Recently, I saw the following headline on Ragan.com, and it made me want to pour even more brandy into my coffee (kidding, kidding!):
Writers have higher risk of mental illness, study says
Well, that’s just great.
It turns out that writers are more prone to anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and substance control problems.
Though I don’t think any of these symptoms apply to me, I started wondering whether my daily writing habits were going to lead my down a dark hole, filled
with unpredictable mood swings, late-night trips to Walgreens for $3 red wine, and the irrational fear that the white van in my neighborhood really is following me.
It’s too late for me to become an otolaryngologist or get that degree in aeronautical engineering. Sitting down at a computer and writing stuff is pretty
much the only thing I know how to do. I just don’t want to suffer from the side effects of my profession.
Ever since I started telecommuting, I’ve noticed that some of my personal habits are deteriorating. Sure, it’s little things now, but if I don’t get
control of myself, I could wind up passed out (or worse) in an alley, wearing mismatched slippers and a Snuggie, and clutching a gin-soaked notepad filled
with unfinished haikus about corporate communicators.
To avoid this fate, here’s how I should try to make my writing more healthful:
Go outside when I work from home.
My desk is right next to a big picture window. I look at squirrels that crawl up trees and cheer them on when they get acorns. At first I thought this was
a fun hobby, but it’s actually pathetic. It’s only a matter of time before I start naming them. When you work from home, you fall into the trap of “getting
cozy.” But maybe it’s time that I put on some shoes and go for a walk during my lunch break. At least that way, the squirrels will hear me cheer them on.
Eat a well-balanced lunch.
A friend put it best: “Your refrigerator makes you look like a serial killer.” Ha! Little did he know that my cupboards are packed with cereal. (Editor’s Note: Seriously, Jessica, you should go take a walk right now.) At the office, I eat “acceptable” food: chicken sandwiches, soup, or
Chinese take-out. When I work from home, I wind up eating massive quantities of Cheerios, a Hot Pocket, and/or a can of kidney beans. If I ate at a regular
hour with regular food, this might make me less anxious about my lunch habits resembling those of a 13-year-old boy.
Stop wearing my bathrobe.
I own this hideous, leopard print XXL bathrobe that I put on immediately when I wake up and as soon as I get home from work. I have a feeling that wearing
this so much will just lead to a drug habit. Isn’t it more likely that a person would start a heroin addiction wearing a bathrobe, versus wearing a sweater
and jeans? I should just turn up my heat.
Sleep like someone my age.
Lately, I’ve been reverting back to my “college schedule.” If I feel inspired to edit and write at night, I’ll just stay up late and do it and then sleep
in a little bit more the next day. But it’s weird to email your co-workers at midnight on a Wednesday. Why even bother? Everybody else is asleep (or doing
something much more fun). I should be, too.
Drink with friends, not alone.
Writing has been linked with alcoholism. OK, not just linked; mixed and then shaken, not stirred. It makes sense—there you are, sitting at a desk, alone,
writing down words that come into your head and you wonder, “Is anybody, anybody out there reading this? Or is it still just my mom?” If you’re feeling the
urge to drink, grab lunch and a beer with a friend. (At least this way, you’ll go outside.) Hemingway made drinking and writing look cool because he was Hemingway. You’re not. (Besides, his story didn’t end “happily ever after,” now did it?) Starting your mornings with Malibu and orange juice is
just going to give you a headache by 2 p.m.—not the beginnings of the next Great American Novel.
Care to add any other detrimental behaviors and their healthier alternatives? (You’ll feel better if you do; trust me.) Please leave them in the comments
Jessica Levco is co-editor of Ragan's Health Care Communication News.