Do you realize that writing is seen as one of the most dangerous professions around?
Because you write for a living, you likely spend several hours a day sitting and staring at your computer while working. Maybe you also enjoy snacking on whatever you can lay your hands on, while drinking an endless supply of coffee, all day long.
And before you know it, a whole day is gone, and you only got up when you had to go to the bathroom.
At night, you collapse on your bed, and sleep for just four to six hours, only to wake up and repeat the same cycle all over again. And now, you’re complaining of headaches, body pain, fatigue, and other symptoms of poor health, all the time.
Want to hear the truth? You’re living a sedentary life.
This is dangerous because a sedentary life increases your chances of developing some chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.
But the good news is that you have a choice.
Just by making a few changes in your lifestyle, you’ll be amazed how quickly your overall health can improve. Here are eight effective ways for you to improve your health as a professional writer.
1. Reduce the Time You Spend Sitting Down
Because very little energy is required to stay on your seat, sitting down for hours at a time is not good for you.
Research shows that people who sit down for extended periods of time are more likely to develop serious health conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugar, increased waistline, and so on.
Apart from sitting down to write and work, add the amount of time you sit down to drive a car, watch television, play games, read, and eat, and you’ll discover that you spend the better part of your day on your seat.
For your health to improve as a professional writer, one key thing you must do daily is to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down.
But how can you do that?
It’s not so difficult. Instead of being glued to your chair for hours at a time:
- Get up and move around every 30 minutes even if it’s just to walk to another room and back.
- You can also work while standing by using a standing desk.
When you spend your working hours and most of the rest of your day, every day, consciously alternating between sitting and moving around, not only will you reduce the time you spend in a chair, you’ll also become more physically active and, as a result, improve your health.
2. Take Steps to Avoid Eyestrain
You probably write using a computer, which means you’re staring at computer screens for hours every day. To add to that, it’s also likely you carry out a lot of leisure activities by staring at other digital devices, like your tablet, smartphone, or television, and so on.
According to The Vision Council, eyestrain is the discomfort experienced when some people spend more than two hours staring at screens. Though it may vary from one person to another, symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, burning eyes, watery eyes, neck pain, and shoulder pain.
To improve your health and avoid all the inconveniences associated with eyestrain, it’s in your best interest to take preventive steps, such as these:
- Practice the 20-20-20 rule by looking away from your screen every 20 minutes at something that’s about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Stay around arm’s length from the screen of your device always.
- Blink more often when using digital devices.
- Use bigger font sizes.
- Reduce the brightness of your screen.
- Use eyewear that has anti-reflective and blue-light-filtering lenses.
- Give your eyes a break from your digital devices.
By putting all these steps into practice, you’ll reduce your risk of developing eyestrain, improve your health, and most likely, boost your productivity as a writer.
3. Be Conscious of Your Posture Always
Did you know that having poor posture while sitting or standing can have a negative effect on your health?
Most people who work with a computer are guilty of sitting hunched over. This posture can give you back and neck pain, and it can also lead to permanent damage in the long term if not corrected quickly.
Other health challenges that may arise as a result of poor posture include shoulder pain, fatigue, breathing problems, headaches, poor circulation, hand and wrist pain, and negative mood.
To help you maintain good posture and improve your health, here are a few tips:
- When sitting, always sit up straight with your shoulders back and your feet planted flat on the floor or on a foot rest.
- While standing, ensure that your weight is centered on the balls of your feet.
- Make sure that your shoulders are always relaxed.
- Keep your neck in a neutral position when you’re working on the computer so that the top of your computer screen is at eye level and you’re looking slightly down at your computer.
- Always remember to keep your forearms parallel to the floor when typing on your computer.
- Avoid holding your mouse in a death grip for hours.
- Don’t hit your keyboard with too much force when typing.
Having the right posture at all times can help you escape all the health issues discussed above and also boost your health.
4. Watch What You Eat and Drink
Another way to quickly improve your physical and mental health when you write for a living is to be choosy about what you eat and drink on a daily basis.
Consuming a diet rich in fast food and unhealthy drinks is bad for you because it boosts your risk of developing health challenges, like diabetes, obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, shortness of breath, acne, insulin resistance, headaches, and depression.
These unhealthy foods and drinks are readily available all around us and include foods that are made with or contain high amounts of sugar, refined vegetable oils, refined wheat, etc. Examples include margarine, ice cream, soda and other sugary drinks, white flour products like bread, cakes, cookies, and so on.
To improve your health and help your body and mind operate optimally, you should make it a habit to choose highly nutritious food and drinks that will nourish your body, such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, berries, seeds, nuts, legumes, brown rice, and so on.
Because we’re all different, it’s also important to study and understand the kinds of healthy foods that your body can tolerate without any negative side effects, like yeast allergy, lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, egg intolerance, and so on.
In addition, you should also:
- Drink plenty of water daily.
- Watch your portions to avoid overeating.
- Drink herbal teas instead of too much coffee or soda.
- Plan your meals and snacks in advance so you can stock up.
At the end of the day, you are what you eat and drink on a daily basis, and this goes a long way to determine how healthy you’ll be, physically and mentally.
5. Get Enough Sleep Daily
Making sure that you get enough sleep on a daily basis is another way you can improve your physical and mental health as a writer.
Even though some writers boast of being at their peak with very little sleep, at least seven hours of quality sleep every night is the general recommendation for our body and mind to perform optimally.
According to the Mayo Clinic, not getting enough sleep can have a negative effect on your mood, temperament, and ability to focus and concentrate, all of which can lower your productivity. It can also put you at a higher risk of developing health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain, depression, increased body pains, and low immunity, among others.
Various research also suggests that getting at least seven hours of sleep daily will:
- Boost your immune system.
- Control your hunger and prevent overeating.
- Strengthen your memory.
With all these at the back of your mind, you should get enough sleep on a daily basis so that your physical and mental health can improve.
6. Move Your Body Often and Exercise More
Because writing is not a physically active profession, another way to improve your health as a writer is by doing regular exercises as well as moving your body more often.
Exercising on a regular basis can help you live longer, boost your energy, reduce weight, sleep better, and improve your mood and also help you avoid diseases like diabetes, heart disease, depression, and different types of cancer.
Even when you can’t make it to the gym, there are lots of simple exercises you can do in the comfort of your home to meet your daily quota, such as the following:
- Walking around your house or neighborhood for 10 to 15 minutes or even longer.
- Jogging on the spot.
- Running up a staircase.
- Jumping rope.
- Doing squats and jumping jacks.
- Using a treadmill desk for work.
A simple way to move your body more often, in addition to regular exercises, is to take frequent breaks whether you’re writing, or standing, or sitting, or doing something else. This helps you avoid being stuck in the same position for hours and goes a long way to boost your health.
7. Create Time to Enjoy Life Outside Work
When you habitually work long hours and your whole life revolves around writing, your physical and mental health can be affected badly enough to cause serious health problems, like fatigue, depression, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and heart problems. To add to all that, most likely, your relationship with your spouse, family, and friends can also suffer greatly.
But when you maintain a good balance between your work life and personal life, by reducing the time you work so you have time for other areas of your life, you can avoid all these health risks and also increase your productivity. In fact, research shows that people who have a life outside work are usually happy and satisfied with their work.
While nonwork activities can be different for each person, you can:
- Spend time with your spouse, kids, family, and friends.
- Volunteer your skills and services to causes that you believe in.
- Spend time on passion projects and hobbies.
- Get involved in community activities and projects.
- Take the weekends off, and go on vacations from time to time.
But with only 24 hours in a day, how can you make this happen?
According to some successful entrepreneurs, a method that has worked for them repeatedly is to block time in your daily work schedule for all those things you enjoy outside work just as you block time for your work activities. And then, keep to the schedule.
Bottom line, there’s more to life than writing and working all the time. Create time to enjoy other areas of life outside work and you will likely enjoy your work more. Remember, all work and no play not only makes you a dull writer, it’s also bad for your health.
8. Plan and Keep to a Daily Work Schedule
Drawing up a daily work schedule in advance to guide your activities can go a long way toward improving your health.
Without it, you’ll probably wake up and spend some time trying to remember everything you need to do on that day. Because you’re human, it’s likely you will forget some things or even remember when it’s too late, and all that can stress you out and affect your health negatively.
But with a to-do list, you can take charge of your day in advance and hit the ground running as soon as you wake up. In addition, planning your daily schedule in advance can help you use your time more efficiently, prioritize important tasks, become more disciplined, live a healthier life, and increase your productivity.
To draw up a schedule that will boost your health, make a list of every important thing you need to do each day, and allot time to them, like running errands, doing chores, writing and working, exercising, taking breaks, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, spending time with family, and so on.
For more ideas, here are some questions for you to answer:
- How many hours per day do you want to work?
- When are you most productive? Your answer can help you decide which hours to allocate to writing and work.
- How many hours do you want to spend sleeping?
- When will you stop work for the day?
- What hours of the day are you going to spend with your spouse, family, or friends?
Because you know the number of hours available to you every day, planning a daily work schedule in advance can help you make time for work and every other important area of your life without sacrificing your good health.
Boost Your Health as a Professional Writer
Being a busy professional writer is not an acceptable excuse for treating your health in a careless manner.
Working around the clock to finish that project or to meet that looming deadline, without taking your health into consideration, may be why you’re having all those aches and pains you keep complaining about.
You can choose to improve your health and become a healthier writer just by tweaking a few things in your lifestyle through these eight effective ways:
- Reduce the time you spend sitting down.
- Take steps to avoid eyestrain.
- Be conscious of your posture always.
- Watch what you eat and drink.
- Get enough sleep daily.
- Move your body often and exercise more.
- Create time to enjoy life outside work.
- Plan and keep to a daily work schedule.
Lastly, remember to seek the opinion and advice of your doctor about everything you’re doing and intend to do to improve your health.