11 Easy Ways to Become a Healthier Writer
One of the hardest parts of being a writer is being a healthy one. From sedentariness to solitude to stress, the creative life is filled with unseen workplace hazards.
Here are some ways to become a healthier writer a few minutes at a time…
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1. Incorporate movement in 5-minute bursts
Instead of aiming for some long workout to break up my sedentary workday, I find it more conducive to take five-minute breaks every hour for jumping jacks, a short walk in the hallway, or short warmup videos like this from Fitnessblender (a husband and wife team that produces some of the best workout videos I’ve ever seen–for free!). I simply turn on the video, stand at my desk, do the movements, then sit back down and get back to work.
2. Yoga at your desk
Even if you work in an office environment that doesn’t encourage movement or standing desks, there are many short, five-minute videos like this one that don’t require you to leave your desk.
3. Wear compression socks
My mom got me some compression socks a few years ago because she’s paranoid I will get a blood clot on long flights. When I wear them during sedentary work, I notice improved energy and focus levels, and my legs feel less heavy and lethargic at the end of the day.
4. Look out the window
To curb eyestrain and headaches, make sure to look away from your computer screen and focus on something in the distance every 15-20 minutes. I like to look out my window and try to focus on the furthest thing on the horizon I can see that day.
5. Walk and
If you’ve never tried dictation, start with small and informal projects–to-do lists, brainstorming ideas, or short blog posts. Currently, my favorite dictation software is otter.ai (after Sarah told me about it on this episode of the Writing on Wednesdays podcast). In 2020, I’m also hoping to experimenting with Christopher Downing’s dictation method.
6. Make a simple standing desk
No need to spend thousands of dollars on a premium standing desk–with a little creativity, virtually any desk can be turned into a standing desk. I use a leather footstool and one of the removable shelves from my Ikea Hemnes desk to make a standing desk in under a minute:
I don’t stand all day, but I do try to relegate an hour or two of mundane admin tasks each afternoon to standing. Which reminds me…
7. Wear tennis shoes
Dress for the activity level you want, not the activity level you have. Wearing tennis shoes (rather than socks or flip flops for those of us who work from home) means there’s one less mental hurdle to incorporating more movement and action into our day.
8. Dust your desk
I keep my desk pretty organized, but it’s easy to forget to keep it free of dust. While I’ve never been diagnosed with a dust allergy, I am markedly more tired and unfocused when I haven’t dusted in a while. Once every two weeks or so, I take everything off my desk and wipe all surfaces with a wet cloth or cleaner.
9. Ask your eye doctor about mid-range glasses
In graduate school, I started getting eye strain headaches and severe eye twitches. My optometrist prescribed a second pair of glasses at 60% of my regular-strength prescription (called mid-range glasses or computer glasses). What a difference they made! I use my full prescription glasses for driving, watching movies, and anything that requires reading signs or slides; I prefer to use my half-strength glasses for pretty much everything else: computer work, knitting, housework, or reading (if I am holding the book further away or need to take notes).
NOTES: Mid-range glasses are NOT the same as reading glasses or bifocals (both are used for near-range vision). Also, not every eye doctor will prescribe computer glasses–one told me that they may hasten the need for bifocals. But I’d take that over crippling eye strain any day!
10. Find your balance
I don’t just mean this metaphorically, in the sense of balancing work with fitness, but literally. Balancing poses are a great way to spend five minutes–not only do they work the body gently and playfully, they strengthen mental focus in ways that support creative work.
11. Sing in the shower (in the afternoon)
If you work from home and finding yourself feeling stressed or overdrawn, hum a tune to yourself or sing. It stimulates the vagus nerve, which passes through your vocal chords, which may help relieve stress and inflammation. But my own unscientific experience suggests that humming is just fun, and a good way to get our of your head and reconnect with your body and physical senses. Pro tip: if you work from home, save your shower for the afternoon–when muscle tightness has already set in–and then sing or hum in the shower!