Working for yourself involves a lot of responsibilities. It means establishing good self-care when you work from home is key to help prevent burnout and heightened stress levels.
There are all the hats you have to wear; the creator, service provider, designer, marketer, accountant, IT consultant, but there’s another role we have to take responsibility for: Occupational Health. Where a firm has a duty of care to its employees, nobody needs to look after your own wellbeing other than you.
I remember at one company I worked for we would occasionally see a memo sent inviting us to enjoy a 20-minute shoulder massage and an ergonomics specialist came round now and again to adjust our chairs and desk settings. Some larger corporations include gym memberships and social events in their benefits packages to help keep you fit, active, entertained and sociable.
Working from home doesn’t necessarily mean you have to miss out on all this but it does mean you alone are responsible for it.
In a culture that celebrates being busy and glorifies ‘go go go’ it can be easy to think you’re slacking if you’re not feeling rushed off your feet and close to burnout.
While there might be things we can do to work more efficiently and reduce our workloads, it can also be a state of mind where you feel overwhelmed by the seemingly relentless to-do list and responsibilities outside of the business.
Self-care can often be seen as just taking time to exercise or have a massage and yes, it can include those things but here are a few other suggestions to ensure you’re taking care of your business’ main asset: YOU!
Sitting hunched over a desk is never good whether at home or in the office but at home no one is going to mind if you
a) wear sweat pants and sports gear and
b) suddenly spring into a downward dog next to your desk
A good stretch can help ease the tension, correct your posture and get the blood flowing again
So taking a few minutes to move and ‘unhunch’ yourself is definitely recommended.
Remember white space
It’s easy said and if you’re someone who engages with the idea that being busy means you’re being productive and successful then it can be a real challenge to stop.
Scheduling in some white space and making it a priority can be really helpful. In the same way you might have some non-negotiable work hours, ensure you have some non-negotiable rest/leisure hours in your week; these are hours which you don’t allow other jobs to encroach on.
Setting these boundaries will improve your self-care and help aid productivity too.
Make meditation a self-care habit
This suggestion can be met with some eye-rolling depending on your attitude towards meditation but there is something in the fact that when you listen to interviews with some of the most successful people, a high proportion include meditation as part of their daily routine.
We are talking CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies and other high-achieving entrepreneurs.
Tim Ferriss whose podcast I thoroughly recommend, has interviewed many of these types of people and states in his book Tools of Titans that over 80% of the world-class performers he’s interviewed have some form of daily meditation practice.
If you’re open to it, just ten minutes a day can be a brilliant way to clear the mind, gain focus and start your day with clarity and calm. Equally it can be a good way to wind down before bed.
There are some really good apps out there now which can guide you through a meditation, helpful if you struggle to settle the mind.
Small gestures and acts of generosity can help spread kindness. What better way to feel good than to see somebody else’s face light up because of your actions.
Community should be part of your self-care
When your work environment is just you (and maybe your dog, although they prove less helpful when it comes to that brainstorming session), getting some face to face contact with another human can be really important.
As an extrovert, I do miss the banter and social aspect of office life so meeting up with a friend, interacting in a community (such as The Homeworker Facebook Community) or just getting out to be with other people helps to keep me sane.
Even an introvert can find some social engagement healthy and you can find out how to help combat isolation as a homeworker here.
A good exercise routine
There’s no need to be a fitness freak but I don’t need to start preaching the benefits of exercise. A brisk walk to get the heart pumping, some yoga, a quick YouTube workout if that’s all you have time for, can all ensure you are taking time for you and doing yourself good at the same time.
Exercise is an opportunity for a screen break, it gets the blood flowing and it can be done socially (time to book that group Zumba class). Schedule in exercise as part of your self-care when you work from home because this one can tick many boxes.
I love to get out for a run not just for the benefits of keeping fit but I can use this time to visualise, strategise and come up with ideas.
It can be hard to remember to stop to eat never mind think about what we eat when it comes to homeworking.
Whether we are prone to skipping meals altogether or constantly graze throughout the day, taking time to thoughtfully prepare your food and savour it can be a practice in mindfulness in itself.
It can also help you to enjoy the meal, feel more satisfied afterwards and give yourself adequate time away from the computer.
Making the process of preparing and eating the meal an important part of your day can be a tick in the box that you’re taking care of yourself. If you work from home, you can take advantage of the opportunity to create your own nutritious meals and make this a self-care habit you build into your week.
In the same way you might have some non-negotiable work hours, ensure you have some non-negotiable rest and leisure hours in your week.
Giving for happiness
One thing which is almost guaranteed to make you happy is making someone else happy. Even when working on your own, there are plenty of opportunities. As part of your own self-care when you work from home, pass on the good vibes by putting a smile on someone else’s face.
This might mean giving something for free as part of your business but it can also be small actions as you go about your day. Small gestures and words of kindness right up to huge acts of generosity can help spread kindness. What better way to get that warm fuzzy feeling than to see somebody else’s face light up because of your actions.
Time to buy the coffee for the person behind you, help someone out with a task, make that quick phone call or just tell someone you’re thinking of them.
One way to ensure you take the time out to have a break is to book in something specific, an appointment you have to keep. It could be a facial or massage, it could be a coffee with friends. Having something to look forward to can be a real motivator and a good incentive to get work done.
We are forever worrying about our families, our homes, our work and so get a special date in the diary and make it all about you.
End of Week Reward
I do sometimes miss those end of week drinks down the pub with my co-workers. There is something rewarding about marking the end of the week and it can be a helpful indicator to signal that work is done and it’s time to rest.
Working from home means that you never really escape the office and so giving yourself a small reward to work towards on a Friday night (if that’s your weekend), can be a good way to draw a line under the working week.
Creating this end of week reward as a regular act of self-care when you work from home can help you set boundaries and give yourself down-time.
It might just be sharing a bottle of wine with your partner or having a movie lined up ready to watch. It could be getting a bunch of friends together for an evening out or that bubble bath and a favourite book.
There are no prizes for who can survive on the shortest amount of sleep. I am prone to late nights and often find myself doing some of my work later on if I’ve had the kids at home all day but getting a decent night’s sleep improves productivity, improves creativity and it just makes you feel better.
Read the fantastic tips on getting the right quality sleep in the print issues: The Complete Guides to working from home
Sleep might be seen as dull but it helps keep your brain sharp!
Clean sheets, cosy duvet and a full nine hours… (Ok, I have kids, seven and a half).
For regular wellbeing articles that help you improve your mental, emotional and physical health, check out The Homeworker magazine. Each issue includes a wellbeing section, full of useful tips, exercises and ideas to ensure you look after yourself as much as your work.