Over the weekend I had a number of health scares. I began experiencing some pain in my right shoulder and arm. This eventually escalated to waking yesterday morning to extreme pressure on my chest. It felt as him something had been sitting on my chest. I tried to dismiss it (mistake number one) and attempted to go to work. But, my wife (who is clearly much smarter than I) insisted I go to the emergency room. They rushed me back, fearing I was having a heart attack. Lucky for me, my EKG was “unremarkable” and my later blood tests dismissed the cause as being my heart. But, it really had me thinking.
There are a lot of hidden health danger to being a writer. It is a stationary job. With the exception of your fingers moving across the keyboard there is little movement involved. Add to this the fact that my job also requires I sit at a computer all day. And, like most Americans, I tend to work right through my breaks and lunch. I sometimes sit 16 hours a day, with only a quick break to walk to my car and back. This all adds up to the risk of a blood clot. That lack of movement can result in deadly clot that can eventually break free and travel its way to my heart or brain.
But, this career can also trigger weight gain. And a lot of it fast. I won’t pretend I was skinny before I took up writing. I’d say I was probably down to about 240 (from 270) when I took up writing seriously again. I am now 285, gaining about 10 pounds in the last month and half. This is directly related to when I started taking on editing too and increasing my sitting time.
Another thing that writing can cause is a lack of social activity. I’ve heard it argued that writers are anti-social anyway. But I can’t believe that. Writers are diverse. Sure some may be more social and others may be less social, but we all need to spend time with our friends and family. Being a recluse will not help you. It can hurt your writing and your health. I’ve found myself locked away in my office or at work for weeks on end. With Facebook and Twitter being my illusions at a social life.
So with all this doom and gloom, you might be thinking I would suggest giving up this lifestyle. But, I won’t stop writing and creating. The creative aspect of your mind needs stimulating as well. Writing is good for you too. But perhaps we all need to strike a balance.
I’m not a Doctor, so you should always consult one before making any big changes. But here is what I am going to do to protect myself from more health scares:
First, I am going to limit myself to two hours of sitting at anyone time. After that I will take a break and walk around for ten or fifteen minutes. My work has a trail outside I will use, and when I am at home I’ll walk around the block or something. But I need to get myself moving from time to time. Get the blood flowing, literally. Eventually I hope to work myself up to actually exercising for weight loss and not just movement, but this is a start.
Second, I need to give up the junk. Not completely, but moderation is the key here. I tend to go a bit overboard with the fast foods. This is for two reasons: One, it is just good. I like it. So I eat it when I can. Two, I often write right up to when I need to leave for work. Leaving me little time to make lunch, resulting in hitting the drive-thru on my way in. I’ve already started bringing more lunches and keeping them in the work freezer.
Third, I need to socialize more. Despite the name social networking, Facebook and Twitter are not a satisfying social experience for me. My work co-workers (well most of them) are a lot of fun to talk with too, but it isn’t the same. Time with my family and friends is important. I need to take time from everything I am doing to spend some time with them. I’ve also been keeping very active in my community. This has allowed me to meet with and socialize with a group of people for a little bit. It is also a commitment that requires me to break away from my writing for a minute and get out of the house.
Writing is a fun activity, but too much of anything is bad. I need to look for a change in my lifestyle so that I can continue writing for many more years into the future. I think I’ll go for that walk now.