The work-life imbalance I experienced when I came back from my staycation at the end of the summer prompted some work-style and lifestyle changes. As I approach my 7-year-freelance-iversary in the coming months, I’m amazed that the freelance life still comes with ever-renewing stressors. The stressors in the early years have faded and things that did not stress me then now do.
Over the past few months I’ve been under doctor’s orders to reduce stress. It took a few weeks to begin to feel progress. Now I feel like myself again and here’s what I’ve done:
Fitness. Running, barre, yoga, HIIT, hiking and kayaking are all part of my usual fitness routine. In the first few weeks of my focused stress reduction I centered solely on yoga–specifically, candlelit yoga. Yoga by candlelight is WAY more relaxing than without. No argument. Also, I find stress relief is maximized during yoga when I put on my favorite relaxing music. (For me that’s jazz pianist Monty Alexander or French jazz.) Aside from quiet, meditative yoga at home, I also went for my first gong bath. A yoga/dance studio (in a beautiful former silk label factory) in our town started offering these. If you’re unfamiliar with gong baths, everyone lays comfortably on the floor (with blankets and pillows), closes their eyes, and practices breathing exercises. Then you remain there for about an hour while the instructor plays gongs around the room. The instructor’s partner made his own didgeridoo and he played that too. Basically, it’s nap time with live music.
- Email. One of the first posts I wrote after my time off was about my new freelance routines, which were all related to technology. I’ve kept with those routines and now I only open and respond to work-related emails during specific times each day. Sometimes that’s three times per day, other days it’s just once. I try to schedule a mix to keep myself focused.
- Curfew. For the first few weeks of my new routines I tried to maintain a strict curfew: Be in bed by 9PM. (Weekends excluded.) This not only helps ensure time for sleep, but it gives me time to read and prevents me from over-committing (fewer things in my calendar pulling me in a dozen directions). I’ve become a bit more lax with this rule, but majority of the time I keep it.
- Calendar. My new Max of 2 Rule: Only commit to two events per week in the evening. (Weekends sometimes excluded.) This helps with the curfew, but it also helps prevent resentment I felt when I was out and about nearly every evening. No matter these commitments are things I enjoy (critique group, poetry reading, open mic, dinner with friends, etc.), I don’t feel good when I don’t have time to myself. Having more time at home gives me opportunities to try new recipes, spend time with my love, our pets, and all of these things reduce my stress! Winning all around.
Essential oils. I’ve used essential oils as writing prompts in workshops, on my dog to manage his chronic dust mite allergy, and in a few roll-ons for myself. They’re powerful, so why not harness this power? I treated myself to this essential oil diffuser. It’s in my office while I work, then I move it to the bedroom at night. I’ve been diffusing jasmine, lavender, citrus and immune blends. Don’t underestimate aromatherapy!
In addition to the calming items above, my love is encouraging me to do ‘more fun stuff.’ I recently booked our trip to Paris next spring (yay!!!), start beekeeping school next month, an art class next week, and planning a solo weekend writing retreat in the spring.