How to Stay Healthy While Freelancing from HomeBy Amber Leigh Turner
Let’s face it: as freelancers who work from home, we aren’t as active as our 9-5 counterparts. We don’t get up and walk around for a while getting ready to leave in the mornings. We don’t have to walk or drive to get to work. We don’t have to leave our desk as often throughout the day.
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Our 9-5 counterparts are getting up and moving around much more during the day than we are. Not only are we missing out on the benefits of getting up and moving around, we’re also more likely to be sitting in our chairs for longer periods of time. Not to mention that we often have more options for snacks and freedom to eat when and where we want, especially with the kitchen just a few steps away.
When you think about it, we aren’t nearly as active as our 9-5 counterparts, even though we work from home, control our schedules, and have more time to devote to keeping ourselves healthy. If you work from home, making sure you take care of yourself and your health is a bit more difficult than you think.
Some of the main health issues for freelancers who work from home (and even those who work for someone else) include weight gain, loss of energy, deteriorating strength and stamina, and eye strain. These are major issues those who work from home are more prone to developing.
There are ways to combat these health issues and to get back to being a healthy, productive you. We chose the freelancing lifestyle because we wanted freedom and control of our lives. Let’s not let this lifestyle impact our health and potentially take away some of that freedom and control we’ve worked so hard to get.
Below, I outline easy ways you can combat some of these most common health issues among freelancers so that you can start taking control of your health and happiness.
Since switching to work-from-home freelancing, have you noticed any weight gain? Chances are you’ve noticed some extra weight since you started working exclusively from home. This is because of several reasons: less movement required to do your job, a more sedentary lifestyle, snacks and food are more accessible, and it’s easier to skip a workout.
The two main culprits of weight gain for freelancers are the decrease in movement during the day and the readily available snacks and food that can be had at a moment's notice. When you work so close to the place where you sleep and eat, you’re missing out on valuable steps and making it too easy to find things to eat and possibly overeat.
Since weight gain is likely the biggest health concern for freelancers, there are a few ways to make your freelancing lifestyle healthier and keep you from gaining weight. First off, get up and take a few walks during the day. You need to get away from your computer from time to time anyway (discussed below), so take a quick 15 minute walk around your house, on a treadmill, or outside (whatever works best for you).
This 15 minute walk gets your heart pumping and burns a few extra calories, all while helping you relieve stress, build muscle, and keep your metabolism up. Taking three 15 minute walks a day as a break means that you’ve exercised for 45 minutes by the end of the day. For most of us, that equals about 2.5 to 3 miles (4 to 5 kilometers) a day.
Second, combat the possibility of overeating by scheduling your breakfast, lunch, and dinner times. It’s too easy to get up and get something to eat whenever you want. If you schedule it, you can tell your brain that it isn’t time to eat yet, keeping you from overeating. If you are the type of person who needs snacks, invest in healthy snacks that you can eat (fruit, trail mix, subscribe to a healthy snack subscription like Graze or Nature Box), but even with these healthy snacks, don’t keep them where you work. Keep them in the kitchen so that you aren’t as tempted to eat them and possibly overeat.
Finally, stay away from sugary and caloric drinks (soda, sweet tea, coffee with tons of cream, etc.). These sugary drinks add on the pounds because it’s too easy to lose track of how much you’ve had during the day (not to mention the way sugar in particular contributes to weight gain). Stick to low or no calorie drinks such as water and tea.
Loss of Energy
For freelancers, loss of energy can be the result of several things: less sleep, lack of exercise, eating junk food, and being stationary all the time. When you feel you don’t have energy, it’s because you either deprived your body of something good, or you gave it something bad.
One way to fix loss of energy issues is to get enough rest at night. Getting your seven to eight hours of sleep makes you more productive, gives you a restful night, and allows your body time to heal and repair itself. Sleeping too little and fatigue starts setting in; sleeping too much can cause you to mess up your internal clock.
Another way to help get your energy back is regular exercise. Regular exercise such as cardio and strength training release feel-good endorphins that help get energized. Also, expelling the energy required to do the exercise helps your body get more tired and ready for bed, preventing you from tossing and turning and allowing you to get a more restful and restorative sleep.
Finally, eating better foods keeps you from having your energy drained unnecessarily. Eating junk foods with lots of added sugar give you a quick boost of energy, but they don’t last long at all. Finding foods that provide healthy benefits and long-lasting energy (proteins like nuts and fats like avocado) can help you get out of that low-energy rut. Just make sure those foods aren’t loaded with sugars or salts, and don’t overeat!
This should come as no surprise. When you are less active and sit in a chair for most of the day, your body starts to lose strength in the areas that aren’t being used as often. For example, your arms may start to lose some of their strength, causing strain when you lift something that six months ago may not have been that challenging.
Regular exercise helps build your strength, especially strength training, yoga, pilates, and other such exercises. While you may not think these types of exercises are important (because they don’t necessarily help you lose weight), they help you build strength and muscle mass. Muscles take up less room than fat and help burn the fat around them. It also takes more metabolic energy to maintain the muscles, all of which helps burn calories.
If the idea of regular exercise or going to the gym makes you nervous, find ways to do it in the privacy of your own home, in a way that is joyful and fun. You don’t need much, if any, equipment.
One of my go-to resources for at-home exercise and guidance is YouTube. There are several great personal fitness trainers and others who produce great video workouts to help you with little to no equipment. Give a few of those a try and find a channel that you like best.
Anyone who sits in front of a computer for hours on end needs to be particularly aware of how much time they spend staring at their computer. Eye fatigue, nearsightedness, and headaches are all symptoms of prolonged use of a computer.
It’s recommended that you get away from the computer every hour. Doing so helps your eyes adjust to something in the distance, giving them their own workout. You can pair taking breaks from the computer with a nice walk around the house, a 15 minute walk outside, or eating lunch away from the computer (and really any screen including your phone or tablet).
Also, if it is possible, get away from the computer for extended times. Doing something at night that isn’t computer or screen related will allow your eyes to readjust and undo the harmful effects of sitting too close to a computer emitting damaging blue light.
Most, if not all, of the major health issues most common to freelancers who work from home can be mitigated with a few mindful changes to your lifestyle. Things such as exercising more, taking walking breaks, buying and eating healthier foods without overeating, getting adequate rest at night, strength training and working on your endurance, and taking frequent breaks from the computer can all help you from gaining weight, losing energy, losing strength, and damaging your eyes.
As work-from-home freelancers, we can control our schedules and have the freedom and flexibility that others like us may not have. Let’s take advantage of that freedom and flexibility to help keep ourselves healthy and happy.