• Advice

3 simple ways to self-care during stressful times

Whew! So it... is an extremely interesting time, in America, and some of us have barely gotten through Thanksgiving intact. With so much scary, troubling stuff going on in the world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Some of that’s okay: it’s better to be overwhelmed than exist in complete denial. But getting TOO overwhelmed can make you unable to function: personally, professionally, or socially.

While it’s vitally important to remain an active, engaged citizen in troubled times, self-care is also key. You can’t do much good in the world unless you’re also taking basic steps to nurture yourself; as the airlines tell us, you must put on your own oxygen mask first, before helping others. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to stay healthy, motivated, and inspired:

1. Reach out to community

Isolation can be tempting, especially when you’re a freelancer; it’s easy to curl up into a little lonesome self-pitying ball, tune out the world, and turn on the Netflix. But while some alone time is beneficial (or even necessary), human beings are fundamentally social creatures. In troubled times, it’s EVEN MORE important to reach out to your community – to become engaged with other people, and build human connections.

Reaching out to community can be as simple as finding time to spend with your friends or family. Kids, in particular, are fantastic supporters of living in the moment and building connections. Try obsessing about national politics around a two year-old; she will not let you, you must play with blocks for an hour.

Now is also a great time to find new communities and connections. Lots of people are looking for ways to channel energy and create some good in the world; find some like-minded folks, and throw yourself into activities. At the very least, you won’t feel alone... and you may even find some new inspiration along the way.

2. Spend time in simplicity

Listen, I like social media and my smartphone as much as any other tech-addicted freelancer. But spending all of your waking hours glued to a screen is bad for the soul... especially in trying times.

Balance out the important civic duty of remaining informed and educated with some simple time-outs. Go for a walk in nature. Make time for exercise – heck, a little sweaty exertion is great for clearing the head and harmlessly channeling aggression.

Read a book: nothing can help one gain perspective like reading about how others have overcome obstacles in the past. Take care of your basic physical health: sleep, eat well, and try to manage your stress. It’s not an excuse to tune out; it’s a necessary step to keep yourself from instantly burning out and lapsing into apathy.

3. Give back

The best cure for self-pity, lethargy, or general demotivation?

Giving back to those who are truly less fortunate.

It’s tempting to skulk around in our jammies, grinding out our freelance work and hiding away from society. But using our skills to give back is not only beneficial to the world – at a time when many people are frightened, vulnerable, and feeling very alone – but also beneficial to OUR well-being. Giving back to others is a great way to feel proud, motivated, and strong. It allows us to really define, prioritize, and fight for our values: what’s most important to you? What good can you do in the world? How can your skills help others?

Start thinking of simple micro- and macro-steps you can do to help others. Can you volunteer some freelance time, or help out a local charity in the flesh? Can you mentor someone in need? Can you resolve to stand up to injustice on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis... even if it results in some uncomfortable conversations? Can you forego that daily Starbucks run and commit to a small donation to a non-profit? Little tiny acts add up mightily if you can start a real habit.

Here are 3 concrete ways to start giving back today.

Freelancers are generally extremely busy, hard-working, creative people – and that means we’re the kind of people who can make a difference in the world. Not everybody can dictate their own schedule, and not everybody has the ability or opportunity to create change. It’s been a hard couple of weeks, but let’s pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and gogogo, freelancers – it’s time for us to give back.

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