• Ashley Poynter

4 Ways to keep stress at bay


Stress is a part of life. Self-employed people often face periods of higher-than-normal stress. Freelancers and other self-employed people can sometimes find that managing work and all that it entails is overwhelming. This can lead to low energy and exhaustion if left unchecked. While some periods of increased stress are normal, feeling stressed out every day can become problematic if left unchecked.


Understanding what chronic stress looks like is the first step towards a healthier, happier life. Symptoms may include trouble sleeping, lack of focus, increased irritability, change in eating patterns, and increased illness.


Burn out can be a real problem for freelancers. Thankfully, there are some ways to keep stress at bay and ensure that you maintain a good quality of life.


1. Practice Breathing

When you face a stressful situation like a looming work deadline or a project that goes awry, stress hormones are released that trigger certain physiological changes. This “fight-or-flight” response may lead to shallow breathing, an increase in heart rate, tensing of muscles, and sweating.


This response is a survival mechanism that used to allow humans to take quick action in life-threatening circumstances, like facing a predator. While we may not need to run from lions in 2020, these physiological responses can still happen when the body overreacts to other stressors that you face, including work pressure. When this happens too frequently, it can lead to serious health problems.


You can’t banish stress entirely but you can improve your reaction to it. One of the ways to do this is to practice breathing. This is encouraged as part of the “relaxation response”, a technique developed by Dr. Herbert Benson. This technique is really a combination of activities that can help counter stress, including deep breathing, visualizing peaceful images, meditation, and yoga. Breathing is the central feature to many of these activities.


Even if you are hesitant to sign up for a yoga class, you can practice breathing at your desk. One method -- the 4,7,8 method -- can help reduce anxiety. It involves inhaling for four seconds, holding one’s breath for seven seconds, and exhaling for eight seconds. Doing this a few times daily can help to reduce stress and increase feelings of relaxation.


2. Do a Digital Detox

We live in a connected world, which leads many people to an “always-on” mentality. Unfortunately, excessive use of smartphones and other technology has been shown to increase anxiety and depression. Technology can also seriously interfere with the quality of sleep you get.


To allay some of this unnecessary stress, it can be good to set limits to technology use. Always checking Twitter/Facebook on your phone throughout the day? Consider removing social media apps from your iPhone. Having trouble getting relaxed and falling asleep at night? Set aside or turn off laptops, iPads, and smartphones after 7 p.m. Constantly distracted by notifications? Shut them off.


Taking a break from the digital world is essential to lowering stress. Try replacing digital habits with other, more healthier ones. Opt to read a physical book rather than scrolling through Facebook. Try journaling first thing in the morning instead of diving right into your email inbox. Small changes can have big impacts.


3. Work it out

Exercise can be an excellent way to reduce stress. Aerobic exercise, in particular, actually affects neurochemical changes. Working out can reduce stress hormones in the body, like cortisol and adrenaline. What’s more, exercise can stimulate the production of endorphins, prompting mood elevation and natural relief of pain.


Other studies have shown that exercise can also help reduce fatigue, make you more alert, improve concentration, and enhance cognitive function. This can combat the effects of stress, which may lower energy levels and negatively impact your ability to concentrate. Even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can contribute to a huge, positive boost. It can lower tension, stabilize or improve mood, lead to better sleep, and actually improve self-esteem.


Setting aside 20 minutes to one hour for exercise each day may help keep stress at bay. Consider adding some walking into your schedule. If you find it difficult to get motivated, work with a personal trainer. Partnering with a friend for accountability is also a great way to turn exercise into a regular habit.


4. Get Organized

Sometimes, stress results from lack of organization. Not knowing where something is -- whether a physical piece of paper or a digital document -- can be frustrating. Going through the process of looking for misplaced items over and over again can increase stress.


Good news. Getting organized can help alleviate some of this stress. Start by clearing out clutter around your workspace. Discard things you no longer need and make sure everything you keep has a home. Toss junk mail in the trash. Organize loose papers. Get reacquainted with the actual surface of your desk.


Clearing out clutter can extend beyond the surface of your desk. Declutter your calendar, too. Learn how to say no to things you aren’t all that interested in, whether it’s a happy hour, a board position, or another activity that you don’t feel 100% on. When you put too much pressure on yourself to get involved in too many ways, you end up doing all of them poorly. Worse yet, they stress you out.


These are just four simple ways you can reduce stress in your life and get back to being the happiest, healthiest version of you. Stressed about health insurance? We can help. We offer several plans tailored to various lifestyles. The best part? They all include free primary care. That means you see your doctor for free. Get your free quote today.


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