Recognize your health is your biggest business asset – and prioritize it accordingly.

Staying healthy should be a priority for everyone. But for freelancers – with no paid sick days, “mental health” days, or vacation days—maintaining physical and mental health is especially important. After all if you’re sick, you’re not working (or not doing your best work), and that directly cuts into your profitability.

Set boundaries.  Overcommitting is one of the surest ways to burn yourself out, both physically and mentally. Even when your business is at its peak, carve out time for self-care, and don’t make yourself available to clients 24/7/365. As Elon Musk recently proved, no one can sustain that pace.

Invest in relationships that bring you joy. No matter how much you love your self-made career, remember that your work is not your life. Whether it’s date night with your partner, kayaking with friends, or reading a favorite bedtime story to your kids, make time for relationships that enrich your life in ways your P&L cannot.

Pause, breathe, repeat. When the pressures of running a solo business get to you, try giving yourself some TLC.  A number of apps are designed to combat stress and anxiety: Headspace provides guided meditation and mindfulness exercises to restore much-needed balance, while Breathe2Relax is designed to help those with anxiety and PTSD but also benefits a broader audience. (And obviously, seek professional help if anxiety or depression affect your daily living & working.)

Exercise. If you’re a freelancer in charge of your own time, you have 90 minutes a week for exercise. Take advantage of your flexible workstyle: hit the gym during off-hours when equipment is readily available; take a 10:00 am yoga class while all the “employees” are sitting in the office; or try one of the thousands of online exercise classes whenever your self-made schedule allows.

Take it outside.  There’s good reason that “forest bathing” is a thing. But even if you don’t have a stand of mighty oaks nearby, just being outside can make a big difference in your health and mental outlook. Hit the bike path or the back patio before you settle into your work. Walk the dog in the middle of the day. Rake the leaves or tend the garden for a 20-minute break. It’s an easy way to lower stress and help combat chronic health conditions.

Eat healthy. Working from home poses unique challenges to healthy eating habits – why else would there be a Freelancer’s Cookbook?  It can take an intentional plan to avoid mindlessly snacking your way through the day – or getting so busy you forget to eat altogether! Make sure you keep a good mix of healthy snacks on hand when you’re at home, and be mindful of what you eat and drink at local coffee shops or cafes.

Carry insurance. No matter how well you take care of yourself, life happens: a broken bone, a bout with anxiety, a car accident, or a fall off the front porch can catch anyone by surprise. Make sure you’re properly insured with medical and disability coverage so you don’t neglect your health, take longer to heal, or make yourself sicker by avoiding the medical attention you need.

Build downtime into your budget. Assume there will be days when you’re not feeling 100% – and plan accordingly. When you set income goals for the year, give yourself at least 10 days of downtime (or more if you have a chronic illness that you know will require some additional attention). If you take on a long-term project, pad your timeline with a few sick days. If you don’t need the time, great: you’ll meet your client commitments and end up with more money in the bank. But if (and when) you need the time, it will be there for you to take without stress, guilt, or financial worry.

Freelancing offers tremendous flexibility to design your work around your life. By making your physical and mental health a priority, you help ensure it’s a lifestyle you can enjoy for years to come.

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