The workplace wellness market is worth a whopping $41 billion.

With no boss in sight, corporate wellness is an employment perk that freelancers give up when they go solo.

Freelancers are time management ninjas — doing everything from marketing, finance and everything besides. As a business writing consultant, one thing that fell by the wayside was paying attention to my well-being.

What’s the skinny on wellness?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines wellness as “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal.”

Calling in sick and getting a colleague to cover me was off the cards, so adding wellness to my other freelancing goals made perfect sense.

Here are three small tweaks that you can make as part of your solo wellness plan.

1. Kick-off the day right

A typical morning involved reaching for my phone as soon I woke up. Not only was I doing my eyesight no favors, but fanatical email-checking was like scoring an own goal. If there was no news from a potential client, I became worried. On the other hand, the green light on a project put me into overdrive, thinking about how best to tackle it. Either way, my anxiety shot through the roof.

Get some ‘me-me’ (meditation and memory) time

Diving into social media, emails and other messages first thing throws you head first into the wants and needs of others, even before you get your bearings. Take control of the start of your day with some ‘me-me’ time:

Meditation — People have different ways of meditating. My version is to read a non-business inspirational book and focus on that alone. All thoughts of anything work-related are completely shut out.

Memory — I took a leaf out of Oprah’s gratitude journal concept. It turns out that remembering things you’re grateful for does set you up for a more productive day.

Starting off the day with ‘me-me’ time gives clarity. It feels like the day is beginning on a blank page. In contrast, frantically waking up to information overload felt like I was starting on paper that was already full and my day was jumbled from the get-go.

2. Workout while working

It can be tough for freelancers to get off the treadmill of managing a solo business. Putting exercise on the back-burner is easy, especially when the mere thought of going to a gym breaks you out in a cold sweat. The gym isn’t necessary though, as everyday activities, like gardening, can get your heart racing.

When my regular clothes started feeling a bit too snug, I decided to get on the move. I tried to fool myself for a while by saying that “the dryer shrank my trousers again,” but there was no denying that working all day with no exercise was piling on the pounds — fast.

When I’m snowed under with work, there’s no time for marathon exercise sessions. I stick to activities that will interrupt my day as little as possible, but still produce kick-ass results:

Keep it short and sweat — The experts reckon that short bursts of exercise are just as effective as longer sessions. Enter high intensity interval training (HIIT). In simple terms, interval training is where you go all out for a set time, followed by low intensity or rest periods.

These sessions can last anywhere from four to 15 minutes. Don’t be fooled by the length. What they lack in brevity is more than made up for in brutality. Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a doctor, so please consult one before you start any exercise.

The sitting cycle — Apparently, sitting is the new smoking. I haven’t tried a standing desk, but I found something that keeps me active when spending long hours at my desk. An under desk bike makes sure that fingers tapping the keyboard aren’t the only things moving. ‘Bike riding’ at your desk can cancel out some of the harmful effects of sitting for long periods.

The short exercise routine and under desk biking get those endorphins flowing without being a time suck (and have definitely knocked a good few inches off my waist).

3. Don’t skimp on sleep

The saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is old hat. We’re now realizing that skimping on sleep can lead to all sorts of complications that can speed-up the road to the grave.

The temptation to sacrifice sleep to slice through my to-do list was always looming. I’d give in and wake up at around 3 a.m. to get a head start on the day. Even the best intentions to get back to bed would disappear as, before I knew it, clients would start calling.

There’s only so much coffee I could down to delay the dreaded afternoon crash. Grabbing 40 winks at lunchtime wasn’t enough to make up for my empty tank of sleep. I then spent the afternoon feeling shattered, making it impossible to concentrate.

A simple change helped me to get better sleep (and ditch the caffeine overload):

Reduce blue light — I try hard to switch off electronic devices at least two hours before bed. For the times that I really need to work near bedtime, f.lux comes in handy. This free app cuts down on blue light by adapting the color of your screen to the time of day. Research shows that blue light interrupts our circadian rhythm and sleep. After I learnt about blue light, I took it to the extreme and declared all-out war on all artificial light in my bedroom. I said goodbye to those dreaded midday slumps, was able to get more work done as I was full of beans (not the coffee type).

Freelancers need to be experts in their field and able to keep everything else ticking over. It’s easy to see how looking after your health can take a backseat, but small hacks can give you a huge dose of wellness to keep you healthy and more productive (no boss required).

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  • Karan Johnson

    Content & Productivity Consultant.

    Karan Johnson is a content and productivity consultant on a mission to save businesses money and readers the headache associated with bad writing. An ex-Lead Project Management Officer, who partnered with companies such as Microsoft and Virgin, she has experience in providing clear and simple writing for businesses of any size. Karan has a firm belief that a healthy and happy consultant translates to awesome work and satisfied clients. So, she spends her spare time helping other consultants and freelancers stay healthy.