Since I started running my editing business full time, I've been sitting a lot more than I used to. I spent the majority of the day on my feet at my old job, so I never really had any back issues before. But now that I sit in front of a computer all day, I've been dealing with some pretty nasty upper- and lower-back pain. Even though writing is just about my favorite activity to do in the world, lately it's been just a little less fun because it can feel quite physically painful. I never really thought of writing as a sedentary job, but it totally is.
My father has pretty significant back issues, so this is a problem of mine that I wanted to nip in the bud. Taking editing/writing breaks (see step 6 of my work from home tips) and moving around certainly helps, but honestly you can only take so many breaks in the day before you start killing your productivity, and plus, it doesn't really fix the underlying problem, which is a lack of flexibility.
At the beginning of the summer, my upper-back pain was the biggest issue. It felt like someone was driving a knife between my shoulder-blades. I adjusted the ergonomics of my desk, and that helped a little, but not completely. Eventually, I did some research and found that tightness in your chest muscles is what actually pulls your shoulders forward (especially for desk-workers), which causes the area between your shoulder blades to feel tight and painful. Thankfully, it's very easy to solve. I used this gentleman's website as a guide for correcting bad posture and found it very helpful, particularly stretch number 7. I do that one daily, and it has made the pain between my shoulder blades completely go away. I've also noticed that my shoulders look much less rounded. Win-win :)
But as soon as I fixed that issue, the pain just migrated into my lower back. After editing all day, I'd stand up and feel like an old lady hobbling around. Everything felt so stiff.
For whatever reason, my thoughts instantly turned to yoga as a solution. I've done some yoga in the past, usually whenever I happen to belong to a gym (right now, I don't), and I've always enjoyed it, though I've never practiced very regularly. Now that we have internet again, I decided to check out some Yoga videos on YouTube - and have LOVED IT. It's made a huge difference in my back issues.
My favorite is the Yoga by Adrienne channel. She has a really nice blend of vinyasa (flow/strength) and hatha (stretching/flexibility) routines. I really like her teaching style, which is more relaxed ("no yoga-robots"), not too woo-woo, but also just woo-woo enough to help me feel focused on the breath (and not mentally ticking through my never-ending to-do list).
After trying meditation off and on over the past year, and feeling like it wasn't really helping me as much as I wanted it to (for whatever reason, it seems to kill my creativity), I've found that yoga works a lot better at improving my mood. In addition to feeling calmer, I also feel a lot stronger. Even doing mundane stuff, like cleaning the shower, is easier because I'm just better at moving around on my hands and knees. I've always been a very inflexible person, but even I can tell that my flexibility has significantly improved.
Anyway, for you writers and desk-jockeys out there, seriously, consider adding a yoga video to your daily routine. Or, do some sun salutations while you watch TV with the family. I do that quite a bit now and it feels so good to get that body moving around.
Yoga + Writing = :)
Today is August 31, the last official day of summer (or at least, that's how I see it).
I was taking a walk with my dog the other day, enjoying the heat, the blue-blue skies, and the sound of cicadas in the trees, and I wondered why it was summer made me feel so alive and happy. I know a lot of people hate summer, usually because of the heat, and they'll almost always say fall is their favorite season instead. But I hate fall.
I love summer because it's so hot, I can actually feel the heat pushing into my body, which is cooler by comparison. I like the sun and the insects. A mosquito here and there never hurt anyone. I like watching the snakes sun-bathe, and then slither off into the grass when we get too close. I like sitting by the pool and reading, looking up every now and then to enjoy that aqua color of the water.
But I realized that what I really love about summer is that it's the only time where I'm really myself.
I'm a first-born child, and a girl at that, therefore it was practically mandated I would be a people-pleaser. When you make other people's expectations a priority, it can have a lot of advantages. You tend to get good grades in school. You're valued at work for being organized and dependable. Deadlines are your friend.
But the downside is you tend not to make your own expectations and goals a priority. During the school year, I always felt like I was running around trying to make everyone else happy (playing sports, performing in recitals, endlessly studying to get good grades). I never had enough time to do the things I really wanted to do, which was basically to read, write, draw, and play outside by myself.
Summer was the reprieve from school and all those outer-expectations. It was the only time of year that my family and my teachers left me alone. My brother and I spent most of our summers at our babysitter's house, sitting in her basement, which sounds awful, but really it was heaven. We spent hours of time playing video games, reading, and watching tv. Then we'd be sent off to my grandparents house, where it was even better, because then we could run around outside and swim all day. No one asked us to do anything except our chores.
It was really only then that I was myself, or rather, escaping into various fantasies and stories in which I really felt like myself. I wasn't the "good-student" or the "good girl" during the summer. Everyone finally left me alone, and stopped asking me to do so much crap for them. That was happiness.
Occasionally, my dad would try and butt in with some obnoxious math workbook, but I typically fought back over that. Summer was my time. I didn't need more school (God, the last thing I needed was more school work). It was kind of ironic even, because my dad's descriptions of his own childhood were almost entirely about how he shirked school to work on his own projects, doing things like rebuilding cars, sailing dingies, and playing in rock-and-roll bands. Basically, doing the things he wanted to do. And frankly, it worked. He's a brilliant scientist and engineer, he's the best sailor I know, and he's a wonderful musician. Did he learn how to do all those things from math workbooks? No, he learned how from playing around on his own time. That's all I ever wanted, and I only ever got it during the summer.
But of course, August 31 always rolled around and suddenly it was time to buy school supplies and new shoes again. I still get depressed watching back-to-school commercials for this reason, even if I've been technically out of school for several years now (though I'm still employed by academics, so maybe that's why my internal calendar is still so school-centric).
So goodbye summer. It's been a great one. I started working full-time on my own editing business. I wrote and published my own books on Amazon Kindle Direct. I hung out at the pool with my own friends almost every weekend. It was my summer, and it was amazing.
My goal now, as an adult and a reforming people-pleaser, is to take that summer freedom and apply it to the rest of the year. There's no reason I can't love fall. There aren't anymore teachers or parents to tell me what to do. I'm 30 years old and I finally feel like I belong to myself.
But then again, I'm going to miss that heat. Goodbye summer. Until next year.
A few things I've noticed since I started working from home these past two weeks:
-My old job is already receding into memory. All the problems I had, the times I felt really angry about my situation - it's all melted away. I have no reason to care about any of it anymore. It's such a relief to be able to let all that go.
-It took me about a week to get out of the habit of monitoring my old work email. Eventually I realized it's just not my problem anymore.
-I've completely lost track of time. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had to edit these past few weekends (playing catch-up), so I haven't had a good sense of weekdays and weekends. I've solved this issue by keeping a journal of my daily work activity (I think it's important to keep track of how many hours I'm working on different projects) and noting the day on top of each page.
-I've started eating a lot better. This seems counter intuitive since working from home seems to be code for "I graze from the kitchen all day long." But the truth is, I keep much healthier food at home. There's all kinds of junk food temptation when I leave the house. I once counted that I passed two Taco Bells, two McDonalds, and probably half-a-dozen gas stations on my commute to my old job. Gas stations were my Achilles heel because I would always stop and buy big bags of popcorn to self-medicate myself on the long drive home. Now that's not an issue anymore, and I find myself reaching for salad, fruit, nuts, eggs, fish, etc. Physically, I'm feeling much better.
-I've stopped browsing on the internet and snacking. I realize I spent a lot of time at my old job finding ways to avoid doing work, by either eating or reading my twitter news feed, because I hated what I did for a living. Now my work is aligned with my personal and professional goals, so there's no reason to avoid any of it. Time I don't spend working on my projects or editing jobs is just wasted time that ultimately hurts me and this opportunity I have. Funny how productive you can be when you're working on your own ideas, rather than somebody else's.
-Rather than snacking or goofing around on my phone, I have this tendency to get drawn into chores as a form of distraction. Not sure if this is really a problem though. I guess it just depends on whether I'm getting my work goals finished each day.
-The biggest issue I've had is not making enough time for my own writing, and that has to change. I've been so wrapped up in finding more clients and finishing editing jobs that I've kept pushing off writing, which is bad because I quit my old job specifically so I could write more. Funny that I made more time for writing when I was working at that job, probably because it was my escape. Oh well, just something I have to change. I've been experimenting with my schedule these last two weeks and just haven't decided on the time that will ultimately be devoted to my daily writing, editing, and publishing activities. I will though.
That said, I did manage to write and edit a 3500 word short story over the course of about two days this week, which is light speed faster compared to my previous rate (it used to take me 1-2 months to finish one). So while I'm struggling to reinstate my daily writing habit, I'm at least writing faster.
Anyway, just a few thoughts from the work-at-home trenches. It's such a weird and new experience for me. I'm enjoying it so much, but I also keep waiting for the other foot to drop. Like, is it really going to be this awesome...forever?
Let's see how I feel when I pay myself at the end of the month.
Writer, editor, scientist.