ways to keep anxiety at bay and focus on freelancing during these uncertain times, from 11 successful freelancers.
Also, read about the impact of coronavirus on these freelancers and what they’re doing to thrive.
1. Accept Uncertainty
Life—personal and professional —is going to be different, at least for a while. Uncertainty is the new normal.
“Take one day at a time and see what happens,” says Debbie Anderson, PhD, MS. “There is no point in worrying about something you can’t control. Instead you need to do the best you can.” Debbie is a freelance medical writer and instructional designer. Her company is DGA Medical Communications.
“Understand that all business is cyclical and that natural disasters and emergencies do happen, but always pass. Be patient,” adds freelance medical writer Genevieve Long, PhD.
2. Stick to Your Normal Work Schedule (as Much as Possible)
Keep anxiety at bay and stay focused by sticking to your normal work schedule.
“Having structure helps me stay focused and feel less anxious about how to spend my days,” says JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, a freelance writer who focuses on health writing for patients and pet owners. Her company is JPen Communications.
JoAnna is maintaining her daily routine by waking up, getting to her desk, eating meals, etc. at the same time she usually does these things. Making a to-do list each day also helps JoAnna structure her workdays.
For Kristin Harper, PhD, MPH, focusing on work “is a good distraction from my anxiety.” Kristin is a freelance medical writer and owner of Harper Health & Science Communications, LLC.
3. Accept and Work Around Disruptions
But it’s not business as usual for many of us. With spouses/significant others and kids at home, we need to make time for our families while still finding ways to work.
Shannon S. Hach, MD, ELS, Joy Drohan, and Kelly Schrank, MA, ELS all have their husbands working at home now. Shannon and Joy also have kids at home.
“I use earbuds with relaxing music to keep me focused,” says Shannon. I work in slightly smaller chunks of time to be able to be present for my family,” she says. Shannon is a BELS-certified freelance medical editor and owner of STAT Editing.
Joy finds that having her husband working at home is helpful. “My husband is keeping to a schedule. He sets a good example and knowing that he is working reminds me to sit down and work despite the kids’ distractions,” says Joy, a freelance writer and editor in environmental, health, and agricultural sciences and owner of Eco-Write LLC.
When she needs to concentrate, Joy shuts her office door and inserts earplugs. And when she has a deadline to meet or a work call, she lets her family know so they don’t interrupt her.
While Kelly enjoys having her husband home working with her, this can be distracting. “I think of it like a co-working space. I have a lunch buddy now and someone to rant to in the middle of the day, but there is a bit more distraction, as he gets to rant, too,” she says. Kelly is a medical editor and owner of Bookworm Editing Services.
4. Limit Your Exposure to News
While we do need to stay updated about coronavirus, too much news definitely increases anxiety and decreases our ability to focus. Mia De Fino MS, ELS, and Genevieve are both limiting their exposure to the news.
“I have been making an effort to not read the news in the morning and wait until lunch or after work to read the latest headlines. This makes it easier to focus on the work in front of me and to stay energized,” says Mia. She calls this her “personal limit of news.” Mia is a freelance medical and science writer.
Genevieve limits herself to “a hit of TV news in the evening, watching the President’s and Dr. Fauci’s briefings when I happen to catch them at lunch time.” She also checks the Oregon Health Authority website to see what’s happening in her state.
5. Get Outdoors and Exercise
Recent studies show that being in nature helps reduce stress and anxiety. Walking and other physical activity (outdoors or indoors) provide the same benefits while also keeping our bodies strong and healthy.
Getting outdoors to walk, garden, or run is one way that most of the 11 freelancers are keeping anxiety at bay.
Chad Birt lives on the Columbia River in Oregon and has access to “plenty of trails that aren’t packed with people,” he says. “I’m taking a walk once or twice each day.” Chad is a B2B and B2C medical information technology and finance writer.
Living in Bozeman, Montana, Lisa Baker, PhD, is also surrounded by nature. “I am trying to get outside and exercise frequently, to keep healthy, work off stress, and avoid feeling cooped up,” she says. Lisa is a freelance medical writer specializing in publications.
Gardening is one of the ways that Mia and Joy are spending time outdoors. “My husband and I have started to plan our garden,” says Mia. “This gives us a hobby to do together and something that shows progress even if it feels like there are other things that are not getting better.”
Joy is cleaning up her yard and getting her garden and flower beds ready. She’s also going outside twice a day with her dogs and her kids, and all manner of balls, etc. for “puppy playtime.”
6. Grow Your Grit
“Realize that being a freelancer takes grit and determination,” says Mia.
Even when things are normal and the economy is growing, for freelancers, “times of uncertainty are part of the game,” adds Chad. “If you don’t give up, the projects will come.”
Grit is the “perseverance and passion to achieve long–term goals,” says James Clear in “The Science of Developing Mental Toughness in Your Health, Work, and Life.” Having grit means never giving up.
You can grow your grit. Find out how in The Superhero Power You Need to Know About: Grit.
7. Catch Up on Business Tasks
Downtime is a great time to do all of those business tasks you haven’t had time for or have been procrastinating about doing.
Lisa is using her downtime to post work samples to her website, watch archived trainings and webinars, and catch up on chat boards. Genevieve is painting the ceiling in her office. Kelly is cleaning her office. JoAnna is cleaning out her email and organizing her paper and electronic files.
8. Enjoy Your Extra Time with Family
Debbie has been enjoying the extra time with her family, “sitting around the table at dinner, talking about whatever. We even cleaned out the garage as a family. These are not bad things and it gives us a chance to reconnect,” she says.
Joy and her family watch a movie together most nights. And Genevieve is enjoying the chance to spend more time with her partner, including binge-watching a few TV shows together.
9. Help Others
“The cure for anxiety is action,” says Ginny. “The challenges I am facing are tough, but there are others in my community who need me to be strong and do what I can to help.”
Ginny has taught the people in her life who are over age 60 how to shop for groceries online. She’s also helped clients and friends who are new to working at home get set up to do this.
Joy is using FaceTime to help her mom, mother-in-law, and friends stay connected, through concerts played by her kids.
10. Have Faith
The best way to relieve stress and prevent anxiety for Shannon is “staying virtually connected with my faith community, praying, meditating, and remaining full of hope and joy,” she says.
11. Catch Up on Home Projects
Downtime is also great time to do all of those home projects you haven’t had time for or have been procrastinating about doing. Kelly is installing a kitchen backsplash. Genevieve is sorting and framing photos and cleaning out her closet.
The Power to Keep Anxiety at Bay
Despite these trying and uncertain times, as freelancers we are luckier than many people right now.
“We don’t have to worry about finding out we are unemployed with little notice—because we have the power to make our own work,” says Kristin. “Most of us are already pros at working from home. We haven’t been thrust into a situation we have no familiarity with, like so many employees have. “
Keep stress from becoming anxiety
In these uncertain times, we’re all under more stress than usual. But we have the power to keep that stress from turning into anxiety. And keeping anxiety at bay will help us focus more on our freelance businesses.
Read more about how coronavirus is impacting the 11 freelancers featured here and how they’re staying strong in these uncertain times.
Stay tuned for next week’s Mighty Marketer post on opportunities for freelancers in the coronavirus economy.
Learn More About How to Have Less Anxiety and More Focus
Listed in order of appearance in this post.
Debbie Anderson, PhD, MS
Genevieve Long, PhD
JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
Kristin Harper, PhD, MPH
Shannon S. Hach, MD, ELS
Kelly Schrank, MA, ELS
Mia De Fino, MS, ELS
Lisa Baker, PhD
Ginny Vachon, PhD