Staying grounded means having a few handy anchors to hold you in place

While being self-employed has many advantages, in the last year it’s sometimes been hard to remember what they are. Being in control of your own destiny can be thrilling, yes, and so can the pride you feel at getting all the foundations in place to make it a success. But that freedom doesn’t have quite the same ring when a global pandemic knocks all of your carefully placed foundations flying, like the huge great curve ball that it is.

Maybe you’ve thrived through the last few months and found some great new ways to make an income and enjoy your freelance life. Or maybe it’s been a total stinker of a year, with little work and zero government support. Possibly a bit of both. Either way, whatever your means of making a living and however successful you are, there are times when the pressure to thrive can all get a bit much. Days when you can’t find your mojo, you’re floating loose mentally, struggling to stay focused, lacking in motivation and a sense of purpose. You may even be feeling a bit hopeless. Of course these feelings also apply if you’ve been WFH for months when you’re used to being in a busy office.

In spite of being self-employed for many years and therefore pretty used to accepting the lows along with the highs I know how that feels. It gets to us all sometimes. So what pulls me back on track when that happens, making me feel less adrift and more grounded and therefore more resilient? My freelance anchors.

A psychologist once explained to me that good mental health and a sense of wellbeing can be achieved if you establish your anchors – the constants in your life that give you a sense of balance. Anchors are a personal thing and it’s a matter of establishing over time and self-knowledge through trial and error what works for you.

Drinking wine or gin on a Friday night might make you feel good but doing it too many nights of the week makes you depressed and insecure. Knowing this is helpful. Anchor One : limit alcohol intake to a reasonable level. Exercise? Love it or hate it, physical activity is good for you. Does it make you feel well mentally and physically and do you cope better with the demands of your life when you do it regularly? If yes, then regular exercise is Anchor Two. And so on.

Making sure my freelance anchors are present and correct having the mental resilience to cope with pretty much anything – and to get back on track when I have a wobble. Freelance anchors can be anything – a tidy work station, daily meditation, a 2 litre bottle of water on your desk to keep you hydrated, or just surrounding your world with fairy lights, Hopefully you have some idea what your freelance anchors are. Here are mine. They are not rocket science, but they really seem to work for me:

Get out in some greenery
A walk in the woods, a run round the park, a ramble by the river – I genuinely don’t feel right if I miss it out of my schedule. Blows away the cobwebs and gets some oxygen pumping. It’s not just the endorphins and being at one with nature, but also the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done it for the day and are taking care of yourself.

Listening adventures
While out and about I’ve always got headphones on. Music, podcasts, audio books – it varies what I listen to depending on my mood, but I try and keep it uplifting or at least engaging. Recent favourite podcasts: Bigmouth, Twisting The Plot, Adam Buxton, Blindboy. Standard Issue, Desert Island Discs, Dear Joan And Jericha, Out Of The Bubble, The Bunker.

Treat your day like you’re in an office
When I first started out on my own a wise freelance friend told me to treat my day like I’m at work. It’s tempting to work from your bed or stay in pyjamas all day, but this does not get me in the right frame of mind. Have a set routine, start work at the same time each day, have a proper lunch break and stop work at a reasonable time. Then switch off.

Eat properly
The good thing about WFH is you can make sure you’ve always got good food in the house and that you actually eat it. No need for mayo drenched sandwiches from Pret or a quick bag of crisps on your way back to the office, because your home is your office and the fridge is well-stocked. NB I am NOT good at sticking at this one.

Connect with your team
You may not work in an office anymore, but you still have your team. By which I mean those friends and former colleagues you can mutually empathise with in a crisis, share advice, big each other up on a down day and celebrate wins. Moaning is often on the agenda, as is a bit of gossip. All fine – just like being in an actual office.

Avoid sitting all day
Ever since I interviewed an ergonomic expert and found out about all the health implications of sitting on my backside all day (back pain, weight gain, diabetes etc), I try to remember to take plenty of breaks. Having an adjustable standing desk means you can vary it. Standing instead of sitting at your desk for hours has been proven to improve mood, energy levels and positivity – and even burns calories.

Be your own anchor
This is a weird one, but if you’re on your own for a large part of the day, it’s pretty much down to you how you feel. Are you avoiding doing things that make you feel anxious or distracted (hello daytime TV and social media)? Are you taking enough breaks, avoiding working late into the night, getting out into the world rather than staying glued to your desk? Know what triggers a negative spin and check in with your feelings on a daily basis, so you can pull yourself back together again.

Words: Marina Gask

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