Nine covid-19 stress busters to help contractors keep calm

When covid-19 exploded into our lives last year, I think many of us expected it to disappear as quickly as it arrived (I certainly did!). However, despite vaccines currently being rolled out, we are still experiencing lockdowns, the inability to see our loved ones, increased confusion about what is actually going on, and a desperation to return to some sort of normality again.

Thus, for the majority of us, stress seems to be an almost regular occurrence, but for contractors, the pandemic is just one additional cause of stress to deal with. There’s already Brexit, IR35 reform and to top it all off, today there's a Budget to contend with!

The thing is, being able to effectively manage your stress as a contractor is an essential requirement to drive continuous success in your contracting life, writes Karen Dunbar, senior personal branding specialist and qualified stress management coach at The CV & Interview Advisors.

Why is stress such a big deal for contractors?

When most people think about ‘stress’ they tend to focus on their perceptions of stress as opposed to the physiological side. People who work on a temporary basis professionally can get stressed for many different reasons.

For example, you may have just ended a contract and are now frantically searching for a new one. Or you might have a very varied contracting career only to find yourself pigeon-holed as a ‘jack of all trades’ and being overlooked for contracts which you know you can do. Covid itself has caused complete upheaval in the world of work, so the chances are you will be competing with far more people to secure contracts in 2021, which again, is a significant cause of stress.

Work-related stress impacts 79% of UK adults (up from 59% in 2018, according to Perkbox). And it is the leading cause of sickness from work. Stress is serious business and if you aren’t able to find ways to manage your ‘stressors,’ then your own business and the services you provide will be greatly impacted. Let’s not contribute to your stress levels any further and instead offer you some techniques to keep anxiety, irritation and general peeved off-ness at bay:

Top stress-busting techniques for contractors

1. Identify

When it comes to stress, the only way to properly address it, is to know exactly what is causing you the stress. This involves assessing the triggers to your stress, i.e. financial concerns? Lack of contract? Only then can you create a strategy to address each of the issues you are facing. By understanding these triggers, you can remediate them, i.e. if your internet is horrendous at home, buy a booster to avoid losing connection during important client meetings.

2. Log

Keep a stress journal. You have probably heard of the concept of journaling, and this is a great way to deal with the stresses you are facing.

Make a list of all of the things that stress you out in your life, i.e. maybe you are currently engaged on a contract that is literally eating away at every spare moment of your time. And rate what irks you out of 10. This will help you prioritise your stressors.

3. Professionalise your home

As a contractor, particularly during covid times, you are likely to be working from home. For some people, this is the best thing in the world. For others, it is just another huge stress. By making sure your home set-up is suitable for work, you will eliminate a lot of the stress you feel.

For example, ensuring you have a quiet working environment with a suitable workspace is essential to most, especially if your family is also at home. Trying to get work done sat at the kitchen table, on a hard or creaky dining room chair, or balancing your laptop off a cushion on your lap while sat on the sofa, is not conducive to a productive working life.

4. 'You’ time

Take plenty of ‘Me’ time. This is definitely not a new concept, and for the majority of contractors, having a decent work-life balance is incredibly important.

However, the knowing and the doing are two very different things! In the UK, we work the longest hours compared to countries in Europe, so we don’t get nearly enough time to ourselves. Put aside regular time each week, whether it be a whole day or just one evening, to completely focus on yourself. Having a day away from work and all of the other stresses in your life is a great way to manage stress.

5. Avoid unhealthy habits

When stressed, many people tend to reach out to unhealthy habits such as stress-eating (guilty!), consuming too much alcohol, smoking more than usual, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and so on. These ‘avoidance behaviours’ allow us to forget about the things causing us stress for a brief moment, however they are simply a crutch. So be disciplined and avoid these.

6. Challenge yourself

By setting clearly defined goals and challenges for yourself, it will help you focus and minimise ‘overwhelm’. For example, are you looking for a new contract? Think about what exactly it is you are looking for. So is your CV and / or LinkedIn profile up to scratch? Do you have any contacts on LinkedIn that you can approach?

By creating such a ‘plan of action’ for each of your objectives, it allows you to remain focused on the job in hand without being distracted by trivial things.

7. Work smarter, not harder

One of the biggest causes of stress, as mentioned earlier, is work-related stress. For contractors, who tend to not get the reliable ‘9-to-5’ experience’, managing a demanding workload can be incredibly stressful.

For example, you might be working on a contract that is due to end the end of March, but you’re facing a workload that ordinarily would require six months of your time! Crafting smart working plans through careful prioritisation of activities, and being realistic in your expectations can help you avoid overwhelm.

8. Don’t miss lunch, and go for a walk

It may sound obvious, but eating the right foods and taking some regular exercise, even just a 20-minute walk, can make a real difference to your stress levels.

For many contractors, due to the often hectic and busy nature of their work, combined with working from home with the family in the background, means simple things like taking a lunch break get missed out.

Make sure you take regular breaks and eat often to avoid burnout. In addition, escaping from your home working environment for some exercise is a great way to feel refreshed and take your mind off your stresses.

9. Speak with someone

If stress has become a cause for concern, i.e. you are experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression, then it is important to speak up. Many people, particularly contractors, become so engrossed in their work that they “don’t have time” to get any help. Working with a Stress Management Coach or speaking with a health professional can really help eliminate the stress from your life.  

Want to find out more?

Why not join us on March 22nd at 7.15pm for a one-hour webinar all about Stress Management for Contractors?!

In this session, we will be discussing tips and advice to help manage your stress and explaining how having the right collateral, i.e. CV and LinkedIn can help you secure new contracts, in the least stressful way possible! You can register for free here:

Wednesday 3rd Mar 2021
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Written by Karen Dunbar

Karen Dunbar is a qualified Stress Management Coach and NLP Practitioner with a passion for helping clients overcome the stressors and limiting beliefs that they face to help them succeed in their lives and careers. Karen is also a Senior Personal Branding Specialist and Coach at The CV & Interview Advisors, and works with senior level clients to create collateral that allows them to excel in securing interviews and higher paying contracts.
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