Note: This is the first of a two-part series about self-care for self-employed and freelance workers. This post focuses on physical health. For our post on mental health, click here.
First of all, to all the freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs out there: we salute you. Taking on all the functions of a business on your own is no easy task and we see you hustling out there! We also know that when you’re a one-person show, you might be pushing some things to the back burner, including important facets of self-care.
When you’re on your own, you don’t have the benefit of…well, benefits, as in the health benefits that may come from an employer. This means you may be less likely to see a health care professional. In addition, without a workplace full of social cues, it is considerably harder to know where work life stops and home life begins.
That’s why it is so important for self-employed workers and freelancers to take steps to ensure their physical health. Here are some tips to keep yourself in top shape so you can keep hustling!
Squeeze in some exercise
We know, adding yet another task to your list might seem daunting, but hear us out! If we told you that just 30 minutes of exercise a day could make you 21% more productive, you might want to make the time, right? Well, a study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management proved just that! What’s more, the study also concluded that 41% of people who exercised felt more motivated to work. And that is on top of the well-known health benefits of exercise!
So, how can you add a little extra fitness into your day? Here are some easy things you can bake into your schedule!
- Going for a brisk walk on lunch or before you log in for the day
- Putting on your headphones and having a mini dance party in your living room
- Standing and stretching during a webinar or conference call (Bonus: we have a whole post on stretching here!)
Don’t skip meals
Ever heard of the term “hangry,” the combination of being hungry and angry? While the name isn’t exactly scientific, the effects of skipping meals on your body are very real.
It usually starts when we’re in the zone—furiously typing away or working on a project. When we finally come up for air, the time for a traditional lunch hour has long since passed. But when we opt to skip a meal, our blood sugar sinks. This causes us to become irritable, have low energy and even feel dizzy. What’s more, we may even overeat at our next meal due to not getting enough nourishment throughout the day.
It takes discipline, but you can avoid the pitfalls of skipping meals by scheduling them into your to-do list or calendar. And make sure you honor that allotted time, just as you would a meeting! Planning meals in advance also helps, but you don’t have to create a full-fledged meal plan right away if that seems overwhelming. You can start small by making a healthy breakfast the night before or prep the ingredients for tomorrow’s salad to save time.
Stay hydrated and get some sunlight
Yes, we realize this makes you sound like a houseplant. But we have more in common with our green friends than you’d think!
As our bodies are 60% water, we need to drink it to survive. Without it, we become sluggish and fatigued, signs of dehydration. The universal recommendation for daily intake is 64 ounces a day (think of eight glasses, eight ounces each), but that number may vary from person-to-person. This may sound gross, but you’ll know by checking the color of your urine. If it is clear or light yellow, you are likely getting enough water.
As for the sun, try getting outside during your day and sit by a window if you can to get some of that sweet Vitamin D. Without it, we can suffer from a deficiency, which includes a weakened immune system, fatigue, bone pain and depression.
Know your options for care
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, freelancers and self-employed workers are less likely to have access to traditional insurance, which results in putting medical care, such as routine exams, on the back burner due to cost.
But there are several options out there to consider, including the marketplace offered by the Affordable Care Act during the enrollment period, where anyone can purchase insurance, regardless of their work status. If you’re under 26, you can also stay on your parents’ insurance or if you are married, you can use the coverage of your spouse. You may also want to consider a Health Savings Account (HSA), which allows you to deposit pre-tax contributions that can later be used for medical expenses.
Another option to consider is a wellness discount program. For a low membership fee, you can seek care for dental, hearing, vision, prescription drugs and more at a reduced cost. This is a great option to still get the care you need, even without insurance.
The bottom line: Freelancers and self-employed workers are less likely to have access to traditional benefits, so they need to take extra care of themselves. Adding just 30 minutes of exercise a day can increase productivity and motivation. Don’t skip meals because you’re “too busy” and make sure you work those breaks into your schedule. Treat yourself like a houseplant and get plenty of water and sun. Finally, invest in your own health: know your options to get the care you need without traditional benefits.