by Eve Pearce
Writing may not be renowned as one of the more perilous professions but, like most jobs, it does come with health risks. Being primarily an indoor, sedentary job can mean that writing can take its toll on your bones, muscles and waistline. Your eyes and vitamin levels along with mental health can also suffer from this demanding, isolating yet fulfilling job. Here are some of the most common health issues associated with full time writing and some ways that you can adapt your daily routine to overcome them.
Over exerting your eyes by focusing on brightly lit screens and small text over a long period of time can result in eye strain. Apart from the obvious issues with vision, eye strain can also lead to headaches, fatigue and sensitivity to light. For writers who use their computers for up to 8 hours a day this can become a real problem.
To help reduce eye strain you need to evaluate and modify your workspace. In particular focus on your computer. Enlarge your text so that you don’t need to squint or strain to read what you’ve written – checking that your resolution is set to a high quality will also make your text appear clearer. You should also reduce the brightness of your monitor to avoid glare and while you’re at it, check that the room you’re working in is well lit so the light from your monitor isn’t overpowering.
In addition to this you should maintain good eye health by having an eye test annually and follow the advice you’re given – that means if you’re prescribed glasses then make sure you wear them!
Writing is about as far away as you can get from a physically active job and being so sedentary can see you piling on the pounds. Not only this, but research indicates that ‘desk workers’ are more prone to habitual snacking or smoking. It is as though our brain becomes so enthralled in the writing process that we lose track of what our hands and mouths are doing.
Planning your mealtimes in advance and avoiding snacks while writing is a great way to keep the extra calories at bay – why not make yourself a packed lunch like you would if you were heading out to work rather than hitting the kitchen on a whim? Factoring exercise into your daily routine could be great for your mind as well as your body. A brisk morning walk can get your endorphins pumping and leave you feeling enthused and ready to go. On deadline days you can also do a variety of exercises and stretches from your desk – simple activities like wrist/ankle rolls and arm braces will keep you supple and stop you from feeling stiff. A midday gym session, aerobic workout or jog could be a great way to spend your lunch hour and afterwards you can take advantage of post work out supplements like protein shakes to really give your body the boost of nutrients that it could be lacking.
Good posture is essential for anyone who is spending a lot of time in a sitting position at a desk. Your back should be straight and supported and the top of the monitor should be in line with your eyes. Slouching or looking upwards can result in back strain. Make sure that you invest in a good quality chair that is adjustable and comfortable – you’ll be spending a lot of time in it. Make sure that you get up and take regular walks in order to shake off any tension in the back and keep the blood flowing around your arms and legs.
Repetitive strain injuries
Writers tend to repeat the same motions with their hands for hours on end, day after day. This sort of activity is one of the prime causes for repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome which is a painful disorder in the wrist caused by excessive compression. In order to minimize your risk of this make sure you do regular wrist rolls both clockwise and anticlockwise to keep the blood flowing. You should also ensure that you use a padded keyboard or mouse pad if you are used to typing with your wrists resting on them. Finally is you notice any pain or swelling in your wrists then get it checked out as soon as possible – this is a condition that can worsen if it is left untreated for a long period of time.
Writing can be a very solitary profession. Whereas many people go to work and find themselves surrounded by colleagues, writing can be isolating. This lack of interaction coupled with irregular pay and pressure to work to deadlines and manage your own workload are thought to be some of the reasons why one US health study reports that writing is in the top 10 professions where people are most likely to suffer from depression. Throughout history, literary greats such as Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath have suffered with well documented cases of depression often thought to have stemmed from their own ingenious, creative yet destructive minds.
The best thing for writers to do is try and find the balance between their work and their ‘real life’. Make time for socializing and don’t set yourself unrealistic goals. Try to keep some sort of set working hours – it might not always be possible but overall it will help you manage your time and give you the much needed downtime that you need.