Writers are often workaholics who tend to work in less than perfect environments to their physical detriment. We end up with low back pain, repetitive stress injuries to our necks, wrists, and elbows, and have eye strain and all kinds of physical maladies. This year, give yourself the gift of better health. Here are 35 tips to make you a healthier writer this year.
Please note that this is not medical advice. If you have symptoms of repetitive stress injuries or any chronic medical issues, consult your personal health care provider before changing your work environment or habits.
For Your Eyes
Focusing on the computer screen makes the user blink thirty to fifty percent less frequently than normal. This causes dry, red, gritty-feeling eyes, and eyestrain.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has a lot to say about how to avoid eye strain. The essentials are:
- Keep the computer 25 inches (an arm’s length) away from your face.
- The top of the monitor should be at eye level.
- Reduce glare by repositioning lights or using an anti-glare filter.
- Give your eyes a 20-20-20 break. Every twenty minutes, look twenty feet away for twenty seconds.
- Use a desktop humidifier or artificial tears.
- Natural lighting is best. A combination of natural and artificial light will also work.
- Adjust the brightness of your room (or screen) so your screen is less bright than the room lights. Some monitors have a feature that will automatically shift the colors of your display to the warmer end of the spectrum after sundown. It’s called Night Shift on Macs and Night Light on Windows machines.
For Your Hands and Arms
- Find a keyboard that allows your wrists to be in a neutral position (not flexed).
- Your mouse should be in easy reach of your dominant hand. Or you can use a foot controlled mouse.
- Try to keep your arms parallel to the floor.
- Avoid resting your arms on the edge of the keyboard, desk, or table.
- Elbows should be at 100 to 110 degrees. This means your keyboard should be slightly higher in the back of it, so use those little feet on your keyboards.
For Your Heart and Circulation
- When you take a break, do something. Walk a hundred paces, do stretches, get up and move.
- Do aerobic exercises every day, at least every day you’re at the computer.
- Blood is about fifty percent water. Drink eight glasses of water a day to keep it moving. Black coffee and black tea count as part of your water intake but please follow your medical professional’s advice regarding caffeinated drinks. (The myth that they dehydrated more than hydrated has been debunked.)
For Your Legs
- Don’t cross your legs or ankles.
- Your chair should allow your feet to be flat on the floor. Use a step stool if you can’t get your chair into the correct position.
- Treadmill desks benefit your legs and your entire body. Sit-stand desks are helpful too.
- If your feet swell, try the legs-up-the-wall yoga position.
For Your Spine (Neck & Back)
- Maintain good posture.
- Maintain or improve your core strength. It’s not about power or looking good. Your core is a group of muscles in your middle that connects, stabilizes, and controls your hips, legs, spine, and upper body. A strong core helps with more efficient movement, helps flexibility, helps prevent falls, and may help prevent low back pain.
- Use a chair with lumbar back support. Or sit on a balance ball if you can maintain proper arm and hand position while on the ball.
- Position yourself so your feet are flat on the floor.
- Computer height should be just below your head height so that you look slightly down without bending your neck.
- Avoid twisting or turning your torso. Frequently used items should be directly in front of you.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your sides.
- Sit-stand desks are a great option.
- Take a one- to two-minute break every twenty minutes, a five-minute break every hour, and get up and do an activity away from the computer every few hours.
For Your Writer Mind, Spirit, and Soul
- Breathe. Take five deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth.
- When you take a break, turn on the tunes that make you want to move.
- Get outside. Our bodies need the vitamin D sunlight provides.
- Take five minutes to be grateful. Sometimes finding one thing you are genuinely grateful for can turn your day around.
- Smell the roses or whatever flower or scent that calms you.
- Meditate for five or ten minutes.
- Listen to motivational talks or meditation guides. (Don’t watch the video. You giving yourself a break from the screen, remember?)
- Play whatever music lifts you, makes you feel good. Use music as a blanket of love. (Thanks to comments from JLN.)
- Visit a museum or art gallery.
- Enjoy a non-writing hobby.
- Keep a writer’s motivation journal or album. Collect your positive reviews or critiques, quotes that speak to you, and any motivational or inspirational memes or images. Sometimes we all need to pat ourselves on the back.
- Last, but not least, give yourself the gift of a few days off to enjoy friends, family at least once a week and at celebration and holidays that are significant to you.
Become a Healthier You
Writers are notorious for not taking care of themselves. Are you one who doesn’t? Even one change to your workspace ergonomics or habits can improve your health. Try it. Don’t change everything at once. Start with one change. Maintain it for three or four months, then add another change. Which of these tips to make you a healthier writer will you use?
What’s your best tip for being a healthier writer?
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Please note: This post first appeared on the Writers in the Storm blog 12/15/2021. It has been updated for this posting.
My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation by Donald M. Rattner