How to cope with stress as a freelancer

It’s amazing how fast something can snowball out of control. A single thought working like a magnet. Slowly pulling in more lies from the darkest corners of my mind. They start to compound and I can not only hear the doubts but feel them too.

The noise becomes louder and my breaths become harder to take. Is this what a panic attack feels like?

For years now I have tried to cope with stress in my own ways. It has not been an easy journey and I can say I have struggled more with age. Recently my wife and I made the bold decision to try something new and uproot our lives to make a foreign country home. While it took a year to plan I can certainly say I still don’t feel prepared.

Moving to a new country as a freelancer will always present challenges. I tend to overthink things which always makes matters worse. Something as simple as a declined proposal email can act as the catalyst for my mind to run riot with self doubt;

  • Was I not good enough?
  • Did I price too high?
  • How am I going to pay rent this month?

Over the last year of full-time freelancing these thoughts, and more, plague my mind on a weekly basis. Even though I know that stress does not benefit me in any way and is only here to rob and steal the time, joy and energy in my life I still can’t shake it. Here are a few methods that I’ve used to help me cope with my stress.


Step away from your computer

Switch off and get away from a screen. It is amazing what a walk outdoors, or in my case a bike ride through the canals here in Amsterdam, and some fresh air can do for your overworked mind. I find a simple 30 minute venture outside is enough time to reset my mind and give me clarity about what I need to achieve.

Take a moment to breathe

Breathing is extremely helpful in aiding with clarity. While breathing is an automatic process taking the time out to focus on a few deep breaths can really make a difference when I feel a stress attack coming on.

Reflect on your past victories

It is often easy to get caught up in an endless loop of self doubt, however taking a moment to reflect on your past is an invaluable asset. The hunger to always get better always overshadows past accomplishments. It is important to remember that your past battles, at one point in time, seemed impossible but you have overcome them, victoriously. Taking a moment to see where you are and how far you have come can really put things into perspective.

Get more sleep

I can not emphasize this enough. When we lack sleep our minds become overworked. From a personal perspective I know a lack of sleep can really have a negative effect on me. I tend to make less calculated decisions which inevitably end up causing me more stress. So take the time to get to bed a little earlier this evening. It is amazing what an extra 30 minutes of sleep can do.

Make better health decisions

Like most designers I am cooped up in a chair for the majority of my day. The lure of easy meals and little or no movement can become the norm especially when project deadlines are tight. While this may seem like the easy road it can have devastating effects on your mindset and overall health. I find when I eat more nutritious meals and get in some daily exercise my creativity flows and I can make better design decisions.


Aiming to live a stress-free life as a freelancer will always be a challenge. I try, often on a daily basis, to follow my own rules to help reduce the amount of stress that creeps into my life. The best you and I can do is make better life decisions to decrease the amount of stress we have to endure.

I wrote this post to help solidify my own journey towards a stress-free life. Everyone has their own path to walk and battles to face. How do you cope with you stress?

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