When your full-time worker bee friends hear you’ve started your own business or become a full-time freelancer, you can practically see their faces turning green with envy. They envision you doing work that you love and that puts a smile on your face every day. Or kicking back in a hammock overlooking the beach with a laptop and a tropical beverage to create work for your latest client.
Truth be told, being your own boss means having a kind of freedom that most traditional professionals will never know. You build your own business plan; be it for a cupcakery, a law firm, or an editorial service. You decide on your working hours, whether you need anything more than a laptop and decent WiFi to become an LLC, and begin deducting calculated percentages of your monthly Internet fee, electric bill, and mortgage as typical expenses of a self-employed worker.
But the flip side of the solo employee life is something that those diligent 9-to-5ers don’t often think about. Like how you’re paying an arm and a leg for health insurance since there’s no giant HR department handling it for you. Or how when you get sick you have to weigh a day’s rest against a day’s income. Or that when the work piles up and tension mounts, you often go into stress overload and work all night to make sure you’re ready for business when the doors open the next day.
Stress relief is important to everyone who cashes a paycheck. It is magnified in the world of solo employees and small business owners who can’t simply “worry about it tomorrow.” When you work for yourself, you find out what your limits are and how close you can come to exhausting them. How to get relief from stress is an enormous part of maintaining a healthy work-life balance to ensure you succeed personally and professionally. Here are seven tips for stress relief activities to incorporate into your daily routine to achieve a better business and a better you.
Block out time for your personal life.
There will be some late nights and a whole lot of early mornings, but you need to be able to schedule certain hours that are just for you. If you have a family, that should include time with your spouse and kids, meals together, time just for talking, and everything that goes with a healthy relationship. You also need time to decompress. That can be done in the gym, outside walking your dog, enjoying a favorite pastime, or simply sitting in front of the TV watching the latest episode of “Game of Thrones” and then flying into a rage on Twitter demanding to know why they killed your favorite character.
Get outside for a quick break.
If you work for yourself, there’s no doubt been a time when you sat down to work at your computer and woken up a few minutes (or hours) later disoriented, confused, and having just typed the letter ‘J’ 6,000 times in a row on an open Word document. If you’re working solo, odds are you’re not on the 35th floor of some skyscraper, meaning getting some fresh air shouldn’t be too hard. If you’re a freelancer renting out space in an environment like WeWork, the perfect opportunity is just feet away in one of their green spaces. Take 15 minutes for a short walk or simply sit on a park bench and breathe. See those brown things with all the green leaves overhead? Those are called trees, and they’re constantly pumping out pure oxygen, the stuff that can revitalize your brainpower to push ahead to the next project.
Are you the type of person who has 350 icons on your desktop and has bookmarked every website you’ve visited since 2002? If the answer is yes, there’s a decent chance you’re my father-in-law, but regardless you’ll find your productivity can soar when you have all your ducks in a row. There is no end to the number of free apps and programs that can help that, including Trello to keep your projects in order by stages, Spike to revolutionize all of your inboxes into conversational emails, and and.co to do all your invoice, payment, expense, and time tracking.
Take a game break.
We work all day creating solutions for problems where our own success or that of our clients hangs in the balance. Take a short break and focus on a more readily solvable problem like jumping over barrels thrown by a furious gorilla, slashing various pieces of fruit with your sweet ninja moves, or even busting out the Rubik’s Cube you got for your birthday in 1988 and seeing if you can finally get more than one side finished. Games give us problems that can relax our minds while also putting them to work. Working out a bit of stress at the same time is a great way to focus back on the tasks in front of you.
Work for smaller goals, and reward yourself.
The famous Pomodoro Technique suggests that you set a goal and work on it for 25 minutes straight then take a 5-minute break. The break can be anything as long as it’s not work-related, so stress relief activities like taking a walk, getting some coffee, etc. When you’ve completed four Pomordos, you take a longer break, like 20-30 minutes, to recharge a bit more.
No, not your finances, we’re talking water here. It’s not hard to stay hydrated in the traditional corporate setting where you walk by the water jug 30 times a day, but it’s something easily forgotten as a solo employee. Dehydration leads to fatigue and increases stress through higher levels of the chemical cortisol. Drinking water might seem a bit monotonous to some, so buy a hydroflask or mug representing your favorite sports team, Disney princess, or Star Wars character (Obi-Wan Kenobi is the right answer here). Plus all that water in your veins will encourage you to get up and walk around more (for obvious reasons) and act as an appetite suppressant so you’re not eating your profits up by snacking all day.
Whether it’s a small dose of meditation with your office door closed or a full-on power nap on the couch in your home office, at some point in most days you’re going to need some legitimate peace and quiet. This is one of the best stress relief tips you can follow because quieting your body and your mind is often the key to unlocking tough problems. If you’ve never meditated before, it can be tough to get into a routine, but here’s a good starter’s guide. If you’re the type of person who hits that afternoon lull where you struggle to keep your eyes open, much less create a new logo for a client, consider finding a dark, cool space in your house and setting your alarm for a 20-minute power nap. That length of time is the perfect reset button to rock the rest of your work day.