Tips for Becoming a Healthier Freelance Designer


For a freelance web designer (especially those of us who work from home), healthy habits can easily be placed on the back burner. When there’s so much work to be done, who has time to even think about exercise?

We tend to keep our noses to the grindstone, knocking out project after project. Part of it is the passion we have for our work, with perhaps a little pressure added in. But none of us can escape time. Sooner or later, bad habits will catch up.

For me, that moment came back in 2013 when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. To be clear, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s own immune system attacks the pancreas. But even though my habits didn’t directly cause diabetes, I quickly realized that continuing them would make things much worse. It was, as they say, a wakeup call.

Still, you don’t need to be diagnosed with a chronic disease in order to make a change. Below are a few ideas on how you can still be a rock-star designer while being a healthy one, too.

Take Mental Health Seriously

One of the biggest hurdles I have faced is taking control of my stress levels. There are still some days where I fall short. But I’ve come to realize that allowing myself to become overly stressed can be a huge demotivator. It discourages me from wanting to exercise, socialize or even get out of my chair. I’m more inclined to become a miserable workaholic, which doesn’t help the situation.

Your mental health affects everything and everyone in your life. Therefore, it’s important to take steps towards a healthy mind. The steps you take will vary based on your situation and personality. Anything from mindfulness techniques, spending time with friends or even professional counseling can be a huge help.

The first step towards feeling better is in being honest with yourself. Sometimes, it’s just easier to stay in a state of denial. But even if you feel like you don’t have many options, give yourself a chance to breathe. You might find that there is a solution out there.

The bottom line is that good mental health is vital to your overall well-being. What’s more, you don’t have to be perfect at all. Just be the best version of yourself. Plus, it can even help with your creativity!

A heart carved into a wooden fence.

Don’t Take Life Sitting Down

Have you ever spent hours sitting in the exact same position? Our jobs often require sitting for long periods of time, which is not good for your overall health. Yet, when your head is buried into writing code (and the inevitable debugging), it’s easy to lose track of that time.

It’s a prime example of a bad habit that can really catch up with you in a hurry. Sitting for too long can bring on back or neck pain and, over time, lead to some unhealthy weight gain.

There are a number of ways around this. Some people have switched to standing desks, or desks that allow you to sit or stand. That can make a positive difference, as long as the ergonomics are set up properly.

But the easiest and least expensive thing you can do is get up and move around. If you live in a home with steps, take 15 minutes to walk up and down them (it can really get your heart rate going). If it’s a nice day outside, take a short walk at lunch.

Just as important, don’t let yourself sit for too long. Set reminders or use an app that tells you get up every half hour or so. Even casually standing around for a few minutes can make an impact in how you feel.

Lastly, some sort of medium or high-intensity workout program is a great way to reduce stress and improve your physical well-being. Personally, I’m not much for jogging outside. So, I invested in a treadmill that I use virtually every night. 20 minutes a day (or sometimes less, I admit) boosts my energy and melts away the worries of the day.

Woman walking outdoors.

Avoid the Junk

Food is a big temptation when working at home. Whether it’s junk food in your pantry or going out to grab some fast food at lunch, there’s no shortage of possibilities.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, food was the hardest adjustment I had to make. Between greasy pizzas and high-calorie drinks, there were a lot of bad habits to break.

It took a couple of years to fully realize that I couldn’t keep doing what I had grown so accustomed to, but eventually I got the message. And, while there are still days when I long for an ice-cold SURGE and a slice of pizza, I’ve gotten into the good habit of not stuffing myself with fat and sugar.

But I’m not here to be the food police. My overall point is that the wrong foods, combined with the sedentary lifestyle (during the day, at least) of a web designer can be a dangerous mix. The good news is that you really can make a change. And moderation is our friend.

An array of fruit.

Just Have Fun

Many of us became web designers because we enjoy being creative. And though the pressures of this career can get in the way, it’s important to remember why we’re here.

Sites will crash, code will go haywire and clients will be bothersome. As difficult as those things can be, they are also part of the deal for most of us. Instead of lamenting every challenge, try to keep it all in perspective. After all, you still have a pretty cool job compared to most of the world.

Taking steps to improve your health can help you achieve a better balance both mentally and physically. Pretty soon, you start to find that the things that once drove you crazy aren’t quite as bad anymore. And you’re better able to deal with the hard stuff because you have a healthy outlet for doing so.

So, when you look at your monstrous to-do list, don’t forget to schedule some time for your health. Both you and your business will be better for it.

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