5 Ways to Stay Healthy as a Freelance Writer

Yes, there’s more to it than just “stand up!”

Illustration by Sandpaperdaisy Art

You know the usual tips for staying healthy when your job involves a lot of sitting — take breaks, use a standing desk, stretch — but you probably don’t have the tricks to follow through.

Let’s be real, how many of us actually get up and walk around every fifteen minutes or stay vigilant about our posture?

I know I don’t. In fact, I’m currently writing this in an armchair in my living room. (Not the most ergonomic).

So, let’s break down some ways you, as a freelance writer, can stay healthy during your workday. As a bonus, I’ll include an app recommendation for each tip to help you stick with your new habits.

Get Outside

So simple, yet so effective! Personally, I take two 10-minute walks every day. The most important part — so listen up! — is to put your phone firmly in your pocket.

No scrolling Instagram. No responding to your friend’s Snapchat. No reading that breaking article on Facebook. Nada.

Why? Because the whole point of going outside is to unplug.

You’re a writer, you know the value in letting your mind wander. You never know when your next fabulous blog post idea or stunning marketing move will occur to you.

But you know when it won’t occur to you? When you’re mindlessly surfing the internet. So put that phone away and let the numerous health benefits of sunshine work their magic.

App: iPhone’s built-in Health app or Android’s built-in Fit app automatically count your steps so you can feel accomplished when you take those walks.

Stay Social

Writing is, by definition, (usually) a solitary act. Writers can suffer from a lack of human interaction, especially freelancers who (again, usually) work from their homes.

To combat this, go be social!

Don’t wince, introverts; you can be social without being particularly interactive. Coffee shops and coworking spaces are ideal spots to get your human-energy fix.

All co-worked out? Social media counts too! Join the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, or any of the dozens of Facebook or LinkedIn groups for writers. Not only will you make friends, but you could also make valuable connections that could lead to your next gig.

App: WorkHardAnywhere (WHA) for iPhone and Workfrom for Android both show you coworking spaces nearby, with a host of other useful pieces of information about each space.

Don’t Ignore Your Mental Health

Going along with making sure you’re not neglecting your social needs, taking care of your mental health when you work from home is vital.

Perhaps staring at your same four office walls all day is starting to wear thin, or your window doesn’t let in much light, or maybe you don’t even have a window where you work! Cabin fever can get real, people.

For example, for me, I realized at one point that I’d spent far longer than one day having not even left my house (not even for my walks!). I also realized I was talking to myself more… a lot more. Something had to change.

My solution: I started walking dogs. Not only was I making a tiny bit of extra money, but I also 1) got outside, 2) got to interact with adorable dogs, and 3) talked to them instead. Plus, the dogs needed a walk, so we all won.

App: Sanvello has daily mood tracking, guided courses, coping tools, and more to help keep your mental health, well, front of mind. [Lauren/Editor’s Note: I use Daylio for mood tracking!]

Find an Activity You Love

Sitting all day means a regular exercise routine is essential. Exercise helps with a slew of physical and mental issues: weight gain, diabetes, blood pressure, muscle tone, depression, anxiety… the list is practically endless.

The trick is finding something you actively (pun intended!) enjoy doing. Otherwise, you won’t stick with it.

It took me literally years to find an exercise I liked. Running, cycling, HIIT cardio (or any cardio to be honest) — I hated all of it.

Then one day, I ordered a female-led strength training DVD program, picked up a set of dumbbells, and never looked back.

Strength training is absolutely something you should work into your exercise routine (again, if you enjoy it!). It’s an incredibly effective way to build muscle, and do you know what that means? Muscle burns more calories, even when you’re at rest, so having muscle on your body means you’re using more calories throughout your day, even when you’re just sitting.

If that’s not a reason to pick up a set of weights I don’t know what is.

App: MyFitnessPal is one of the most common and free exercise tracking apps out there. You can also check out Jefit for strength training!

Stand Up

I know, I know, I said there was more to staying healthy as a freelance writer than just “standing up,” but that doesn’t stop it from being a very useful piece of advice.

Sitting for long periods has been linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, and more. Taking a break to stand up and stretch every 30 minutes of work can go a long way toward improving your health.

If you make phone calls during your day, stand up and walk around the room while you’re chatting with your client. If you can afford it, invest in a standing desk, or, even better, one to park in front of your treadmill so you can walk and work at the same time.

The free solution? Simply stand up.

App: Stand Up! (I’m not kidding, there’s an app literally just to remind you to stand up.)

Bonus Tip: Find Support Groups

To make up for the “Stand Up” tip, here’s a bonus for you: find support groups!

This one falls a little into the Stay Social category; however, there are specific support groups online and in-person for whatever kind of writer you are.

Working on a novel? That #WritingCommunity on Twitter I mentioned is overflowing with support, tips, and encouragement. Freelancing for B2B businesses? LinkedIn has you covered. Writing marketing copy? Facebook is your jam.

All of these social media giants have groups you can join to stay connected to other writers. Do some research, lurk in a few, and then join. Once you’re joined, contribute to the conversations. Post useful links, comment on others’ links, and generally be a decent digital human.

A little online interaction can go a long way toward keeping you mentally sharp and emotionally balanced.

What Are You Waiting For?

I bet you didn’t stand up once when reading this article, did you?

Get up, get outside or walk to your kitchen, and download some apps to help you start — and maintain — a healthier writing life.

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