The Health Risks of Being a Writer and How to Prevent Them
Writing is an art. With a few strokes on the keyboard, you can use your passion and imagination to create worlds, share ideas, and express your feelings on various subjects. Your most comforting sounds might be the tapping of the keys on your keyboard as you do a job you enjoy. Not many people get to do what they love and make a living from it, but as a writer, you are lucky to have that opportunity.
Considering that you spend most of your time indoors doing a job that doesn’t require much of your physical strength or human interaction, you might be wondering how writing can be risky to your health.
Well, if you aren’t just a hobby writer who does it at your leisure, but a full-time professional, you will probably face some challenges in your writing career – some associated with your health.
Read on to find out the health risks involved in being a writer and how to prevent them.
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The Health Risks of Being a Writer
- Sitting all day exposes you to lifestyle diseases
As a writer, the sedentary lifestyle becomes your norm. You spend hours sitting at the desk working and getting little to no physical activity.
When you start writing; and ideas are flowing, you can find it hard to stop even to take a break for fear you might lose momentum.
Additionally, writers, especially freelancers, tend to take on too much work forcing them to spend more time on the computer trying to meet deadlines.
You can go without sleeping or eating because you have a big project to finish and don’t want anything to distract you or ‘waste’ your time.
All the sitting poses health risks to you because it exposes you to lifestyle diseases such as weight gain and obesity, diabetes 1 and 2, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems such as stroke and heart disease.
You could also develop back pain due to bad posture, uncomfortable furniture, or pressure placed on the intervertebral discs of the spine while sitting.
What to do to stay healthy
- Set aside time for meals to avoid mindlessly eating or having takeout in place of home-cooked food.
- If you don’t have time to exercise, find ways to integrate some simple activities to help you stay fit, such as brisk walking, taking the stairs, strolling around the neighborhoods, or cycling every day.
- Set a reminder to take breaks to walk around and stretch. You can take breaks of 5 to 10 minutes every hour.
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- Staring at the computer for long periods can cause eye strain and headaches
In today’s digital world, it is almost impossible to avoid screens. As a writer, you spend the majority of your time on your computer.
After work, you’re either on the phone scrolling through social media feeds, reading on Kindle, playing video games, or watching TV, making it hard to avoid the blue light emitted by these devices.
Research indicates that blue light is harmful to your eyes, especially to the retina because it can increase the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. It also affects your sleeping patterns.
However, the glare of the computer screen is not the only cause of eyestrain. Other factors that could cause this are; proximity to the screen, the flicker and flashes of images on the screen, and the screen brightness. You also blink less while staring at a screen, thus drying out your eyes.
Signs that you are straining your eyes too much include headache and migraines, blurred vision, dry or teary eyes, sore, tired, and itchy eyes, neck and shoulder pain, as well as sensitivity to light.
How to prevent eyestrain
- Take breaks to rest your eyes.
- Wear glasses that filter blue light.
- Drink water to stay hydrated.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule. Stare at something that is 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.
- Avoid exposure by reducing screen time spent on other devices.
- Look at something else while typing e.g. your fingers.
- Stay 20 to 40 inches away from the screen.
- Place the computer below eye level.
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- Making the same motions could cause repetitive strain injury(RSI)
Continuously doing the same movements such as typing, writing, or moving the mouse, could cause repetitive strain injury. This is the gradual damage to your nerves, muscles, and tendons caused by repeated movements and straining the same place all the time. This often affects the hands, wrist, elbows, biceps, neck as well as shoulders.
Since writing is mostly a flexible profession, people write wherever they feel like doing it and in whatever positions they want. Unfortunately, some RSIs are caused by bad posture and maintaining the same positions for extended periods.
The next time you lie on your bed or sit in an uncomfortable chair or position while writing, keep in mind that you might be putting yourself at risk of ailments such as;
a. Writer’s cramp – A condition affecting the fingers, arm, and hand causing them to make uncontrollable repetitive, twisting movements,
b. Carpal tunnel syndrome – Swelling in the wrist that causes numbness, weakness, and tingling, as well as
c. Tendinitis – An inflammation of tendons caused by repetitive overuse.
How to prevent repetitive stress injuries
- Adopt better seating postures and comfortable workstation furniture.
- Take breaks and move around to reduce stress on the tendons.
- Move your entire hand when typing or moving the mouse.
- Exercise regularly to stay physically fit. Choose workouts that stretch and strengthen your muscles such as yoga and Pilates.
- Use the computer only when you have to.
- Consult a physical therapist.
- Loneliness could lead to mental health problems
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”Ernest Hemingway
Writing is a solitary activity. Most people prefer to work in a quiet environment with no distractions to be more creative. Numerous authors have confessed to how lonely their lives are.
You can go days without any human interactions because you probably live alone. Perhaps, your only company is your cat, dog, or plant if you have one.
Unless you are an introvert who enjoys your own company and you don’t like social interactions, this loneliness can get to you and affect your mental health, and thus, your creativity.
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Studies show that writers are at greater risk of becoming depressed. Perhaps this is why tragedies are the best works of literature.
You spend too many hours in your own head with your thoughts; building fictional worlds, forming ideas, and connecting the dots between them.
All this time spent in your head with no one to interact with can lead you to depression. Other than isolation, irregular pay and criticism can also contribute to this.
Writing is stressful. If you work on your own terms, for example, if you run a blog, this might not be as much, but for professional writers, such as book authors, columnists, and freelancers, you can get stressed as you try to meet deadlines.
Furthermore, coming up with consistent new content ideas is just as stressful and even worse when you experience writer’s block.
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As a writer, having a bit of anxiety is fine. It shows that you care about the content you’re offering your audience. However, sometimes you might feel uncomfortable writing on a particular topic and get negative feelings every time you think of writing it.
This might lead to procrastination and make you even more anxious as the deadline approaches. And in the worst-case scenario, the anxiety can be so severe that you end up experiencing writer’s block.
You become even more worried that you’ll never get good content ideas ever again.
Being anxious about writing can be caused by many factors including; self-doubt for having no experience with the subject, past negative experience with a similar task, tight deadlines, lack of interest in a topic, or personal issues regarding the subject.
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How to prevent and deal with these mental health issues
- Get out of the house and interact with other people every once in a while. Not only will it help to ease your loneliness, but it might be an opportunity to get new content ideas.
- Adopt a pet or plant for company.
- If you’re a blogger, interacting with other bloggers can make you feel less lonely. Like and comment on other people’s posts to foster friendships.
- Do breathing exercises and meditation to calm your mind.
- Reduce your workload.
- Make use of modern technology to keep in touch with friends and family e.g through social media, Zoom, and Skype.
- Change your routine often to avoid boredom.
- If anxious, learn to accept that there are things beyond your control, such as other people’s opinions. Take criticism as an opportunity to become a better writer.
- When experiencing writer’s block, take a break from writing for a few days to clear your mind and start afresh. You could also try out creative writing or journaling about your thoughts and feelings. Use writing as an outlet for your frustration.
- Join a writer’s group where you can collaborate on projects.
- Consult a counselor/therapist.
Despite the challenges, writing is a great career or hobby. Think about it. How many people can say they do what they are passionate about? Very few.
Most people are stuck in jobs that they wouldn’t do if they knew they could use their talents elsewhere and earn money.
Writers are lucky in that they get to follow their passion and fulfill their dreams, but like any other job, it has challenges.
Practicing self-care is a must to prevent the health risks you might experience for being a writer. Use the above tips to stay physically and mentally healthy to make writing the enjoyable career it is supposed to be.
Have you ever experienced any of these health problems?
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This was very insightful and helpful. Thank you! 🙂
Thank you so much for reading, Sara! I’m glad you liked the post.❤
You’re welcome. Thanks for writing it. 🙂