Since coming down with a wicked flu before Christmas, I was on a roller coaster ride regarding my health. Truth be told, a lot of last year sucked regarding my health (on top of all those dead celebrities I liked!) Life got worse before it started to get better.
At the turn of the year, my problems came to a head. As my plane descended into Cuba, my left eardrum burst. That sucked a little joy from the vacation but Cuba was my first step in a new direction. Stepping back from working so hard gave me perspective, some time to read and time on the beach to think. It took me a month to fully recover from the ear issue and complications ensued from the medications I was on. Aside from a few headaches, all that seems to be behind me. How is this relevant to writers? Because our sedentary lifestyles and the constant push to write more books faster is killing us.
Killing us. No, that’s not hyperbole. Sitting is the new smoking.
There are plenty of solutions to the sedentary lifestyle and I’ve discussed them in this space before (e.g. cycles under the desk, tread desks, standing desks, Fitbits, Garmin watches, get out and move your ass, etc.,….) It’s not just about motion. It’s also about diet. As Tim Ferriss says, “Ounces are lost in the gym, pounds are lost in the kitchen.”
Getting better and feeling better takes effort, but I needed a new groove so I was motivated to finally make deep changes.
As writers under stress (like anyone under stress) we often self-medicate. Self-medication can take many forms. Increased alcohol consumption is the classic writer cliche. Overdoing caffeine (that’s me) or spacing out too much with Facebook and video games might qualify as injurious, too. None of those distractions is bad, it’s just a question of how much we do them and what healthy, productive pursuits those activities replace.
I’ve been very careful about my diet for the last month. I’ll spare you the details except to say I dumped sugar, wheat and anything that comes out of a box. The larger point is, I didn’t realize how sick I was until I cleaned up my act. Sick was normal. Feeling shitty was the daily and the regular. I was eating bad food as a stress reaction. Now that I’m not doing that anymore, I feel the difference between sick and well again. I haven’t felt this good in years. I’ve lost weight, my blood pressure is normalizing and I have more energy for everything, including writing.
Will I write as many books this year as I have in past years? Maybe not but now I think I’ll be writing for more years. (I had an inkling I’d be dead by 54. Now I’m less concerned my life will be cut so short.) My books are suddenly more popular than they have been so I’m very motivated to keep going. I have so many more stories to tell and series to finish. I won’t kill myself doing it, though. I’ve achieved balance and I worry less.
Sure, sure, Chazz, but how?
Everyone will find their own way, but I can give you a few ideas about how I’m doing this:
- Write a book about stress management. I did and it changed my life because, after preaching this stuff for years I committed to living up to my book. (The book is called Do The Thing!) In the final chapter, I made my readers my accountability partners. I promised I’d rise to my own ideals. (Accountability partners are key. I needed someone to report to so I recruited someone as well as blabbing about it weekly on the All That Chazz Stress Relief Podcast.)
- If you can’t write a book about stress, read one, obviously. Please pardon the shameless plug.
- Do the healthy things that work for you. What’s the best exercise? The one you’ll do and enjoy. Which is the best gym? The closest one or the gym on the right hand side of the road on the way home. Can’t face a hot yoga class? YouTube and phone apps have yoga. Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the doable. Whatever. Just do the thing!
- Seek help if you need it. Help someone else if you don’t need it. Social connection and support is an important indicator of health and mortality, too.
- Do not worry about what you can’t control.
- Find your solutions with people who get you. One of the things that attracted me to trying The Wild Diet was that the approach was achievable, I could enjoy the food and the rationale made sense to me. However, the factor that really got me going with that book was that the author, Fat-burning Man Abel James, had been overweight and suffered health problems. He isn’t a personal trainer who had always been skinny and didn’t know the struggle. He isn’t the kind of guy who hates fat people and screams 1-2-3-4! (Looking at you, Jillian Michaels!)
- Make you a priority. This the the plea to enact the lesson of the cliche: When the airplane is crashing, put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Since changing my lifestyle, I have more energy for my kids. They don’t care about my books, but they do want to hang out with Dad more now that he’s happy.
I could go on, but hey, find out more on my podcast or pick up the book or do whatever else you already know you need to do. Life can be better and longer. I know that for sure now.
All the best,