Working in freelance seems like it would automatically lend to a healthy work-life balance. You set your own hours, work wherever you like, and you don’t have to deal with messy office politics. But this lack of external structure can be just as stifling and make it hard to set proper boundaries and behaviors for yourself. Working freelance means you need to consciously take the time to practice self-care. Liven up your daily routine with these useful practices and improve your mental health.
Yes, meditate. These days, everyone is talking about meditating and how they’ve managed to ‘transcend the noise,’ or ‘open up their chakras.’ While it doesn’t need to be a lifestyle change, opening yourself up to meditation could have a great impact on your stress levels. 60% of individuals who experience anxiety at work showed marked improvement upon practicing meditation (National Business Group on Health, 2018). Meditation has also been proven to improve focus, thus increasing productivity. Just a few minutes each day can significantly improve your well-being.
Prioritize Your Health
Like always, keep your health in mind. That doesn’t just mean drinking a green smoothie every other day. Set up some form of exercise for yourself and stick to it. Exercising can reduce our stress, increase our endorphins, and improve our quality of health. Don’t tell yourself you don’t have the time: just 30 minutes a day is all you need to see results! That can look like walking around your neighborhood or doing yoga in the morning. Pair this with 8 hours of sleep, plenty of water, and healthy meals. You’ll feel the changes in your body and you’ll feel better prepared to tackle your day.
Don’t Take Your Work Home
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about working remotely, it’s that you need to send boundaries with yourself. I feel like a sham of a human being if it's and I’m still wearing my pajamas. Be dressed for work (even if that just means wearing leggings and a t-shirt) and sitting at your workspace when the time rolls around. You’ll want a designated work corner to get yourself in the mindset and keep all your tools. Working from your bed has been proven to impair the quality of your sleep; your brain makes the negative association of your bed with work-related stress (American College of Healthcare Sciences, 2016). Don’t put that evil on yourself.
As the time frame for your working hours is so flexible, it’s up to you to set a regular schedule. It can be tempting to procrastinate, but the more you procrastinate, the later your work schedule will slide, until you’re loosely working 10-12 hour days. Have a firm start and stop time and stick to it.
Don’t Neglect Your Social Life
If you are still working a sliding scale of 10-12 hour days, it can be hard to imagine fitting in some social time. But our friends can help keep things in perspective and call you on your crazy behaviors. Seeing your loved-ones is a great way to reset, reduce your stress, and remind yourself that there are other areas to a well-balanced life. Try and set at least one day a week where you’ll be nurturing your friendships and socially resetting.
Avoid the Screens
When I say socialize, let’s be clear: I do not mean social media. While it may feel like interacting, it’s not going to give you the same self-care. As you’re already glued to a screen 8 hours a day, try and minimize how much extracurricular screen time you impose on yourself. If you’re giving yourself a little break between projects, read a chapter or call a friend. Excessive screen time can impact the quality of your sleep, and social media tends to eat up your free time with little returns.
Find a Creative Outlet
If you’re a creative freelancer, this might seem like a bit of a challenge. Maybe you work in a creative field, but it’s so closely tied with work it doesn’t feel like a fun activity. Do a little exploring and try new hobbies! When I was locked up in quarantine, I took up drawing and painting. I’m not particularly talented at these activities, but I always felt far more relaxed after work and like I’d used my time productively. It doesn’t need to be something you’re talented at, but giving yourself a creative outlet can be a tremendous form of self-care.
This may not feel intuitive, but saying no is an act of self-care. As a recovering people-pleaser, I try to say no as often as I can! Saying no means setting healthy boundaries for yourself; you know how much room you have on your plate and what you’re able to entertain. It’s also an empathetic behavior to others: you’re giving them a guide to working with you, with boundaries and limits, so they can move more confidently through interactions.
Freelancing means taking on all components of your business, but it also means you’re responsible for taking care of yourself. No one’s going to blow the whistle and tell you to take a break, so do what you can to make sure you’re working sustainably. Get creative, reduce your screen time, and make time to see your friends; running a business is hard and you need all the self-care you can get.