I had a scary few hours before the “storm for the history books” was supposed to hit New York. I thought I should share it because, if you’re like me and sit a lot for work, you know this but tend to ignore it.
As a writer, sitting for long periods of time is part of the process. I probably sit more than many writers, though, because I have three jobs and each keeps me in front of the computer for hours (and hours) at a time.
I fidget, I get up for coffee, I let the cat/s lounge across my lap and shift them around when my legs go numb… but I don’t MOVE.
Last Wednesday, I wound up with pain in my leg and thought I’d somehow pulled a muscle (hamstring). I did all the things you should do for sore muscles without thinking further about it. Until Saturday night when I saw how red the back of my thigh was, and by Sunday morning when it was still red but also solid, aching, swollen and hot to the touch.
As I said, I have cats – one of them is 18 years old. I rarely notice pokes and scratches from them anymore. I figured, one of them must have scratched my leg at some point, and I now had a reaction to it, like cat scratch fever.
By Sunday night into Monday, the pain was unbearable and all sorts of thoughts for what it could be tortured my mind.
Monday morning, I made an urgent appointment with my doctor, who questioned me thoroughly about my daily habits. After hearing how I work at the computer all day, she wrote a script for a doppler ultrasound of my leg to check for a blood clot. Two very long hours later, I found out I wasn’t going to die from a clot that could have been in my leg and suddenly broke off to lodge in my lung.
I have cellulitis (so I might have been right about the cat-scratch), and the antibiotics I’m on should clear it up soon enough. They’re already helping.
BUT… once my doctor heard about my routine – of sitting for hours at a time, day after day, she knew my risk of clots was pretty high up there.
So is yours if you sit a lot, too.
Her advice to reduce the risk is to sit for shorter periods at a time and really move around. If you want to write for an hour straight without getting up, she said, then do it, but don’t sit in one position. Sit up straight if you tend to lean forward toward your keyboard, put your feet up on a rest under your desk. Lower them. Put your computer on the kitchen counter, and stand while you type. Don’t do your entire day’s workout in the morning and think you’re done. Break up your sitting/writing time with additional five minute workouts throughout the day – even if the time is spent simply going up and down the stairs.
And… don’t sit on the sofa or other soft cushion with your laptop on your lap. We tend to sit ‘folded’ that way, she said, and that causes other problems (I know, I have those too).
The pain I felt Sunday night and the fear I felt about possibly having to deal with a dangerous blood clot – with a blizzard on the way, no less – reminded me how quickly hours can go by when we’re writing, and how easily we can get caught up in the work while forgetting about taking care of ourselves.
Be safe, be smart, be active.
Have you ever noticed how much time you spend sitting in one position? For fun, or not, time yourself. A change of habit is probably in order for you, too.
I was using my treadmill during the day and “between jobs”, but then I stopped, having gotten caught up in the work. I’m bringing it back in and looking at other ways to make sure I don’t put myself at such high risk again.
What are your habits like? Do you have a way to break up hours of sitting?