Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Stress Management for the Self-Employed

I know stress management.

This year marks my 20th anniversary as a self-employed entrepreneur. It was all fun and games back in 1998, when I was making the same on my own as I was in the last year of my salaried job. Then the recession hit in 2008. And ever since then many of the avenues that used to bring me income have dried up.

No matter what the news tells you, the economy has not recovered. Fewer people are buying luxury items. I’ve pretty much halted all non-essential purchases just to stay afloat. A $30 home decoration used to be a no-brainer. Buy it if I wanted it. Now I’m selling those same items on Craigslist so I can pay for groceries and the electric bill.

I have so many skills to offer people: website design, book design, graphic design, photography, videography, and more. And I’ve had a lot of happy clients. But people are stingier with their purchases and, frankly, too many people don’t have their shit together before they contact me. So I’m constantly producing reasonable quotes and dishing out my knowledge for potential clients that are ill-prepared to make any sort of decision to move forward…which leaves us both at a loss. I like people that know what they want and take action to get it done. Action is the key word.

So how do I manage my stress level when this, plus what’s going on in the news, leaves me feeling a little heavyhearted?

I go outside.

Nature is free. It’s my daily staycation. It’s just a few steps away from my computer and beyond the big red door. It offers sunshine (good for Vitamin D), fresh air, and a glimpse at what’s going on in our natural world. I can watch the squirrels playing, their little heads bobbing up and down while tenants pull in and out of the parking lot. Or the birds fluttering between the berry trees below my balcony. And if I have time, I like to extract myself from my living space to go on photography hikes.

There isn’t a trail in Northern Virginia that I am not familiar with. I’ve traversed nearly every path with my Panasonic Lumix in hand. But that doesn’t mean I won’t discover something new each time I go out. On the contrary, indeed. It could be a species of butterflies that I’ve never seen before mating on a stump, a wild turkey strutting in the deep underbrush a dozen yards away, or a group of deer grazing in an open field. All bring a little calm to the chaos around me. And as I snap away, I am also compiling tangible product that people can purchase. One is my Calmness of Woods DVD, which I call a Photographic Journey into Nature. Set to music are some of my best nature photos, along with tips on how to take better outdoor pictures.

Walking alone and away from the crowd also allows me to think in a different way. I can more easily recognize the “big picture”—the overall tasks at hand. Being out in the wide open almost forces you to do that.

But I’ve also learned to reduce stress just by sitting in my car. Three of my books were written in the shade of a tree at a McDonald’s parking lot. Ever notice how truly quiet the world can become just by rolling up your windows?

On that note, I’d like to end this blog post with a poem I wrote for my Poetry Pizza book. Everyone should try it:

Sitting in Silence
by Victor Rook

Television off
Radio down
Everyone gone
An empty town

Windows all up
Fans not spinning
Phone disabled
No constant dinning

Alone in my room
Minus all sound
In the center I sit
And look around

Slight hum remains
Like sound debris
But that will pass
Then I'll be free

From all that noise
That invades my mind
An inner peace
I soon shall find

It's really a treat
To remove that crap
Unleash your head
From the clamor trap

Like a different world
When you close it out
Not a peep to be had
A chaos drought

The places you go
When silence arises
Your quiet thoughts
Are full of surprises

Feel your heart beat
As time seems to stop
Like a pause on life
Then you're back on top

Try it once a day
Or twice a week
Discover a calm
And you shall seek

This better way
I give as guidance
To reset yourself
By sitting in silence


#BackOnTrackNow, #WbtR


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