What I’m Learning About Self-Care | Writer’s Perspective (Part 1)

The term “self-care” has been on the lips of many for some time, but not as often as since the election of 2016. In the days and months following, many were angry, frustrated, discouraged, depressed even. Self-care was the pathway for many to place those emotions on a shelf.

Putting the election aside, I want to look at self-care from a writer’s perspective. Based on my working and writing life experiences, I’ll share bad choices I made in caring for myself. Over the last 14 months have had time to ruminate over the past and how it played a part in my current situation.

Self-care is not selfish.

BEFORE THE FALL OF 2016 (AND HERE FALL ISN’T AUTUMN)

Over the past year and almost three months, time on my hands left me rethinking poor choices. While I pondered the struggle I faced in recovering from a fall, I began to wonder just how this had happened to me.

Because of degenerative disc disease, I’ve faced big hurdles including two spinal fusions. There is a history in my family for this particular spinal condition. And it doesn’t help that I have slight scoliosis.

When I retired in 2006, I was ready to put aside the long, 10-hour days sitting behind a desk. I was ready to write my memoir and get on with a simple, stress-free life. What I’ve learned is habits are set in stone and can only be reversed if we take the first step on the pathway to change.

[tweetthis]Habits are set in stone and can only be reversed if we take the first step on the pathway to change.[/tweetthis]

WHAT I’VE LEARNED

As I thought back over my working life up until 2016, I realized I had severely overstressed my body. I had taken no thought of what long hours sitting at my desk continuously was creating.

Retired 11 years and writing nine of those, my work habits carried over into my writing life. And by then surgeries and scar tissue compounded the bad habits.

Let me explain:

  1. From the start of each day, I sat all day except for restroom breaks and a stop for coffee on my way back to the desk.
  2. Pre-retirement, opportunities to stand came my way. For example, copy projects requiring several minutes needed someone to babysit them. But, we had an in-house copy service. I usually opted for their help because of my heavy workload.
  3. At noon, I rarely left my desk. I packed my lunch at home and ate it at my desk. During that lunch hour, I continued to work while eating.
  4. Until the last five years of my working life, the height of my desk or computer wasn’t adjustable. Secretaries insisted on the ability to raise and lower a section of our desks to provide the option to stand up. Yet, the feature was rarely used. With the pressure of court and other deadlines, we didn’t have time to make the adjustments.
  5. If required to work overtime, it included the dinner hour and on into the evening. This meant more hours of sitting in the same place, same position, and doing the same tasks. I’d already been doing this for the past eight hours.
  6. I loved my job, and I admired and respected the attorney for whom I worked. Always wanting to please my superiors, I never changed my working style over a period of 35 plus years. (This is perhaps a carryover from my childhood attempts at pleasing an abusive mother.)

WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

A lot of things. My spine surgeons, my neurosurgeon, and physical therapists provided recommendations. The choice was mine, and I made the wrong choices. Yet, my spine surgeons also told me that what had failed in my back wasn’t my fault. It was the fault of a condition that was going to happen no matter what. And it did.

As I look back, I regret the damage I may have done to my back. Even though my surgeons directed the fault elsewhere, I still wonder what I might have done. There are certainly elements of self-care I wish I had taken the time to inject into my daily schedule.

On Thursday, March 22nd, I’ll share tips on caring for yourself at the desk and computer

Share your thoughts below on self-care, your own struggles with caring for yourself while writing, and bring any concerns you have to the discussion.

Until next time,

 

16 thoughts on “What I’m Learning About Self-Care | Writer’s Perspective (Part 1)

  1. Penelope James says:

    I wrote Like though I didn’t exactly like what you wrote. We can all benefit from your experience, but you have gone through a lot of pain and operations to tell us this. I hope you are better, but back pain is practically a common denominator in this country. Why? Because too many people, like you, sat behind desks for years and never complained. I have a friend who says I should get up every hour and move around for 10 minutes. She does not know what it’s like to be in the grip of a Big Idea. She’s not a writer.
    I salute your courage.

    • Sherrey Meyer says:

      Penny, I hear FB is going to give us the option to click an “unlike” button in the near future. I’m waiting patiently for lately there are many things on FB I don’t like one whit.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. If anyone can understand what having the time to think does for a soul, you can. But no one can understand why we sit there for hours pounding at a keyboard. It’s. Because. When. You. Get. Rolling. You. Can’t. Stop. You have to be a writer to understand. An article I’m linking to in Part 2 receives a similar comment to the author’s suggestion that a person get up every 15 minutes for a walk about. HA! I say. Must be an ergonomic specialist who wrote that post.

      I’m hoping over the next few days I’ll learn if I’ve passed all the tests I’ve taken to qualify for a trial of a spinal cord stimulator to deflect the pain signals to my brain. If the trial helps, then they’ll permanently implant one. Today was a good day though so I’m confused as to whether I should or I shouldn’t try this. Sigh…

  2. Penelope James says:

    I didn’t exactly Like this r because of all the operations and pain you went (are going) through. That said, thanks for sharing your experience. I think we can all benefit. I have a good friends who tells me to get up and walk around every hour, But “When happens when I’m in the middle of a good idea? It will be there when you come back” she replies. Sure. She doesn’t write.

  3. Joan Hall says:

    Sherrey, I also have a desk job. Back before electronic medical records, I would get a cart, walk downstairs to our medical records department and obtain the charts I needed to review. Because we had three different locations for charts, I would often walk to all three places and come back with a cart filled with as many as thirty charts. The exercise was good for me, and allowed me to take a break from sitting. Now that everything is electronic, I have one computer screen with the EMR opened and the other with the database. Often I’ll sit for 2-3 hours without moving, not having realized that much time has passed. Then, I come home and after doing necessary chores, I sit down at my home desk and write for a couple of hours without a break. Not good!

    There is a site called Tomato Timer. The idea is to take 25 minutes for writing (or whatever activity you’re doing at a desk), take a 5 minute break in which you get up, walk around, stretch, etc., then do another 25 minute session. After for 25 minute sessions, take a longer 10 minute break. Studies show people are much more productive by doing this and the physical activity is very beneficial. https://tomato-timer.com/

    • Sherrey Meyer says:

      Joan, it’s amazing how much time passes by before you realize how long you’ve been sitting. I’ve often set a timer on my computer to remind me, but I can always cancel it out and keep working. So much for that, right?

      Thanks for the link to Tomato Timer. Seems to be built on the premise developed by Pomodoro before it was possible to put such things on the Internet. You actually used a tomato-like timer. Now look what we can do! Hope it’s got a really loud and annoying sound when it goes off so I’ll get up and go somewhere else thereby getting my break in. 🙂

      • Joan Hall says:

        It has several options for the sound and you can also adjust the volume. There is also a Smart Phone app which I’ve downloaded, but have never used much.

        But what did I do yesterday? Sat and wrote for an hour or two without taking a break! Should have used my own advice. 🙂

  4. KathyPooler says:

    Sherrey, the first step in making a change is acknowledging the need for change. You’ve spelled this out very clearly here and now I’m looking forward to hearing more about what you have learned. I can certainly relate to the hazards of a sedentary writer’s routine so I try to incorporate exercise into my day.. butt out of the chair and moving, stretching, walking, stationary bike, even if only for 10 minutes at a time. It’s a conscious effort because I could easily sit for hours on end in my writing zone. Thanks for bringing up this important topic.

    • Sherrey Meyer says:

      The conscious effort is where I’ve let myself down, Kathy. As I told Joan above, I’ve actually set a timer on my computer and when it goes off, I just cancel it out and keep working. That doesn’t help my cause at all. Thanks for your suggestion that even 10 minutes at a time is better than not doing it at all. Thanks for sharing and being here.

  5. Dolly @ Soulstops.com says:

    Sherrey,
    Love the E.R. quote…I hadn’t seen it but I like that we think alike. I’m so sorry your back is in so much pain. Thank you for sharing what you’re learning about how to care for yourself and your back better. Praying for you. ((hugs))

    • Sherrey Meyer says:

      Dolly, I love that quote too. And you know why? Because it gives us permission to take care of ourselves. It doesn’t hurt that there is a lot of truth about an empty vessel being unable to serve. A good reminder not only of self-care but also discipleship. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us. And thanks, as always, for those prayers and hugs.

  6. Marian Beaman says:

    I get the impression that the long hours spent relatively immobile working in the attorney’s office have contributed greatly to your present state. Now you have more choice and flexibility on how you spend your days as I do. Some of my best ideas come when I’m watering plants or cooking a meal. I look forward to writerly tips for self-care next week, Sherrey.

    • Sharon says:

      Well now, I’m SITTING here at my desk reading email. However, I am sitting forward on my chair, flexing my back differently. You do have me thinking, and I know I also need to make changes if I want to continue to enjoy my accustomed quality of life. I await your sage advice next week.

      • Sherrey Meyer says:

        So, Sharon, we caught you SITTING reading email. But you are sitting forward, flexing differently. Good! I have decided over these last 14 months I cannot give up on the idea of regaining my freedom from pain so I can stand and walk but also on extending the life I have with children, grandchildren, and my Bob. I’ll see you next week.

    • Sherrey Meyer says:

      Marian, I agree. No matter what the surgeon meant about the familial condition I share with some of my dad’s family, I didn’t help matters much during that time. Choice and flexibility do help, and so will bringing this pain under control some day soon. Hope you enjoy next week’s post too.

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