7 Ways We Deal With Stress

The last couple days I had let some stress get to me and it made me curious to know how you other creative folk deal when the going gets TOUGH. I Tweeted out a survey and got some great info from Designers, Developers, Bloggers, Writers… Freelancers and Cube Dwellers alike. I saw some running themes and even a few things that surprised me, inspired me or made me laugh out loud – here’s what I found.


Sound has a calming effect on many of us, weather it is white noise or you favorite rock band, it can give you something to focus on other than the panicked voice in your head. This is why many Dentists now offer iPods during exams! (When are Gynecologists going to take this cue, I wonder?)

Music for me is very theraputic, certain artists or songs can immediately pull certain emotions from me and I try to use this to my advantage in times of stress. I guess I’m not the only one…

“I can rock out like a nut for 15 minutes until my jaw is no longer clenched. I’m pretty sure I look like a total ass doing this. My beau was over last night while I was jumping around to the Allmans and closed the blinds so the neighbors couldn’t see!” Michelle Goodman, Writer/Blogger (Anti 9-to-5 Guide)

“I usually find when I start to get stressed out, its either because I forgot to turn on some ambient noise (ie. music/tv show), or what I am currently listening to, is too loud. It’s really weird because I have to have the perfect music, and perfect volume.” Anthony Lane, Design/Dev (Conforming Creativity)

“I listen to angry music really loud in the headphones, then take a walk.” Jamie Croft, Design/Dev (JamieCroft.com)

My ultimate stress relief music ranges from Black Flag to Dolly Parton, friend me on Last.Fm and we can share play lists!

Get Active

I saw a trend of people using physical activity for stress release; ping pong, bike riding, running, dancing, Wii Fit or a visit to the gym.

Personally, I am more of what they call and “inside kid”, but I do enjoy walking quiet a bit and love to go urban hiking.. which is a fancy term for wandering aimlessly around the city for hours on end.

“Swim! When I swim a few hundred meters, it’s the only time that my mind just wanders and is not caught constantly planning something.” Christina, Design/Dev (Feline Design Inc.)

Get Inactive

With all the hussle-n-bussle of day to day life, project deadlines, late nights, nightmare clients, tax season… sometimes it feels good to take time -out and do something that requires little or no brain power!

Ya’ll play X-Box, fiddle with your Rubik’s cube, watch TV, movies, doodle in your Moleskine, check out Fail Blog, chilling out with a good book… or, the ULTIMATE leisure activity, NAP!

Some of my favorite forms of ”veg-out” decompression involves watching Dr. Oz on Oprah. I can just sit back and feel like I’m being bad by watching a talk show in the middle of the afternoon, but I’m learning something about my well being, plus I used to watch Oprah with my mom when I was a kid — so it has that nostalgic comfort factor!


Sometimes when things reach boiling point, you’ve just got to get away! Some of you take extended showers, a mini-vaca (small one day outing), go to a coffee shop, the bookstore, the park.

“Going for a drive, blowing off the rest of the day, or doing both and ending up at the mall work well for me.” Meredith, Design/Dev (Meredith Marsh Design)

“Sometimes I just have to walk away and either zone out on something totally midless like clean, or even weirder, start organizing stuff.” Julie, Designer/Photographer  (JSocher.com)

“I stop what I am doing, get myself out for a walk so I can think about things and try to tackle it out in the open. You will be suprised, people may say ‘that’s wasting time,’ but wouldn’t you waste 30 minutes of your time in order to return much more motivated.” Anthony Woods, Developer (Silver Solutions)


This was a sure theme, we all know it’s bad to use things like drugs, alcohol, junk food, etc to escape lifes pitfalls — but we’ve all done it one time or another. Chocolate, coffee, beer, pot and cigarettes were just some of the bad things that made you feel soooo good. We all know, it isn’t the healthiest way to deal, but sometimes.. it just works!

Back in my 9to5 days, I had a problem with french fries and pizza that packed 20 lbs on me out of college (I’ve dropped all that in the last year, thankyouverymuch!)

Talk it Out

It always helps to talk about it, that is for sure. This can be a bit of a challenge for those of who freelance and work alone. I think the important part of this technique is not so much dependent on anyone listening to you, just the act of SAYING what is bothering you (even if your pet is the only one within earshot.)

A lot of you mentioned that talking with friends, family, and partners at the end of a stressful day helps a lot. When you can’t wait till days end to vent, some of us have been known to engaging in some emo-tweeting.

“I whine about it on Twitter” Joshua Mauldin, Designer (JoshuaMauldin)

“Sometimes a good cry helps” Eleana, Design/Dev (Eleana Whitesell Design)

Plan it Out

I tend to get the most stressed when I have so many things in my queue that it’s hard to keep track of what’s getting done and what isn’t. When you’re on this situation taking some time to make a plan can help put things in perspective. Often times once you make a plan for getting things done it doesn’t seem nearly as overwhelming as you thought!

“make a list of all the things that actually need doing, then tackle one of the easier/fun things first” Marie Poulin, Design/Dev (MariePoulin.com)

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this post, even if you were not quoted directly, your help was very much appreciated! (Additional thanks to: Joe Branton, Todd Galloway, Michael Martin, John Wang and Fred Yates


  1. Nice write-up Liz. Always great to see how peers deal with stress. I find it to be a good way to learn new methods to try myself, since sometimes the old ones may not work due to overuse.

  2. Great post! I think this was a good way to highlight some of the old standbys that work, as well as exposing fresh ideas, while leaving us open not to feeling guilty for “indulging” in anti-stress activity. Because it’s not an indulgence – it’s a necessity! Thanks for posting!

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