Beware These Freelancer Health Hazards

Freelancing can be a great opportunity and lead to a great lifestyle, but there are some risks. One of these risks can be to your health.

I wrote this article to make freelancers aware of some specific health problems that freelancers may face. Of course, every lifestyle comes with its own risks, but many freelancers are unaware of the potential health problems that can be associated with freelancing.

In this post, I’ll list those specific hazards and give you some tips to overcome each one. If you’re a freelancer, this is a must-read.

Here are six freelancer health hazards to be wary of.

Health Hazard #1: Sedentary Lifestyle

Many freelancers work in computer-based professions. The very nature of their work means that they spend hours each day in front of a computer screen–usually seated.

The risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle are well documented. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, and even more serious conditions such as heart disease or stroke.

You can fight the health effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Your body needs to move, so make sure to get at least some exercise every day. An exercise bike or other exercise machine can help.

Health Hazard #2: Stress

Freelancers typically face lots of tight deadlines and sometimes have to deal with some pretty difficult clients. Beyond being merely unpleasant, tight deadlines and client disagreements can stress a freelancer out.

Repeated stress over a prolonged period can contribute to many health problems. Stress can lead to headaches and fatigue or sleep problems. Stress can wear your body down and make you more susceptible to other illnesses.

To combat stress, cultivate healthy habits and maintain a good attitude. And do yourself a favor–if you think a particular client is going to be extremely difficult to work with, don’t take the project.

Health Hazard #3: Isolation

Many freelancers work from home. This often means that they are alone most of the workday. In fact, some freelancers never leave home from the time that they get up until the time they go to bed.

Isolation can have a negative impact on your emotional well-being. If you are alone too much, you may sink into depression or even develop antisocial behaviors.

If you’re a freelancer, don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Just because you work alone, you don’t need to be lonely. Make it a point to meet outside of your home several times a month with close friends. If you don’t have friends nearby, you may be able connect with others who have similar interests through a meetup group in your area.

Health Hazard #4: Repetitive Stress Injuries

It may come as a surprise to you that many freelancers are at risk for Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI). Carpal tunnel syndrome is just one type of repetitive stress injury that freelancers may face.

If you get an RSI, you may experience a lot of pain. Plus, it may slow you down when it comes to getting work done.

You can avoid many RSIs by taking frequent breaks, paying attention to your posture, and making sure that you have an ergonomically sound workstation.

Health Hazard #5: Vitamin D Deficiency

I’ve already mentioned how many freelancers stay indoors most of the day and how this can cause loneliness, but did you know it can also lead to a vitamin deficiency?

It’s true. If you don’t drink much milk and stay out of the sunlight most of the time, you are in danger of developing a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is generally absorbed through the skin from sunlight or consumed through Vitamin D fortified dairy products.

Fortunately, it’s easy to fight this risk by getting out into the sunlight more often. And, if the deficiency is severe, your health professional can suggest other solutions.

Health Hazard #6: Poor Diet

Freelancers can also be at risk for overeating. After all, you’re at home all day and the refrigerator is just a few rooms away. No one would know if you finished off that leftover cake or made yourself an extra snack.

Unfortunately, a poor diet can lead to many other health complications (especially when combined with a sedentary lifestyle). In the short-term, snacking on unhealthy foods can cause you to feel sluggish during the day and impair your productivity.

As much as possible, keep unhealthy foods out of the house. Stock your refrigerator and pantry with tasty, but nutritious, low calorie snacks.

Your Turn

I’m not a health professional. If you experience health problems, it’s important to consult a health professional to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Has your freelancing resulted in any health problems for you? How did you overcome them?

Leave your answers in the comments.

Image by chazzvid

Comments

  1. says

    Another eating problem is that some writers, like myself, forget to eat if they are in the white-hot midst of a project. And considering that I have always been on the thin side, well, this is just not good at all. (My wife would like a dollar for every time I have forgotten to eat during the day.)

  2. says

    Morgan Eckstein

    I’ve been there, done that. In fact, I took lunch so late today that I started to get a headache from not eating. Great point, thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. says

    To fight isolation, I made it a rule when I became a freelancer that I had to leave the house at least once a day. Sometimes, that meant driving my son to school in the morning — a 5-minute trip. But at least I got out.

    I found out this summer that I have arthritis in my lower back, so moving around a lot is important. I made myself a stand-up work station. I connected my iMac to my big-screen TV with an HDMI cable, so I can use the TV as a computer screen. Then I got a wireless keyboard, and paired it with my mouse and trackpad. I found a stand that was tall enough for me, and placed a large shelf board on it as a tabletop to hold the keyboard/mouse/trackpad. Now I can stand in front of the TV/Computer screen and navigate with the wireless devices. This gives my back a break during marathon work sessions.

  4. says

    Catena Creations,

    Thanks for sharing. You’re doing better than I am if you leave the house once a day (unless you’re talking about just taking the dog outside or going to the mailbox). But I get out and interact with people several times a week and that keeps me from getting too isolated.

    Sorry to hear about the arthritis. The stand-up workstations are becoming more popular. Can you really stand all day, though? :)

  5. says

    Thanks for adding emphasis to issues I was working to resolve. Diet, good. Exercise good. Isolation. Now you’ve got me. I think I will request more meetings with clients at Starbucks. I like both!

    Thanks for your insightful thoughts.

  6. says

    This is such a wise and helpful post!

    Isolation is really a challenge and there were years, especially in winter here in NY, where I did not even leave my apartment, left alone exit the building. So unhealthy! I now make it a point to eat breakfast or lunch away from home 2-3 times a week, run errands, get to the gym and see friends for coffee.

    Sadly, the fellow freelancer I am meeting tomorrow morning is then off to the hospital for RSI treatment. I am very lucky I have never suffered it.

  7. says

    Going outside is easy for me as I have a dog and take her out, even if it is just for 15 minutes, 5 times a day. This also helps me to keep in shape. Even so, I may get sunshine but very little human contact.

    I also find that using my ipad is giving me some serious pains in my wrists.

  8. says

    Hi Laura, I have to admit I really had never imagined being a freelancer could pose such risks to one’s health. Now that you have mentioned it, it is all starting to make sense but all these can be avoided with a little care and attention on your part. The trick is to balance and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  9. says

    I haven’t been out much in nearly two years due to a foot injury. During that time i had to learn a way to make a living with the internet, since i couldn’t go back to my work. I know about isolation but never thought about the health hazards that can come with it. Just can’t wait to walk again, enjoy life and keep freelancing.
    Frank Z.

  10. says

    Hi Laura,
    Thanks you for this article. I think for freelances is especially important practice some sports. In the past I have had back problems and try not to repeat.
    Swimming can be great. In my case, I get a sneakers and jogging half an hour from time to time. I try to keep a routine, but some days go running for a while is a must for me.

    There is another health problem for freelance, apart from the physical, and this has to do with the mind. Is necessary to learn disconnect for a while to work and let our mind refreshed. Here, my meditation practice is very valuable. After the morning meditation (can be just few minutes) I can face work more serene and creatively. For other people may be enough to speak out with friends and have a beer.

  11. says

    Hi Laura,

    These are the realities in a freelancer’s life which we have to accept but as you pointed out, we can always do something about them. Neck strain and back pain I guess are part of RSI. I have also recently read that the light from the computer, when you’re exposed to it for long hours can cause insomnia or restless sleep at night.

  12. says

    There’s also other well-known problem: computer can be a hazard to eyes. Most freelancers are sitting all day staring at their monitor which is always on the same distance from their eyes. In the future it may lead to some visual impairment because some muscles responsive to focusing are under stress and do not get enough movement. This can be avoided by exercising eye-muscles switching between looking at distant and near objects.

  13. says

    To be a freelancer or to work at home your need to really like your own company!

    Seriously, I spend 10+ hours a day with myself and only leave the house to shop, get food, see friend (aka the pub) or clients.

    If you’re working you don’t/shouldn’t have time to swan around in the park.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>