tagged with: exercise

Sylvia PlathAfter racking my brain to come up with an X word for this third-to-last post in the A – Z challenge, I came up with Xanax. To some, it may be an ugly word, to others it may be better than Open Sesame. Xanax (Alprazolam), in case you didn’t know, is a drug used to treat depression and anxiety. It belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines and it can be habit-forming.

Xanax, like most medications, carries with it a host of side effects including: drowsiness, light-headedness, headache, tiredness, dizziness, irritability, talkativeness, difficulty concentrating, changes in sex drive or ability, nausea, constipation, seizures and weight changes among other things.

But why am I writing about Xanax on a blog for writers? Maybe because of their lifestyle, writers are prone to anxiety and depression. You may have heard of Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar, who committed suicide. Eleven years after Sylvia’s death, her close friend Anne Sexton, poet, also committed suicide. Other famous authors have also suffered from the “Sylvia Plath effect” including, Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (1927), Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man And The Sea (1952), David Foster Wallace, The Pale King. This is just a short list. Wikipedia has over 200 names of writers who killed themselves.

These writers all left behind a legacy of their genius for the world to enjoy, but that genius came with a price. Some researchers believe that creativity and mental illness go together. That may be true, but as a creative individual you don’t have to succumb to depression, anxiety or any of the mental illnesses. Notice, I said succumb. That doesn’t mean you don’t have it; all it means is, you learn to control it, in the same way you learn to control your weight, blood pressure or diabetes.

From the research I have done, and from what I have seen as an occupational therapist in a behavioral health unit, Xanax may help some people in the short term, but long-term use can lead to addiction and other side effects. If you must take Xanax, do so under your doctor’s supervision. Don’t take your cousin’s Xanax because it worked for her. In addition, if you take Xanax, you should be careful to follow the instructions to the letter. Do not take more or less than the prescribed dosage, and do not stop the medication without consulting your doctor. Also, before taking Xanax, be sure and tell your doctor if you are taking any other medications, or if you are allergic to any.

The writer’s life can be an unhealthy one. Long hours staring at the computer can take a toll on your eyesight, weight, posture, circulation and mental health. Trying to get your plot and characters to work the way you want them to can lead to anxiety and depression. The same goes for struggling to market yourself, find assignments and meet deadlines, if you are a freelancer. Counteract the stress with regular breaks and exercise (preferably outdoors). See my post on Fitness for Writers(http://angelasfreelancewriting.com/fitness-tips-for-writers). Resist the urge to snack on cola drinks, potato chips and -dare I say it- chocolate. Spend quality time with family and friends, and if you can, cultivate another interest besides writing. It will do wonders for your mind.

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Did you realize that if you substitute the letter “i” from the word fit with the letter “a” you get the word fat? Now, why am I saying this? It’s because as writers it can be so easy for us to postpone going to the gym or taking a walk when we are absorbed in our writing, or when we are trying to meet a deadline. But the bottom line is, we have to discipline ourselves to keep fit so we don’t get fat.

It is possible to exercise without leaving the comfort of your home or office. It has been found that just a few minutes of exercise (as little as five) done daily can pay off big dividends in the end. So, here are some simple ways to exercise even when your characters are demanding your attention and the clock is ticking away.

1. Stretch. Stretching limbers, tones and relaxes muscles, which can prevent those cramps you get from sitting too long at your desk. Stand near your desk, bend from the waist and touch your toes with your fingertips. Hold to the count of ten. Feel that stretch loosening your spine and your hamstrings. Feel the blood flowing to your head, then stand upright. Bend at the waist to the left and to the right ten times each. Raise arms overhead and stretch to reach the ceiling, then flutter your fingers as you bring them down to your sides.

2.Work out with weights. Yes, you read that right. You can use dumbbells right there sitting or standing near your desk to perform biceps curl, triceps extension and other upper body workouts. If you don’t have a pair of dumbbells, you can use vegetable cans, or water bottles. Failing that, you can use your own body weight.

3. Do standing push-ups. Stand about 12 inches away from your desk or wall and bend your elbows as you push against it without touching your elbows to the wall or desk. Keep your legs and back straight. Increase your distance from the desk or wall as you get stronger. This is a good triceps exercise.

4. Butt crunches. Instead of just sitting on it all day give your derriere a squeeze now and then. Tighten and squeeze, hold for 5 – 10 seconds. This will help get rid of the sag. Repeat 6 – 8 times a day.

5. Don’t neglect your abs! Sit near the edge of your chair – not one on wheels. Place your palms flat on handles, raise your knees up to your chest, then lower, stretching your legs out in front of you. Bring your knees back up and lower. Do this 10 times.

These exercises are not meant to replace your gym or outdoor workouts. They are simply meant to help you maintain your fitness level when you can’t get out and exercise. There are many good sites where you can find chair or desk exercises. Two of them are listed here:
Share your fitness tips for writers in the comments box below and drop by again soon. Okay, now where are my dumbbells?

The race-course is used by joggers and walkers...
Image via Wikipedia

This morning I left home a little later than I should have for my morning walk. The reason was that I simply thought I would lie in bed a little longer, but the increasing brightness on the other side of my window shades reminded me that time was not waiting on me. So I got up and went for my walk. Fortunately, by the time I got to the park it  felt around 70 degrees and there was still a nice number of walkers/joggers to keep me motivated.

What does this have to do with writing, you are probably asking? Discipline. The same thing that gets you out of bed every morning, is the same thing it takes to get you in front of the computer to write something. Or to send out those queries or to read a book on writing.

I have to confess that I am still lacking in the discipline department. No, that’s not entirely true. Work and household duties sometimes get in the way of my writing. I do not spend as much time as I would like to, doing what I love. But I do write or engage in writing activities everyday. Whether it is for a client, for Livestrong or critting for my online group, I manage to squeeze in a little something everyday. And that, like exercise, is what counts.

I know that if I’m to eventually drop those two dress sizes by Christmas, as I plan to, I have to do what it takes to achieve that goal. In the same way if I’m to become a successful writer I must write every day.  So here’s to discipline. Do you struggle with discipline in any area of your life? Leave your comments below.

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