How to stay healthy and sane as a freelancer
It is really important to stay healthy and sane as a freelancer.
Possibly an obvious point, though it took me a long time to realise it, but staying healthy when you work for yourself is the difference between paying the bills and not. If you’re freelance and you’re ill, you’re either unable to work or not working at your full capacity. And there’s no sick pay, no gruff voiced call into the office to explain why you’re unable to go in today. Just a sense of impending doom that taking time off to be ill is going to cost you money.
So it’s important to stay well. And after 3 years of being my own boss I reckon I know a little bit about this. This is how to stay healthy and sane as a freelancer
Foam rollers, yoga and physical exercise
It’s very easy when you work for yourself to neglect your body. Exercising makes me happy and balanced, yet it’s the first thing that goes when I’m busy. Putting it to the back of the list has such a knock on effect, so now I make sure it’s priority number one. I’m not talking about spinning classes and gym work outs. Though of course if that’s what does it for you, then no judgement here. For me it’s all about cycling (outside), a bit of bedroom yoga and making sure I look after my muscles by using a foam roller like this one. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this has made to my sport addled body. (For those who don’t know I spent my youth competing competitively and it’s had a huge, somewhat detrimental effect to my body). For just £10 this has improved the quality of my life. I urge you to invest!
Keeping your body well fuelled is key.
Busy people rarely eat well. I spent most of last year grabbing easy food on the go, mostly carbohydrate rich, and felt the results by the end of 2016. A good diet needs to be balanced with a generous amount of protein rich fodder. These days I make the time to eat breakfast, often eggs. Lunch is salad with fish or soup. Dinner is often something curry related and a smallish helping of carbs.
If I’m shooting and not near the kitchen then it’s a packed lunch for me in my own special lunchbox. Yeah, it causes some laughter and teasing on shoots. But it keeps me full, not in any way angry (hangry?) and less stressed. I’ve been on many the shoot where the crew are forgotten on the food front. The afternoons can feel tough when that happens.
I’m not an #eatclean fan. It feels too negative to me. No food is good or bad (well, almost any, though I would recommend not trying mango body butter on a bagel; it’s not good) and treats should most definitely be part of your repertoire. Admittedly there’s little nutritional value in a Crème Egg, but the happiness it evokes is worth the calories and sugar. Every time I bite into one, it takes me right back to my childhood.
Now having just advocated a bi-weekly Crème Egg you may be surprised by my sugar warning. But too much sugar is something I’m careful of. It causes a crash for me around an hour after consumption. Almost everyone I know who complains of mood swings and hunger issues has a sugar rich diet. Ration it. Keep it for a treat.
Like many folks, I did my fair amount of drinking in my twenties. These days I rarely drink more than a couple of drinks in one sitting. Yes, there’s the occasional blowout, but I know my body doesn’t massively like it. Maybe this is an age thing. I am 30 now. (Almost 31 but I don’t want to talk about that).
Excess (or lack of)
It’s easy to think that you can go out of an evening and sleep in each morning as a freelancer. This is a slippery slope. My work is better when my sleep pattern is regular. This means lights out by 10pm, early rising and being careful not to play catch up by resting in the daytime. I listen to my body, though. Sometimes I just need a rest day. And that’s okay.
A solid 8 hours a night is key. I have started to notice that if I don’t get enough sleep that my eye sight suffers. I also get really cranky. And going to bed earlier suits me better than post-midnight bedtimes. In the summer I love to rise super early and get all my work done by 10am, leaving the rest of the day for exploring and getting as much daylight as I can.
It is easy to sit at your desk at 6am and to still be there at 11pm. Working for longer hours doesn’t mean that you are getting more done. Working for set hours, having suitable breaks are really important. In my twenties, I worked in an office and witnessed the long hours culture whereby sitting at your desk long into the night signified dedication to your job. I now know this is nonsense. Working longer isn’t better. In fact, it’s often a sign of incompetence and lack of planning. I work smarter these days and am so much happier for it.
Obvious? Maybe. Seeing friends and taking the time to listen rather than talk is good for the soul. I am lucky enough to have some incredibly good, close friends. Quality rather than quantity is what counts. Good mates are a tonic.
Natural light is so important for your health, mood and productivity. In the winter I work next to a S.A.D lamp to get a bit of extra day light into my life. In the summer I get up early and try and get a lot of my admin done pre noon so I can get out and enjoy the sunshine. We’re mammals, we’re meant to touch the earth and see the sun. Staying inside all day does not make for a happy Scott.
Taking time to be ill
Now I’ve talked a lot about making sure you don’t get ill and all the measures I employ. But sometimes a cold or a stomach bug knocks you down and when it does, I just submit to it. I let myself by ill. I’ve learnt that ignoring poor health prolongs whatever it is that’s ailing me. It’s okay to listen to your body and admit you need to rest up.
I have loads of blog posts up on my site now. You can view them by heading here https://scottchoucino.com/myblog/
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