• Advice

Making time for relaxation (even when you're overworked)

Finding time for relaxation when you’re juggling multiple freelance projects or staring down the barrel of a deadline may seem like a fool’s errand (“A MOVIE? YOU THINK I HAVE TIME FOR A MOVIE? MY LIFE IS FALLING APART!!!”), but it’s actually a greater necessity than most of us realize. Getting enough rest is part of your job.

Being a human being who interacts with other human beings instead of staring at a glowing rectangle all day, can actually make you better at the things you do with that glowing rectangle. Very often, the key to relaxation is to tackle it the way you would any other big, daunting assignment you simply can’t imagine completing – you just kind of need to trick yourself into getting it done.

Tell yourself it’s “research”

Whatever you may be working on, I guarantee you there are countless books, films, TV shows, and museums that are (or that you can convince yourself are) at least tangentially connected to the assignment at hand.

Seek those things out, and tell yourself that this is not wasted time. It will be true. Exposure to art will always inform or elevate your work, even if it’s simply serving as a palate cleanser.

Make it a challenge - Are you tough enough to take a day off, punk?

Stake out one dedicated day each week during which you will do anything BUT work, and tell yourself you MUST stick to it. Use really insulting terms, if necessary.

Your intense desire to be the best at everything and follow all the rules may be the subject of all sorts of deep conversations with your therapist, but in this case, you'll be all the better for it!

Seriously, though, treating one day a week as simply “off limits” can do wonders. Try ahead of time to schedule something special that you either want or need to do so that the day is easier to place a "hold" on.

Treat yourself for achieving reasonable goals – that’s right… like a dog

We all need to be incentivized. Try breaking down your freelance work into a series of component problems to solve, and then use periods of relaxation and downtime as the prize for getting each of those things done.

For example, I’m actually writing this now because with every completed assignment, I get to watch an episode of “Stranger Things”.

Stupid brain… You stop thinking now!

Sometimes, there's just no real time for relaxation until you find yourself in bed. But even then, you may find yourself plagued by an inability to simply rest and let go. Don’t spend half your night fixated on the problems and challenges of your day.

Find something that will truly allow you to quiet your mind and help you unplug as you drift off to sleep - a podcast, soothing music, etc (Believe me, I appreciated the irony that this method of unplugging may require actual, y’know, plugs).

No matter how you achieve relaxation, realizing that you DESERVE to relax is paramount! When we’re stressed and on a deadline, we may simply not think we’re worthy of taking a break, which is absolute nonsense.

We all do better work when our battery is recharged, so – if you can’t fully convince yourself that you should take that day/see that movie/grab that drink/play that game/etc, then treat relaxation like any other assignment: some #$&%* thing you have to do whether you like it or not!

Kate Shea Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.