When you think of occupational health, writing is usually not at the top of your list. You usually think of those who do physical labor, but writers must take care of themselves, too. Taking care of the body, mind, and spirit is the recipe for staying productive and keeping the juices flowing. Here are some essential health tips for writers.
Mental health for writers
One of the hottest topics in the world of productivity these days is the concept of “flow state.” We have all experienced this at some time, but you might not have realized what it was. This is the state where you are completely focused on the task at hand, and you are so absorbed that time seems to slip away. During these times, your brain is in a state where it is at the peak of concentration and creativity.
Flow state is something that is necessary for writers. It is when we do our best work. We also do our best work when we are happy and content. Stress, a lack of sleep, and poor mental health are the enemies of happiness and the ability to get into that elusive flow state. That is why taking care of your mental health is especially important if you are a writer or do other creative work.
Journaling is a favorite way for writers to do a “brain dump” and get back to health. That is one of the benefits of journaling, but there are many others. We can use journaling to organize our thoughts and record dreams. You might be surprised at the creative solutions that your mind comes up with while you sleep. (And speaking of sleep, experts recommend that you get 7+ hours of it.)
Journaling is one way to relieve stress and have a place to store your thoughts, but anything that you do to relieve stress and maintain a healthy mental state will help your professional career. Taking an occasional walk around the block, hobbies, or being in nature can give you the little break that you need to stay on top of your game. Don’t forget to maintain those important connections to family and friends. Even though writers tend to work solo, we still need those human connections.
Physical health and writing
You might think of writing as a mental activity, but the connection between mind and body has been established for decades. We also know that sitting all day at a desk has serious health effects, especially later in life. Movement needs to be a part of every day. This is one of the most important health tips for writers.
Exercise helps you not only to avoid disease and age-related health issues but also boosts your mental performance. Physical exercise pumps you up and makes you feel energized. If you experience that afternoon slump, taking a walk can often make you feel more refreshed than taking a nap. This is not to say that naps are not good because there have been proven benefits of a 20-minute snooze, but exercise will also do the trick.
Current CDC recommendations are that you get a bare minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise and two days of strength training. You do not have to be a gym addict to get it in. Pick something that you like to do, or simply take a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week. You can also do a short 15-minute exercise routine during breaks, but bottom line, don’t forget to exercise.
Other ways to work movement into your workday and avoid sitting include getting a standing desk. You can replace your office chair with a fitness ball and base. Maintaining balance on the ball works your core and glutes. At least once an hour, remember to take a good stretch and walk around a bit. While you are working, make sure to maintain good ergonomics to avoid repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel.
Habits, schedules, and breaks
Habits and schedules are an important part of your health as a writer. When you train your brain that writing time is different from playtime, you will soon find that your writing time becomes more productive. You can also “turn off” work mode when it is time for a break. The ability to “disconnect” has been proven to have long-term benefits in all areas of health.
The key to keeping a schedule is to find one that works for you. You can find many ideas online, but everyone’s life is different and has different priorities. The main thing is to decide what is important for you and focus on those goals. You want to spend your time during the day making progress toward your goals, and having a schedule can help you do that and feel accomplished at the end of the day.
Eye strain is an issue for writers because we spend so much time staring at the computer. Many times, vision problems related to eye strain will go away by taking the time to give your eyes a rest. If you are experiencing headaches, blurry vision, tearing, or a headache when you work at the computer for a long time, you need to pay attention to what your eyes are telling you.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests what it calls the 20-20-20 rule. All you have to do is to set a timer and every 20 minutes, stop what you’re doing and focus on any object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This is because distance vision takes a different set of muscles than close work, like reading a screen.
Other things you can do are to get a pair of blue light glasses to help reduce the strain, especially at night. Also, check the settings on your computer to reduce the brightness and adjust the contrast to a comfortable level. Simply closing your eyes and putting your palms over them for about a minute gives them a rest and will go a long way in keeping your eyes healthy.
How to implement these health tips for writers
These three areas are the most important when it comes to staying healthy and productive. It is one thing to know these principles, but it is another to put them into action. Here are a few tips for developing good habits for writers.
- Get a set of noise canceling headphones for better focus.
- Make a schedule and know what your top three goals are for the day.
- Use a timer to remind yourself to take frequent breaks.
- Squeeze in a little physical exercise instead of cruising social media.
- Make sure to get enough sleep.
- Eat foods that fuel your body and give you more energy.
- Set up a distraction-free workspace so that you can focus and feel accomplished.
- Remember that playtime and social time are important to recharge the brain.
- If you are having problems with depression or anxiety, be sure to talk to a medical professional.
- Change it up once in a while and try something new.
A healthy writer is a productive writer, and a productive writer can share their gifts and talents with the world. The importance of paying attention to the mind, body, and spirit connection is backed by science. If you neglect one of these areas, you will soon find that it affects many other areas of your life, too. The good news is that these health tips are easy to work into your day with a little bit of planning. Once your health is looking good, you can truly focus on becoming the best writer that you can be. Check out our 5-step writing process article for writing advice and inspiration!