Surviving As a Freelancer (With Anxiety)

Nov 3, 2016 · 5 min read

Hands up if you have ever contemplated quitting your 9–5 desk job and chasing after the #digitalnomad dream! 🙋

Many of us have sighed wistfully over Instagram posts of our freelancing friends lounging on a beach in Bali with their laptops balanced on their legs — and quietly wondered how they weren’t left with burn marks, that shit gets hot! — but it’s easy to forget freelancing can also mean: a lack of job security, long long long hours, “Will this client pay me on time or like, ever?” anxiety, non-existent sick days or vacation time, and it can be a fairly isolating profession.

Recent reports estimate that by 2020, over 60 million people will be independent workers — freelancers, contractors and temporary employees, which shows that whilst there are some downsides to the job, the perks make it worth it for many.

However, another major report by the NHS Digital suggests that more than one-quarter of women between 16 and 24 are suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression. This number is also expected to grow as the selfie culture puts pressure on us to live up to idyllic but unrealistic standards; unfortunately, you can’t put a pretty filter on your mental illness and make it all better. Trust me, I’ve tried.

I’ve been freelancing as a digital marketer for over a year, and I’ve been dealing with a moderate anxiety and panic disorder for nearly my entire life — balancing both can be a challenge. Freelancing can leave you with no daily routine or structure in your life, pressure from clients, unpaid invoices and bills, and a tendency to work in the comfort zone that is your bed with coffee replacing all meals.

All of this can lead to a very unhappy, frazzled and uninspired mind — at least it did for me.

I realized that if I wanted to keep my the panic attacks at bay, and lead a more productive and balanced life, I would need to make some changes. So I did. I created a routine for myself that would ensure I took care of my work, whilst also taking care of myself. It includes:


I know, I know. Everyone is sick of hearing about how meditation saves lives. I’m not sure if it can save lives, but it can definitely make living easier.

Meditation makes it possible to take responsibility for our state of mind and our feelings — and to change them for the better. By engaging with a particular meditation practice, you can learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of thinking.

I try to do five minutes in the morning (I get bored after that) to prepare my brain for the day ahead and get my thoughts in order. Also, during that mid-day slump, I’ll use the Headspace app for 10 minutes to give myself a break, rest my eyes, and re-energize my mind.

Working Out

Again, another activity that is a little over-preached by some on social media, but it does actually work. I promise.

I’ve found regularly exercising (as in, every day) to be the most effective way to manage my anxiety and panic attacks.

Exercise is also a healthy coping tool in general. Coping is about making sure that you’re spending time in ways that are good for your mental and physical health, and exercise is most certainly a way to do that.

Staying Connected

Freelancing can be a long and lonely road, and relationships are often pushed to the side when you’re trying to juggle clients and manage your own workload — but without a friendly office team or those much-needed drinks after work, your overall wellbeing and happiness levels can go downhill.

We’re social creatures, so touch base with your friends and family, and organize some IRL face-time.

Getting Out More

It’s too easy to get stuck under the covers, so even if it just means working in a coffee shop once a week instead of from your kitchen table, forking out for desk space in a communal office, or exploring your city on Sunday — get out!

You’ll be surprised where creativity can strike, and it’s important to remind yourself the world is bigger than you and the screen you live behind.

Switching Off

Switching off can feel impossible when you’re freelancing or trying to get your own business off the ground.

From Google Hangouts (does anyone even use that?) to Slack and Snapchat, you can end up being plugged in 24/7. Life quickly becomes dedicated to clients, deadlines and hiding your dark circles with the dog filter, so switching off for a few hours, and making time for yourself (and loved ones!) is imperative to your mental health.

Just do it.

Keeping A Diary

Keeping a diary might remind you of being 12 and hating everyone except the boy next door who doesn’t even know you exist — *sigh* — but keeping a diary of your thoughts is a simple way to control them.

Find a small notebook you love, keep it with you or by your bedside, and start taking notes of everything. To-do lists, ideas, plans for the future. Even just doodling can calm a distracted mind.

Studies have also shown that making note of what we are grateful for can make us happier so, you know, do that too if you want to go the extra mile.

With so many young women (and men) suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues (freelancing or not), I think it’s important that we share our personal stories — and our solutions that may be of help to others.

This is a guest post by Sara. To submit a story of your own to Epic Freelancing, click here.

Epic Freelancing is the go-to resource for freelancers who want to develop a six-figure income and live life on their terms.

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