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Tag: anxiety

Too Much News? [en]

Too Much News? [en]

[fr] Il y a bien des années j'ai cessé de regarder les nouvelles à la télé, de lire les journaux, etc. Je m'en suis trouvée bien moins angoissée. Insidieusement, je me suis remise à suivre l'actualité du monde, via Facebook surtout. Suis-je retombée dans le piège de l'angoisse de l'actu? Est-ce que ce qui se passe maintenant est beaucoup plus grave que ce qui se passait il y a dix ans? J'ai toujours été très optimiste quant à l'avenir de l'humanité, mais ces derniers mois ont changé ça. Des fois je me demande si je devrais me lancer en politique ou alors tout débrancher et acheter des chèvres.

On the edge
Many years ago I stopped watching TV news or reading the papers, because seeing all these terrible things happening in the world and that I was powerless about only managed to make me anxious. I became much less anxious after that.
 
Now, slowly, stealthily, “the news” has crept back into my life, through social media. And at some point, I started “following” again. Is what’s happening in the world now worse and more important than what was going on 10 years ago? Or have I just fallen into the same trap?
 
I used to feel pretty optimistic about where the world was going, although in my day-to-day life I am much more of a pessimist. I believe in resilience of social structures and societies and humanity. But these last few months have changed that. I now find myself very worried about where the world is headed.
 
Do I worry more because I consume more news? Or do I worry more because it is more worrisome? Or both?
 
There are days where I feel that maybe the solution is go either “all in” or “all out”. Dive into politics, join a party, get involved beyond “Facebook activism”. Or cut news out of my life again.
Originally published as a Facebook post.

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Tips For the Stressed and Anxious [en]

Tips For the Stressed and Anxious [en]

[fr] Une série de conseils (basés sur mon expérience personnelle!) pour les stressés et anxieux. Top de la liste: s'assurer qu'on dort, mange, et bouge assez (c'est la base). Boire des tisanes de fleur d'oranger. Prendre un bain chaud. Méditer.

Twice a month I write up an article chosen by my readers. This is the second. Vote for the next one!

After years of learning to deal with my stressed and anxious self, here are a few ideas and tips I’ve found help me get through those moments. It won’t replace therapy of course, but it can help!

  • Make sure you have your basics covered (this is your top priority): enough sleep, enough food (preferably more or less balanced), and physical exercise (go for a walk!) — regular hours if possible.
  • Drink orange blossom infusions (“fleur d’oranger”). It’s a relaxing infusion — 4-5 cups a day, and one 30 minutes before going to bed if you have trouble sleeping. I’m a fan ever since drinking those saved one of my exam sessions.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Lie down, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing for 10-20 minutes, without falling asleep, and without starting to think about stuff. When thoughts show up, just let them fly by as you concentrate on your breathing. (This is kind of basic meditation.) Once or twice a day.
  • When stressed, identify the main stressor (if it’s procrastination-related stress) and get it done with. Things usually get better after that.
  • If anxious/down, go for stuff that makes you laugh (it helps the brain switch gears): lolcats, comedy movie, fun friends, comics — whatever does it for you.
  • Sometimes (specially if you’re more down than anxious), watching a scary movie / thriller can do the trick. Anxiety is often something we do to ourselves (need that adrenalin-drug!) so getting a shot through artifical means (the movie) can actually help relax about other stuff.
  • Head out to the countryside/lake/mountains. Look at nature around you — it helps regain a sense of proportion.
  • Watch the Eight Irresistable Principles of Fun video (a few minutes).

Of course, these are very general tips. They are not magic recipes, either: sometimes we’re stressed or anxious for very good reasons, and it’s normal to be uncomfortable. But these ideas might help make things a little bit better or bearable when it’s rough.

Got any tips that work for you when you’re stressed or anxious, and that you’d like to share? The comments are yours.

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Client Phone Calls: House Rules [en]

Client Phone Calls: House Rules [en]

I have recently become aware that I am developing a certain number of “house rules” for my phone calls with clients (particularly first-contact phone calls). I thought I’d share them here with you in case they could come in handy to other freelancers:

  1. I don’t give rates on the phone
  2. I don’t agree to new things
  3. I don’t talk about what I’m doing with a contact to a third party within the same company unless my contact introduced me to them.

I’ll detail the whys and the hows of these below, but first of all…

Me and phone calls

I often describe myself as a phonephobic. There are situations where I’m perfectly comfortable on the phone (with friends, for example), but anything that hints of administrivia or relationship tension just makes me go ballistic if it needs to be dealt with by phone.

There was a time when I would walk into town to the offices so I could deal with admin stuff face-to-face, rather than pick up the call and get it done in five minues.

To be fair, I’ve had my share of traumatizing phone experiences (when I was a scout leader as a teenager, and all through my adult years). I also worked as a phone interviewer (surveys) for a couple of years when I was a student — so I’m not completely incompetent either. I’m not exactly sure why I am so scared of phone calls, but I am.

If you’ve had me on the phone you probably have no idea of this, because I cover it up, but it translates in me procrastinating a lot when I need to call people back, and agonizing for days — weeks — when I decide I need to cold-call somebody.

Still. I don’t like it, but I’m functional — however, I need to take into account that I feel under pressure on the phone and take steps to make things easier for me. (Less blunders = happier clients, in the end.)

Not giving rates on the phone

First of all, let me say that as a freelancer in a pioneering industry, determining how much to ask for the services I offer has always been a bit of a headache. From undercharging (way too often) to overcharging (a few times), I’ve done it all. Convincing people they need me is not too much of an issue, but actually asking for money is where I more often than not start sliding down into the pit of self-deprecation.

I’ve been doing this for four years now, and I’m much better at it than I was. I’m actually even starting to consider myself pretty competent, to say the truth. But even with the worst of the pricing-angst behind me, offering services for which there is no real fixed market-price to a wide variety of clients means that pricing is not simple. (Think Oracle and Intel on one end of the spectrum, and struggling artists and newbie freelancers on the other.)

Recently, I realized that I was much less likely to undercharge (or overcharge) if I had a little time to calmly think about my pricing, without the client breathing down my neck on the other end of the line. (Well, my clients aren’t actually that bad, quite the contrary, but given my phone anxiety, that’s quickly what it feels like.) I asked around a bit, and discovered that quite a few of my colleagues had a “no money on the phone” policy. By e-mail is fine, face-to-face is fine, but not on the phone. If your client is going to go green (or speechless) when he hears your price, chances are you’d rather it not happen on the phone. And if your prices are right, then that’s what’s going to happen.

So, unless you’re going to systematically undercharge, keep the money talk off the phone.

I make exceptions when the service is very well-defined and there is no hesitation about the price. For example, if a freelancer calls me up because he wants to spend half a day with me to make his website, I’ll give the price on the phone.

But even that is not without danger: I have given freelancer prices to small companies in this kind of situation, because I didn’t have enough information at that moment to realize what kind of client I was dealing with. And it’s always very unpleasant to have to send a follow-up e-mail saying “actually, it’s more expensive than I told you”. And it’s even more unpleasant to be stuck with work you’re undercharging for.

Not agreeing to new things on the phone

I’m easily enthusiastic about new projects, and that does give me a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. Again, as there are few things more unpleasant than saying “Oh yes, great, let’s do that!” and having to follow up with an e-mail the next day (or worse the next week or the next month) explaining that you overcommited and have to back out.

This can also help manage scope creep for existing projects.

When I was a teenager, my dad showed me these cards they were distributing students at his school. They were guidelines to help them decide when to say “no” to something. One of the guidelines was something like “If you feel under pressure to say yes, then that alone is a reason for saying no.” Taking a little bit of time to think about something on your own or by talking to a trusted friend cannot hurt. Don’t fall for the “now or never” ploy.

Third-party calls from the same company

I am not a fan of triangulation. I know from first-hand experience that it does not make for happy relationships, and do my best to not fall into that kind of trap with my clients.

If my client is a company, I usually have a single point of contact. If my contact puts me in touch with other people from the company so that I can do my job, that is fine. But if I receive a cold call from a third party from inside the same company, asking for information about an ongoing project, I will not discuss it without checking first with my contact.

In practice

These three guidelines I have are actually there to allow me to make decisions or deal with situations without being under the pressure of having to give an immediate response to something. I think the phone is particularly pressure-inducing because silence is less acceptable than if you’re face-to-face.

I think if you’re somebody who tends to be anxious in this kind of situation or agree too quickly to things, it helps to have these predefined guidelines for what to do in certain set situations — particularly with first-time calls with clients (and, I would tend to argue, for subsequent calls as well; can you tell I don’t like the phone?)

If you have other guidelines for your phone calls with clients, do share them in the comments.

Here are a few useful lines I try to keep handy. Do you have others?

  • That sounds really interesting! I’d like to sleep on it a bit and get back to you in a few days.
  • I’m afraid I don’t give my rates on the phone. I’ll send you an e-mail with my rates by tomorrow.
  • That sounds reasonable. Let me think about it and give you an answer by the end of the week.

And as a final note, yes, I know that my clients are reading this too. I don’t mind being comfortable about my shortcomings. And I’m not interested in entering professional relationships (or any, for that matter) based on power-play. Which is, let’s face it, the only kind of situation where talking about this kind of stuff in the open could be harmful for me.

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Qwitted Qwitter After Less Than 24 Hours [en]

Qwitted Qwitter After Less Than 24 Hours [en]

[fr] Qwitter, un service qui vous dit quand on cesse de vous suivre sur Twitter. Très peu pour moi -- je viens de le désactiver après moins de 24 heures de service. Non pas que je ne "supporte" pas l'idée qu'on puisse cesser de me suivre (bon dieu non, c'est plutôt que je ne saisis pas ce que 1500 personnes y trouvent à recevoir quotidiennement mes mises à jour) -- mais simplement parce que j'évite d'ajouter à ma vie déjà suffisamment angoissée des sources de "négativité", comme la consommation d'indices de marchés boursiers ou de nouvelles télévisées ou non. (Il y a les gens qui ont des "problèmes d'angoisse", comme on dit, et il y a les autres. Ces derniers ont bien de la chance, et qu'ils s'abstiennent de commentaires simplistes, de grâce.)

I thought I’d try out Qwitter. Not that I’m that obsessed with who stops following me, but I thought it could be interesting to see when my Twitter behaviour made followers drop me.

Well, less than 24 hours later (and after only 2 people qwitting on me), I have decided to turn it off.

Of course, I know people unfollow me. But getting this kind of news in my inbox generates just about the same kind of “downs” as checking the stock market every 10 minutes (instead of once in a blue moon or even once a day) and watching the news on TV (instead of avoiding unnecessary focus on all the wrongs in this world).

So, no thank you, Qwitter. There are enough sources of anxiety in my life without me adding them just for fun.

“Anxiety” is a big word here of course — I mean, who cares about people unfollowing them on Twitter — but still, who has never felt the tiniest pang at losing something they had (or thought they had)? It’s quite clear from research out there (check out Predictably Irrational for example) that being given $1 and then having to hand it back leaves one slightly more unhappy than if one never had that dollar in hand in first place.

Of course, I could filter all the Qwitter e-mails into a folder and check on them only when I want to know when such-and-such stopped following me. But is it really worth the trouble?

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