You hear it frequently. You may say it to yourself. And it’s very important.
When you’re relaxed, you help keep your body healthy and you preserve energy that your mind needs to get your writing projects done.
Here’s what you need to do…
I’ve written a popular post on writing ergonomics, so review that to ensure you have proper posture and alignment when you’re writing on the computer. Here’s the main graphic from that post:
I’ve also written dozens of posts about how to get in more productive mental states, so I won’t revisit that now.
The Main Point: Relax Those Muscles!
Why is muscle relaxation so important to you, the freelance writer? Four reasons:
- By decreasing unnecessary tension you save your energy for all the productive and interesting things you do in your life, including writing.
- You’ll decrease the likelihood of developing back problems and joint problems. Tense muscles pull on your spine and the ligaments and tendons connected to and supporting your joints, so prolonged tension can cause alignment problems and inflammation, among other ailments.
- You’ll minimize any pain or discomfort related to muscle tension so you can focus your entire attention on writing.
- You’ll benefit from many of the positive health effects of relaxation, including lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and increased blood flow to major muscle groups, along with positive effects on your mental health.
Let’s look at 7 important activities that help you relax…
- Walking. I’ve been an avid hiker since I was a little kid, and as an adult I’ve written 3 hiking guides on various parts of northern California. I frequently hike in the hills and mountains, and I do a walk of a mile or more just about every day. Whenever possible, walk outside in as natural a setting as you can find. It costs nothing, gets you out in the fresh air, and provides an excellent mental break from work.
- Exercise. Nearly all forms of exercise can help you relax. I do a moderate weight training workout twice a week.
- Tai chi. I began studying tai chi in 1994. Since the summer of 2005 I’ve studied seriously with Gene Burnett in Ashland, Oregon, and I practice nearly every day, some days for 2 hours or more. Tai chi provides detailed instruction in proper posture, movement, relaxation, and present-moment awareness.
- Yoga. Yoga really helps you feel your body inside and out. The various postures both stretch your muscles and strengthen them, and your teacher will guide you in consciously relaxing the muscles that are not needed. I do 5-20 minutes of yoga nearly every day, and I occasionally take classes.
- Massage. Getting a massage definitely helps relax tense and overworked muscles. If price or convenience is an issue, consider taking a class with a partner or friend and then give massages to each other. You can massage many of your muscles yourself, although it’s not as much fun. I get occasional massages from my sweetheart and I also massage myself.
- Feldenkrais method and the Alexander technique. Both increase your awareness of your body and will help you relax. I’ve so far only had limited exposure to each, but found them beneficial.
- Meditation. My daily tai chi is excellent mind/body/present-moment awareness meditation. I also do tai chi related standing meditation. Buddhism and Hinduism are 2 religious traditions with a strong focus on meditation; however, you can get the mental and physical benefits of meditation without adopting either belief. The basic meditation techniques of Zen Buddhism are easy to learn.
Here are 5 relaxation techniques…
- Practice the proper posture and ergonomic techniques.
- Every few minutes do a quick mental scan of your entire body. Notice any unwanted tension and consciously release it. It may help to close your eyes.
- Occasionally flex your major muscle groups for a few seconds to increase blood flow and facilitate the removal of toxins from the body.
- Get up at least once an hour, preferably every thirty minutes or sooner, and move around for at least one minute.
- Regulate the temperature in your office or the clothing you wear so you are neither too hot nor too cold.
Keep at it. It’s difficult to release all unnecessary tension all the time. I can’t do it, and I doubt very many people can. The key thing is to make steady progress.
Do you have problems with muscle tension? How does it affect your writing? What do you do to relax?