Self Imposed Stress




Self-imposed stress is one of these ‘working for ourselves, got to work’ bugbears that, I think, infects all of us creative people, at some time or other.

Just to be clear: a bit of self-imposed stress is A Good Thing.  We can all do with taking our work seriously, with planning and setting out our strategies, and taking the time to bother with the details.  And a few deadlines thrown in there to motivate us do no harm at all.  Sometimes, I wear a smart jacket to work in the lounge.  I find that working and being alone for long periods, this kind of device helps to convince me that what I am doing is good, pays well, and makes a difference.  But what if stress becomes paralysing and self-defeating?  What can we do about stress that becomes all consuming?

A lot of unbearable and unhelpful stress comes from the divide between what we tell ourselves we should be doing – with our logical, bullying minds, as often as not – and what we want to do, which is to rest, relax, take it easy and go with the flow.  We consult our diaries and lament that we only have two days left this week to write seven thousand words.  We decided on our strategy ages ago, so we must do it, by golly, or the rest of our plans will be in shreds.  And our failure to adhere to our own plans can then feel like the ultimate betrayal, which just makes us too stressed to work at all!

Here are my top tips to avoid stress:

  • I try to take the weekends away from my work.  Thus, I have time to re-engage with normal, gentler routines and expectations, and enjoy conversations which are not punctuated by the clack of the PC keyboard.
  • To help demarcate my work / life boundaries, if I need extra motivation, I wear a jacket and my smart clothes to work and change out of them after work is finished for the day.
  • As I work from home, I accept that if I worked in any other office, I would be out of the house until at least 5.30 in the evening.  So, I don’t worry if I have to work a little after my daughter is back from school.  That’s okay.  I am here for her.
  • I vary my routines.  I don’t always write every morning or afternoon, but keep myself moving through the day. This helps to keep my focus strong.
  • I keep lists of stuff to do, and a pad by my bed for collecting ideas, so I don’t have to pad around the house at midnight to pin down a brilliant idea.

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