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Two years ago, I was spending 3 hours a day commuting to work. Besides that, I had already been building a career as a content writer, which meant that I would work evenings and weekends. It would be an understatement to say that I was exhausted 24/7.
Stress eating and poor sleep plagued me, so I put on weight, and my blood work raised a red flag with high levels of cholesterol and sugar. My life consisted of senselessly rushing to meet deadlines.
The prospect of quitting my job and becoming a freelance writer seemed like a dream-come-true. Although I was a bit scared and nervous about the future, I took a leap of faith and found myself working from the comfort of my home in my PJs.
Three months into this new, cool lifestyle of a full-time freelancer, my weight still went up, and I was still waking up tired. What gives, I thought to myself, desperate that I was living a nightmare instead of that much-glamorized grab-your-laptop-and-work-from-the-beach life usually associated with freelancers.
Then I realized – my daily routine was the same as before. And now I couldn’t blame that 3-hour commute and a career that I didn’t particularly like for feeling down and ruining my health.
So, I slowly started changing my life by introducing different self-care rituals.
1. Invest in the Right Work-From-Home Gear
Needless to say, I thought that my comfy sofa could be a great place to work from. It was warm and spacious, and I could snuggle up there with a laptop in my hands. Add some raindrops tapping against the window panes and a purring cat, and you’ve got yourself a perfect napping scenario.
Not to mention that my back, shoulders, and neck were aching like crazy. And no, my living room chairs didn’t help me to get into the right position and working mindset either.
While having a shiny new laptop with a powerful machine under the hood and a fast internet connection are the first things that come to mind when talking about the gear, it’s actually an ergonomic chair and a home office desk that make all the difference.
These two are crucial for improving your posture and maintaining your back and spine health, so don’t skimp on these two pieces. Saving a buck here will incur additional expenses down the road, as you’ll spend significantly more on a physiotherapist.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 33% of all injuries and work illnesses in the workplace. Bear this in mind when you’re going shopping for your home office chair and desk.
2. Don’t Take Your Work Home
This wise advice is challenging even when you work in the office, let alone from home. “How to achieve work-life balance and leave your unfinished tasks at your doorstep?” is a million-dollar question when you’re a freelancer.
One of my biggest problems used to be the idea that I can work whenever I like – no fixed office hours. I could get up at 9 a.m. or at noon, and start working.
But, if you’re not careful, this flexibility can easily slip into procrastination, and things will definitely start going south from that point on.
What I did was “work” all day because, hey, no boss checking on me and asking me whether I completed this or that. So, I ended up leaving everything for the last minute.
And I was stressing out again, while I was under the impression that I work all day and have no time for my personal life.
How to prevent this mistake?
- Set your working hours. During that time, focus on your work and nothing else. Forget about the laundry, dirty dishes in your sink, and the latest Netflix show.
- Turn off your social media and email notifications when you’re working.
- Tell your family not to disturb you. Would your kids expect you to leave work and come home to help them with their homework? Apply the same rules for your home office – when you’re working, you’re not available.
- Don’t work in your PJs. Yes, it’s a blessing, I know, but you’ll feel more professional and capable of making that shift from lounge mode to work mode more easily.
- Boost your creativity by following some rules that work for successful professionals.
3. Establish a Workout Routine
Mens sana in corpore sano. You need both a sane mind and a healthy body, which means that you can’t simply spend your days crouched over your laptop, snacking on fast food, and watching movies lying in your bed.
Exercise is essential for your overall well-being. By working out, you’re not only going to feel much better physically but also mentally – while you’re exercising your body produces so-called happiness hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin.
This is particularly important for all of us who work from home because our sedentary (and solitary) lifestyle can lull us into a cozy but passive routine. And that can have a severe impact on our health. As I already mentioned, I used to be overweight, and diabetes was the next step.
If you’re not a gym kind of person, you can start by taking brisk walks in the park, practicing yoga or Pilates, or jogging. Easier said than done. I know, I’ve been there. However, once you find motivation to work out from home, you’ll get the ball rolling. It’s about identifying what makes you tick and going with it.
Being attached to your gadgets all day long is something that freelancers are accustomed to. And when we finish our work, it would be logical to leave our laptops, tablets, and smartphones on the desk, and resort to an analog way of life – reading a physical book, working in the garden, or talking to our friends in person.
But, no. We usually end up grabbing our Kindles, having a cup of coffee in a coffee shop, and Skyping our friends. We even bring our smartphones to bed in the evening, despite the fact that this practice can disrupt our sleep.
Here are a couple of tips to help you with your digital detox:
- Leave your phone at home. Yes, going cold turkey will be unpleasant, and you won’t know what to do with your hands, but the world isn’t going to end if you don’t check your email or Facebook for a couple of hours.
- Use an app to control your screen time. As counterproductive as it may seem, but downloading an app that will block certain apps and transform your smartphone into a dumb one will do wonders for your addiction.
- Include your friends and family. Ask them to help you with this detrimental behavior by calling you out every time you start scrolling on your phone during dinner or when you’re socializing. Or give your partner your phone while you’re doing something else so that you can’t simply grab it and start checking email or social media.
5. Learn to Say No
When you’re a freelancer, every gig counts. But that doesn’t mean that you should swamp yourself with work or put up with unpleasant or bossy clients.
You need to draw the line somewhere and decide how much work you will accept. It’s a better idea to spend rationally and save your money than take up more projects than you can handle, take it from me. The way to burnout is actually not a very long one.
Similarly, if you have a client with whom you don’t get along, don’t be afraid to stop working for them. You won’t be able to produce great results in that kind of work relationship, so it’s better to pick only clients that suit you.
If you want to turn down a client, here’s how you should do it:
- Be honest. Telling that you’ve got too much work already and that you won’t be able to dedicate enough time and energy to them is a great way to show that you’re responsible and that quality matters to you. Such a sincere answer will leave the door open, and that client will be very likely to contact you again.
- Recommend somebody else. By referring a colleague, you know that is professional is a win-win situation. Both your potential client and the colleague in question will be grateful, which is a great way to build a long-lasting business relationship.
6. Stick to a Healthy Diet
In order to maintain your weight and stay healthy, make sure that you eat the right food. While ordering a tasty, carb-packed meal from a restaurant is something that all of us do from time to time, making a habit out of is dangerous.
Having a cheeseburger and some fries once in two weeks isn’t a big deal, but doing it every other day will make you overweight in no time.
It’s hard to resist these kinds of temptations, which is why you need to plan your diet. Remove all the unhealthy snacks and candy from your pantry and fridge. Stock up on fruit and vegetables instead.
Always eat at the same time as creating a routine will help you stick with the routine. Prepare your meals in advance as that way, you’ll have everything ready when you have a fit of hunger, and you won’t resort to fast, convenient, and unhealthy options.
Taking care of yourself should be your priority. Although being your own boss is significantly less stressful than working for somebody else, freelancers have their fair share of stress and hard work, and the right lifestyle will help you navigate this competitive landscape without sacrificing your physical and mental health.
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