How to Deal with Exhaustion as a Freelancer

Although we might vary widely in terms of niches, one thing that all of us freelancers have in common is the exhaustion factor. Of course, some might argue that exhaustion is a part of anyone’s work life, whether they’re freelancing or not. Well, yes, though I would argue that us freelancers get more exhausted than most other professions.

After all, in addition to the usual work stresses, there’s the all-too-obvious truth that we regularly have to juggle multiple gigs to put together what might, for others, equate to one steady paycheck for one job. So, in the interest of protecting our health and our productivity, here are some ways to combat that little cloud of exhaustion that regularly seems to hang over our freelancing heads and work spaces.

Ditch those diet dilemmas.

This probably goes without saying, but the more mindfully we eat, the better our energy levels can be. I know, I know, a lot of people rely on caffeinated beverages, but in the long run, they usually lead to dependency and stained teeth more than anything else. That being said, though, if there’s one source of (minor) caffeine to indulge in every so often, chocolate can be a healthy (ish) option.

Hydration is happiness.

So, if caffeinated beverages aren’t great, and many juices are too sugary (which can actually decrease, not increase energy), what’s left to drink? If you guessed water, then yay, you win! It’s true, water is so very, very necessary – sometimes, symptoms of exhaustion can really be signs of dehydration.

Sure, you could purchase those usual big bottles of water from the grocery store and just be all un-creative about it, but this is the perfect opportunity to purchase a (BPA-free) water bottle that displays equal parts of humor and practicality! Even just looking over at your sassy new water bottle can provide a little pick-me-up when it seems as though exhaustion isn’t far away!

  • Google “BPA-free funny water bottles” and prepare to be very, very amused.

Exercise is everything.

While some freelancing niches are more “on-the-go” than others, many of us freelancers have to spend quite a lot of time in one place, peering into our computers and laptops as if we were trying to discern the future. That in itself, by the way, can lead to eye fatigue. Plus, sitting too long in one place doesn’t bode well for muscles (fact: tight hamstrings are no fun).

For the sake of our eyes and general well-being, it’s incredibly important to break up the monotony and move around. This can mean anything from a specific exercise program, to a walk, to even dancing around to your favorite music. Wondering how exercise can actually combat exhaustion? By releasing endorphins – neurochemicals in the brain that naturally reduce stress and provide a happy glow, of sorts. Only you know your current level of fitness, so proceed accordingly.

Know the necessity of no.

Nothing could be more necessary to easing (and preferably eliminating) freelancing exhaustion than setting boundaries for how many hours/how much work done per day. Some of us freelancers rely on specific projects with deadlines, others of us work on platforms that provide work on a first come, first served basis. It’s the latter camp that this might apply to the most.

While the motivation for financial security is important, the “oh, I’ll just wait for/take one more project/task before finishing for the day/night” often leads to another, then another, then burnout. When that clock starts ticking into the wee hours, and you realize that you’re only going to get a couple of hours of sleep at the most, then it’s definitely time to rethink priorities.

Self-discipline is, I would argue, the most essential character trait for anyone who wants to be a successful freelancer. This means knowing how to prioritize both professional and personal life things, and working in set blocks of time – basically, that elusive-but-attainable work/life balance.

It also means, perhaps ironically, relinquishing control of day-to-day freelancing workflow. You might want to think of it as: rest, renew, return to the freelancing journey, then repeat. Some days are more productive than others in this career path; once we acknowledge this and turn our attention to other things, that frees (no pun intended) us up to be mindful of our own self-care and, in turn, our energy levels.

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