How to stay fit for work

The prospect of the long winter months stretching out ahead is enough to sap anyone’s energy  and enthusiasm for life.

When you’ve just turned self employed and you are in the process of trying to gear yourself up to not just work, but get work in the first place, it’s even harder.

I’m a freelance journalist and mum of two. My daughters are 8 (nearly 9) and 4. Somehow over the last few years I managed to have carved a career for myself as not just a reporter but as an editor too.

Going back to work after having babies wasn’t too much of a shock because I’d never taken any maternity leave. That’s not a boast by the way, it was the nature of my journalism work at the time.

Two years ago, when my youngest was two, I got ill with pleurisy. I thought it was an old person’s disease. Although I was only unwell for a couple of weeks because I could barely move with the pain, I was forced to evaluate my life and look carefully at how I managed my work-life balance.

How I have learned to stay work-fit


1) Have some time out

Spending a few hours doing something that does not involve thinking about work, or children, or housework or bills, or even tax bill can make all the difference.

Sitting in the steam room after a spin class (or even just sans exercise), taking a walk in the park, seeing a film, putting on DVD, getting on the bus, having a massage… whatever it is, I find I can look at things in a more dispassionate way if I take time out.

2) Get out and about

Some call it networking, I just call it socialising. I live in a journalist’s bubble. Although I teach part time as well, my colleagues are all hacks and so are all my virtual freelance buddies and all the people I write for.

While it’s good for creativity it can get emotional for me. I found meeting some other professional women, with different careers and different perspectives really invigorating and refreshing. And also helped me think about my work for a more businesswoman point of view.

3) Give myself a pep talk

I’m known for chatting to myself (actually I tell everyone I’m having a conversation with my 21-month old, but I still get strange looks!).

I’ve used my ‘madness’ to interview myself, for example pretending to be an editor who is looking at my pitch or a student who is wanting to know more about SEO. You have to do in in private though.

You also need to take good care of yourself

When you are a working mum you need to learn to prioritise yourself and take proper care of yourself – otherwise you’ll collapse in a weeping heap and be no use to anyone eventually. (Note: taking of yourself is not about watching calories!)

Again, here are a few things that work for me.

  • Drink up – being dehydrated can really sap your energy and if like me you are working full time and breastfeeding, that extra H2O can make a difference to your mood.
  • Get your vits – the jury is out, but I found my post pregnancy multivitamins made a serious difference. My hair and nails and skin seemed to have toughed out winter so far.
  • The hard stuff – drinking too much coffee sends me crazy. The odd cup can be a welcome boost but too much can make me jittery and even over emotional.
  • And harder… – I don’t drink regularly, but the odd glass of red wine (normally on a Tuesday when watching Holby City) can be a nice pleasure, limit your drinking to one or two nights a week. If you need an incentive, in the last few years my skin has hardly aged (and I reckon it’s down to drinking so little booze). I do still have the odd binge when I have more than one glass – but my last one was Boxing Day at a relative’s house!
  • Exercise – watching calories is ageing, exercising is not. If you don’t have time to go to the gym try Jillian Michaels’ yoga inferno, I’m a convert to this stretch-and aerobic workout. Tough training is in!

I love my job but find it tough as a mum

I love my job(s) but I find the dark winter months can really sap my normal work mojo – which has taken a battering this winter.

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