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It’s a fast-paced world we work in. There are expectations of being available at all hours, never-ending to-dos, and a steady stream of ASAP requests. The result is an ever looming threat of stress and anxiety.
We asked 13 entrepreneurs, freelancers, and new economy movers-and-shakers to share their favorite strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety. Here’s what we found:
1. Robin Chase - Co-founder, Zipcar
The best stress reducer is sharing an inside joke with a friend or family member. It reminds me that I'm a loved insider in a friendship that has nothing to do with work and what I do or don't accomplish there.
2. Matthew Swinnerton - Founder, Event Santa Cruz
This is an issue that I fail at. Between trying to build a business and caring for a child with special needs, there just does not seem to be a time slot available to do something on a regular basis to de-stress.
That being said, the owner of a local kayak rental location invited me to go out with him early one morning last week to watch the whales. We spent an hour and a half surrounded by humpback whales, dolphins, otters, and sea lions. What a way to disconnect from the day to day, gotta-get-things-done-now, work routine and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and wildlife of Santa Cruz.
3. Jordan Baker - Founder, Focuster
The biggest thing that's helping reduce stress for me these days is setting up certain theme days for the week. For example, I have Monday, Wednesday and Friday set up as days to work on my web and mobile app development/consulting. That allows me to have Tuesdays and Thursdays to focus entirely on Focuster. If blocking off full days is too much, then setting aside a couple of hours within a day can work as well.
I get up 20 minutes before I have to, read some daily meditations that are based on my belief system, and practice gratitude. When I'm really stressed I pull out the Stop, Breathe and Think app and make myself take 10 minutes.
It sounds so corny, but I freaking love the adult coloring books. I'll sometimes grab Balance by Angie Grace, my awesome Fiskars markers and go into a meeting room and set a timer on my phone and decompress.
5. Erik Gillberg - Co-founder, Metta
I am feeling the startup founder stresses for sure. Any amount of conscious breathing works for me in almost any circumstance. Today after work I sweated out stress chemicals on a sunset bike ride followed by a dip in the Pacific. My most stress relieving activity is to hang out under the surface, free diving in the alien world of kelp and aquatic life forms who have their own stresses but somehow help let go of all of mine—I think by shifting my context completely. Also, rum. Preferably after the ocean part.
6. Maya Delano - Senior Community Manager, NextSpace Coworking + Innovation
I go to YouTube and listen to guided meditations or download books on my Audible account like Gay Hendricks of The Big Leap and Jen Sincero of You Are a Badass. These help me stay focused on the good stuff in life and do away with anxiety or "busy brain" as my family likes to call it.
7. Matt Steele - The Great Rabbit
I practice Tai Chi. I use the practice as moving meditation to reduce my overall stress levels. I work primarily using the Pomodoro Technique, where I work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break and work for 25 more minutes. This encourages me to step away from work before it gets crazy stressful. If something does come up that causes stress, I take a walk around the block. This gets me fresh air and I can power walk, if needed, to get out aggression.
8. Kaya Lindsay - OneChickTravels
Sleep in, have a routine, and take breaks. You need to take your brain off work for a bit sometimes. If you are really stressed out about something, spend a full uninterrupted hour on it then outline the next steps.
Don’t work with people who make you feel bad. Don’t respond to work email, calls, or texts before 9 a.m., after 5:30 p.m., or on the weekends (or whatever your schedule is). If you are always on, always working, clients will expect you to be able to work long hours that are not healthy for you, and you won’t have brain space for yourself.
9. Judith Wellner - Project Lead, Launch Brigade
When reality is too harsh to handle, I turn to fiction writing. I use Typetrigger, a website that provides users with a word of inspiration to ignite their imagination and escape to the world of fiction for 300 words or less. It's been working wonderfully and clears my head so I can focus on work again.
10. Melissa Mesku - Founding Editor, New Worker Magazine
I'm really terrible at work-life balance. Or maybe I'm great at work-life balance, but instead of it being something you balance on a daily basis, or a weekly basis, I only have balance if you look at it over the course of a calendar year. I tend to be a bit high-strung and would rather just work intensely, 100 percent, until I can't take it anymore. Then I take a long break and change everything: location, task, diet, sleep habits, even language, and I don't do any work except the bare minimum.
The biggest thing that reduces my anxiety is to balance my perspective. This means remembering that the world is big and I am but a speck of it. For me, the most reliable way to re-learn this is to spend some time in a place with a brilliant night sky.
11. Molly Lautamo - Content Strategist and Copywriter, Mollylautamo.com
Exercise is crucial. I recently started climbing and it's the only thing that keeps me from thinking about work entirely, plus it gives me more energy. Whenever I start to feel anxious about a meeting or a looming deadline, I step away from the screen and take a walk to clear my head.
I've also started creating editorial calendars in Google Sheets for larger projects. They usually include the to-do item with notes, when I aim to have it done, who will do it, and a completed column so I can check it off once it's done. Having such an organized to-do list has helped me feel a lot less overwhelmed and in control of my schedule.
12. Tiffany Jones - Community Manager, NextSpace Coworking + Innovation
I have a great morning routine where I spend a solid 20-30 minutes meditating, reading, praying and sometimes journaling. I've been using the app called Headspace that I absolutely love. Once you learn some basic techniques, you can choose from different packs, including Health, Relationships, Performance, etc. I can't recommend it enough.
When I have a really hard day at work or within my amazing and blessed-to-be-a-part-of relationship, I often crave a strong Moscow Mule, a filthy Martini, or a very hoppy IPA. Sometimes I want to stuff an entire box of cookies into my mouth or snarf down an entire bag of barbecue flavored potato chips.
I also get in my groove and make myself proud sometimes. When I do, I deal with my stressful day with the gratitude I should always have in my present mind. I step outside, no matter where I am or what the weather is doing, look into the beautiful miracle that is the sky and say, thank you. So I guess to answer your question about how I deal with stress and anxiety...I go outside.
Bonus tip from Patrick Reilly - Founder, Intellectual Property Society
I relax by kicking the printer until the first responders drag me away.
There you have it, a glimpse into how your fellow freelancers, entrepreneurs and new economy rock stars deal with stress and anxiety. What’s your go-to stress reduction strategy?