I’ve been feeling a constant sort of pressure at the moment, the kind that comes from many deadlines, events and appointments converging. The pressure will be relieved in about a week, I think, as much of the work will be finished and submitted, and many of the events and appointments will have passed. And I will have gotten through them. I’ve just got to keep my eyes on that goal and know that this feeling will pass.
As I have said in other posts, the amount of stuff on my plate might not seem like that much to a healthy person but I have to keep reminding myself that I am not healthy. And some of the issues are just run-of-the-mill freelancing downsides, namely setting boundaries around my time, managing an irregular income and dealing with interruptions to workflow. Those things are just complicated by having major energy issues and depression.
I feel like my brain is never able to be quiet. I have inputs coming from multiple sources, a range of clients asking for things at the same time. It’s like when I was at uni, with a full class load, complaining that didn’t all the lecturers know, when they were heaping essays and assignments on us, that we had several other lecturers doing the same thing and all the due dates were at the same time? Well that’s the lesson you’re meant to learn at uni, isn’t it? How to manage your time and commitments. In theory. In practice it ends up more like a convoluted juggling act, hoping my energy holds out long enough to get everything done.
I love the internet and I love the way I can be connected and do business from this quiet place in northern Tasmania. But it’s a bit like drinking from a firehose, really, and it can be hard to figure out how to set boundaries that mean I am still able to operate a reasonably robust business and still look after my health.
When I’m feeling like this I live in fear of getting an email or message asking me to do one more thing. What will be that one thing that tips me over? That’s not a great place to be.
Here are some Ways I’m setting boundaries:
- I’m learning to set autoresponders when I’m sick or needing a day off, and it’s amazing how much that helps me not feel anxious that I’m letting someone down.
- I’ve turned off badges and notifications on the email apps on my phone and iPad so that if I check email it’s intentional, not because some red circle has guilted me into checking it, even if I’m winding down for the day.
- Actually, I’m finding that turning off notifications for just about every app is a good thing. There is nothing in my life that is so important it can’t wait until I am ready to check it myself. There is no one who expects me to be working 24 hours, seven days a week…well, I hope not.
- I have started using the Boomerang extension for Gmail so that if I am doing work in the middle of the night (which is often when I work the best), I can set it to send to the client first thing in the morning of the next business day, so that the client doesn’t start getting the idea that they can email me and expect a reply at any time of the day or night (it also works the other way – I don’t want people to feel that if I send them an email in the middle of the night I’m expecting them to reply, so I try to set them to send during business hours).
Money comes in dribs and drabs, so I don’t really have a predictable income stream – something you’d think I’d be used to after years of doing this, but I’m not. Perhaps having the stress of an irregular income is unwise for someone with depression, because financial stress is really hard and can really affect your mental state.
But I found that I felt so much guilt and shame when I was working full time but not able to work at capacity, especially when working for non-profit organisations that were funded by donations. Those feelings may not have been completely valid, but in the end the only solution to that was to work for myself. I was then only charging my clients for the time I was actually spending on work, and didn’t feel guilty when I needed to stop the clock and have a nap. The benefits of being able to rest and work when I choose to is important, and for me I think they outweigh having a predictable income. It would be nice to have both. Oh, boy, wouldn’t it just.
I’ve found that having the occasional massage client at Rub is really good. I mean it’s great to have massage work at all because I love it (I still wish I could do further training but that’s out of financial reach for now). When I have a booking and it’s interrupting the flow of a day of design work, I’ll often resent having to go to the clinic in town. But once I’m there it’s brilliant.
The space is calming, there is peaceful music, my essential oils smell amazing and the only thing I can do is focus on helping someone else relax for an hour. I can’t look at anything else, I can’t multitask, I can’t even listen to anything else (other than the peaceful music). I can’t look at any sort of a screen. I have to just be there, present, for an hour.
Of course the downside to that is sometimes it is really hard to get back into the rhythm of other, computer-based work. Especially if I have a few massages in a row, I’m often too wiped out to do much of anything once I get home. I’ve read about trying to keep some energy in reserve for yourself and not pouring it all into your clients; at first it sounded a bit woo-woo to me, but it makes total sense now. I’m still learning how to do that.
Things I want to make more time for:
- flute practise
- reading and reflecting on the Bible
- updating my business website with work I’ve done in the last couple of years (I know this is something I can legitimately do during work hours but paying client work always takes priority)
- working on writing my online gratitude course
- having a holiday