I received some excellent pieces of advice when I started my freelance writing business. “Maybe line up some actual work before you quit your day job!” was one. “Hire a certified tax accountant to mock your income!” was another. Wise words all. But three years later, I realize there were some crucial health-related insights I didn’t hear—and wish I had.
1. You still need a “commute”
Ask a doctor of medicine, and she’ll tell you that traveling to and from work is a public-health crisis. Heart disease, high blood pressure and lousy sleep are just some of the risks America’s workers face as a result of hitting the roads and rails. But ask me—a doctor of opinion—and I’ll tell you that commuting has an upside, too. See, at home, you’re never en route; you’re just on. And without a buffer between realms, things blur in weird ways: You dream of submitting budget reports to your child. Of giving birth to your boss. My research proves that commutes are vital for firming up some important brain boundaries. So three years into working from home—and missing my daily spiritual practice of fighting with strangers on the subway—I’m finally wedging some me time between work and domestic life. In the morning, I might savor a mug of pour-over coffee before clocking in. At day’s end, I might pamper myself with a DIY YouTube haircut before helping my son with his homework. I feel as great as my hair looks (after my local salon fixes it).
2. Healthy lunches do not make themselves
It’s 1:00 p.m. My fridge contains half a dozen eggs and a plastic clamshell of triple-washed baby kale. There’s a Ball jar of red quinoa in the pantry. Roasted sweet potato chunks in the freezer. So remind me why I’m downing a bag of Hershey’s Miniatures for lunch? Oh, right: Because I didn’t map out a balanced meal ahead of time, and now I’m far too busy writing this article (DUE NOW) to prepare such a thing. Don’t assume that proximity to healthful ingredients will result in their consumption. Plan (and try to put together) your midday meals in advance, just as you would if you didn’t toil 10 feet from your kitchen.
3. Exercise is easier and more fun—to avoid
Without a manager looking over your shoulder, you are free, little bird. You’re allowed to leave your dwelling whenever you darn well like. You can walk to the park. Run to the river. Bike to some cute little patisserie three towns away. You can do all those things—right in broad daylight! Problem is, you won’t. When you work at home, you get distracted by needing to earn a living, by striving to “exceed clients’ expectations” or whatever your LinkedIn profile says. This means you have to build a trick eject button into your chair. Try signing up for a half marathon, then print out a “12-week training plan” that fools you into running the complete distance at week 9. Deceptive but motivating! Or commit to carrying in your mail one Bed Bath & Beyond coupon at a time until the neighbors call the cops to report suspicious activity. Desperate times, desperate measures.