Signs of Anxiety
A big theme of my articles is about reducing anxiety related to working as a consultant and business owner.
Several articles back, I talked about optimizing for happiness, and I think over the years I’ve really developed some great strategies to help make that happen. But I realized that I didn’t really talk about WHY I think it’s so important to be in a position of less stress and anxiety.
It’s because it isn’t just a figure of speech.
Last fall, I realized one night that I was becoming a really angry, critical person that worried about everything.
And the place it showed up the most was with my children.
I had been increasingly moody and frustrated and one night, I reacted to something my middle son had done by slapping him. It wasn’t a spanking, or discipline, it was something done out of anger. It hurt him and it hurt me too.
I didn’t want to be in that frame of mind anymore.
So I started exploring. How had I gotten to this point?
Some things were obvious.
Combining the sleepless routine of caring for an infant with the “Daddy Day Care Experiment” (working two days a week, and providing childcare for three while my wife works) had gotten me into some patterns that needed to change.
I’d find excuses not to work: video games, Hulu or Netflix, or taking more naps. Letting my mood guide my choices for the day.
Sometimes I just straight up avoided work.
After all, I’m my own boss, so if I don’t work there are no immediate consequences.
Which made me more moody with the kids…
No one was winning.
You, of course, know that this thinking creates its own downward spiral – productivity bottomed out, client relationships became strained which then led to paranoia/guilt about billing, and so on.
That night with my son prompted me to begin journaling as a way to have more self-awareness. And showed me that the problem was the very thing I was working to eliminate.
In a nutshell… anxiety.
Anxiety is a silent killer.
It leads to, or complicates, stress and depression. It can look like procrastination or high blood pressure or headaches. It physically takes a toll. It emotionally and relationally can sabotage us. It leads to a lot of mental negotiation and very little progress.
But it can be easy to miss because of the different ways we have available to mask it. Or the different names we call it. Deadlines. Exhaustion. Avoidance. Marketing. Insomnia.
Anything but the task we’re supposed to be doing.
Let’s face it – anxiety is a natural fit for the freelance life. We wear every hat in the business and that can lead to a lot of different stresses.
But coming to terms with it is the only way to succeed.
There are lots of practical helps to diminish or deal with anxiety, in both a physical and mental capacity.
Here are three resources that I find very helpful:
I’ve already mentioned that I started journaling to help me stay aware of my own internal dialogue. Which is helpful.
It also helps my anxiety awareness because I realized that when I stop journaling, I know something is “off.” Avoiding my journal means I’ve stopped being honest with myself.
Two books I found helpful are The Big Leap and The Confidence Gap. Both have helped me recognize some of the inner dialogue that, in the end, is not helpful.
I specifically like the practices each book suggests to processing your worry thoughts.
I understand that there are different types of anxiety. Some require medical intervention. And some need people that understand how to fight the fight.
There are a multitude of online communities that are willing to support you in overcoming some of the common obstacles. Two great examples I’ve found helpful as a freelancer are on Reddit (here and here) and are packed with great advice and total understanding.
Freelancers get the pressure and can find helpful ways to get through it.
That’s the WHY.
That’s why I work to help other freelancers reduce their own anxiety with practical, proven strategies that ease the pressure.
Because then you’ll be free to be the best version of you. At work and at home.