Empowering the Freelance Economy

Self-care: how to stop letting ourselves go

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Pandemic or not, freelancers often take care of business before they take care of themselves. The Freelance Informer offers some insights and tips on how to balance the scales of self-employment and self-care.

How and why do we “let ourselves go” from time to time?

Anyone in business for themselves, regardless of age, could over time put their mental health, social and physical well-being needs on the back burner.

Thinking and catering to others’ needs is what makes wonderful freelancers, friends, partners and parents. But this selflessness could also make us sleep-deprived, overweight and less productive. If we put things off that improve our health and appearance, those bad habits will only propel the ageing process. Our cells and all the wonderful self-healing systems we have in our body are basically saying: if they don’t care about us, why should we care about them?

Vanity can be confusing. Despite the fact that many cultures portray vanity as a negative personality trait, it really isn’t a bad thing when done in moderation. When we schedule in time for our physical fitness, our hair and skin, well-fitting clothes, social engagement, self-development, etc. we often feel and look better.

As we become older, it’s common to lose some confidence as our body changes and we face life-altering events, like retirement, health issues, and the loss of loved ones.

In many cases, men for example, don’t recognise the impact that lack of confidence can have on their lives, according to Fred Silverstone, a licensed mental health counsellor and founder of the SAGE (Successful Aging through Group Engagement) programme at Harvard University-affiliated McLean Hospital.

“It can make men more withdrawn, less active, and more fearful about everyday events like driving and handling technology. They begin to believe they can’t live like they once did,” says Silverstone.

Reflect: how have you been treating the only body and mind you’ve got?

Researchers, according to the Harvard Health Publishing report, said the main reason for a loss of confidence is when we stop being involved in a myriad of relationships and stop being more adventurous about trying new things.

The apathy freelancers therefore can often have towards their health and well-being builds up over time, much like weight can when you have a profession that entails sitting at a desk for an unhealthy amount of time.

But what will it take for a wake-up call? Walking past a full-length mirror is a start. If you do a double-take and the first thought that comes to mind is, Who is that? then you may be guilty of taking care of business and/or family more than taking care of yourself.

The best way to start scheduling in “me time” and to regain confidence is to remind yourself of your capabilities, address the obstacles that keep you from feeling confident, and work around those obstacles.

“Don’t feel badly if you can’t do everything you once did, or at the same level or intensity,” says Silverstone. “The goal is to focus on what you can do now and build from there. This will help show you that you have much to offer and can still enjoy an active, satisfying life.”

Repeat good habits and reap the benefits

When your business relies on you 100% it’s crucial to learn how to decompress in healthy ways that will make you feel good about yourself. Eating a bag of crisps in from of the TV may give you some short-term level of “comfort”, but after the programme is finished along with the bag of crisps, you are unlikely to feel good about yourself. Taking a walk or cycle ride would be a better alternative.

When we repeat unhealthy acts of comfort, we pay for them later: bad health, skin, teeth, heart disease, and even self-worth. By trading unhealthy acts for kinder ones, once repeated, you will see positive results.

For example, instead of grabbing a bag of sweets, chocolates or crisps, have a bowl of fruit at your desk. Instead of scrolling social media on a 15-minute break, take a stroll outdoors by socialising with a friend on a call. That engages you with a person you care about and gets your heart rate up.

Even if you have to wear exercise clothes in place of pyjamas and make breakfast smoothies the night before, if certain tricks give you a head start for a morning workout, then do them.

The best way to regain confidence is to remind yourself of your capabilities, address the obstacles that keep you from feeling confident, and work around those obstacles.

Harvard health

Reward yourself with “positive treats”

Everyone likes some form of recognition, and when we are focusing so much on work recognition, rather than personal ambition we will be less willing to do the work when it comes to losing weight, taking care of our appearance, getting to bed earlier, incorporating more fun activities in our lives, etc.

When we put in the work to look and feel good, the compliments will start to come. And to keep motivated to take the time for self-care, we should reward ourselves with something that will not only make us feel special but will help us feel rewarded over time. This will be personal to you.

An example would be if you smash a goal cycling one week, reward yourself the next with a new paid app that helps keep track of your goals or purchasing new cycling gear. Rewarding yourself with a bottle of wine and a pizza is not rewarding yourself in a manner that will end with a positive effect. No one is saying don’t have pizza and wine once in a while, just do not place those things as rewards.

Rewire your mindset

If you want to walk past a mirror and feel good about what you see: a confident, well-rested, well-groomed, calm, self-employed dynamo, then you will have to dedicate more time taking care of yourself. Remember, taking care of business is taking care of the person running that business.

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