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Why Writers Need To Take Care of Themselves

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Writers have the talent for the all-important task of either creating imaginary worlds for others entertainment, or creating comprehensive collections of valuable information to make people knowledgeable. Some writers may choose one or the other, while yet others choose to dabble in both.

A unique breed of people, writers – along with other creative personality types – tend to have a number of issues. Writers, in fact, have a higher prevalence of mental health issues than the average population. Their physical health, thankfully, does not seem to be affected in this manner directly. BUT… (I know, I hate those ‘buts’ too), sitting for long periods of time at a computer, or at a desk, has been shown to affect one’s physical health.

These information tells us that, as writers, we must do our best to take good care of ourselves. You may not suffer any health issues now, but they may present themselves in the future. In fact, out of the twenty or so other authors I have come to know on a semi-personal basis during my own career, I am aware of at least half of them suffering from either anxiety, or depression. At least a quarter of them suffer some type of long-term physical illness.

Let’s take a look a the very basics of how to take care of yourself appropriately, in terms specific for writers.

Tackling Mental Health

The mental health issues that writers suffer from tend to come as a byproduct of their ability to create. Most creative individuals have some form of mood disorder. Due to the high prevalence of this, some have suggested it has to do with the brain balancing things out. Most people only use a certain part of their brain, and even some of the smartest individuals of all time have lacked certain key skills we take for granted. For example, Albert Einstein did not know how to tie his shoes. Fredrich Nietzsche had incredibly severe OCD, and some believe he suffered from agoraphobia. Shakespeare did not know how to either read nor write, and instead utilized scribes to put his thoughts to paper.

This being said, if you are a writer, it is possible you suffer from something, whether mild or severe. I, myself, have my own issues. I suffer from PTSD, panic disorder, and bipolar disorder I with mania. All are well controlled without the use of medications, and none of them severely affect my day to day life… anymore, that is. There were points in time where they did become issues, but by learning what I PERSONALLY need to do to control these issues, I was able to keep them in check. The longer I keep them in check, the easier it becomes. It’s all about willpower, determination, and a lot of trial and error.

I am one of those individuals who do not like medication. It is simply a personal preference, and if you do not mind medication, it may be a good option for you. Seeking professional help is often useful, and they can help take you through all the possible routes to recovery.

If you are a stubborn writer like me, however, who does not like this route and would rather take the harder way of helping yourself, you can check out some of the great tips below. Please note, however, even I have attempted medication and professional therapy. There are certain times when this is not exactly optional. If you suffer from hallucinations, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, or psychosis (a complete break from reality), please get professional help. There is no shame in it at all.

Tips For Dealing With Mental Health Issues At Home

So, on with the tips. Here we go:

  • If you are suffering with anxiety, I have found deep breathing techniques to be useful. Other options for dealing with anxiety include walking, aromatherapy, yoga, stretching, meditation, and talking it out with someone you trust.

 

  • When anxiety evolves into a full blown panic attack, your coping methods need to be more direct and quick-acting. As hard as it may be, the only method I have ever found to be useful in coping with panic attacks are deep breath (to slow the heart rate and avoid hyperventilation) paired with simply riding it out. Don’t fight the panic, but rather, let it wash over you. It will go away, and many of our worst panic attack symptoms are geared towards our fighting it, not the attack itself. Practice makes perfect, and this will get easier with time.

 

  • Depression symptoms are difficult, as depression itself makes you too tired to really do much to negate or fight the effects. What you can try is making a list of all the good things that happened to you on your worst days. You can also try the “fake it until you make it” method. Plaster a smile on your face, and tell yourself that you are ready to face the day! True, depression is not all about being sad, but often these simple things can help make your fight with the disorder a tiny bit easier.

 

  • Individuals with Bipolar Disorder (either I or II) should keep a mood journal. This can help you to see how quickly your moods are changing, and may allow you to pinpoint certain things that trigger these mood changes. Sometimes there is no pattern, but at other times there may be situations, emotions, or even foods to blame for your drastic switches.

Addressing Physical Concerns

The physical concerns relevant to writers consist of a few key factors: lack of sleep, sitting for prolonged periods of time, and a general failure to take proper care of themselves. Sitting at a computer or in front of a journal is simply a part of our job description – it is what it is. Yet we tend to forget about ourselves. This is particularly true when we are either in the middle of a writing spree, so wrapped up in our work we forget the world exists, or when we have boatloads of ghost writing, freelancing, or editing to tackle. Writers are, as a whole, workaholics. We love what we do, so that’s only natural.

So how do we begin to address these issues so that we can develop a better sense of overall physical well being? Begin with the basics: water, diet, sleep, exercise. It is recommended that you drink a minimum of eight cups water per day, and that you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep nightly. A well balanced diet should consist of plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbs. It’s also important that you remember to eat, and also that you don’t binge eat – both of which writers are famous for. This messes with our blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes, obesity, hypoglycemia, and a number of other health issues.

When we address the concern of exercise, we can also address the concern of sitting long periods each day. For starters, adding just ten minutes of cardio per day (for an hour each week total) can help to negate a few of the effects. If you can add more – as much as thirty minutes of cardio per day – that’s even better. Also try incorporating three days of light strength training to your weekly routine. It doesn’t have to be bench pressing 200 pounds to be effective. The point is simply to squeeze in some time to start reaping the benefits. It can be as little as ten minutes, or as long as 45 minutes. Experts agree that strength training sessions over 45 minutes do not serve any real extra benefits.

To address sitting for long periods of time, you could try standing for some of the time you are writing. This can be achieved with a standing desk, or simply by placing your laptop or journal on a surface that is an appropriate height for you. Even standing for just ten minutes per every hour you would normally sit will allow you to begin negating the potential health risks.

Conclusion

If you liked what you read, make sure to follow the blog so you never miss a post! Thanks for reading, and we hope you find this information useful!

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