The Independent Contractor Body Shop

Do these quick check-ins with your body to make sure you’re also slaying self-care. Plus, quick fixes for aches, tension, and stress

Being a sole proprietor means you’re your own head honcho. You’re in charge of managing all the moving parts of how you earn your income. That can be incredibly rewarding at times, but it can also mean long hours and occasional bursts of stress and anxiety. Even if you thrive on those intense days of focus or long shifts, they can still take a toll on your body in the form of pain and stiffness. We’ve put together a checklist so you can stay on top of the spots where trouble tends to show up.

Hip flexors fix-up

The hip flexors are a group of muscles near the top of your thighs that connect your legs to your torso. They allow you to lift your knee or bend at your waist, but they can also create trouble.

The hip flexor is known as our “fight-or-flight” muscle. That’s because the body naturally contracts this muscle in a moment of stress. Think about it. If a zombie suddenly chased you, you’d engage your hip flexor to run away from it. Likewise, if you were in the midst of a monster project and the deadline was nearing, you might also engage that muscle without even realizing it. Plus, any time you’re sitting, you are putting those muscles in a shortened position. This happens whether you’re driving your car or working at your desk.

With all of this havoc wreaked on your hip flexors, you can see how these muscles might become tight or tense. Tight hip flexors can lead to several issues in the body, like low-back, glute, hip, or leg pain. If you suspect you’ve got tight hip flexors, try these stretches. If you’re sitting for long periods throughout the day or working through a period of intense focus, be sure to take breaks to move around and to incorporate a quick stretch to release the muscles.

Shoulder shake-down

When we’re busy working, we often forget about our shoulders. And before we realize it, they’re tense and tight from rounding forward or hitching nearly to our ears. Luckily, the shoulders are and easy part of the body to stretch. You don’t even have to leave your seat.

First, do a simple check-in. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears and then let them drop. If you didn’t have to shrug very far to get them up, you’re likely carrying some stress in your upper body, and you may need a break. If you don’t have time to step away from your work, hang your arms to either side. Then, without lifting either shoulder, gently lean one ear down toward the shoulder on the same side. You’ll feel a stretch along your opposite shoulder and into the neck. Switch your head to the opposite side when ready. Finally, with your head back at center, draw your shoulders down away from the ears, and actively squeeze your blades together. This move will counteract any rounding forward. A pair of cork yoga blocks can offer a big relief for when you do have time for a break. Try these moves.

Respiration repair

How’s your breathing? If it’s short and fast, you might need a quick fix. Most of the time, we just breathe without thinking about it, but if we take shallow breaths or don’t really engage our diaphragm, we can add to any existing stress or anxiety. On the other hand, if we do take slow, deep breaths that expand the belly, and then exhale all the air out before repeating, we can tamp down panic.

Diaphragmatic breathing is scientifically proven to help us regain a sense of calm. If we’re in a heightened state, like during a deadline or an irritating rideshare session, our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activates, causing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to flood the body and our heart rate to go up. But if we can take a few minutes to control our breathing, we can actually tell the SNS, Nope! Not now!And we can reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which slows our heart rate and juices relaxation.

The best thing about diaphragmatic breathing is that you can do it from anywhere. To learn it, try this technique while lying down before bed. But the next time you feel anxiety creep up while working, just remember to take long, slow belly breaths. Inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of five to ensure you’re getting all the air out. Even just a few deep breaths can offer a fast regroup.