Fifty Four.

Coping with Covid-related stress.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from software developer and ‘multidisciplinary geek’ Ross Wintle. He says:

“How the flippin flippity flip do I reduce this baseline of anxiety I have whereby every time one of my children coughs or has a borderline temperature of 37.9 I go into fight-or-flight mode expecting to have to slash my hours in half to do homeschooling again while we obtain/wait for the result of a COVID test?

Do people have some kind of “plan” for how to manage this so that it’s not permanently stressing them out? How do I go about booking work in when I might have to take anything up to two weeks off at a day’s notice?

(Context: I have two kids FINALLY both full-time at school. My wife is working pretty much full-time now and can only take limited time off. I’m aware we need to share the burden and her employer should flex as well as mine, but even so, this is a HUGE challenge and my nerves are shredded!)”

• • • • •

This episode is supported by Agorapulse.

Managing social media has never been easier. Schedule your content, get reports, and engage followers with one simple tool. Try Agorapulse FREE for 1 full month.

Go to

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:28] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:01:37] – Steve
Hello! Yes. Each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but we start each episode by looking back at the last episode and taking your comments. Last time we were talking about…

[00:01:50] – Frankie
Creepy, creepy scope creep. Couldn’t say that. Creepy, creepy scope creep.

[00:01:52] – Steve
Yeah. Some great comments came in. Bhavini Lakhani. Hi Bhavini.

Bhavini said:

“I have a great set of terms that protect me from this. I’ve had this happen recently and told the clients it would cost more as per my terms and they were fine with that. And I love the idea of a ‘can you just’ rate!”

[00:02:10] – Frankie
We all need one of those.

Kate Cashmore says:

“I started working with a new client recently and ended up over-servicing from the get go because they were asking for much more than we had agreed. I wanted to impress them, so I continued to over-service without charging them for the first three months. But on my invoices, I made it clear in red what had been additional work with the header over-serviced but not charged.”

[00:02:34] – Frankie
I love that. So like a teacher.

[00:02:37] – Frankie
Kate continues:

“In the end, the client was so happy with the work that they backdated a payment to cover all my extra hours.”

[00:02:43] – Frankie
Oh, my God.

[00:02:44] – Frankie
Kate continues:

“I appreciate that not all clients will be this lovely, but my lesson was to be transparent from the beginning.”

[00:02:50] – Steve

[00:02:50] – Frankie
Isn’t that so good?

[00:02:52] – Steve
I love lovely clients. Good for you for putting it on there.

Leila Ainge. Hey, Leila.

Leila says:

“Here are my two tips for project creep. Firstly, what goes in must come out.”

[00:03:04] – Steve
Oh, I love that. Perfect for the Doing It For The Kids audience.

[00:03:07] – Steve
Leila continues:

“What goes in must come out. Frame this to the client with out loud thinking such as: ‘Okay, so I’d estimate that might take an hour. We can add this on at the end if there’s time? Or what part of the agreed project should we cut down to fit this in?’ It’s an alternative to saying no and you put the decision making back with the client.

Secondly, keep a list. This is where a shared Trello board or even an email that you send back and forth can be helpful to keep track of the small stuff. Always ask, on a scale of 0 to 10, how important is this? And is it priced and covered or out and waiting for budget?”

[00:03:47] – Frankie
And Karina Perdomo says:

“The comprehensive feedback, including changes and requests from everyone email. I swear I have that as a template!”

We should all have that as a template, no?

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:07:16] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from the legend Ross Wintle.

I say that because, well, Ross is amazing and really useful in the DIFTK Community. He also made an app back when the first lockdown started, where he collated loads of activities for kids and stuff and put them all in a little thing. So all the Doing It For The Kids people could refer to it. It was amazing!

Ross is a freelance software developer and he describes himself as a ‘multidisciplinary geek’, you can find him at

Ross says:

“How the flippin’, flippity flip do I reduce this baseline of anxiety I have whereby every time one of my children coughs or has a borderline temperature of 37.9, I go into fight or flight mode expecting to have to slash my hours in half to do home schooling again while we obtain and wait for the result of a COVID test? Do people have some kind of plan for how to manage this so that it’s not permanently stressing them out? How do I go about booking work in when I might have to take anything up to two weeks off at a day’s notice?

Context? I have two kids, finally, both full-time at school. My wife is working pretty much full-time now and can only take limited time off. I’m aware we need to share the burden and her employer should flex as well as mine, but even so, this is a huge challenge and my nerves are shredded.”

[00:08:37] – Steve
Oh, my gosh.

[00:08:39] – Frankie
Everybody in the room is going, “yeah, I don’t know”.

[00:08:47] – Steve
Yeah, this is going to be a short one.

[00:08:51] – Steve
There’s that thing about controlling what you can control and then letting other stuff go. So what can Ross control? I mean, hopefully at this age still his bladder…

[00:09:07] – Frankie
How do we deal with the stress of this? That’s what he wants to know. Not necessarily like, how to solve it. We can’t solve it. Yes — you may have to stop working for two weeks randomly, overnight. The school might close. You might get sick. That’s just the situation we’re in.

How can you deal with the stress of that?

Yeah, I feel like we’ve just got to… We’ve got a Frozen theme going on here because Olaf made that comment about controlling the things. But also, Ross. Does he needs to just ‘let it go’? Don’t spend every day waiting for the phone call. Don’t, like, aggressively take your kid’s temperature every day unless they feel hot or they seem under the weather. I know it’s easier said than done, but try not to let the situation, like, eat you up.

[00:09:49] – Steve
God, I don’t know. I really don’t know. Okay, clearly one thing you can do is try to leave wiggle room in your diary. Like, if we over commit ourselves to work or other things, then it’s always going to be stressful. Just the thought of them coming home from school, just the thought of this huge to do list, will stress you out.

So I think, where possible, you want to try and trim down on what you’re committed to at the moment. Strip back your workload as much as you can. And if you then have spare time, either do that or, you know, developing your business in ways that you’d like to. Things like tinkering with your website, or just chilling out and reading a book and taking care of yourself.

[00:10:40] – Frankie
Yeah, you’re right. I think to counteract the constant anxiety and the stress of it, is to make the parts of your life you can control really calm. Like the family, domestic side. Maybe there are things you could do there to make everything feel just easier and calmer? If you don’t online shop already, for example. I mean… I think we all do at this point? COVID, hello! But, like, you know…

[00:11:04] – Steve
Erm, no.

[00:11:05] – Frankie
Oh, you don’t? Oh, my God!!

[00:11:07] – Steve
So, right. I have done online shopping for, it must be like, coming up for ten years.

[00:11:12] – Frankie
Uh huh. And you chose 2020 as the year to stop?

[00:11:15] – Steve
Well, 2020 was the year when online shopping stopped. You couldn’t get a flippin’ spot. And I was becoming anxious trying to book slots, and I was like — you know what, standing in a queue at the supermarket is an excuse to get out of the house. So actually, since April, I’ve been going to the supermarket every week.

[00:11:34] – Frankie
But I bet there were slots now. Have you tried more recently?

[00:11:37] – Steve
No, because I think, “Screw you! You weren’t there when I needed you!”

[00:11:41] – Frankie
If Ross isn’t doing that online shopping situation, maybe get on that. Maybe meal plan if you’ve never done that before. Maybe batch cook if that’s not a thing that you would normally do. If you take away the stress of thinking about and cooking meals, for example, life becomes a hell of a lot easier.

It just means when something goes wrong and you need to stop working or work around your children at home or whatever, the like… the building blocks of your life at home are just settled and regular. And makes it sound like talking about his insides again!

[00:12:11] – Steve
What goes in must come out…

[00:12:16] – Steve
I know it may seem obvious, but it always bears repeating — no matter how old we are, you have to take care of yourself and get your sleep. Because everything is better when you have had a decent amount of sleep.

[00:12:31] – Frankie
So true.

[00:12:32] – Steve
You can just deal with everything so much better. So don’t be tempted to stay up just that hour later doing extra bits of work and things. Tempting as it can be. Though I did this last night. Such a hypocrite.

[00:12:45] – Frankie
That’s so true. So like the domestic, family side of your life — you want that to feel calm and ordered. And then your ‘insides’ — if you’re in the best state you can be, you’ve had a decent night’s sleep, you’ve done some exercise, you’ve been out in the sunshine, you’ve eaten some decent nourishing food. Like all of that means you’re just in a better place if the stress then goes off the charts.

And also I feel like if anxiety is like an issue for you, then sleep full stop is like a massive antidote to that. Although I’m an anxious person, I grind my teeth in my sleep…!

[00:13:20] – Steve
Oh my God.

[00:13:21] – Frankie
Yeah, my dentist says I’ve got the teeth of a 70 year old, which is nice.

[00:13:26] – Steve
Can you give them back to the 70 year old? I mean, haven’t they got enough to deal with?

If you are anxious — and many of us are anyway — but even if you’re normally anxious then this takes it up another gear, right? Do what works for you. You probably know, in that situation talking about things to people, getting it out of your head and writing it down and then doing the stuff that calms you down as well can really help.

[00:13:50] – Frankie
While things are calm and you can go to work and the kids are in school, keeping on top of the sleep and whatever and the coping mechanisms to help chill yourself out. Just keep that up. Don’t save that for when the stress is off the charts. Do those things now when you have the time and the space to be able to do those things.

[00:14:10] – Steve
Another thing which harks back to stuff that we said right at the beginning of the first lockdown about communication with your clients when you take on projects or during projects… you know, saying, “we’re clearly now in another lockdown and just want to set expectations about deadlines”. Because remember, everybody is in the same boat. But for the first time ever — #for the first time in forever# — there is genuinely something which isn’t just affecting everybody in your city or your country, but the world.So no matter where your clients are, they totally understand.

Yeah, I definitely found when I said all of that to my clients at the beginning, it wasn’t just that they were cutting me slack. It was like they were cutting themselves slack as well. Everybody just eased off the gas and I don’t know whether I just got lucky with nice clients who felt like that, but I was dealing with big organisations with a lot of people involved, and everybody seemed to go, “oh, thank God! Somebody else has said it!”

[00:15:12] – Frankie

[00:15:13] – Steve
“Fine, we’ll blame Steve, but the rest of us can chill out”.

Like, we were meant to deliver some projects in April and May, and we ended up delivering them in August, September, October, November… We’re still going. It’s funny how those deadlines weren’t that important after all!

Maybe you can even plan, ever so slightly — not massively — but plan the fact that home schooling might happen. Just remember what worked last time around or what didn’t. So that when it happens again, if it happens again, it’s not like a shock to the system, but you’re like, “oh, okay, right, here’s that timetable that we figured out”.

Again, you don’t even have to put much work into that. But just sometimes thinking about these things, writing them down, takes the stress out of your head because there’s not that bit of your subconscious going… “but what if this happens? What if this happens?” Because suddenly you’ve got a plan on a piece of paper, no matter how sketchy it is.

[00:16:10] – Frankie
I think what we’re talking about generally here is like an emergency pack, right? A smash the glass in an emergency to access this shit type situation where we’ve got food planned out, where we’ve got some activities to do with the kids prepared. We’ve got like, I don’t know… stuff that you’ve got up your sleeve to just take away the initial, like, “oh god” stress of it. At least you’ve got something under control.

I don’t know what the other things might be. I guess you then need a professional backup plan, don’t you?

[00:16:43] – Steve
You’ve even got to bear in mind, I hate to say it… but what if you catch it? It’s not just about kids being sent home. What if you’re actually sick and not able to work? And I’m not even talking about the worst of going to hospital, but just like, from what I hear…

[00:16:58] – Frankie
…you’re going to be in bed for a bit. Yeah.

[00:17:00] – Steve
Yeah It’s a properly horrible thing. And just like if you get flu that properly puts you in bed and knocks you out of business. So just having that, I guess, that backup plan.

[00:17:10] – Frankie
Thinking about what to do in that situation.

[00:17:12] – Steve
Like I said, I still think clients will be understanding if you were to write and say, “hey, I’ve got COVID”. They would be like “Oh no, have you? Okay, right, well, no worries”.

[00:17:22] – Frankie
Yeah. And I do think that’s unique to what’s going on. Now. If you normally were like, “oh, I’ve just got the flu”, they’d understand, but it wouldn’t be quite the same as if you show up now and say, “I’ve got COVID, I need to take two weeks off”. They’ll be like, “no worries, don’t worry about it”. I hope!

[00:17:34] – Steve
Like, “you get better, and I’m just grateful I don’t have it”. It’s that kind of thing.

[00:17:39] – Frankie
Right, “I’m grateful I haven’t had to have a meeting with you in the last few weeks!”

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation via the DIFTK Community on Facebook.