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Writing as an occupation is often sedentary, solitary, and stressful. Research is clear about the danger a sedentary lifestyle poses to our physical health. Similarly, solitude and stress can impact our mental health. But choosing to be a writer doesn’t mean you’re doomed to heart disease and depression.

10 Healthy Habits All Writers Should Practice

Want to avoid falling victim to the health issues lurking in the shadowy corners of your cozy writing space? Here are ten habits that will put you on the path to staying healthy as a writer.

1 | Drink plenty of water

I’m not going to lie, I love tea. And coffee. And while the myth that because they are diuretics they aren’t hydrating has been disproven, there’s still the whole question of “how much caffeine is too much caffeine?” Water is the best thing you can drink to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you don’t like plain water, there are plenty of options for adding a little flavor. My favorite is to throw some fruit in it. Hot water with lemon is great in the winter. In the summer, keep a container of water with fruit in the fridge. I highly recommend sliced strawberries and cucumber.

2 | Snack wisely

Does the cookie jar call to you when you’re stuck on a scene, or is that just me? It’s easy to find yourself eating way too much junk food while you’re working out plot points, so head yourself off by stocking up on healthy snacks. Fruit, nuts, boiled eggs, and cheese and crackers are my go to snacks. I try to steer clear of sugar as much as possible, because I have a raging sweet tooth and find it hard to control myself around a package of Oreos.

3 | Take breaks to stretch and move

Years ago, I worked in an office that required us to take alternating 5 and 10-minute breaks after 55 minutes of work. We could walk around, go to the restroom, get a snack, or step outside into the sunshine to chase away the fluorescent, windowless office blues. We were also given training on stretches we could do at our desks, but because I was young and indestructible, I rarely did them.

Now that I’m older and (debatably) wiser, I recognize the need to get up periodically to move around and stretch. If I didn’t recognize it, my body would surely remind me. A pomodoro timer is an excellent way to remind yourself to take a break and move around on a regular basis. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a pomodoro timer allows you to set intervals for work and breaks, much like my old office did. Most people seem to set it to 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break.

The timer is great because when I’m in a state of flow, sometimes I look up and realize I haven’t moved in hours.. And on those days when flow is nowhere to be found, I find it also helps me to focus if I know I only have to work for 25 minutes before I get a little break. There are lots of online versions of the pomodoro timer, including apps that you can install so that you have the timer on your toolbar and widgets that you can embed in Notion, which is what I use.

4 | Use an ergonomic workspace

This is one I definitely need to work on. I have a desk, but I never seem to actually sit there. I tend to get restless and move from place to place throughout the day, and most of those places (the coffee shop, my bed, the couch) are far from ergonomically correct. In fact, I think I fail miserably at implementing any of the requirements for an ergonomic workstation. An ergonomic setup will reduce strain on your back, neck, arms, and hands, as well as helping to prevent eyestrain. You can easily find adjustable desks and chairs at office stores, but I’ve also seen people modify their existing workspace to fit ergonomic guidelines using items they already have.

5 | Upgrade to a standing desk

If one of the dangers of the writing life is too much time spent sitting, then it makes sense that a standing desk is one solution. In fact, according to the Orthopedic Hospital of Wisconsin, standing desks offer several benefits as long as they are used correctly. A desk that can adjust to either standing or sitting height will offer the most flexibility, allowing you to change position throughout the day. I’ve even seen versions with built-in treadmills that allow you to walk while working at your desk. While I love the idea of getting in some steps while I work, I know that I am absolutely not coordinated enough to pull that off.

6 | Care for your eyes

I couldn’t tell you the number of times my parents told me sitting too close to the TV would ruin my eyes. And while it seems that was mostly a myth, I appreciate their attempts to keep me from blinding myself. Little did we know back then how much time we would come to spend staring
at screens, and it turns out that all that screen time does actually contribute to eye strain. Luckily there are a few things we can do to protect our eyes.

Ways to prevent eye strain:

  • Block the blue light and glare coming from your screen with specially coated glasses or screen protectors.
  • Lower the brightness on your screen. My daughter recoils in horror every time she unlocks my phone in the dark. “Turn your brightness down!” she shrieks. I admit, I like a bright screen, but my teenager is right. Lowering the brightness reduces strain on your eyes, especially in dim situations.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule—every 20 minutes, focus for 20 seconds on something at least 20 feet away. Another lesson I learned at that long ago data entry job that has stuck with me. It’s easy to get absorbed and forget that you haven’t looked up from your screen in ages. Again, that pomodoro timer comes to the rescue.
  • Use a bigger font. This is helpful since I’ve reached the age where I’m moving my glasses up and down my nose to read. I enlarge the font on my emails, websites, Scrivener, and anything else I need to read.
  • Let Siri read to you. There are many options that enable your computer to read text to you. Search “text to speech reader” and you’ll find lots of them. There’s another benefit to using a text to speech reader. Hearing your writing read aloud helps you catch things that your eyes skim right over because they’ve looked at those words so many times.

7 | Care for your hands

While text to speech readers are useful for resting your eyes, speech to text programs offer the same benefit to your hands. Carpal tunnel is no joke, y’all, and though it may take a little while to get over the awkwardness of talking to yourself, the benefit to your hands is definitely worth it. Like text to speech readers, there are many options for speech to text. but you likely already have the ability to dictate directly into your computer or smartphone. On a Mac, just go to File > Start dictation. On a PC, I believe there is an option called “Speech Recognition.”

In addition to using speech to text programs, you can protect your arms and hands when you’re using the keyboard. Stting at the ergonomically optimal height will ensure that your arms and hands aren’t bent at awkward angles. Wrist rests are also available to support your forearms and wrists while you type.

8 | Establish a regular schedule

Sometimes that’s more easily said than done, especially if you write full-time from home. Somehow, that tends to signal to people that you’re available all day. But if you can settle into a consistent schedule, your body (and mind) will thank you for it. A consistent schedule makes it easier to eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. It also reduces stress, since you have an idea of what your day entails. And it also makes it easier to establish a writing routine, which in turn improves your writing skills and confidence in your work.

If your schedule is currently far from regular, I get it. Some of us just have a harder time setting those boundaries, with ourselves and others. Start out by bookending your day—decide on a time to get up and a time to go to bed. Stick to those times as much as you can, even on weekends. Then decide on your working hours. Let people know that you aren’t available to chat or run errands during those hours, because you’re working.

9 | Walk more

I wrote an entire post about the benefits of walking for writers, and it’s still my favorite form of exercise. Now, with spring peeking around the corner, is the perfect time to develop a walking habit. It’s also worth noting that while walking has the obvious benefit of getting you out of your chair and moving, which is great for your physical health, it also does good things for your mental health. Just getting out into the fresh air and sun is a mood booster, and waving to the neighbors as you pass, or even pausing for a chat, is a good break from the solitude of your writing day. Check out that earlier post for more of the benefits walking offers.

10 | Take care of your mental health

The life of a writer can be stressful. There is pressure, both internal and external, to write something brilliant, or at least worth reading; frequent rejection, especially for those trying to break into traditional publishing; a (sometimes wildly) fluctuating income; days often spent in solitude; and impostor syndrome, among others. Any one of those stressors would be enough to affect your mental health, but when you consider that writers frequently face several of them at once, it comes as no surprise that they are among the top ten occupations most likely to experience depression.

But forewarned, as they say, is forearmed. Take steps to safeguard your mental health.

  • Establish a regular routine,
  • Be sure to get enough sleep
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Find writer friends you can commiserate with
  • Get regular exercise

Most importantly, don’t put off asking for help when you need it. It’s important to remember that there is no shame in seeking treatment. We all deserve to be in a healthy mental state.

Add these 10 healthy habits all writers should practice to your
routine so you can get back to worrying about fictional killers.

10 Healthy Habits All Writers Should Practice. Pears, a cup of tea, and a book rest on a chunky blue blanket.


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