Writing for long periods of time can actually be quite taxing. Bloggers especially may be required to press out a lot of writing content over a short space of time in order to keep good momentum.
Fighting the brain strain when blogging
Some basic biology
Humans can maintain a taxing level for a long period. Writing requires you to expend a lot of brain power. The brain in the Human physiology is the hungriest element of the energy expenditure. You require re-oxygenating your brain more often when you are using it and it consumes more calories as a result. We lose 80% of our heat through our head, mostly to keep it cool. If you have ever experienced sun stroke you know how bad it is overheating your brain.
We Humans have developed a diet that requires protein. This protein is required predominantly by our brain. Without protein and certain base minerals we can run into problems.
The brain also needs rest. It needs down time.
How to give your brain some down time
In order to rest there are a number of things you should consider.
- You are trying to avoid over stimulation of the brain (no video games, no TV, No mobile phone, no intense music, no pornography, no internet).
- Your brain needs time to cycle down because neurons can be firing a long while after you’ve been in a hyper stimulated state.
Ways to calm your brain
Meditation is a common way of calming your brain, by controlling your breathing and putting your mind at a resting state, you’ll be able to return to situations calmer of mind.
The yoga way of meditating normally involves you sitting with your legs in a Buddha style, your eyes closed (or sometimes staring at a candle) and your arms elevated with elbows bent or in a prayer style with your palms touching. You have to control your breathing which helps settle your core. Advanced Yogis can rest in this state for hours, heart beat at an all-time low. When in a yoga style meditation you become somewhat aware of everything around you.
I meditate in the bath. This is what Albert Einstein used to do. Let your mind wander.
Taking a nap during the day can also be a great way to rest your mind. It has to be a comfortable, quiet place with no distractions.
Many artists and writers go on retreats. This is normally a place where there is very little going on, away from the city, away from most of civilization. Some where calm and out of the way. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like as long as you are isolated and in calm surroundings.
Tacit (physical) distractions
Often if you go on a walk (short or long), do a 10 minute dance, do some exercise, clean your dishes, do some ironing or anything that requires physical concentration, this means your mind can be put on the easy switch.
Your body likes to help out at times, when you can start using the parts of it that rely on instinct or muscle memory, your cognitive centre can take a bit of a back seat. This is a great way to zone out of worries.
Driving, riding a motorbike, horse (Donkey, Elephant, Great Dane) or motorcycle are all included as tacit distractions.
I personally like a good walk even when it is raining and cold.
Negative factors that can affect your brain
I am a migraine sufferer. It is a hereditary problem I’ve had all my life so I’m no stranger to dark rooms and time to rest my brain.
Triggers for me have included the following:
- High barometric air pressure
- Having a virus
- Emotional stress
- Occasional high blood pressure
- Being dehydrated
- Missing meals or having long periods between the usual routine
- Certain rich foods including chocolate
- Lack of sleep
- An addiction to Caffeine
High Barometric air pressure
This affects me normally because it brings on stormy weather and it is normally hot, gets me dehydrated quicker and puts pressure on my nut (head). Low pressure is generally relieving, funny that!
Having a virus
If I have anything that constricts my nasal passages, the pressure within my head can cause me to have a migraine on top of the cold or cough that I’m suffering.
Viruses are more common in places with poor air circulation and a high number of people per square meter. They are especially common where people don’t cover their nose when they sneeze, don’t use anti-bacterial gel to wash their hands or just don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet. Apologies for pointing that out. In addition children are excellent incubators of viruses, especially around the toddler age because their immune system lets everything through and viruses spread through children like wildfire. If you are working from home you have a bit more of a benefit against not catching a virus.
This is probably something that everyone will relate to but emotional stress over long periods can make you unwell. I have had a fair share of this recently for a number of reasons. Emotional stress can very quickly lead to migraines for me.
What do I actually mean by emotional stress?
My issues recently have been matters of the heart, of the supposedly fairer sex.
Back when I was in high school I had a different type of stress because I was unpopular and often got bullied.
There are other types of emotional stress. People dying (especially close friends, significant others and family).
Unhappy situations. The feeling of oppression or monetary worries. Health problems. Anything that is otherwise weighing on your conscience.
Occasional or permanent high blood pressure
Because migraines are vascular in how they cause a very specific left or right pain on the frontal lobes (the headache is one of a number of symptoms including odd smells, an aura of light, light sensitivity, dizziness, odd tastes, nausea and hallucinations), having high blood pressure doesn’t help. I’m not as fit as I used to be in High School and this most likely doesn’t help my migraines.
Diet and exercise are important ways of combating high blood pressure but some people are pre-disposed to it. Raising your heart’s output for 30 minutes each day can keep you healthy and lower your blood pressure. It may not always shed your bulk but it is important for your brain because it release endorphins and serotonin, party juice for your mind.
Exercise is a great way to release the party juice. Often you might need some of that to give you a creative re-invigoration.
Perhaps not so mentioned but worth putting down is carnal pleasure. This also produces a lot of party juice for your mind and technically classifies as exercise! Win win!
Dehydrated is generally bad. If you think you are dehydrated it is already too late. A human of male or female (or in between) persuasion, should intake 2-3L of fluid per day (this doesn’t have to be plain water as you can intake fluids from fruit and vegetables as well). The brain when taxed is quite heavy on fluid uptake.
Dehydration isn’t only about the water. It is also about the saline fluids known as electrolytes. Your body requires certain salts and minerals alongside water to keep it operational.
A very keen observation of when you are dehydrated is when you see your urine darker than straw colour. If this is the case, you should get drinking asap.
Often dehydration can be accompanied by dizzy spells, headaches and the trots (diarrhea). You would be surprised how many people die in India and Africa because of being dehydrated because the dysentery element exacerbates the loss of fluid.
Missing meals or too long a period between meals
Your body likes routine. There is such a thing as circadian rhythm which is how your body regulates temperature, heart rate and chemicals in your body during the day. Often your body will expect food at certain points and will warn you when you’ve gone too long without input by giving you hunger pangs. It is important to keep a routine, not over-eat if you’ve not eaten soon enough and generally avoid getting hungry in the first place.
You should avoid foods that contain high levels of fat and sugar because they have the down side of assaulting your brain and generally making you sluggish.
Certain rich foods
A particular trigger of my migraines is foods such as chocolate and some occasional unknown ingredients.
In order for me to combat this I have to regulate the amount of rich foods that I consume to a rare treat and reduce the overall amount of processed food that I consume.
Processed food often contains preservatives that can mess with your body. They have no useful purpose but are mixed in to allow food to last longer on the shelves. Improving your home cooking skills will trim out all of these nasty chemicals.
Lack of sleep
This is the most obvious way to treat your mind badly. Humans need sleep to reset chemical flows in our brains. Often the problem you were having the day before can be undone by a good night’s sleep. When you get annoyed about something, your body is flooded with certain chemicals to put you in the combat frame of mind. Adrenaline is one such chemical but there are others. Your body flushes these out when you get a good night’s sleep.
There are many contradictory studies on how much sleep you should have. The truth is that the optimum time differs, person to person.
I am a traditional night owl, for me, being up until 1am is not unheard of. I normally get good rest if I am allowed to sleep 7 hours in a cool environment with no sound or light distractions. I used to live 50 metres from a busy train line and this wasn’t good for my mental state with the airhorn blaring every morning at 5am.
I also occasionally suffer from insomnia, I haven’t been too bad in the past couple of years but there was a period during my mid-twenties when I was not able to sleep properly for days at a time. Insomnia is not an easy one to solve. Often exercise can help, even going on long walks is enough to shake it but often you just have to wait out insomnia and hope you are not a wreck for your first day of work.
A good night’s sleep include REM. Not the band (who are pretty good) but the phenomenon known as Rapid Eye Movement. You need to access a deeper sleep to acquire REM but this stage of sleep is the best at restoring your mental state to a more neutral standpoint. If you miss REM or get interrupted during it, be prepared to be in a foul mood again.
Unfortunately for me, I am addicted to Caffeine. This also means that I am now not allowed any. Just like an alcohol addiction (which also isn’t good for your mental state), Caffeine is a bit of a nasty chemical in some respects. The problem with caffeine is that essentially it empties out your adrenal gland. I mentioned that adrenaline is a combat chemical, it gets you amped up. Caffeine intake actually messes with your body’s natural response to danger.
My body is no longer able to tolerate caffeine in big doses. I can drink a cup of coffee (fully caffeinated) but will be put on withdrawal symptoms within a very short span of time. It is not worth it. I don’t get the benefits of Caffeine that you get. I just get very unwell, very quickly. I had a period where I was fine during the week but I would crash over the weekends and this was all because of the amount of caffeine I was taking. I got into a bad way with my job because it had become rather stressful juggling the amount that I had been given. I got to a point where I had to request a secondment to get out of it because I couldn’t cope. Over the span of 2 years I must have had 17 days off work through migraine related illness. Days tucked up in bed feeling like death with a pounding headache and nausea, not to mention the light sensitivity and crazy hallucinations (actually I kinda enjoyed those hallucinations).
My GP spotted the pattern and it was as simple as giving up all caffeine based drinks.
I can intake decaffeinated coffee but I have to moderate the overall amount because even decaffeinated coffee includes a trace element of caffeine (0.5mg).
I would advise that you moderate your caffeine intake simply because caffeine can affect your sleeping patterns and bad sleep means eventual bad health. You should sleep when your body tells you. You should definitely not give Caffeine to your children.
Eye strain can be a problem. Eye strain has not been linked with migraines as I was informed by an optician but it doesn’t help when you are trying to write something. Changing the colour of your backgrounds or increasing the text size when editing can help. Getting your eyes tested and taking a screen break every 50 minutes is also advisable.
Turning down the brightness and contrast of your screen may also help.
Another left field tip is to learn touch typing and type with your eyes closed. I do this from time to time if I am getting tired. There are the odd few errors that creep in but it can be a bit more liberating. Dual screens can help to organise your thoughts better and give your eyes a bit of a work out from left to right or right to left.
Increasing font size can help, and if you notice, my blog posts have quite big fonts. This is to aid the reader. You can also increase the size of these in the browser to make them even bigger.
Back pain / poor posture
This is guaranteed to be a bad way to effect your writing. Bad posture in your spine and limbs is bound to cause issues. As you predominantly sit on your arse (unless you blog standing up) and potentially hunch or sit at the wrong angle for your wrists, this is going to cause problems after a while.
If you live in a country that has long periods without an even balance of daylight, you are considerably more like to suffer the ill effects of Seasonal Affection Disorder (SAD syndrome). This is all to do with the way that light helps kick start chemical changes in your body. Special lamps can be bought that produce a high Lumens output. Common symptoms of SAD syndrome include a total drop in mood and motivation during the winter months.
Working eternal night shift can also simulate SAD syndrome because you never receive enough light to kickstart the production of melatonin (yet more party juice for your brain). Humans are not traditionally nocturnal and thus we need light to feel good. Too much light can also be a problem.
I’m sure I might think of more but this is getting rather long now. Peace to your thoughts all!