Anxious Freelancer: Dealing with Anxiety as a Freelancer
I check my phone for the umpteenth time, no messages, no emails, and no texts on WhatsApp™. I should be enjoying a weekend shopping excursion with my sisters but I can’t help feeling as though my time could be spent more productively. I should be sitting at my desk, banging away a few essays and even though I’ve convinced myself to spend a day relaxing, I feel compelled to make sure my mobile phone is not only fully-charged but that I always have a working internet connection. Welcome to the life of an anxious freelancer.
I love words, writing more so; but when it comes to the making money part of it, the waters become murky. I have different types of clients; most of them live in different time zones. With that comes the fear that someone will try to contact me to accept a pitch or solicit a piece of writing and I won’t be able to respond to their correspondence in time because my phone was off or because I didn’t have data. At which point the said client will cancel the deal and not want to send business my way ever again. Sounds familiar?
Anxious Freelancer: Overwhelmed
On a rational level, I know that if an editor is really interested in my body of work, they’ll probably wait a day or two, but because I’m an anxious person, rational thoughts hardly ever factor in. It is easier to think catastrophically, allowing my thoughts to spiral down a rabbit hole until I’ve convinced myself that no one will ever want to work with me because I couldn’t respond to that one email that one time. The worst part about it is that half the time, I don’t realize that this is an issue and it has taken many months and many hours of introspection to figure this out and to ask myself the
Because at the end of the day, freelancing jobs are work and work equals money and money equals financial security and financial security equals independence. Whilst many freelancers don’t make this connection on a daily basis, it does lurk somewhere in the subconscious and it took me asking myself what would really go wrong if I lost my job, for my catastrophic thought process to reveal itself: if my work doesn’t get published and then I won’t get paid for it and then I won’t be able to save money and then I’ll have to live in a toxic household for the rest of my life.
That’s when I realized that the real source of fear and anxiety wasn’t that I wouldn’t see an email in time, but that I would have to live in a toxic environment forever and let’s face it, that prospect is bleak enough to be overwhelming. For some freelancers, the real fear is that if they don’t work, they’ll remain in debt forever.
Sometimes the fear is less malignant but valid all the same. In the golden age of social media and technology, we see our peers buying houses and traveling and it seems we’ll never be able to attain such livelihoods. It is no wonder that we feel overwhelmed. However,
On Grounding And Realistic Goals
The thing about catastrophic thinking is that it always seems rational until you challenge it. It took me a few therapy sessions to realize this in which my therapist would question whether my thoughts and conclusions were positive, rational, or realistic. For a long time, I stubbornly held on to the belief that many of my far-fetched imaginings were completely normal. But now that I’ve practiced questioning my thoughts, I’ve come to several
- Many professionals have recovered from huge business blunders. The blunders were setbacks and not death sentences. Not being available for one Skype call might ruin my prospects with Company A but in the greater scheme of things, there are still other companies out there.
- It is important to
realizethat editors are human beings just like me. In as much as I would like to flatter myself, no one editor spends their entire day sitting in front of their computer, waiting for one freelancer to respond to one email. They also spend time with their family and friends, so why shouldn’t freelancers.
I would be lying if I said I’m not affected by work anxiety anymore but little by little, I’m learning to identify my triggers and learn new coping strategies. I’m a work in progress. Aren’t we all?
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