Work – home freelancers tend to put in long hours. And those long hours are usually seated at a computer. When they do get out, it is to meet with a client – driving and sitting some more.
This can turn into an unhealthy lifestyle – little physical exercise, snacking or calling out for pizza delivery instead of fixing real meals, and, very often, not enough sleep. Then there is the isolation that is often a large part of a freelancer’s day, along with the stress of deadlines, Internet issues and demands of family.
I know these because I am a freelancer – albeit an agency CEO – and I work from home.
If you’re also in that situation, it’s your responsibility to keep yourself healthy, and you can do this by committing to some basic strategies. Here is a list of the most common health problems you may face and what to do to prevent or eliminate them.
1. Weight gain and high cholesterol
These conditions are the result of sitting too much and eating unhealthy fast food or other snacks, rather than sticking to a healthy diet.
And here’s the thing: When you go to get health and/or life insurance, you will most likely be required to take a physical exam. If you’re overweight or if you have high cholesterol or blood pressure, your premiums will be much higher than other healthier people.
So, in addition to the physical cost on your body, there is a hit to your wallet.
So what’s the fix?
- Move. Schedule time every day to get some physical exercise with regular breaks. If you have to set a timer, do it. And there are lots of ways to get movement into your day, without even leaving your home. You can dance; you can download an exercise video and spend 15-20 minutes going through those reps right in your home. If you have a pet, walk it; if you have a small child, go to the playground. These can be short spurts of movement, but they are critical. You will return to your work with renewed energy.
- Take control of everything you eat. Fill your cupboards and your fridge with healthy snacks – nuts, raisins, cheeses, fruit, raw veggies, etc. If you don’t have the unhealthy snacks, you can’t eat them. It’s really that simple.
2. Your physical environment
Having pleasant office surroundings is important for your physical and mental well-being. Here are the issues that are common:
- Mess. It’s easy to let things go in your home office. Dirt and clutter build up, and you may feel that you are just too busy to clean and organize.
- Light. It’s important. If you have a window, great. If not, your office can be dark and dreary because of poor lighting
- Your computer and your chair. Using a keyboard and a mouse, with the repetitive motion, can cause carpal tunnel – and it’s painful. A cheap office chair will cause back and neck problems.
There are several important fixes here:
- Schedule a weekly clean-up of your office. If you do this regularly, the mess and clutter will not build up. You will enjoy being in your office if it is neat and organized.
- Take stock of lighting in your office. If you don’t have direct outdoor light through a window, then do some research and pick lighting that most copies regular daylight and that makes you feel comfortable.
- Get an ergonomic keyboard and change the height of that keyboard periodically. This puts your wrists and hands in different positions, and that helps to stave off carpal tunnel.
- Do not scrimp on a chair. An office chair that is ergonomically healthy is a must. One of the things that you must avoid is neck and back pain. And poor sitting positions can cause long-term issues. Get one that is going to keep your posture correct.
If you are experiencing physical or mental issues (insomnia, anxiety, etc.), then you have to look at stress as the possible culprit. When you consistently face tight deadlines; when you worry about income, taxes, and marketing yourself, you are under stress.
Some of the consequences are all of the issues listed above but also muddled thinking, muscle twitches, infections, drinking, insomnia, and overall restlessness. If you realize that stress is the overriding culprit, then you have to find ways to reduce it.
All of the strategies above will help reduce your stress. In addition, make sure that your intake of vitamins and minerals is appropriate. Also, shut down at least 45 minutes before bedtime. If you want to promote a good night’s sleep. You have to get the work thoughts out of your head, so you can shut down your brain. Read something totally unrelated to your work; take a late-night walk. Lack of sleep just causes more stress and lack of mental alertness.
Your health is what will allow you to continue to work and earn a living. You can’t afford to put your health, either physical or mental, in jeopardy. Take these strategies seriously, follow through on them, and keep yourself fit for your work life.