What I’m Learning About Self-Care | Writer’s Perspective (Part 2)

In my post a few days ago, I focused on the topic of self-care. I shared the things I believe I did wrong in caring for myself during my working life and the last few years as a writer. Today I want to share what I’ve learned along the way (and ignored). And I’ll share some new things I have read recently about caring for yourself as you write.

TIPS FOR INCLUDING SELF-CARE IN YOUR DAY

This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list. These are tips that work for me IF I remember to use them. If there is something you feel should be in this list, I hope you’ll share it in a comment below.

  1. Remember, self-care is not selfish. To meet the needs of family, friends, and others in our community, we must first care for ourselves.
  2. A daily schedule which includes a start and stop time for work helps many working folks. When creating a schedule, build in time for exercise and at least 30 minutes for a lunch break.
  3. Find a way to spend part of your day standing for certain tasks.
  4. Taking breaks from sitting to stretch and/or walk around a bit is a good idea. A good thing for both body and mind.
    • A recent article in the New York Times Morning Briefing offers a way to do this. The writer advises getting up every hour to walk five minutes. Using a timer, either an app on your computer or somewhere you have to get up and move to turn it off, is helpful. Be diligent as this is one of the things I ignored years ago while working as a legal secretary. It would not have changed the condition as diagnosed. But it would have provided flexibility in my joints and skeleton as a whole.
    • In leaving a comment on last week’s postJoan Hall shared a link for Tomato Timer. I checked out Tomato Timer and found it is somewhat like the Pomodoro Technique®. The technique is based on working on a task for 25 minutes and then take a break, say for 10-15 minutes or so. After four sessions, take a longer break (20 minutes),  etc.
    • NOTE: Neither of these tips may be workable for writers. A screenwriter commented on the NY Times article that he cannot leave his work in this way. Once he’s creating a scene and interacting with characters, he can’t maintain momentum if he takes a 15-minute break. Others mentioned the same on last week’s post here.
  5. When lifting heavy items, remember to do it correctly. See Mayo Clinic’s slide show on Proper Lifting Techniques.
  6. Last June Zapier posted Productivity and Ergonomics: The Best Way to Organize Your Desk. This is one of the most up-to-date articles I’ve found. It includes an infographic, diagrams with measurements, and more. The post includes every element of work space–desk, computer, chair, lighting, plants, and color.

A CHALLENGE FOR YOU

Take a few minutes to assess your own working environment, no matter how large or small. It may surprise you to learn what you do or don’t find. Then try one or more of the tips above and note any change in physical problems you’re experiencing.

If you have tips for work spaces and building better backs, I’d love to see them shared below in Comments.

If you’re willing, check back with me to let me know what this post changed for you and what the impact of the change was.

FYI, I have not yet begun employing all the tips I’ve shared above as I’m still in recovery mode. I’ll try to let you know when I do begin practicing what I preach!

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.

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.

Will Exercise and Breaks Enhance Your Creativity?

Via Pixabay
Via Pixabay

Winter has now deposited her snow-white goodness from coast to coast. Some of us are snowed in for the first time this season. Others have been snowed in so long they must feel like Eskimos.

Couple the winter weather doldrums with writing most of the day, and what do you have?

Likely, a grumpy writer with aches and pains and stiff joints.

We’ve all heard the quotes, and we try to adhere to good advice given. But let’s take a moment and reflect on what Mary Heaton Vorse had to say about writing:

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

One should ask though if Vorse intended for the seat of your pants to maintain contact with the chair for extended periods of time.

How to remedy the bodily damage we’re doing while sitting all day?

Exercise! And if given an opportunity, physical exercise just might enhance creativity.

Here are some tips for getting out of the chair and improving your creativity at the same time:

  • Get up out of that chair and go take a walk. Just 15-20 minutes, a walk around the block will not only relieve your joints and spine but also feed your brain with some much-needed oxygen via fresh air. Or if you have a gym membership, put it to good use and head there three or four times a week.
  • Play a musical instrument? Take a few minutes during the day to enjoy that creative experience. Perhaps the music you select will feed that part of your brain searching for artistic phrasing in your written work.
  • Meditation won’t exercise your body but it is calming and relieves the stresses that build in our bodies as we sit in front of a desk and computer. And the mind-clearing benefits of meditation will only enhance your writing.
  • Build a rhythm into your writing life so that you have some time off during the week, when everything writing disengages. Try to keep your life on normal footing, especially if you have a family. Meet a friend for coffee, catch up with a neighbor over the fence, call your kids and grandkids. This sounds like a no-brainer but it is essential to keep yourself healthy, inspired, and in touch with others.
  • Daily inspiration will keep you feeling good about yourself and your writing. Listen to a TED talk you’ve wanted to hear, maybe you missed the last NAMW conference and the audio file is waiting on your desktop, or perhaps there is an audio book you listen to. Find a way to be inspired by others.
  • Lastly, do something that matters. Whether it’s writing a blog post on something that matters to writers, or volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or babysitting grandkids so the kids can have a date night — do something that matters. You feel great afterwards!
Via Google Images
Via Google Images

The current weather situation in many parts of our country doesn’t entice one to go outdoors, but many of these suggestions don’t need the outdoors for exercise. But keep in mind that a brief step outside to get the mail or to fill the bird feeder will offer an intake of fresh air that can’t be beat for brightening up those brain cells for the next few hours of writing.

Q4U: What do you do to keep physically and mentally fit when writing? I’d love if you’d share below so that we can benefit one another with our ideas and suggestions.