Monday, September 29, 2014

This Writer's Life 10: Staying Healthy, Because Working Sick Sucks

I’ve been passing out in the afternoons. Not getting tired, passing out. I can’t focus, can’t keep my eyes open, and have to lie down for 20 minutes to restart my brain. Add that to days where I can’t work to save my life and lie on a couch in a malaise, and I thought that doing a post about staying healthy might be a wise thing.

I also went to my doctor and had a bunch of tests because passing out. Duh.

When you’re freelancing, you don’t have a company insurance plan, you sometimes can’t afford your own insurance, and when you get sick, you have no sick leave. I live in Canada where we have universal health care paid for through taxes, so that helps. If you live somewhere where you don’t have universal health care, you need to be doubly careful.

So how do you stay physically healthy? Four basic things:


Without sleep you can’t function properly.  I wrote Cold Magics on 5 hours of sleep a night for about 8 months, because the only time I had to write was between 10 p.m. and midnight. I gained weight, felt like crap and got sick a lot.

Humans need between at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Get sleep.


Junk food is one of my favourite things but it isn’t what your body needs to function well and stay healthy. Humans need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat and a whole bunch of trace elements to survive and thrive. Learn what they are, and learn how to cook food with them in it. It’s cheaper and healthier than restaurants. Also, yummy!

Note: Don't starve yourself. Your body needs approximately 2000 calories per day for women, 2200 a day for men. Anyone who tells you to eat 1200 calories a day is either misinformed or wants you to give them money for their diet plan.


Did you know the 8 glasses of water a day thing is a myth? Some marketing executive for a water bottling company pulled it out of thin air (or some other place) to get you to drink more bottled water.

That being said, you need to stay hydrated.  Dehydration leads to headaches, exhaustion, grumpiness and drinking all your kid’s apple juice and having to make up lies about what happened.

… I’ve heard.

Drink when you’re thirsty. If you’re worried about whether you’re hydrated or not, here’s a handy guide.


Yes, you need it.  Muscle exercises help you keep your posture when you’re sitting in your chair and help you lift those cartons of books. Cardiovascular exercises give you the breath to throw elevator pitches at fast-moving editors, and to run from your legions of screaming fans.

If you have a physical disability or disabilities, you will need to work within those limitations, of course, but still, get some exercise. Bike, run, walk, wheelchair race, lift heavy objects, go hiking, go swimming, do pushups, do something!

Having a healthy body also helps you have a healthier mind, which makes it easier to write more.


All writer-as-vampire jokes aside, get out into the sun every day if you can. Even 15-20 minutes outside does you a world of good.

Sunlight is good for you (vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin!) and more important, getting outside and staring at something other than the keyboard or notebook regenerates your mind and spirit, and you will better for it.

Bonus Tip: Wash Your Hands

I spend years doing corporate communications for a hospital. And one of the biggest messages that we sent out to people coming in was WASH YOUR HANDS!

Why you ask?

Right now, your nose is itching because unknown to you, you have Abyssinian Nose-Fall-Off plague (pre symptomatic but contagious). You’re going to scratch it. The germs will go on your hands. Your hand touches the bannister on your way down to the subway, or the counter at the coffee shop. Someone else’s hand touches the same spot. Then at some point, they touch their face.

One week later, everybody’s nose is falling off, and if you’d washed your hands after scratching your nose, the world wouldn’t be in this mess.

Here’s when and how.


Next week: Mental Health: Because your body is only half the battle.

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