Have you ever muttered to yourself, “This job is killing me!”? I know I have.
It is usually at times when I am feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and time-pressured. They are fleeting moments and pass quickly.
But a few years ago, they took on new meaning.
I was in the fitness industry for years, running my small, private personal training business. Most hours I was on my feet, working side by side with my clients. Coupled with my own workouts, very little time was spent sitting at my computer, or seated at all.
Once I shifted from training to coaching, my daily habits changed as well. Coaching by phone, writing blogs, newsletters, social media content, plus managing the marketing and other tasks related to running my business had me sitting at a desk for more hours than ever before.
It was a problem. Not used to sitting still for so long, I had to adjust. I was also reading the new research that said extended periods of sitting are bad for our bodies and our minds.
According to the studies on this, sitting on our duffs for most of the day takes a serious toll on our health and well-being, despite daily exercise.
Most working individuals average at least eight hours of sitting each day. For writers, it may be even more. It’s hard to walk away, especially when on a creative roll. However, inherent problems that come with hours of sitting without breaks aren’t easy to ignore.
Individuals with sedentary lifestyles, coupled with frequent prolonged sitting, have shown an increased risk for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Although the reasons are unclear, studies have linked excessive sitting with colon, breast, and endometrial cancer.
Being slumped over your computer in your chair all day leads to tight hamstring and hip muscles, weak abdominal muscles, and flaccid glutes. Together, that’s a recipe for postural problems, neck and back pain, and increased risk of lumbar disc degeneration.
If the distraction of being in pain and taking time off to attend to disease and illness isn’t enough to make you rethink the way you work all day, don’t discount that extended sitting also impacts your brain.
If you can relate to staring at a blank page while trying to come up with creative prose, feeling as if you can’t think straight, it is probably because foggy brain is setting in. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.
It’s hard to write inspiring words when your brain isn’t getting the proper fuel it needs. After 60 or so minutes of sustained focus, the mind begins to fatigue. Just like our bodies tire when working our muscles for extended periods, we feel sluggish and have difficulty thinking when we are fuel deprived. The brain needs a constant source of oxygen to perform optimally. Once it is used up, it needs a break.
Moving muscles pumps fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and triggers the release of all sorts of brain and mood enhancing chemicals. Pretty essential if you want to do creative, meaningful work.
Here are some easy to implement ideas you can incorporate starting today to improve your health, decrease your risk of injury and illness, and increase your creativity and productivity.
- Set a timer to go off every 55 minutes, reminding you to take a five-minute break. Stand, stretch, walk around, and grab some sips of water.
- Consider investing in a fitness tracker. Not only will it record your total daily steps—to optimize health the recommendation is 10K—but many have a built-in reminder to go off when you’ve been stationary for too long.
- Set a rule—no eating in front of the computer. Mindless eating leads to over-consumption and weight gain. If you desire a sugar treat to “wake you up,” it is a sure sign that it's time for a break.
- Commit to a daily lunch break, and enjoy the time off. You’ll come back to work rejuvenated. If hunger strikes mid-morning or afternoon, stop working and take a few minutes to enjoy a healthy snack.
- Eat a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. This mix keeps you satiated and gives the body and the brain the energy it needs to stay focused and be productive.
- If you feel sluggish, take a movement break rather than depending on caffeine or sugar.
- Keep a water bottle on your desk. Sip often.
- Schedule exercise breaks. Remember the most creative ideas come when the brain and body are being flooded with oxygen. Keep a pad by your side or record thoughts on your phone to capture those that come to you while working out.
- Although adherence to exercise seems to be better for those who work out first thing in the morning, that might not be the best time for us writers. If your most creative time is in the morning, leave exercise for the afternoon when you need the pick me up. However, if you are a slow starter, and later in the day is when words flow for you, a.m. exercise would be a better time.
- Create a 10-minute stretch-and-strengthen routine for the end of the day. Stretch your back, hamstrings, and hip flexor muscles. Strengthen your spinal and abdominal muscles.
- Consider purchasing a standing desk or, if your budget allows, a walking treadmill desk.
- Use wireless headphones when on the phone, and walk while you talk.
Try out a few, or all, of the above tips and see how quickly you positively impact your energy levels, mood, health, and happiness as well as turning on your creative brain. Who knows, you just might write your next masterpiece.
Ellen Goldman created EllenG Coaching to help overextended business professionals and entrepreneurs who are worried about their health and happiness, and are either exhausted, burnt out, out of shape, overweight, or all of the above! Through her coaching programs, motivational talks and online courses, she shows clients how to integrate health into their busy lifestyles with simple, small steps that lead to massive change, resulting in greater energy, focus, productivity, and happiness every day. With 30 plus years' experience in the health and fitness industries, working as a personal trainer and certified wellness coach while raising her family, Ellen knows firsthand that you do not need to sacrifice your health and happiness to have a successful career. Her mission is to help others thrive both personally and professionally. Ellen is the author of Mastering the Inner Game of Weight Loss: An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet. To learn more about Ellen and her wellness programs, visit www.EllenGcoaching.com.