If you’ve struggled with your health in this lockdown there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Stressed? Sore? Not as in shape as you used to be? For many of us, health concerns have become a common part of the fight against COVID-19.
Vaccines are offering some light at the end of the tunnel as the world starts to open up, but if you’re a freelancer then you’re still likely to spend a lot of time working at home or on your own. So it’s a good idea to start thinking about your health, and getting back into shape — both physically and mentally.
One way that might work for you is introducing some routine into your life. Having routine is crucial for humans, but particularly so if you’re freelance. There’s a lot of uncertainty in our lives as we go from one job to the next without a clear guarantee of when the next invoice will come in. Combined with the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought into our lives, this can feel much more tumultuous than normal.
It’s easy to slip into bad habits under lockdown, so if you don’t like what you see in the mirror or feel a creeping sense of dread, here is how a routine can improve your health as a freelancer during lockdown and beyond.
Why routines work
There’s no magic trick to feeling better under lockdown. Routines won’t immediately make you feel better about the present situation, but they can provide a sense of order and structure to get you started.
Routines make a great launching pad for a new outlook that makes it easier to tackle the day-to-day challenges of life, keeping your mind preoccupied and distracted from negative thoughts. This is especially important if you’re working for yourself as a freelancer without anyone else there to keep you on track.
Completing your daily routine every day offers an immediate feeling of satisfaction, one that makes you feel more comfortable about taking time away from work and less likely to get stressed out by the things you haven’t accomplished.
There are benefits to your physical health too. Meal plans and exercise routines put you on track to your health goals and keep you from snacking throughout the day or skipping your workout. If you’re only buying the food you know you need that week, you’re less likely to succumb to unhealthy take-out.
Sticking to a routine isn’t easy, but the structure it offers can make life and the challenges you set for yourself on your journey to better health easier to overcome.
How to get started on your new routine
So how do you get started with your brand new routine and outlook on life?
Transitioning into your routine is about taking things slowly and not being too hard on yourself. It’s important to give yourself room to fail and learn from your mistakes, with support systems in place to live a more organised life and pick you up when you fail.
To-do lists are a popular and effortlessly simple way of keeping track of what you need to do every morning. Whether you enjoy the feeling of crossing out tasks on your notebook or need a pinging notification from an app to keep up with your next task, do what suits you. Just make sure you’re keeping up with this immediate serotonin boost.
Let people know about your new approach to life. Letting a partner, friend or parent in on your new approach doesn’t just give you a security blanket to fall back on when you fail, but someone to check in on your progress and gently keep you on the right path when you look like you’re giving up.
Complementing your routine: three tips
To close off, let’s look at some ways you can improve your chances of success while sticking to a strict routine.
Consider professional help
Whether it’s your mental or physical health you’re struggling with, you should always consider consulting a professional before making any major lifestyle changes.
It’s hard to know how your body will react to a new diet, sleep schedule or medication, particularly if you’ve never paid too much attention to your fitness before. Jumping onto the latest diet trend might sound like a good way to slim down in lockdown, but it could come at the cost of your health in other areas.
Turning to a professional isn’t failing, especially if you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression. It’s a smart way of preserving your health.
Get yourself tested and see how you fare. It might be a pre-existing condition or an undiagnosed injury that has as much of an effect on your health as lockdown is.
Across a number of professions, there has been an upturn in people seeking medical help, especially if they’re out of work. If you’re worried about the cost there are services available to assist you and help you acquire funding and relief.
Celebrate little victories
In life, we often don’t spend enough time actually celebrating our achievements.
We put so much work into what we do every day, whether it’s our jobs or experimenting with a new recipe, but rarely reflect on how it makes us feel and what we learned along the way.
Before we know it, we’re onto the next task and feeling the pressure again.
Don’t let your routine succumb to that cycle. Celebrate your victories, as small as they might be. We all need a treat every now and then, so punishing yourself and seeing your daily achievements as ‘just part of the day’ is a negative point of view that’s only going to lead to a negative outlook.
Becoming more physically and mentally healthy is just as much about being kind to yourself as it is pushing yourself to succeed. No one ever achieved their goals through self-deprecation.
Build your routine around your work
Unfortunately, work takes up so much of our week that it’s hard to build a routine that doesn’t incorporate it in some way.
Rather than trying to balance your life against your work, incorporate it into your routine and find new ways to optimise your day.
If you’ve found it difficult to stay in shape during this lockdown, without the opportunity to go to the gym or participate in other activities, now is the time to create a new routine built around your freelancing hours.
Rather than spending an extra hour in bed, use it to go for a morning run. If you’re more of an evening person, front-load your day with work and step straight out of your home office into your yoga gear.
Working from home and the wide-scale acceptance of flexible hours means it’s easier than ever to build a fitness plan around your job. Make use of this extra time and avoid turning into a couch potato.
Many of us are going to come out of this lockdown in much worse shape than we went into it. The emotional and physical toll has been well-documented. Mental health concerns and general weariness will be part of the legacy of COVID.
A routine won’t get you back to normal, but it’s an excellent first step and it can help reinstate some work-life balance as a freelancer. Follow these tips and make sure you’re establishing one that works for you, rather than trying to retrofit someone else’s plan into your life.