Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writer-ly Health - The Importance of Taking Care of Your Body and Mind

Writers, by definition, are primarily sedentary creatures. We work on our creativity and hone our craft skills for hours at a time. But what happens when we are constantly and consistently exhausted, don't feel good or perpetually get sick? Creativity and focus fly out the window, and resting and sleeping starts to take up way too much time in the body's effort to heal and re-align itself. I found myself in such a situation recently and realized that I need to make certain changes to how I take care of myself - and I've never been really sedentary to begin with, though I find myself more so since the knee surgery!

Here is a collection of my tips on how to take care of your health - designed specifically for writers (but can be used by anyone who needs an extra reminder that their physical health is as important as what is going on in the brain).

1. Hydrate! Drinking water throughout the day is essential. It is very easy to forget to do this, especially if we are not particularly thirsty at the moment. However, when we feel thirst, that is already a sign of dehydration. Buy a fun re-usable water bottle or a cool cup and keep sipping consistently.

2. Find small ways to move. Getting up to go get more water is a perfect little way to get yourself out of the chair and moving. Take stairs when you can. If there's time, walk to the train rather than the bus on the commute to work or home. Park further away at the supermarket and restaurant parking lots. Stand while on the phone. Anything helps.

3. Find time for physical exercise. I can't stress how important it is to fit at least a little bit of exercise into each day, but at the very least 3 times a week! Get your heart pumping. Do what you love. I love to push myself physically, so a karate class followed by a Zumba or kickboxing fitness class make me very happy. So does walking. Choose something that will truly make you excited and smiling.

If being at the gym is too boring - skip it! You write because you love it and it makes you satisfied. You can find a physical activity that will make you as happy. You will be amazed at how good you feel afterwards and how much more focused and creative you can get!

4. Let your body rest. There are days when your body clearly tells you - stop! You just want to sit down and watch TV or read a book, or even take a nap. Do it. You have to listen to your body or you'll be in trouble.

 5. Sleep. Ahhh, the all-important activity of sleeping. Personally, I have struggled with this lately. Partly, it's because I like to sleep in the dark and quiet and my hubby likes to watch TV until he falls asleep (which can often be well into the night). We found a few good solutions to our issue. I put in ear plugs and a blindfold. He has a cutoff time when the TV has to go off, especially on weekdays, or he has to stay in the living room if sleep doesn't find him for a long time. If you have no issues like that, then make sure that you get 7-8 hours of sleep a night in a quiet comfortable bedroom. Make sure it's well -ventilated and that the mattress and the pillows are good for your needs. Don't skip out on sleep because you feel that the time would be better spent doing something else, like a million things you have to do at home or even writing! Sleep deprivation causes lack of focus and creativity, continued exhaustion and lowers your immune system so you become more prone to illness.

5. Take vitamins. Make sure that you are not overloading on them though and know the correct dosages as many vitamins and minerals may become toxic if too much accumulates in the body. But they do work, and they do raise energy levels. Better yet, eat fresh raw fruit and vegetables whenever you can fit them into your diet. Eating fruit will also add to your hydration levels, especially watermelon, plums and citrus fruit. And what better time to enjoy all of these than in the summer?

 6. Switch up your routine. Go away for a couple of days to see something fun and relaxing. Take a different route to or from work. Take a bath when you get home and then sit down to write with a glass of wine. Treat yourself to a spa day. Do stuff you haven't done before. You will be truly amazed how little variations in the everyday routine can refresh you and spark your creativity. And we all need to charge up our batteries constantly so we don't burn out.

7. Enjoy your writing time! Yes, for many, writing is also work, but if you forget to enjoy it, it will stress you out. And what happens when you're stressed out? Your health gets affected. And the vicious circle of being tired and sick, and being even more stressed because you can't work, starts.

Happy Writing!

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