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Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Kay C. Burns is a Registered Nurse who writes suspense mystery. River Stalk is the first book in her Nurse Quinn Cole San Antonio mystery series. Her crime novel, Mommy’s Missing, is based on a true crime that occurred in 1946. Learn more about Kay and her books at her website. 

Write Healthy—Stay Healthy

It’s true. Writing is a sedentary and indoor profession with its own unique health risks.

As writers, how can we stay healthy and continue to rack up our word counts?
According to the National Safety Council, injuries are a leading cause of disability for people of all ages (including writers) and the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 44.

June is National Safety Month sponsored by the National Safety Council. With that in mind, recall the old Benjamin Franklin saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Hope Clark of Funds for Writers talked about this in her feature: “Your brain is your writing,” she says, “and it’s only as keen as you keep it. That means healthy rituals.”

Colleen M. Story of Writing and Wellness.com answered the question; Are you suffering from Spock’s Brain Syndrome? She explains how SBS strikes when we ignore our physical selves to the point of discomfort, pain, injury or illness.

Here are some of the types of injuries or problems writers are susceptible to:

Problem:  backache
Complications:  back injuries and back strain
Prevention:  Arrange your desk and equipment to fit your body. Good posture is essential. Use good ergonomics. Straighten your back.  Sit up straight. Adjust the chair to your height.  Put all your writing essentials and reference books, etc. where you can easily reach them.

Sitting Too Long
Problem:  sitting at a computer too long
Complications: backache, increased waistline, generalized weakness
Prevention:  Straighten your back. Purchase a good ergonomic chair. Stand up. Take short breaks; a walk inside, outside if possible. Break up your day. Stretch your muscles. Get your blood flowing. Some writers have invested in a standing desk. Even a 5-minute break can help you increase your concentration and reduce stress.

Eye Strain
Problem:  eye strain: Eye muscles become strained focusing on a computer screen for too long.
Complications:  headaches, fatigue
Prevention:  Look up and on something else in the room. Look left to right. Set your alarm. Take a break. Leave the room for a moment or two. Mayo Clinic recommends you follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your computer and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Also, consider enlarging the text on your computer to avoid squinting. Reduce the brightness on your computer monitor.

Habitual Snacking
Problem:  habitual snacking or smoking
Complications: increased waistline, respiratory problems
Prevention:  Plan meals. Pack your own healthy “desk” lunch. Yes. I will say it. “Don’t smoke.”

Wrist Strain
Problem:  repetitive strain injury caused by typing for hours and hours
Complications: chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome—a common source of hand numbness, tingling and pain. This is more common in women and is caused by pressure or compression on the median nerve in your wrist.
Prevention:  Use a padded keyboard or mouse pad.  Do wrist rolls clockwise and counterclockwise. Keep your wrists straight or only slightly bent. Take breaks and rest your hands. Wear a wrist splint while sleeping to keep your wrists in a neutral position. A word of caution: Talk to your doctor about any pain or swelling in your wrists as this condition can worsen over time.

Working Alone (most of the time)
Problem: Writing is a solitary profession.
Complications:  depression—Writers as a group are among the top 10 professions where people are likely to suffer from depression.
Prevention:  Find a balance between your work and real life. Know your limits. Don’t set unrealistic word count goals. Set working hours and give yourself some down time.

As Joseph Jaynes Rositano said in The Writing Life: Writing and Mental Health, “Finally, those who undergo traumatic experiences that often lead to mental health and substance abuse problems may—consciously or not—turn to writing for its therapeutic value. Research shows that by writing about their emotional experiences, people can improve their mental health and even reduce the symptoms of asthma and arthritis. Novelist and Vietnam veteran John Mulligan credits his writing with his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As he put it, “writing made me feel like I had a soul.’”

Awareness of these unique “on the job” injuries can help writers prevent them. As a Registered Nurse I have to add how important it is for writers to follow these simple stay healthy guidelines:

*Get enough sleep
*Drink lots of water
*Eat a healthy diet and stay active
*Watch your weight
*Take steps to manage stress

Spread the word about these ways to reduce your risk of injuries.

What is your favorite way to de-stress, keep healthy and injury free while “on the job” writing? 

River Stalk
“Papa promised me the eyes.”

After a freak accident maims a prominent San Antonio doll collector during a popular river parade, the victim whispers, “Papa promised me” over and over to nurse Quinn Cole, who’s assisting with the woman’s rescue.

The words come to baffle and haunt Cole who’s gearing up for the annual Fiesta competition with her brash roller derby sister--this year for the affections of a hot Private Investigator.

As usual, Cole is bent on winning, but in the days that follow, threatening notes, murder, missing dolls and the victim’s eccentric family force Cole to stop making promises she shouldn’t keep and in turn to overcome her deep-seated fear of dolls.

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Rose Anderson said...

Great post! I've read that high blood pressure and kidney issues come up too.

judyalter said...

Most helpful new hints and a good reminder of things we already know. Thanks much.

Kathye Quick said...

All good suggestions. We writers have our own unique set of health issues as you pointed out. I think I already have a "spread" from sitting! LOL

KB Inglee said...

I tend a flock of sheep in the morning before I sit down to write. It may involve chasing sheep, lifting heavy weights like hay and water, providing medical care. It relieves depression. It engages all the senses, but not much mind, so I can work out plot problems while I work.

Judy Baker said...

Thanks for all the great reminders. I'm sticking a small reminder on my computer - 20-20-20.

Melissa Keir said...

Very helpful advice and much needed! Thanks!

Angela Adams said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing!!

Kay C Burns said...

Thanks for all the feedback. I wish we all had our own flock of sheep to help us de-stress!

PJ Sharon said...

Excellent suggestions and rules to live by. Might I also add that STRETCHING should be a part of everyone's daily routine? Whether you incorporate some yoga postures or simply learn some basic stretching exercises, maintaining flexibility will go miles toward keeping you fit and healthy while writing. Build in stretch breaks throughout the day. Stretching increases blood flow to muscles and joints, reduces stress by releasing tension in neck, shoulders, and back, and helps correct muscle imbalances that create long term postural problems.

I'm currently working on a non-fiction project for ergonomics and self-care. Your observations and remedies are spot on! I especially like the quotes you used above and the concept of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. If we could only apply that to all areas of our life, we would all be healthier and the world would be a better place.

Spending time with my granddaughter is my go to de-stressor these days. Talk about an endorphin high! My cheeks hurt from smiling after a few hours with her, LOL. I also find that getting out in nature is a necessity to keep me grounded and healthy. Kayaking, hiking, or gardening always reset my mind and body so I can be more productive when I get back to work. Thanks for all the great tips.

Unknown said...

Great post, and a topic too rarely discussed by writers.

I use an interval timer to remind myself to get up and move. Usually I set it for 45/15 or 50/10 intervals -- write for 45-50 minutes, get up and got for a 10-15 min walk or bike ride. Repeat. I do not plug in while I walk or ride, and I find that when I sit down to write again, my subconscious has carried my forward, solved problems, found new ideas.... I also go for much longer walks most evenings (3-6 miles), and carry a tiny notebook and pen. I agree with PJ Sharon about the stretching - a sensible stretching routine prevents a lot of problems.

Thank you for this post!

Kay C Burns said...

I agree with PJ. Stretching should definitely be incorporated into anyone's daily routine with Yoga being a good example of positive stretching.
I too enjoy spending time in nature walking or riding. I have recently started wearing a Fitbit to keep track of my walking. And, like Sheila, these walks help refresh my mind and solve problems.
Great suggestions!

Triss said...

Even if we know most of this, sometimes there is a gap between knowing and doing. Always helpful to have a reminder. Great post.