Mid-2015, I was working full-time, illustrating for clients and had several freelance graphic design jobs on the side. Luckily I worked very close to home so as soon as I got through the door, I’d spend about an hour cooking and eating, then it was straight to my desk until about 10pm when I would shower and sleep. This went for a few months and I got used to the routine of never having much free time (my weekends were spent catching deadlines for the next week). My social life suffered, and I basically lived off adrenaline most of the time. The thing was, I didn’t feel like I was stressed because I LOVED illustrating. But as we all know, stressful lifestyles catch up to you and eventually I was headed towards a burn out. So, here are a few ways I coped:

I would say time management is absolute key. I know it’s easier said than done, especially if you have kids or other non-negotiable responsibilities. For me, it’s essential that I have my sleeping routine locked down - I’m in bed by 10:30pm and up at 6:30am. Anything later throws me out, but the beauty of routine is I naturally wake up at this time (I haven’t used an alarm in months). As soon as I get up, I either take my dog for a walk or go for a run so I start the day energised. I personally find routine helps me find structure in my day, there’s no need to figure out what I have to do next because I know instinctively that breakfast comes after exercise, then I make myself a tea (I’ve never been a coffee drinker) and settle down to work. It’s also way easier to build good habits into a routine!

See your friends. I lost my social life, basically when I started working weekends. Even when I did set aside time to attend birthdays/parties, a part of my brain would remind me of the work I needed to do when I got home. I have the most supportive partner in the world, so I got away with sacrificing time with him “to just finish this project” (no, no, no!). Sometimes switching off is the best way to move forward with work, so when you come back to it: a) You’re not resenting it because you’ve spent your friend’s 30th stressing about it and b) fresh mind, fresh ideas! I’ve also had some great ideas for projects just talking to friends about it (not that I intentionally talk about work with friends, sometimes it just comes up I swear!). Talking about anything BUT work is also so so good for the soul - kind of like when you have the TV constantly on in the background and suddenly switch it off… work silence is pretty great.

Eat good stuff. I made sure I ate lots of veggies and wasn’t gorging on the sugary stuff. Historically, I’m a stress-eater so I was super conscious of NOT going down that path again. The last thing I wanted to stress about was my weight on top of everything! Frozen vegetables were probably my saviour during this time - it was so incredibly easy to incorporate them into dinners (stir fries, stews etc) even though I know they’re not the most glamorous meals.

Quiet time. Recently, I got back into books - one of those few activities where it’s just you and the words (put your phone away!). Where you use your imagination and escape for however long you want. MAN, I missed it. I’ve also given meditation a go - I used to be sceptical, but it definitely has its merits! I just find videos off YouTube, depending on if I want a “morning meditation” session and then you can decide for how long you want to do it for etc.

I doubt any of this is new news to you darling readers, but even if you take away a single pointer here I’d be stoked to have helped!

How do you guys cope with stress? I’ve always got an ear out for new coping mechanisms!

x Bel