Hello and happy Wednesday!
Sometimes, I think writers forget that they too require proper physical care.
Sleep? Rest? What are those?
Tear ourselves away from our computers or notebooks? But why?
Drink water, of all things? Coffee or tea, sure, but water?
In the midst of crazy deadlines and while trying to keep a balance between our writing, work, family, other hobbies or obligations, etc. it can be difficult to remember to take care of ourselves. But a burnt out writer is ultimately an unproductive writer.
If we want to live the lives God’s calling us toward, and to do the best possible job in our writing, we also need to do our part in staying healthy and feeling good. That means not pulling all-nighters three times a week. Not existing only on fast food – or none. Not gluing ourselves to our chairs for entire days.
But being intentional about our health is hard. Especially as we get busier and busier. Taking good care of ourselves is usually the first thing to go when time is sparse. And it’s one of the largest hindrances to being productive and actually enjoying our writing.
So today, I thought I’d share my best tips for staying physically well as a writer. Of course, I’m no expert, but these are the main things I’ve found – through research, professional recommendations, and personal experience – that make a positive difference for me. I hope they’re helpful to you as well!
This one is first on the list for a reason! Water is absolutely essential to us, and while most people know it, many still don’t drink nearly enough of the blessed liquid. Our bodies contain roughly 60% water. When we fail to drink the amount we need on a daily basis, we experience symptoms such as: fatigue and grogginess, headaches, mental fog, an inability to focus, increased risk of illness, mood swings, unhealthy cravings…it goes on and on.
But how much water is enough? The age-old recommendation to drink 8 glasses (or about 64 ounces) a day is still a good rule of thumb, but don’t be afraid to have more than that if you’re thirsty. 64 oz is now often considered the minimum. Basically, if you’re thirsty, drink! And if you’re someone who doesn’t feel thirsty often, make sure you’re drinking at least 8 glasses a day anyway. Your body needs it, and you’ll feel better for it.
What helps me most is to simply keep a water bottle with me! Seriously, at all times. For a while, I had to be very intentional about drinking often, but over time, it’s become a habit. On days when I forget my water bottle, or if I’m too lazy to fill it before retreating to my desk, I drink much less, and notice the consequences… Definitely keep a water bottle with you, and if you need help remembering to drink from it, try setting alarms. One glass every hour or so is usually a good starting place. A hydrated writer is a happy writer!
Get Up and Move
You know what’s hard? Reaching your daily step-count when you’re mostly sedentary. As someone who fluctuates between an office job and days of trying to be incredibly productive writing-wise, I often struggle with remembering and/or finding time to move. But that’s so important to do! Not only does sitting all day make it difficult to stay in shape, but it also causes posture problems, aches and pains, and poor circulation – to name some.
And yet, finding time for physical activity often seems daunting. When our days are packed and to-do lists long, when are we supposed to exercise? Well, one of the biggest helps to me was learning that movement doesn’t have to be in a large chunk to be beneficial. In fact, as great as full workouts are, light but consistent movement throughout the day has proven to be better for us than one block of heavy exercise and then nothing.
Try and get up – at least for a few minutes – every half hour. Walk around the room, do a few stretches, or even lift some weights – whatever you can do to get your blood circulating and your muscles loose. I’m still notoriously bad at remembering to do this, so alarms are my friend. And if you have the time for a longer workout, then that’s great! Half an hour of walking to upbeat Christian music is a favorite of mine. But if you’re pressed for time, focus on those short bursts, and I’ve also found that standing while writing is a nice change.
Admittedly, I’m a hypocrite here. So far this year, I have yet to get a solid eight hours of sleep in one night, usually averaging much less than that. Nighttime is often a great time to catch up on things we didn’t get to accomplish during the day, after all. Or early morning. Getting up an hour or two earlier makes the entire day more productive. Sleep is a lot easier to push aside than deadlines or looming wordcounts. It just has to wait. Or does it?
As much as I like squeezing every possible hour from each day in favor of my to-do lists, I’ve found it’s not always a good idea. Eventually lack of sleep catches up to us, obviously hindering our energy levels, as well as our ability to focus, create, think quickly, be objective, feel positive emotions, and on and on. Just as electronics stop working without recharging, forcing our bodies to function when they’re out of ‘battery’ doesn’t work.
Sadly, I don’t have the perfect answer for this one, other than to encourage you to try and get more sleep. Even a half hour more will help. Sometimes I’ll strike a bargain with myself, and make myself go to bed at a good time every other night, allowing myself to stay up late and work on the ‘off’ nights. And of course, going to bed at a good time is crucial if you plan to wake up early. I still have a lot of work to do in order to get my sleep schedule to what it should be, but being well rested makes all the difference in energy and focus levels.
To use yet another metaphor, we have to put the correct fuel into vehicles in order for them to run, and our bodies are the same way. Ingesting the wrong ‘fuel’ will at best leave us deficient and feeling drained, and at worst lead to some very serious health problems. Obviously we write best when we feel best, so carefully choosing the foods we eat can really help our productivity, and also, who doesn’t want to feel good?
The best diet somewhat depends on the particular person. For example, I recently did a bunch of testing to determine why I’ve felt sick the past five years, and discovered that dairy, gluten, certain spices, and sugar all affect me badly in varying degrees. So now I avoid them as much as possible and have noticed a huge change in how I feel! But while I shouldn’t have dairy or gluten, others thrive on them. There’s not a one-size-fits-all.
So pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods, and tailor your meals to give you the most energy and mental clarity. In general, forgoing things like fast food and soda, and replacing them with more vegetables, fruits, proteins, and whole grains (and water!) is going to provide you with the most nutrients – which will keep you as healthy as possible! And after all, we just don’t write well when we’re sick. Or maybe you do, and in that case, I’d love to hear your secrets, haha.
This little gem of advice is something I never gave much thought to in past years, but it’s so important! Life is full of stressful situations, no matter who we are or what we do. That’s just the way it is, and if we’re not careful, the stress can overwhelm us. The effects of stress are numerous: headaches, nausea, fatigue, feeling depressed, anxious, apathetic . . . It’s extremely hard to push through and get anything done when we feel so miserable.
But often, that push to get stuff done is a big reason we’re stressed in the first place. We have deadlines to meet, projects to complete, people to help, bills to pay . . . if we stop we’re sure we’ll fail. So we just don’t stop. But our bodies can only do so much, and are meant to have periods of recharge – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Sleep is one huge part of that, but we also need to set aside intentional time to unwind.
I know how impossible this seems when we just have so much in their schedules. But stressed work is not our best work. This summer I’ve had to carefully consider where I commit my time. Is everything in your schedule truly meant to be there? Is there anything you can cut out? Maybe, like me, better time-management would help you. Can you set hard work hours to be as productive as you can – and then intersperse some short breaks to read a chapter or take a walk? And of course, time in prayer is the best recharge there is.
Well, those are five of my best tips for staying healthy and feeling good – even if you spend much of your day in a chair! And with that said, these tips are obviously not just for writers. They’re for anyone and everyone who wants to take the best care of themselves. Is that you? I certainly hope so! I’m far from perfect at any of the tips, but it’s a steady journey.
Did any of these tips stick out to you? Are any of them harder for you to maintain? What are YOUR favorite tips for feeling your best as a writer? I’d love the chance to learn from you – so let me know your thoughts in the comments!