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My 4-step plan for taking care of myself while writing

Writing is a solitary job. We hide ourselves away in our own little world and sit for hours a day, sometimes forgetting to eat, drink, or even get up and stretch. Over time, these little neglects add up and suddenly I find myself having a hard time standing straight after a long writing session. Or, I feel lightheaded or mentally foggy because I haven’t eaten enough.

I don’t like to eat first thing in the morning–I’m more of a “where’s my coffee?” kind of girl. In fact, even thinking of eating something as soon as I get out of bed makes me nauseous. I like to wait a bit. But then I get busy–the phone rings or there’s some emergency in our business–and, before I know it, it’s 1 or 2pm and I still haven’t eaten. It’s no wonder why I’m so hungry at night and then eat too much. I KNOW this wrecks my metabolism and causes even more stress to my stressed-out thyroid so I’ve been working on some strategies to help myself remember to eat and move.

As artists, and especially writers, it’s important to take care of our minds and bodies, to stay mentally and physically alert. The conditions of our body and mind can directly impact the quality of our art.

Here are a few tips I find helpful:

1. Before I have my coffee or tea in the morning, I drink a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon. At least I’m getting something good in (and, of course, if you can give up that morning caffeine habit–go for it!) Our brains need water to function. If you’re thirsty, then you have severe dehydration. Check out Dr. Batmanghelidj’s book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water.

2. Set a timer to go off one hour after I get up. Make myself a protein shake and then pour a glass of green drink to have while I’m working or writing. If I can have my green drink made up ahead of time in the fridge–even better. Or eat whatever you prefer but make it healthy and a brain food if possible. Check out Top 10 Brain Foods or for a broader range of ideas see this List of 50 Good Brain Foods.

3. Set a timer or write in my calendar breaks for food and exercise. I’ve made a list of quick breakfast, lunch, and snack ideas and posted it on my cupboard. This list does two things–gives me quick, handy ideas for meals and acts as a reminder to eat.

4. Make a commitment to move each day. I made a list of my favorite exercises and also taped them to my cupboard. Each day, I try to check off several from the list. My list looks like this: gym (I either do a circuit training with cardio and weights or just some cardio), a walk outside if it’s a nice day (I have a 3-mile course I like to walk), indoor exercise bike, my Vibratrim (one of those whole-body shaking machines), kettle bells, yoga, a motorcycle ride (you’d be amazed at how much work this is), etc.  I mix up my exercise each day so i get a variety of movement in. Sometimes, I’ll edit pages while exercising as long as I won’t injure myself.  Make your own list and keep adding to it. Movement is the #1 Thing Every Writer Should Do Every Day.

If you don’t work from home like I do, then bring your lists with you somehow–on your computer or ipad or daytimer. Checking off the lists is fun and makes me feel a sense of progress. You can even give yourself gold stars for days you meet your goals.

If we can take care of ourselves a little bit each day, then on those days when the world goes haywire, we’re more likely to stay centered and calm. If I’m having a hard day, I stop and ask, “What can I do for myself right now?”

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