It is dangerously easy to slip into bad habits when you feel like you don’t have time for healthy lifestyle changes. More often than I would like to admit, I have found myself working way past bedtime, falling asleep in the middle of a sentence the next day, mindlessly stuffing myself with sandwiches by the computer instead of cooking proper food, building up headaches and neck pains from sitting too still and forgetting to check if there is sun or rain outside my window.
When I catch myself in these situations, I usually feel something has to change. I may, for example, decide it would be a good idea to wake up an hour earlier, run every morning, start meditating and try a new recipe every day – all at once. Far too often, I overcommit when the slots of my daily schedule are already filled.
If you try to climb the stairs to a healthy, stress-free life with too big strides, there is a big risk you will stumble. After a few days, you might start compromising and eventually, you fall back into the same old bad habits. So how do you stay healthy when you feel like you have no time to exercise or cook or rest or sleep?
Firstly, realize that you have to make time for these things. If you keep running blindly up the stairs you will burn out and fall to the bottom over and over again. I didn’t realize how stressed I was until a couple of weeks ago when all I could do one day was sleep. If you want to build a sustainable career as a freelancer, you need to know your limit and make sure not to break it by accepting too much work or squeezing too many tasks into your schedule.
Secondly, remember that it is okay to start small. You don’t have to transform your whole life overnight. There are small things you can do to feel better and gain more energy. Small things that, if you enjoy them, can grow into habits over time. Go for a ten-minute walk or do ten minutes of yoga right now. Set an alarm to go to bed earlier, just for tonight, and make sure you get eight hours of sleep. Take a proper lunch break tomorrow, cook something healthy and tasty and eat it away from your computer, without doing anything else. Just notice and enjoy each colour and texture and taste.
This may all seem obvious, but when stress overwhelms you, it is easy to forget about these basic things, no matter how simple they are. Stress can be blinding, but when you start weaving small acts of self-care into your days, your mind will grow calmer and clearer. Just do it one small step at a time.