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6 self-care tips for VAs

Working remotely has some very cool benefits: you’re free to decide when, where, and how to work. As a Virtual Assistant (VA) you have deadlines to fulfill and clients to keep happy, there’s no boss looking over your shoulder, dictating when you take lunch. And Chatty Cathy from the next cubicle isn’t interrupting you every 10 minutes.   

But there are also aspects of remote work that can snowball into drawbacks or serious issues if they’re not managed well.

So, how do you prevent this from happening, and keep your mental and physical health in tip-top shape so you can be your best, most creative, motivated self, for you and for your clients? We have some tips for you that span the areas of both mental and physical health.  


Mental self-care  

We’re covering mental self-care first because our mental and physical health are very much linked. As knowledge workers, we depend on our minds to be sharp and work for us. But we have to take care of our minds! Here’s how we can do that:  


Avoid burnout by taking time to recharge
When you routinely put in 16 and 17-hour days, you’re going to feel exhausted (and this shouldn’t be happening anyway, since studies show working beyond 40 hours a week means you’ll be less productive and effective, both short-term and long-term). While you love your work and there’s always more to do, not taking mandatory downtime will eventually catch up with you. You’ll start to feel sluggish, fatigued and maybe even depressed. That’s why you should schedule your working hours according to when you work best, and make sure you take time off.   

We’ve covered this in a previous blog post about how to counteract exhaustion, but it bears repeating: you need relaxation, social and fun time. Taking it helps you manage stress, replenish your creative juices and keep your mental game strong. Schedule this time in at different times of the day, and don’t double up with work (like watching educational videos, reading client briefs or scheduling meetings). Completely unplug and find an activity you enjoy doing (Ashley loves playing the guitar!)  


Managing energy vs. managing time

While doing research for this post, we came across this article from Fast Company about best practice tips for successfully working remotely. One of the tips is to manage your energy, not your time. The rationale in the article is that because time is a finite resource but energy can be created, you should focus on finding a way to produce more effective energy to fuel your work.   The answer is to establish simple rituals that give you energy. The author advocates making time for exercise and meditation in increments throughout the day, and we agree this method may work best for some because it’s not as daunting to find a few minutes every few hours to exercise, as opposed to dedicating the recommended 45 minutes in one block, every day.  

Read the article for specific details.    


Avoid isolation by interacting with others

Humans are social beings. We need regular, meaningful interaction with others to remain motivated, inspired and emotionally & mentally healthy. Even if we’ve got a full workday (or week!), we each build this into our routines by checking in with our teams and clients regularly. Joining a coworking space is also a great way to meet other professionals who can empathize with what you’re going through (and who may become future clients or partners). And don’t forget to find networking opportunities in your community.    


Physical self-care  

Just like our minds, our bodies need fuel, nutrients and a safe, comfortable office in which we can be our most creative and do our best work. From setting up an ergonomic workstation to getting the right nutrition and exercise, there are measures we can take to ensure our optimal physical health.  


Set up your workstation to be ergonomically friendly

If you log 35 to 40 hours a week (or even more) in your office, you’ll want to ensure you have the right equipment to help you get the job done. One of the most important items in your office is the chair you’ll be spending most of those hours in. The Mayo Clinic says you should choose a height-adjustable swivel chair that offers lumbar support, ensure your keyboard is adequately placed, and keep key objects close to prevent unnecessary reaching.

Read more tips here.    


Eat well and exercise regularly  

When you’re crushing a project deadline and burning the candle at both ends, you can sometimes begin to feel that taking time to cook a homemade meal or exercise is actually wasting time, but it’s not. To be our most productive selves, you need a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.   

That doesn’t have to mean eating kale and heading to the gym at 5 a.m. every day (or maybe, for you it does and that’s completely okay!), but it does mean making healthy choices and opting for a jog or walk through the park over watching another show on Netflix. Maybe it means enjoying fruit or high-energy, high protein food instead of chips for your afternoon snack. Setting a healthy routine will help, and you can even hire a nutritionist or consult other experienced professionals, as this remote worker did.    


Practice excellent sleep hygiene

A quick Google search reveals different opinions and studies about how much sleep we should get, and you may need more or less sleep than the 7 to 8 hours per night most people seem to average. But the importance of sleep to our mental and physical health can’t be overstated, so it’s important to get the right amount for you and diligently practice good sleep hygiene.   

That means using your bed exclusively for sleeping (not Netflix marathons and late night snacking), relaxing before bed with a book or other non-electronic form of entertainment (as light from your monitors and televisions is actually stimulating and will keep you awake), and avoiding naps, caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime. Find these tips in more in this article at heretohelp.bc.ca.


Now it’s your turn! What are your best tips for self-care? Have any ideas on quick, inexpensive ways to reward yourself for those important wins and accomplishments? What’s your self-care routine?   

Share with us in the comments!

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