Contractors, whether it’s a gym workout or just light exercise, taking care of yourself is as vital as taking care of your business

Running a one-person contractor business comes with a unique set of relentless challenges that test your mental, emotional, and spiritual resilience.

So while the independence and control over your freelance work might be incredibly rewarding, the journey is invariably fraught with obstacles that require a holistic approach to overcome them, time and time again. Assuming, that is, you want to make professional contracting sustainable and supportive of your wellbeing -- even conducive to it.

Are you a sedentary worker?

Interestingly for IT contractors, who typically sit down to do their work, getting around obstacles – in the physical sense – was central to Mental Health Awareness week, which this year had the theme of ‘Movement.’

Here, exclusively for ContractorUK, I’m going to pinpoint four mental health benefits of ‘movement,’ inspired by MHA week, which ran last month.

This quartet is partly why coders should give the cricket a second chance; why programmers should return to the pitch, and why Ruby on Rails specialists should refire the rugby, writes life coach Shwezin Win, founder of Win at Life.

‘We’ve failed when talking and medication wins over exercise and diet’

Before I present the four, be aware that the business world is increasingly speaking out to say that, in 2024-25, regular exercise (and its bedfellow of a balanced diet) is the new talking. The strength of feeling that it’s now a case of ‘in’ with the ‘Reps’ and ‘out’ with the ‘Chats’ is palpable.

Wayne Berry, CEO of the digitally-focussed Elsar Group  took to LinkedIn; just last week: A few weeks back I overheard a gang of well spoken, middle/upper class kids at a fair in Knutsford talking about ‘mental health meds’ -- and how a teacher at school was adding to their stresses. The oldest was probably 13. We’ve failed kids when their ‘go-to’ for life’s issues is talking and medication over exercise and diet.”

Not everyone agreed with his assertions, but Berry, the “Working Class CEO” persisted: I think my point is that unless you’re eating right, exercising, planning and have some idea of where life is going, it’s probably best to not use any labels”.

I agree – insofar as incorporating movement into your daily routine is essential.

Four ways the physical helps the mental  

Regular physical activity offers numerous benefits that can help mitigate the mental, emotional, and spiritual strains of operating a business all by yourself. 

Physical movement can help by:

1. Giving you some mental clarity – Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, enhancing cognitive functions such as memory, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. It can help clear your mind, allowing you to approach challenges with a fresh perspective.

2. Reducing your level of stress – Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural mood-lifters.

My clients can live in a world stuck behind screens, and physical movement on a day-to-day basis can therefore decline. You can easily get overly focused on a piece of work and find you’ve not moved out of your seat for a few hours! However, by making time for some kind of movement -- and regularly, we can significantly reduce stress levels and promote our sense of wellbeing.

3. Providing you with some emotional stability – Engaging in regular exercise can help regulate your emotions and improve your overall mood, not just your blood flow!

Even comparatively less heart-pumping activities like breathing techniques and mindfulness practices can provide a calming effect, helping you stay centered amidst the chaos, potentially helping you keep anxiety at bay.

4. Offering a spiritual grounding – In addition to emotional stability, movement practices that incorporate mindfulness, can also enhance your spiritual wellbeing.

They encourage a deeper connection with yourself, helping you to reconnect and stay aligned with your values and purpose. Something to help us, when we’re on our own to stay grounded in what’s important to us!

Hats, juggling, and jokes

The above four mental health boosters from exercise and movement are hard to ignore if you’re a solo business, where the requirement is to wear many hats, often chained to a desk, often stuck behind a screen. From marketing and sales to customer service and accounting, the constant ‘juggling act’ you’re expected to perform can be mentally exhausting. And no, that’s not me ruling out any IT contractor out there who gets their heartrate up by throwing then catching several objects in the air, all at the same time!

Jokes aside, the demands put on many freelance professionals to continuously learn and adapt to new skills, technologies, and market/client demands, can lead to significant mental fatigue and burnout. There is nothing worse than having a myriad of thoughts running through your head, not knowing where to start -- the problems multiply and procrastination can lead to a build up of anxiety and stress.

As Mental Health Awareness week reminded us all, incorporating even small amounts of movement into your daily routine can make a significant difference. Whether it's a brisk walk, or a full workout at the gym, the key is to find activities that you enjoy and that fit into your schedule. 

‘A healthy mind – and body – are crucial for sustained success’

Another LinkedIn user, Okoye Chinelo, a brand adviser to freelancers, put it perfectly in an online appeal to “Prioritise Self-Care:” 

“You can't pour from an empty cup. I learned this the hard way. As a soft-life advocate, I can categorically tell you that a healthy mind -- and body -- are crucial for sustained success.

So taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your business.

By addressing your wellbeing challenges head-on, and incorporating movement into your daily life, you can create a more balanced and sustainable approach to running your one-person business. Stay active, stay balanced, and keep pushing forward; mentally but physically too. Your wellbeing and your business will both benefit from this holistic approach.

If you would like to know more about life coaching and how working with me will help you thrive personally and professionally as a sole-person business, book your FREE, no obligation call here:

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Written by Shwezin Win

Shwezin Win is a fully qualified and experienced Personal Performance Coach. She has worked for over 20 years in small and major businesses within retail and marketing. She has held senior positions, managed large teams and worked for many years within IT/transformational projects, which is how she has had the experience of working with so many contractors. She set up Win at life to help as many people as possible to thrive rather than survive.

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