Coping strategies and mechanisms for creatives when you feel like you’re drowning

We all know that familiar saying if  you’re self employed “Its either feast or famine” and no where more so it seems than in the creative industries. Certainly as a photographic interiors stylist, when budgets are tight and clients are reusing old photography things can be lean but then there are times when you just have too many jobs at once and it all feels a little over whelming?

I’m totally aware of that feeling of drowning at the moment, both with my own work load and through my daughters work load. She’s currently sitting her GCSE’s and I thought that some of the advice I’ve given her, I should heed myself. So after a particularly stressful start to the week, I’ve given myself some of my own advice and I feel so much calmer and my shallow breathing has finally returned to normal. I know a lot of you who read my blog are also self employed creatives, whose work load ebbs and flows and so I thought I’d share some of my strategies for dealing with stress in the hope that they might help a little? Sharing is caring right?

Shot styled for Denby Pottery

1)Firstly although it’s difficult to say no to a job sometimes when you’re trying to earn a living, if it doesn’t feel right from the start or you don’t particularly have a desire to work with that brand, it’s ok to say no. Go with your gut instinct. As one door closes another will open and something else will always come along. Quite often when you instinctively know a job will be a nightmare, you are often right. Our gut serves us well?

2)When you are meeting with clients for the first time and they don’t know you, don’t over share how you feel if you are stressed about the job or any others you have going on. Show up as though it’s your dream job and you can’t wait to get started and be part of the team. You play a vital and positive part of creating the vision that they are looking for so they don’t want some flaky person being part of their team. If you’re feeling flaky save it for your partner or friends later?

3) Remind yourself of how lucky you are to be doing the job that you love even if it doesn’t feel like it at this time? If you’re not feeling the joy then thats ok too, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of being exactly where you wanted to be in stressful moments ?

4) Don’t be afraid to delegate & ask for help. Let people who are more expert than you in certain areas help you and give them that role. Work as a team and collaborate as much as you can with other creatives. A true example being that Yesterday in a presentation the team were trying to work out how we could incorporate a brand into a floral display and I had to remind them that the florist would work that part out, all we had to do was send them the branding with our idea and they would know how to make that work? Which of course they did? As my husband always says, David Bowie was a genius, we all know that, but he couldn’t do it all on his own?He surrounded himself with the best people to achieve his vision, so he worked with the best musicians, the best producers, the best costume designers, the best stage designers etc etc. The moral being even David Bowie couldn’t do it all!

Shot from my recent visit to Swallows and Damsons

5)You can help to control your workload. See below to expand

6)write a list and prioritise it in number order. Not everything is a priority. As soon as you number your tasks you will see that some of them can be shelved for another day, week, time. Not everything has to be done today?

7)When you think of something that has to be done today, try & do it there and then and then it’s off the list. That floral branding I mentioned from yesterdays meeting is now off my list and with the florist who will be working behind the scenes to get that done for me?

8)Look at your emails once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. You don’t need to keep checking them all day. If somebody wants your attention immediately, they will call you.

9)Turn off notifications on your social platforms and turn your phone screen over on your desk so that you can’t constantly see messages flashing up from instagram or facebook. It’s as distracting as taking your child or pet into the office with you, which of course you wouldn’t do on a regular basis?

10)Remember to take a break during the day for something to eat, a walk, 1/2 an hour with a book or magazine unrelated to your work. It helps to recalibrate your brain and is essential.

Shot styled for Denby Pottery

11) Go somewhere at least once during a busy week where you can’t be contactable for a couple of hours, so that you have no choice but to switch off. Take a yoga class, get your nails done, get your hair cut. Something where you can’t answer your emails or your phone & just breath, sink into the chair or mat and enjoy the escape!

12)Listen to inspirational podcasts to reinforce that you are human for feeling out of control and that you’re not a failure. You’re not alone to have feelings of imposter syndrome, you’re normal, most of us have those feelings and just knowing that makes you feel instantly better. Then find ways to combat those feelings. I listen to podcasts by Jen Carrington and Sas petherick on the way to important meetings or presentations and they immediately bolster my confidence and quell my feelings of insecurity. These women are very wise and hugely empathetic and make me personally feel as though I’m owning my space in this creative world after one off their pep talks.

How do you cope with stress and those feelings of drowning under your work load?

I’d love to hear from you, you can never have too many strategies?





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