Many people think of writing as an easy job. Stare out the window. Sip your coffee. Type out a fabulous scene.

And there’s some truth to that! Writing can be really enjoyable. I’d never do it if that weren’t the case. But there are some health issues associated with writing.

 

Self-Care for Healthy Writers #how to do self-care #how to be healthy writing

 

Here are some health hazards people deal with when they spend a lot of time writing.

 

The problem: lack of sleep.

Writers who work full-time, and/or are parents or caregivers, often skimp on sleep to get their writing done, staying up late or dragging themselves up out of bed before dawn.

Many of us are perversely proud of ourselves for functioning on little sleep. I am guilty of this myself!

That’s probably because we don’t hear enough about the necessity of sleep to good health. When we’re sleep-deprived, we’re less sharp mentally and more prone to overeating. Our bodies produce too much cortisol, a hormone that can slow metabolism, raise blood pressure, and make us more susceptible to infections, depression, and mental illness. In my own experience, when I start noticing signs of depression, getting good sleep is an effective defense.

The solution: get some rest, obviously.

It’s not worth winning NaNoWriMo or hitting your self-imposed deadline if you make yourself sick or depressed in the process. Take care of yourself, and you’ll be more productive in the long run. Even more important, you’ll be happier.

 

 

The problem: stress and anxiety.

For writers, an ordinary day may include a bloody battle scene, the dearth of a beloved character, or a bitter breakup. Conflict is vital to a good story. It’s all in our heads, but our brain isn’t actually that great at separating fiction from real life. When we write about strife, sorrow, or trauma, we often have some of the same physiological responses as we would have in real life, and that can take a toll.

There are real-life pressures involved with writing, too, just as there are with any job. Deadlines, difficulties with a projects, and rejections (even though every writer gets them) can all add to a person’s stress.

The solution: walk it off.

Even a short walk will help you release writing stress. And if you’re feeling that stress because you’re creatively stuck, there’s no better way to get un-stuck.

 

image of someone's feet walking down the road

 

The problem: repetitive motion injuries.

Hunching over a keyboard for hours can lead to tight neck and shoulder muscles and even pinched nerves. I’ve experienced the latter personally, after a period of working long hours, including a few all-nighters. It’s no joke—it’s very painful, and you can’t do any work until it gets better.

Writers may also be susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve condition that can become serious and require surgery.

The solution: stretch at regular intervals throughout the day.

You might want to set alarms on your computer or phone.

Here are some easy ideas for how to stretch, from Dr. Levi Harrison.

 

 

And here are some from Dr. Jo that are specifically targeted against preventing carpal tunnel.

 

 

 

The problem: general neglect.

Finally, writing can simply distract us from caring about our health. When we’re caught up in the world and the events of a story – and especially when we have a deadline to hit – we may not care much about basic things.

The solutions:

1. Drink water.

 

Image of a glass of water sitting in the sunlight.

 

If you drink a lot of coffee or Coke (or God help you, alcohol) while you’re working, replace some of those servings with H20. It helps you think more clearly, and it’s good for your digestion, your skin, and the health of your kidneys.

2. Eat some fruits and vegetables.

You need some vitamin C from foods like strawberries, oranges, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, and my favorite, pineapple. Nobody likes a writer with scurvy! (Okay, that’s not true. If you get scurvy, people will still love you. But you don’t want to deal with it!) You also need beta carotene, which comes in carrots, kale, spinach, cantaloupe, red bell peppers, apricots, and more.

Image of many fruits and vegetables: pineapple, grapefruit, broccoli, carrots, and more.

3. Try some yoga.

 Morning or evening yoga is also a great way to stretch, and it calms your mind at the same time.

 

 

Every time you do something to take care of your physical well-being, it’s good for your mental health, too, because you’re sending yourself a message that you’re important. And you are!

 

journal with a glass of water and an apple close by

 

Do you have advice for taking care of yourself — mentally and physically — as a writer? Let us know in the comments! thanks for reading, and happy writing!