Working at a desk too many hours at a stretch can be more dangerous for your health than cigarette smoking. So, what’s a writer to do? Let me guess: You’re sick of this topic. Either that or you already know way more about health and healthy habits than any blog post can possibly tell you. I get it.
But consider this: Your success as a healthcare writer is linked to your health. You are your own best advertisement. If you don’t look healthy, your clients may question your ability to write about health. And, when you’re self-employed, you may suddenly find yourself without access to employer-driven health insurance benefits. Staying healthy saves you money.
How’s that for motivation to keep reading?
If you’re new to desk work, or even if you feel like you’ve got a handle on your health maintenance, I invite you to consider upgrading your daily routine in five areas:
Building healthy habits in each of these categories keeps your body healthy, so you can do what you love.Lane Therrell
5 Ways Healthcare Writers Can Upgrade Their Health Habits
1. Hydrate Heavily
It’s easy to forget to hydrate when you’re working at a desk, so keep plenty of drinking water handy. Emphasis on plain water. Remember that coffee, also known as a writer’s favorite companion, is a diuretic. So, if you must have coffee, try going sip-for-sip at a 1:1 ratio of coffee to water.
Looking for the target amount of water you should consume per day?
Start with a baseline minimum of 1.5 L (about 6 cups) daily , but be aware that recommendations vary. Remember, if you feel thirsty, you’re probably dehydrated. It’s difficult to drink too much water, and most people don’t drink enough.
2. Plan Smart Meals and Snacks
Failing to plan is planning to fail, and “failure” is easy when food is involved. It’s tempting to opt for convenience when you’re trying to maximize productive writing time.
One approach that works for me is to prepare a protein-containing breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks for myself the night before as if I were still commuting to a job away from home. I stock my fridge and pantry with pre-cut vegetables, small portions of low-calorie, easy-to-prepare, nutritious snacks such as Greek yogurt, hummus, seeds, nuts, nut butters and dark chocolate.
3. Eliminate Eye Strain
Eye strain may go completely unnoticed, or it may manifest in signs like headaches, excessive tearing, dryness, or irritation that are easily attributable to something else. Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS, is more prevalent than we think. Prevention is the best cure.
Ensure the lighting in your workspace is adequate. Know how to adjust the brightness and resolution settings on your digital devices. And don’t skimp on annual eye exams. Even if you don’t have insurance coverage for optometry, make sure your business budget includes periodic eye exams.
It’s a worthy investment, whether your vision is corrected or not. Your vision will change as you age and use digital devices more.
4. Be Circulation Savvy
Good circulation delivers oxygen to your brain, vital organs and extremities. Sitting restricts circulation, so your whole body eventually becomes oxygen-deprived if you sit too much. You may have worn compression stockings when you were working on your feet all day, and they can be your friend for seated work as well, but they’re not a stand-alone fix.
Other ways to keep your circulation flowing include alternating standing and sitting, toe-tap and leg-movement exercises while seated, and brisk walking during breaks.
And remember to breathe. I tend to hold my breath while concentrating, but when I intentionally take deep breaths throughout the day, I notice that my memory, thought processes, and mood improve.
5. Master Your Musculoskeletal Alignment
Our bones and muscles are all connected, so when one area goes out of whack, others feel the pain. This is where posture, ergonomics and strategic stretching come in. Desk, chair, screen and keyboard ergonomics are designed to support good posture, and strategic stretching can counteract any postural slipups or ergonomic improprieties to help you avoid “text neck,” lower back pain, or carpal-tunnel-like symptoms.
Make sure your chair height is adjusted so your feet can rest flat, and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Don’t slouch or thrust your neck or chin forward see the screen, and make sure your elbows and wrists form a straight line with the keyboard. Although apps like PostureZone are becoming more popular, they aren’t perfect.
If you build core strength, maintain good ergonomics with your workspace setup, stretch strategically and change positions often during the day, you can go a long way toward preventing musculoskeletal pain.
You can use some of these ideas, or variations of them, to build a healthy break routine. It might look something like this:
- Look out the window
- Drink water
- Stand up
- Walk around the office
- Eat a carrot
- Drink some more water
- Resume work
Add to it and vary it to keep it from being boring. But the point is to do it.
Integrate your upgraded health habits into your routine now by scheduling regular breaks throughout the day like mandatory meetings. Set a timer, create a calendar alert, or use a free app like Stand Up! to remind you to take breaks and/or act on any healthy habit individually.
And toss any misguided notions from previous work that it’s noble or necessary to work through your breaks. As a healthcare freelance writer, you’re in charge of your day and your health.
What is your favorite or most effective healthy habit you think other healthcare writers should know?
Lane Therrell FNP-BC, MSN, HTCP is a nurse entrepreneur with a background in agricultural public relations. As a freelance writer and health empowerment coach, she inspires people of all ages to think holistically and take personal responsibility for their health. Her blog is www.DailyInspiredHealth.com