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Are you getting enough activity?

In episode 105 of the podcast Coping With Isolation When Working From Home, I discussed how isolation is a significant concern for anyone running a home-based design business. Spending day after day with minimal contact with other people can take its toll on someone. In that episode, I gave recommendations for overcoming that feeling of isolation. One of those recommendations was having a pet.

Having a pet in the house can be very therapeutic. Petting a dog or is proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Dogs are great listeners. When you talk to them, they give you their undivided attention. And best of all, it’s without judgement.

For the past 17 years, we’ve had at least one dog in the house. For several years we had three, and then two, and for the past three years, just one, Whisper, our Shetland Sheepdog. This past Saturday, we had to put Whisper down. So for the first time in 17 years, we don’t have a dog in the house.

I’m not telling you this to gain your sympathy. However, your thoughts and well wishes are appreciated. I’m telling you this because it’s essential to what I want to talk about today. I’ve been running my design business full-time from home for over 15 years. Meaning this is the first time I’m working without a canine companion by my side.

I’m recording this on Friday. It’s been six days without a dog; five of them have been workdays. And already, I notice how it’s affecting me.

I’m not talking about feeling sad that Whisper is gone. I mean, yes, I’m sad. But that’s not the effect to which I’m referring. I’m talking about my work habits and how things have changed in just a few short days.

For those of you who are not pet owners, let me paint a picture for you of a day in the life of a dog dad. Or at least the way it was for me.

Every morning after my wife left for work; I would feed the Whisper. She would get all excited as I prepared her dish and then gobble up all the kibble once I put it down. Then I would go about my morning routine to get ready for my day. Once done, and enough time had passed, I put the dog out. Sometimes I would go outside with her, and sometimes not.

I would use this time with our previous dogs to take them for a walk around the block. But Whisper had medical issues that prevented her from walking for long distances. She was content to mosey around the backyard at her own pace. When she was ready to come in, she would bark. At that point, it was time for me to get to work.

Sometimes, later in the morning, she would bark to go outside again. I’d get up from my computer, walk to the back door and put her out before returning to work, keeping an ear out for when she barks to come back in.

At lunchtime, after eating my meal, I would often go outside with her to walk around. Shetland Sheepdogs are herding dogs, so I would walk around the backyard or sometimes around the house in random patterns, and Whisper would slowly follow me. I would do this for half an hour or so before coming back inside to work.

Then, sometime around 3 pm, which was doggie snack time, Whisper would let me know she wanted a treat. I’d get up from my computer, go to the kitchen and select one of the many varieties of goodies we had for her. I’d make her do some small trick to earn the reward, give her the treat, and then put her out again. Once she was back inside, I was pretty good for the rest of the day until my wife got home.

That was pretty well my daily routine.

But this past week, without Whisper to take care of, things changed a lot. After my wife left in the morning, I got ready and immediately got to work. I sat at my computer until 12 to 12:30, when I finally got up to eat. I spent maybe 15-20 minutes preparing and consuming my lunch before going straight back to work until my wife came home. This was my new routine every day this week. In fact, except for a quick appointment on Tuesday, where I was back home within the hour. I have not stepped foot outside my house this week.

I know that many designers are introverts, myself included. And you may think the idea of not going out sounds great. But it’s not sustainable. At least not if you want to remain healthy.

On Wednesday, when my wife got home, she commented on what a beautiful day it was. I hadn’t realized it. I don’t even know if I looked out the window throughout the day.

Now I don’t know if this is because of the extra workload I currently have. I’ve taken on several new projects this month, and it’s caused me to fall a bit behind on my design work. And this past week has been exceedingly hectic. I’m hoping that’s all it is because I’m already seeing the effects after just one week.

I’ve been trying to lose weight. My blood pressure is a bit elevated, and I’m hoping that losing some weight will help get it back under control. And yet, when I weighed myself this morning, I was 3.25 KG or just over 7 lbs heavier than I was at this time last week. So not only did I gain weight this week. But I gained more this past week than I have any other week over the past year.

I know my eating habits haven’t changed. If anything, I ate less this past week because I wasn’t grabbing snacks throughout the day whenever I got up from my computer. But my activity level sure has gone down. It wasn’t like I was doing heavy cardio before. But no longer getting up from my computer a few times a day or spending 30 minutes walking around the yard with Whisper shows its effect. And I need to change things and change them fast.

Yes, we will eventually get a new dog. But until then, I’m going to have to consciously make an effort to get up and move throughout the day.

Maybe it’s paying closer attention to my Apple Watch will help. It reminds me every so often to stand up. But I long ago conditioned myself to ignore that prompt. I know I can turn it off in the settings if I don’t want to see it, but that defeats the good intentions even if I don’t follow through.

But I have to do something. If I don’t, I’m afraid the time and effort I’ve put into losing the weight I have so far will have been for naught. This adds one more reason for me to look forward to our next dog.

But this isn’t just about me. You may be in a similar situation.

If you’re lucky, you have a dog to remind you to get up and move from time to time. But if not. What are you doing to motivate yourself to do so?

There are many ways isolation can take a toll on you both physically and mentally. I talked about them back in episode 105. But until this past week, I had never experienced this sedentary lifestyle. At least not to this extent. And there’s a danger in that.

As home-based designers, we need to take responsibility for our health and well-being. And that includes a certain amount of activity during your day.

Seeing that jump on the scale this morning emphasized this problem for me. It’s only been a week. What if I had waited a month before weighing myself? How bad would the damage have been then?

Is it possible that the scale would have gone up even if I was still following my routine of taking care of Whisper? Sure, it’s possible. But I’m not too fond of the coincidence.

You need to sacrifice a lot of yourself if you want to run a successful design business. There’s your time, of course. There are also your relationships with family and friends that may suffer to an extent. Your sanity may take a toll, depending on the clients you work with, and so on. But that investment in your business shouldn’t come at the cost of your health.

I didn’t realize how the little bit of activity I did each day could add up. Or the effects of eliminating that activity would have on me. And I’m glad it only took me a week to realize it. Now that I know. I can remedy it. As soon as I finish this, I plan on going for a walk around the block. It looks like a nice day outside, so I might as well take advantage of it.

But what are you doing to help yourself? How many hours do you spend at your computer or workstation without getting up? What can you do to increase your daily activity level?

It doesn’t take much, you know. So make an effort. Whatever you’re doing now, try to do more tomorrow, the next day and so on. Because the healthier you are, the longer you’ll be around to run your design business. So it will pay off in more ways than one.

I don’t have the one true answer to this question. I wish I did. Every person, including you, has to find their solution to this problem. But it should be searching for something.

And if you do have a solution that works for you, please share it with me. Let me know how do you remind yourself to stay active, especially during the workday. Please send me a message.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

 

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