Avoid these 4 freelancer health issues

Nov 5, 2015

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

For many people, leaving the world of structured, employed work and striking out on one’s own is a terrifying but exhilarating prospect. On one hand, the stresses and constraints of normal employment – annual leave allowances, key performance indicators and unreasonable bosses – now no longer apply. On the other hand, life becomes much more uncertain in terms of the amount of money coming into the household.

Additionally, you may be at a higher risk of developing health problems when you become a freelance worker.

You may become more sedentary

If your work is computer-based, the likelihood is that you will be spending the majority of your day sitting down.

While this isn’t dissimilar to the way you would be working if you were in an office, you won’t have had a walk to work or the opportunity to leave the office to grab some lunch. The likelihood is that you’ll have been rooted to the same spot all day.

This can lead to weight gain, in turn leading to high blood pressure and even to cardiovascular disease, increasing the already high risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

How to avoid:

The good news is that it doesn’t take much to maintain a lifestyle that is just as active, or even more so, than it was before you went freelance.

Try fitting in an hour at the gym or out jogging before or after you sit down to work or taking a five minute break every hour or so to walk around and shake the cobwebs loose.

You may suffer from increased stress

When you work by yourself rather than as part of a team, the success and failure of a project is determined by your efforts. Nobody is there to help you out or ease some of the pressure you might be feeling, so your stress levels naturally increase and intensify.

This can lead to you not getting enough sleep, make you more susceptible to contracting contagious illnesses and eventually impair your mental faculties.

How to avoid:

The key to avoiding stress is to plan ahead and don’t try to juggle too many tasks at once, even though the uncertainty of freelancing might make you feel that you need to accept everything that you’re offered.

You’re allowed to turn the job down, especially if you think a client is going to be particularly difficult to work with and cause you more problems than your fee is worth.

You may feel isolated and alone

Humans are social creatures and, though we don’t always realise it, we need to have regular contact with other humans to maintain our emotional wellbeing.

Being alone too much (especially when you spend most of your time inside) can, in some cases, lead to depression and the development of antisocial behaviours.

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How to avoid:

If you live with your family or housemates then isolation may not be an issue for you, but if you live alone you should endeavour to socialise as much as you can in the evenings and at the weekends with friends so you never feel like you’re out of the loop or missing out on what everyone else is doing.

Try not to do so in your home though – you’ll probably be sick of it!

You may develop a Vitamin D deficiency

As previously noted, you may not have any reason to leave the house, and this has a knock-on effect in terms of the amount of Vitamin D you might be getting. Although you can get it by consuming dairy products fortified with Vitamin D, exposure to direct sunlight is the best source.

If you develop a Vitamin D deficiency, you may be at increased risk from diabetes, hypertension, MS, cognitive impairment and even cancer.

How to avoid:

Go outside once in a while! If you’re working from a laptop, why not take it into the garden for the day (assuming the weather is suitable)? You could also go for a jog or a walk at lunchtime, which would help prevent sedentary and isolation problems from occurring.

For many of us, personal health thrives in a structured environment wherein we're motivated and held accountable to our peers - all of that disappears when we start freelancing. But just like freelancing can make you a stronger, leaner, business leader, the schedule flexability freelancing offers means you can be a stronger, leaner you too!

Consider buddying up with other freelancers and be sure you get all your regular check ups. If you're seeking health insurance, check out the offerings from Freelancers Insurance Agency.

Bonus? When you purchase insurance through Freelancers Insurance Agency, you support Freelancers Union and all the free resources, programs, and advocacy work it does in the freelance community. Plans are selected with freelancers in mind and members are guaranteed a seat at the table with insurance companies.

Alex Sebuliba is a digital marketing expert who is passionate about self-improvement. Alex loves to read, write, and share anything to do with personal development and one day hopes to be a renowned motivational speaker. You can get in touch with Alex via Twitter: @AlexBradnum