WARNING: THIS IS A NO-EDIT ZONE…
One doesn’t typically think of writers being subject to health challenges due to their work. But writers are prone to several medical challenges that are writing-related, or work-related. A few of the more dominate challenges follow:
1. Carpel Tunnel. Like anyone else who spends a lot of time at the keyboard, writers are inclined to suffer from carpel tunnel challenges. There are a lot of excellent web resources on this, so I won’t go into detail here, but I will mention that many writers have found it helpful to wear wrist braces while working. They’ve also heralded the benefits of taking regular breaks to rotate and rest the wrists.
2.Lower Back Strain. This is due to long hours of staying seated, too often without breaks for stretching, and poor posture. We do tend to hunch over the keyboard which causes a misalignment of the spine. So do take regular breaks to stretch and strive for good posture. There are specific exercises that will strengthen these muscles. Consult your doctor and check out lower back strain on www.webmd.com.
3.Eye Strain. Everyone in this business seems to suffer from eye strain. I suppose it’s inevitable, considering how many hours each day writers stare at screens or at manuscript pages. But we should take regular breaks often, and focus on distant objects. This helps the muscles. Be sure to have your eyes examined annually. This is one thing you don’t put off and let get out of hand.
4.Repetitive Stress Syndrome. Most think of this as something that challenges the fingers and wrists, but it can also strongly impact the neck and shoulders. As I write this, two writing friends are on mandatory rest from computer activity. One gets baseball-sized knots on the back near the shoulder blade. The other can’t turn her head due to stressed neck muscles. When working, if your muscles tense, stop and exercise them–and if your doc says stay off the computer, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to check email or watch videos. It means stay off the computer. Heeding medical instructions is wise. It can spare you long-term injury, not to mention pain and suffering.
Preventatives/Recommendations suggested to me by my docs:
I’m sharing this not to dispense medical advice but so you can see typical challenge recommendations.
1. Make your workstation ergo-friendly. Is your keyboard at the right height and distance from you? Is the screen positioned properly so it doesn’t strain your neck or your eyes? For guidelines, visit this link: ERGONOMIC WORK STATION
2.Exercise. Back, tummy and chest muscles are particularly vulnerable. When we sit and slouch, which most of us do, we strain the lower back and push the tummy outward. For exercises you can do at your desk, visit this link: DESK EXERCISES
A couple of personal tips from the trenches:
Walk. Long-term sitting can cause circulation challenges, particularly to the legs. Take breaks and walk.
Drinks. It’s easy to get on coffee or soft drink kicks. Limit coffee and opt for water instead. Your kidneys will love you. Your skin, the body’s largest organ, will, too. I love coffee, so I know this one can be challenging. But when you’re lost in la-la land, in create-mode, a cup of hot water works, and seriously, I don’t consciously note the difference.
Fiber. If you walk and drink lots of water, great. If you eat well balanced meals and get enough fiber, great. Odds are, with so many foods being refined, you’re not. Monitor what you eat and run it by your doc. I thought I was getting sufficient fiber and discovered I wasn’t.
Alcohol. I don’t use it at all, but many speak of the benefits of 4 ounces per day of red wine. What I do know is that I’ve read many reports speaking to too many writers becoming alcoholics. I don’t know if this is due to the challenges or the demands of the creative nature trying to successfully merge into bottom-line business or something else entirely, but when you’re on notice that many in your chosen field are vulnerable, it’s common-sense wise to be cautious.
While I’m a doc in philosophy, I’m not a medical doc, so keep in mind these aren’t professional recommendations. These are tips from one writer to another, sharing. Do check with your doctor for professional recommendations.
Now, to the above, I want to add something I’ve been meaning to blog on for a long time. To give you the key to the door that can’t be opened…
THE KEY TO THE DOOR THAT CAN’T BE OPENED
“You can’t do it.”
“You’re not smart enough or strong enough or rich enough or wise enough or pretty enough or cool enough or talented enough or ….”
Choose what you’ve been told you can’t do.
Write it down. Title this: “Things I can’t do List.” Set it aside for a second and consider…
Who told you that you couldn’t? Why did they tell you that? Why did you believe it?
Clear on all that? Great. Now answer this–and take your time. Think about it before you answer…
Do you still believe it? Why?
Enlightening little exercise, isn’t it? Challenging things we’ve accepted on autopilot–sometimes for most of our lives?
Understand that we’re all vulnerable to “negative old tapes” playing in our minds. Whether they originated with parents or peers or others in our lives who played a mentor or a respected friend, it doesn’t matter. The point is they’ve programmed us to believe certain things about ourselves that have become true because we’ve taken those messages in and convinced ourselves that they’re fact.
The fact is they’ve become true because we’ve chosen to make them true. Remember being told that you couldn’t do this or that, that you’re too weak to do “x” or you’d be foolish to become a “x” or that you’ll never amount to anything?
Everyone has negative old tapes. And because some of them start when we’re so young, we tend to take them in at face value and believe them. Our belief in them sets our expectations–and, in the case of negative tapes, sets our limitations.
Here’s the thing. Regardless of how long these tapes have been playing in our heads, we can choose to assess them and reassess them at any time. As adults, we might realize the reason that person of authority in our lives said what they did. It’s a reflection of their expectations and the limitations they’ve set. They’ve simply extended those things to us. It’s up to us whether or not we receive them.
They give. We receive. If we embrace, then we create these circumstances by virtue of expectations and limitations. But we can refuse. We can say, you know, that might be true for that person, they might believe this about us, but what they believe is insignificant. What we believe is critical.
We are souls in a mortal body and if one thing has stood the test of time it’s the irrepressible nature of the human spirit. People do the seemingly impossible. Overcome amazing odds to accomplish wonderful things. We consider it extraordinary but that’s because of the nature of the accomplishment not because it happens infrequently. People move mountains that others said couldn’t be moved all the time. They do it because they first believed that they could and then took action to do it.
So when those negative old tapes start playing in our minds, we need to remember that. We believe we can, then we take action to make it happen. That’s the key to the door you’ve been told can’t be opened.
Now, for the final part in this exercise…
Pick up a pencil. Flip it end for end, like you have your thoughts on those negative tapes. Retrieve the “can’t do” list you created earlier. Now, letter by letter, erase everything on the list that you were told you can’t do. All of it.
Now flip your pencil again. Lead down, write: “I choose, I act, I accomplish.”
I once heard this type exercise referenced as “dumping your hard drive” (your mind) and “reformatting your disc.”
Isn’t that just totally appropriate for writers? We create something from nothing routinely. When then shouldn’t we get rid of negative old tapes and reformat our discs to include those things which encourage us to create and manifest the best in us?
Many say that the physical condition of a person is the manifestation of the emotional and spiritual condition of a person. I believe they’re three parts that comprise the whole; how can one not impact the other two? Balance. Harmony. These aren’t just concepts, they’re important elements in our health and well being.
To do our best, we need to work to be our best on all fronts. None of it comes without effort or attention and that requires our time. I hear the groans. Time-crunched already, that’s the last thing one wants to hear. But here’s the thing: neglect one of the three and the whole suffers.
These three parts of us are not separable but merged like a drop of water is ocean. The ocean is in every drop, inseparable from the whole. We need to take care of us–all of us–so that our droplet of water stays merged… and healthy.
©2008, Vicki Hinze