My social media detox

I was away last week with no mobile data. I thought I would struggle without a constant influx of emails and access to social media. Yet I felt so much more relaxed.

I checked my emails at specific intervals during the day when I was on WiFi. But otherwise, I didn’t even bother to carry my phone with me. It was so liberating!

I realised how addicted I had become to a constant barrage of emails, tweets, FB posts, Instagram posts and more. Not having those at my fingertips meant I concentrated far more on what was around me, soaking up the atmosphere and taking notice of the stunning surroundings.

Now I’m back home, I’m trying to keep in the same routine. I even turned off my mobile data while I was in a supermarket this morning. And I did my shopping in half the time! I’ve realised that nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait just that little bit longer for a reply, whether it’s an email, direct message or twitter notification. I’ve also realised that no one notices when I’m online or not. If they have something important to tell me, they’ll be in touch.

I can’t see myself going a whole day without any mobile data or WiFi, but certainly I can do this for short bursts at a time. I’m sure this will be beneficial for my mental health if I worry less about what other people are doing with their lives – probably good for my physical health too as I will spend less time hunched over a screen.

So my message is to try it yourself, even if it’s just for an hour at a time. Why not build up gradually until you’re away from social media for half a day or a whole evening? Put your phone in a different room for a while. Turn off notifications. And practise some deep breathing if you start to feel anxious that you have no idea what’s going on. The world won’t end if you step away from it for an hour or so.

Follow my Healthy Freelancing journey on this blog & on Twitter – @HealthFreelance

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Healthy freelancing time

After a setback of nearly three weeks, I’m now in the right place to tackle my freelance working life. This week, I’m looking at exercise, as well as finding healthy snacks.

Regular activity

Every day, I plan to take a 30-minute walk with an audiobook but will be building up slowly this week as I’m still exhausted after the flu. I’m currently listening to Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land. I’m not aiming for 10K steps each day as that may not always be achievable, but I’m hoping to get up to at least 6K every day.

It’s not just about taking a long walk each day though. I need to move around more while I work. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll have seen that I tried out a sit-stand desk for all of one day a couple of weeks ago. The desk itself looked great, but it was too big and heavy to suit my needs. So now I’m looking around for a suitable replacement. I need something that will hold my laptop with a keyboard and mouse below it. It needs to be lightweight enough to sit on our dining table and be moved and stored away at least once a week. I’m not having much luck so far, but I will keep looking.

In the meantime, I’ll be standing up for some of the day. My current set up involves having my laptop on a box on the dining table and my keyboard and mouse on the table in front of it. This isn’t ideal as when I stand none of it is at the right height.

Moving around regularly means I need to get up from my desk every 30 minutes or so. Fortunately my FitBit Blaze does remind me to do 250 steps every hour. I just need to take notice of it, rather than ignore the vibration on my wrist, which is so easy to do, especially when I’m engrossed in work. I figure that if I use this time to go into the kitchen for a drink, I’ll be rehydrating myself too.

Snacking attacks

I like food and could eat all day long. There, I’ve said it. I particularly like chocolate – though I don’t like biscuits and cake very much – and am quite happy with savoury snacks.

Thanks to this flu bug, I’m struggling with terrible sinusitis pain that has affected my teeth. I can’t eat anything that’s too cold, too hot, too sweet or too hard without wincing (or crying out in pain occasionally). Unfortunately I have gone back to eating some chocolate (yes, those pesky bad habits are starting to surface again) and I’m suffering the consequences in terms of tooth pain. So this needs to stop.

Our fridge is fairly empty and the food cupboards are quite bare, as I haven’t been out much to stock up on food. But tomorrow I’m off to buy lots of veggies so that I can fill up on soup for lunch and during the day. Probably carrot, sweet potato, celery, butternut squash combinations, as these will help to keep my sweet tooth at bay. Once I’ve managed to wean myself off the chocolate, I’ll be looking into how to keep my blood sugar in balance.

I would usually snack on nuts or raw carrots but I don’t think my teeth could withstand any of that. So I’m looking for other options. Hummus on its own is one suggestion plus banana, avocado or egg. Anything that’s filling and soft. All ideas welcome.

Back soon with an update! Follow my journey through this blog and also through Twitter – @HealthFreelance

 

 

Setbacks and steps forward

Earlier this week, I received a press release from the University of Leicester. Researchers have found that sitting for long periods means you deposit more fat around your middle and vital organs. This isn’t news to me as I’ve been researching into active working and sit-stand balance for a few months. Plus I know from personal experience that sitting down too much makes you pile on the weight. But it does reinforce to me that my lifestyle needs to change in the long-term as I have genuine worries about my health if my current lifestyle continues.

This should have been the week when I began making substantial changes to my lifestyle. But sadly there’s nothing to report (thanks to Aussie flu), though my eating habits haven’t been too bad (thanks to little appetite) and I can tell from clothes I’ve lost weight – no bad thing. What I haven’t managed to do is move around much. I wish there was an ‘illness’ setting on my FitBit Blaze – so it wouldn’t keep reminding me to do 250 steps in an hour when taking just a few steps leaves me exhausted and dizzy. But I know it has its ‘heart’ in the right place.

It should also have been the beginning of a week-long trial of a sit-stand desk. The company involved saw my tweets and very kindly extended my trial to two weeks. I was (and still am) SO grateful for that!! Sadly the desk did arrive and while it’s very well-made it’s not going to work in my limited office space on my dining table. It’s much heavier than I expected (though lighter than others on the market) and much bulkier too. I couldn’t lift it on my own.

So if anyone reading this can recommend a relatively lightweight and not-too-expensive sit-stand desk (available in the UK), please let me know. It needs to sit on my dining table in the week and then be light enough to remove and store away on a weekend. It is for a laptop, but I use a separate keyboard and mouse.

Spending the last 10 days in bed, or mainly in bed, has certainly got me thinking about my usual daily activity habits. I’ve spent most of my working life sitting at a desk. I barely get up during the day. And when I do, it’s often to head to the fridge or food cupboard.

On the days I do get out for a walk, I love being outside, feeling the fresh air (even if it’s cold) against my skin. I love the freedom of walking – whether it’s in the park or on the road. And now with audiobooks to listen to, the incentive to keep going for ‘a little while longer’ is there. I’m really frustrated that I haven’t been able to get out and about over the last week or so. Looking forward to get back to it next week.

Well that’s all from me for now. Look out for my tweets!

10 Top Tips to ‘Fight the Flu’

My original plan was to start my Healthy Freelancing blog on 4th January 2018. But that has totally backfired as I’ve had a visit from the flu bug fairy.

It’s currently nearly 1 am and my temperature is so high that I can’t sleep. I have a terrible headache too.

So what am I doing?

Blogging of course. Though I won’t publish this until tomorrow when I’m hopefully more coherent and I can check that this blog post makes sense.

My plan for the first week of 2018 had been to eat healthily, take daily exercise and improve my posture when I work. Bit of a problem as I’ve barely eaten anything, haven’t left the house and have had to abandon work for the last two days.

Friends who have recently had flu (and there are so many of them – this appears to be a particularly virulent strain) tell me that it takes at least 10 days to get through this. Well I’m on day 2 or 3 – can’t even remember which – and I’m trying not to panic about my workload.

So instead of a Healthy Freelancing blog post, here’s a ‘Fight the Flu’ one, with some top tips for freelancers.

1. Stay in bed. You’re more likely to sleep/rest if you do. Plus there’s nothing better than a day in bed in your PJs! Keep a bottle of cold water and any medicines by your bed – and a flask containing a hot drink – so you don’t need to get up too often.

2. Get plenty of sleep. (‘If you can’, I sigh jealously, as I’m more likely not to sleep when I’m ill.) Seriously, sleep when you can – day or night. Not always easy when you’re sweating like a pig or your head is throbbing. But always try.

2. Take paracetamol to lower a fever. If you can eat something first, try ibuprofen if paracetamol isn’t working. Don’t overdose on them. Write down when you’ve had your doses to keep track and check how often you should take them.

3. Get plenty of daytime rest, even if you’re not sleeping. Read a book, newspaper or magazine or watch mindless TV when you’re awake. If you love reading but can’t concentrate enough to read, try an audiobook. Preferably one you’ve read or listened to before in case you drift off.

4. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water based. If you have diarrhoea, try Lucozade (recommended to me by a doctor). If you’re vomiting, try watered down orange juice or apple juice as it’s often easier to keep these down than plain water. Warm or hot drinks may help too.

5. Don’t look in a mirror. Most freelancers who work from home dress in slouch-around clothing anyway so PJs won’t be that different. But if you’re ill, you’re likely not to bathe or shower either. My hair currently looks like a bird’s nest. I hid from the window cleaner this morning as I didn’t want him to fall off his ladder in shock. I’ve also smothered myself in deodorant and body spray until I feel well enough for a shower!

6. Don’t work! It’s so hard not to work when you freelance from home. But don’t! My temperature keeps rising when I try to do anything constructive like check emails or look at social media. Or write blog posts! Oops! If you can avoid it for a few days, do so. Email your clients to tell them you need to extend a deadline, if necessary. Better to recovery fully and then do the job well than battle through a haze of flu and do half a job – or no job at all.

7. Only eat if you feel like it. Though if you’re taking ibuprofen, you’ll need something to eat. Have simple snacks like crackers or a banana. Or some soup (chicken soup – ‘Jewish penicillin’, for example). If you have a dodgy tummy, try some plain rice.

8. If you’re congested, try an inhalant like Vicks. Yes it stinks, but I find that it often does the job. Some people say it also works if you smear Vicks on the soles of your feet when you go to bed. Anyone tried it? I haven’t yet. You can buy decongestant nose sprays from a pharmacy though they’re not suitable for everyone. Don’t use these for longer than one week or you’ll get ‘rebound’ congestion after you stop using them. You can buy decongestant tablets or capsules too but if you have any medical conditions check with a pharmacist first.

9. All-in-one medicines are a great way to dose yourself up in one go. But remember to check the ingredients so you don’t overdose on anything, especially paracetamol or ibuprofen. I like the hot drink versions. You could also try a hot toddy – for medicinal reasons of course…

10. Don’t ask your GP for antibiotics. Assuming you have flu, antibiotics won’t work for a viral infection. BUT if your symptoms keep getting worse, you’re wheezing or struggling to breathe, you have bad chest pain or your fever is very high and won’t go down with paracetamol or ibuprofen, call your doctor’s surgery for advice.

So those are my 10 top tips on fighting flu. I’m sure there are more but my brain is a bit fuzzy at present. Apologies this isn’t a post about my journey to healthy freelancing, as promised. Although I guess flu or even a bad cold can strike any of us at any time and the aim of this blog is to write a genuine account of my journey. If you have any more tips on fighting flu, please let me know on here or on Twitter.

Hoping to get into a healthy freelancing routine next week. Watch this space. I’ll be back!

On my way

Officially I’m not starting my journey to ‘Healthy Freelancing’ until Thursday. But until then, I’m planning my approach and taking some initial steps, mainly to get myself into the right mindset.

I haven’t called this blog post ‘New Year, New Me’ as it sounds far too corny.

My life won’t change drastically just because I get healthier and fitter. I won’t be a different person. Yes, I hope to be thinner, have more energy and fewer aches and pains, wear clothes in my wardrobe that haven’t fit for years and feel more confident in public. But I’ll still be me inside. The same slightly anxious, not-always-confident person, just with a more comfortable exterior (and hopefully healthier interior) – back to the person I was several years ago.

It’s hard to get into a routine after two weeks away from one, with no work, kids off school, husband off work… That’s one reason why I decided to make Thursday my official day for lifestyle changes as by then my daily routine will be easier to manage.

BUT I have already made a conscious decision to improve my eating habits and go for a daily walk from today. I took my initial step by setting up this blog and the associated Twitter account a few weeks ago – writing this blog post as 2018 begins proves to me that I haven’t forgotten my task and I still intend to stick with it.

So that’s my first hurdle (or two) overcome. 

Today I received an email from the MyFitnessPal app, with the image below:

I’m hoping that some of these little steps will help to change my lifestyle for the better, even if I don’t incorporate all of them into my regular routine. Even as I’m typing this my FitBit is telling me I have to do another 150 steps this hour to reach the minimum 250. So I’m now going to stand up and have a walk around the room. I’m particularly looking forward to my week-long sit-stand desk trial that’s starting soon.

I won’t be blogging daily, but hope to blog at least once a week. Plus I’ll be on Twitter when I have the time. Follow my journey… and keep in touch!

 

New beginnings

It has been a little while since I wrote a blog post on here. Real life got in the way – work… family… basic survival needs… the usual.

But I haven’t been idle.

From January 2018, I’ll be making some changes to my lifestyle. I’ll be exploring and trying different ways to become a healthier and fitter full-time freelancer working from home.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing some research and making plans.

So what progress have I made?

  1. I’ve created a list of healthy snacks and healthy lunches.
  2. I’ve started going for walk listening to an audiobook – one I can’t put down (Sweetpea by SJ Skuse, in case you wondered). This isn’t daily yet, but that’s mainly because of the weather. My FitBit reminds me when I need to take more steps, which is helping me move around more.
  3. I’ve arranged to trial a sit-stand desk in January – so I’ll blog more about that in the new year – but I have been trying a sit-stand working routine anyway and I like it so far.
  4. I’m finding better ways to deal with stress, other than grabbing the nearest item of unhealthy food – watching some TV, reading, mindfulness, general fun and going for a walk.
  5. I’m organising the household – getting on top of washing, ironing and other chores, which helps to create a more relaxing work environment.
  6. I’m taking better control of existing health problems, whether this is through self-help measures or suitable medicines.
  7. I’m working on better sleep though I still have a long way to go on that.
  8. I’m organising my day into achievable chunks with ‘to do’ lists, reminders in my diary to eat, drink, move, unwind, stretch… I think this can be hard when you work from home and don’t have the routine of an office and other people around you.
  9. I’m taking on new challenges and looking forward to the future. I’ve gone back to a huge project I’m working on – to fulfil a childhood dream. Maybe more about that one day too.
  10. I’m setting realistic goals. I figure I’m more likely to achieve them that way.

See you in 2018!

Follow my journey on here and on Twitter – @HealthFreelance 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Active working

Research shows that office workers sit for around 10 hours every day. This may well include home office workers too.

I know that I can certainly sit at my desk for several hours in one shift if I’m engrossed in my work or have a deadline. I’m sure that working alone makes the situation worse as there’s often no reason for me to get up and move.

There’s no one to remind me that it’s time for a coffee break or lunch. I don’t need to wander over to a photocopier or pop over to someone at a nearby desk or in the office next door. Often the only time I do get up and stop working is when my children come home from school – and even then it’s not unusual for me to plant myself at my desk again for another hour or two afterwards.

If you’re someone who sits at their desk all day and lives in Britain, here’s a date for your diary:

Friday 27th April 2018

‘Why this date?’ I hear you ask.

Well, there’s growing evidence that too much sitting can affect your physical and emotional health, increasing your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, circulatory problems, backache, joint pain and depression.

27th April 2018 is the date of the On Your Feet Britain Challenge, encouraging everyone to convert more ‘sitting time’ to ‘standing time’.

Set yourself a challenge: see how much sitting time you can lose each day.

If you’re interested in taking part, here are some tips from On Your Feet Britain:

  • Stand during phone calls
  • Stand and take a break from your computer every 30 minutes
  • Use the stairs
  • Have standing or walking meetings
  • Eat your lunch away from your desk
  • Walk to your colleague’s desk instead of phoning or emailing them
  • Stand at the back of the room during presentations.

These tips are aimed at people who work in an office, so they don’t all apply to me. I’ve added some extras for people who work from home.

  • Don’t keep your phone on your desk – leave it at the opposite end of the room or even in a different room
  • Use the stairs – even if you don’t need to go upstairs during your working day, do it anyway (assuming you have an upstairs, of course)
  • Go for a walk – take your work with you, even if it’s just thinking time. Sometimes the best ideas happen when you get away from your desk. Grab a notebook and pen to jot down ideas as you go. Maybe there’s a work-related podcast you can listen to, or just use this as relaxation time – listen to an audiobook or music
  • Eat your lunch away from your desk – pop into the kitchen and make some lunch (but don’t take it to your desk) or walk up to your nearest shops to buy it. In the summer, take your lunch into your garden or to your nearest park to get some fresh air
  • You probably won’t have any colleagues working with you at home – but assuming you have more than one room, use each room for a different aspect of your work. Make and take phone calls in one room, or corner of the room (see above). Leave your computer or laptop in another. Put your mobile phone somewhere else. Then you’ll have reasons to get onto your feet at regular intervals
  • Stand up for some of your work day if you can, or buy a sit-stand desk (more on this soon in another blog post)
  • Set ‘stand up’ reminders on your phone, tablet and computer to make sure you’re not sitting down all day
For more information about the On Your Feet Britain Challenge, or to sigh up, visit http://onyourfeetday.com and follow @getGBstanding on Twitter.
Follow my journey as I get fitter & healthier working from home. Begins in January 2018. Follow this blog and find me on Twitter – @HealthFreelance

10 Tips on Sticking with New Year Resolutions

Over the next few weeks, many of us will be writing a list of plans for 2018: our New Year resolutions. The changes we want to make to improve our lifestyles and achieve our hopes and dreams, helping ourselves and maybe others too along the way.

Should we choose ultimate challenges?

Things that are currently so far out of reach that we have to really push ourselves to achieve them.

Should we choose things just out of reach so we can push ourselves a little bit further in 2018 than in 2017?

Things we can achieve as long as we stay focused.

Or should we choose things well within in our reach but not yet tackled?

Things we know we can achieve to give us a boost but are different from our current ‘norm’.

The choices are endless.

Little things or big things? Old things or new ones? Personal achievements or those that may benefit the wider world?

Decisions, decisions…

A mixture of all of the above is probably best. Things we can action easily and see where they’ll lead, as well as targets to aim for.

Long-term approach

Even once we’ve made these decisions, our journey is only just beginning though. We’ll need to keep on track, dealing with setbacks and staying in focus.

So how can you stick with your New Year resolutions for longer?

1. Decide in advance – don’t wait until the evening of December 31st to make a decision about your New Year resolution(s).

2. Ideally make just one resolution, so you can focus all your energy on that, rather than overstretching yourself. Though this often isn’t possible.

3. Write down your resolution (or resolutions) and keep this visible on your phone. Or use it as a screensaver on your computer.

4. Set a date to begin. Make it work for you. January 1st may not be the best day for you – January 4th may be better. But whichever date you choose, stick with it.

5. Prepare in advance. If you’re giving up smoking, remove all ashtrays, cigarettes and lighters from your home. If you’re losing weight, replace the unhealthy food with healthier choices. Think about your resolution and how you can break it into smaller achievable goals, one step at a time. Research shows that breaking down our resolutions into smaller targets can help us stick with them.

6. Stick Post-It notes around your home – on mirrors, doors, the fridge, anywhere that will act as a constant reminder – with motivational words or phrases.

7. Send yourself calendar reminders – daily, weekly and/or monthly – and maybe even write a diary to track your progress. Make a note of all steps forward, as well as steps backwards.

8. Tell family and close friends about your plans. They may provide extra support and give you a helping hand.

9. Reward yourself along the way. Give yourself a treat to aim for – new clothes, an evening out, a holiday etc. But also little treats for every little achievement.

10. Don’t give up at the first setback. Get back up again, working out where you went wrong and what you can do to fix it. Persist for long enough and you’ll get there in the end.

My own choices

I’ve made three New Year resolutions for 2018. All are achievable if I stick with them and stay in focus. They are all very different and are personal achievements that I’ve been dreaming about for years. I’ve told no one what they are. Not because I worry I’ll fail, but because I need to do this on my own – for now.

Follow my journey, and you’ll see how well I get on with my main New Year resolution – becoming a fitter and healthier freelancer.

Who am I?

If you’re new to this blog (and admittedly it’s a new blog so it’s likely you are), you’ll possibly be wondering who I am in the real world. I don’t have a name on this blog or the Twitter account attached to it, or a photo.

Why not?

I haven’t started this blog just to build up followers on WordPress or Twitter (though both would be nice and hopefully I will). I have started it for me.

I already have a fairly big following on Twitter elsewhere, talking about things other than freelancing, working from home and health. I haven’t told them about this blog or Twitter account. I haven’t told my family, friends or work colleagues either.

It doesn’t matter who I am at present – just what I’m trying to achieve. I’m not famous (or infamous). I’m a relative nobody. Just a journalist trying to make a living – one who needs to sort out her health and fitness levels before it’s too late and she ends up ill or worse.

I want to be honest in this blog. I don’t want to worry that people reading it will judge me  because they know me in the real world. Maybe some time in the near or distant future, I’ll put more details on here or associate the real me with this account. But not yet.

Honesty first

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m overweight, unfit and generally unhealthy. I’ve been working from home for over 20 years. My health and weight have fluctuated up and down in that time – currently downwards. As a journalist, I thrive on deadlines and I need constant challenges. So by writing this blog and putting everything down on virtual paper, I figure this is the first step to providing both.

I will be setting challenges. There will be setbacks. There will be times when I wish I hadn’t made this commitment to myself.

But this is the only way that I’m going to stick with a change in lifestyle. I have set myself a target and a major challenge – which I can’t reveal just yet. If I don’t succeed in getting healthier and fitter and losing weight, then the challenge becomes meaningless.

So I’m here to stay.

Follow my journey from January 2018. That’s my first milestone deadline, with not long to go. I’m getting ready physically and emotionally to take these steps forward, assessing my diet, exercise habits, posture, stress levels etc.

I’ll be looking at some of the medical evidence behind different approaches, trying out new things and telling everyone about it on this blog and via Twitter.

Watch this space!

Follow my blog if you want regular updates. Find me on Twitter too. And please do come back and visit me soon!

Walking incentives

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. Not only does it aid weight loss, but it can also reduce your risk of various health conditions (such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers) and boost your mood. Recent research at Harvard University found that taking one brisk walk every day can add several years to a person’s life expectancy.

The Department of Health recommends that adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of vigorous) physical activity every week. But sadly, most people don’t achieve this, and I’m one of them. So from January, I’ll be giving myself an incentive to go on a 30-minute walk every working day.

At the moment, I go for a 20 to 30 minute walk on some days. But I often have to push myself to get out of the house. I either listen to music on my phone or read my Kindle while I walk – yes, I know that may seem a little odd but I do love a great book and I haven’t fallen over yet.

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I often go for an aimless walk (often following the same route) or I’ll head up to the nearest shops. But the problem is that eventually I get bored and go home, which means my step count for the day doesn’t get that high – usually just over 5000 steps.

I went into central London last week and my overall step count for the day was over 14,000 steps. This is because I wasn’t working and was just walking, heading to a particular destination rather than going by bus or train.

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I’ve always said working, being chained to my desk all day, is bad for my health and fitness levels.

So… how can I encourage myself to walk for longer?

Well, audiobooks are my plan.

I love reading, as I’ve already mentioned. I devour books – mainly crime/thrillers. If you need recommendations, I’m the person to come to. But although I do take my Kindle out for a walk on some days, this isn’t possible if it rains and it also slows down my walking pace. So I figure that rather than listening to music on my phone, which I do on occasion, I should try listening to audiobooks.

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I’m talking about the audiobook equivalent of a book I can’t put down. A crime/thriller with a fast pace, fascinating premise, characters I believe in… if you’re a reader too, then you’ll know what I mean. If you’re not a reader, I can recommend you try it. Recent brilliant crime reads for me have been Rattle by Fiona Cummins, Perfect Remains by Helen Fields, They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen and Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb.

But sorry, that’s going off on a tangent! I’m talking about walking here, not books!

I figure that if I’m listening to a brilliant audiobook (and I’ve already had some great recommendations) then I won’t want to stop walking. The equivalent of ‘just one more chapter’. I’ve also listened to podcasts on my walks and that works well too. If I don’t want to stop listening, I’ll be desperate to get back to walking the next day.

I’ll let you know how I get on. I haven’t yet decided which book to listen to first. My plan is to start this in January.

Let’s hope it doesn’t snow!!