Let's talk about your health. Every occupation has its hazards, and for writers, the list can be varied: from arthritis (Martina Cole) and spinal injuries that can make sitting down a real pain in the ass (Stephen King), to debilitating addiction (Hemingway). Are you as healthy as you could be?
Author's note: The internet makes for a terrible doctor. Consult yours if you've been experiencing health issues of absolutely any kind. The intent of this article is not to diagnose, but simply to alert you to the kind of symptoms for which you should be on the lookout.
Stretches and Strains
It's recommended to get up and stretch regularly. You don't have to rush to join a yoga club yet (unless that's your thing, of course), but regular stretching can ease strain, stress, and even increase creativity.
Ignoring this advice can lead to severe hip and back problems, which are also prevalent in those who keep office jobs. Sound familiar?
Take regular breaks and get up, take a walk around the desk—do jumping jacks if that's what works for you—just make sure you don't stay glued to the desk in an awkward position for too long.
Your Hands are Your Tools
Have your hands been feeling a little tingly lately? Don’t neglect them, or you might be risking Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. CTS is a common condition in those who put a lot of pressure on their hands, including artists (that’s you!), guitarists, and mechanics.
What is CTS? It’s when the median nerve (this one) gets compressed at the wrist. This leads to a tingling feeling at first, and eventually a loss of sensation and grip. The first recommendation is to rest your hand, and apply a cold pack to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Can you relate? See your doctor about it rather than risking damage that could be permanent.
Keeping an Eye
Let's not forget those reading globes planted in your skull. It's easy to strain your eyes when you're stuck in front of a screen and just have to finish that last chapter. Like with anything else, it pays to take a break now and then and rest them.
You can rest your eyes by closing them for thirty seconds and very gently massaging your eyelids. Also, choose objects at various distance from you and focus on them alternatingly. Do this every 15-30 minutes for a more relaxed, fresh feeling in your eyes.
Can you relate to this? If your eyes have been struggling to keep up, consult your local optometrist for an eye check rather than risk the problem getting worse—or letting typos slip through just because you can't see what you're typing…
Regular, moderate exercise has been repeatedly proven as being beneficial to the body and the mind. But don't jump right into exercising, either. It's recommended that you start off with something simple, like walking a short distance—something that fits your fitness level. From there, you can work your way up to a regular exercise plan.
Fitness helps keep your heart in check, too, and who knows, maybe your next big idea comes to you when you're out on a walk?
Arthritis is a blanket term of more than 100 different types of diseases related to joint pain. One of the most common is osteoarthritis - or degenerative arthritis - which can make writing a painful, sometimes cumbersome task. Joints, hands, hips, elbows and spine included, become inflamed and can cause you to experience severe pain and loss of mobility in these joints.
Just how bad is it? Statistics from the 2010-2012 National Health Interview Survey show that 22.7% of adults reported having been diagnosed with arthritis.
If you relate to this in any way, have it checked out. With reducing strain and taking the right anti-inflammatory medication, arthritis is a completely manageable condition.
Writers are amongst the top ten professions at risk for depression, according to a report by Health.com. The National Institute of Mental Health lists some of the symptoms of depression as "difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions," "fatigue and decreased energy," and "feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness." Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you might be suffering from depression.
Depression can and should be treated. The sooner you shed some light on it, the sooner it will shrink into proportions and allow you to live a happier life.
(Quick note about Bipolar Disorder, also common among writers: if your depression is interrupted by periods of “high,” e.g. excess energies, faster thinking and talking, and ever irate behavior or impatience toward “slower” people, then you might be suffering Bipolar Disorder. Make sure you mention both the “highs” and “lows” to your doctor or psychiatrist.)
Another affliction that has been spotted amongst writers is Impostor Syndrome. If you often doubt your accomplishments, or feel that your success is fake and will somehow be “exposed,” you might be suffering from Impostor Syndrome. It can also be treated, and the sooner you work against it, the sooner it will dissipate and leave you prouder of your accomplishments.
If you’re experiencing some or any of the above, whether it applies to your back, your heart, your soul, or your hands, seek help. Take care of yourself. Unlike the romantic myth, writers do not need to suffer in order to produce quality work—you deserve to be healthy and happy, even as you plot and write.
Kathryne Lee Tirrell •