I’m sure you’ve read enough of the scary statistics to know that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health — really bad. But did you know that many freelancers are more at risk for chronic physical conditions than typical W-2’ers? Starting your own, home-based business is a solo endeavor, so there’s a chance that you haven’t already heard about the negative health effects of the high-stress, socially quarantined, often sedentary work days. After all, you don’t have a wellness department or a human resources representative offering you tips to stay healthy and fit while on the job. You’re on your own.
As with all facets of freelancing, it’s up to you to take the necessary action. This means you need to know which conditions are often associated with the stationary, solitary and tense lifestyle of starting and growing a freelance business. Then, armed with that knowledge, you can take charge. Let’s get started.
Lay Off the Coffee
Most freelancers start the day with coffee, not water. Hitting the home office with a steaming cup of joe may sound motivating, but a few hours into the grind and you might experience swollen feet, a headache and more, according to the American Heart Association. That’s right — you’re dehydrated. Since this is one of the easiest factors to control, be proactive. All you have to do is down a glass of water before that well-deserved morning brew. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. And make sure you’re keeping a glass of water on your desk — so even when you’re too swamped to even get up, it’s already there waiting for you.
Step Up Your Ergonomics Game
Humans haven’t yet comfortably adapted to working hunched over a laptop all day. And, as you likely know, bad posture can seriously impact your physical well-being. If you’re feeling pain and tingling, you may be experiencing muscle fatigue from poor posture — and, not to alarm you, but this will likely mean diminished performance in your work. If you’re one of the many freelancers who hasn’t had a certified ergonomist (those exist?) assist in your home office setup, you’re a step behind your corporate colleagues. The easiest solution? Take a few minutes each day before your creative session to assess your work space. Small adjustments can make a huge difference here.
Diabetes, cancer, dementia, heart disease and early death — oh my. It’s scary, but it’s true: According to the Harvard Health Blog, the most serious of all physical conditions (early death, anyone?) are linked to the sedentary lifestyle that so often accompanies freelance work. Thankfully, the solution is easy and takes little thought. Simply set an alarm to incorporate movement into your work flow. Just a few minutes of stretching every half hour can dramatically reduce your risk of these all-too-common and totally preventable tragedies. And if you have even more time than that, a little home exercise or a stop in at the gym a few times a week won’t hurt.
The American Psychological Association recently published a sobering report on the physical effects of long-term, ongoing stress. Sure, the occasional pressure of looming deadlines and problematic clients can be a genuinely healthy force, but chronic, untreated stress can kill — via hypertension, a heart attack or stroke. It’s when your ability to manage everything on your list slips further and further, and you end up feeling fried, overwhelmed and unsure how to climb out. If you let this continue, the powerful stress hormones that are meant to save your life under normal circumstances will begin working (in concert with your usually benevolent nervous system) against your body’s systems and can cause serious, life-threatening conditions.
If you need a little encouragement, talk with other experienced freelancers. It’s normal to expect a bit of anxiety when you phone a new client to negotiate terms, hit “send” on a daring project or notify clients of your rate change. The adrenaline rush of overcoming scary scenarios are what make the freelance lifestyle such an adventure. But if those stressful feelings start taking over, pay attention. Learn a few reliable stress relief techniques so the unhealthy pressure doesn’t persist.
So, it looks like we went from swollen feet to early death in a few paragraphs. That escalated pretty quickly, but there’s no denying the fact that not taking care of your health can be a dangerous game. Thankfully, each scary hazard is a cinch to avoid. Send this list to your fellow freelancers to sound the alarm, and together we’ll share our own tips to stay healthy and fit. If we can do that, we’ll be just as healthy as our W-2 contemporaries.