Are you taking time for self-care?
Medical communicators need to take care of their minds, bodies, and souls to avoid burnout and health issues.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees had to scramble to set up home offices for remote work, and there has been an uptick in freelancing. It can be challenging to balance your professional and family responsibilities while still cultivating a healthy lifestyle. Not everyone has the time or money for a physical trainer, a fancy ergonomic station, or a gym membership.
However, self-care doesn’t need to be a pricey privilege. There are plenty of ways medical communicators can work to maintain a balanced and sustainable career.
Work/Life Balance Tips for Freelancers
Many freelancers in medical writing careers have a hard time saying no to clients and projects. It’s not a good idea to push yourself so hard that you can’t keep up. In AMWA’s Expert Tips for Freelance Medical Writing, seasoned pros address this issue with some sage advice.
Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.
Limit weekend work.
Take vacations, and don’t work while on vacation.
Set aside time before and after a vacation to deal with the inevitable crises that arise.
Explore restorative practices such as yoga and meditation.
Take careful control of your work schedule by planning and prioritizing.
Work a regular schedule.
Have a dedicated place to work.
Develop outside friendships and hobbies.
Adapting to Freelance Life
Reggie Wilson, a medical education writer and health coach, is the founder of FitforFreelance.com. Wilson is on a mission to help more medical communicators become “adaptive business leaders.”
At the AMWA 2021 Medical Writing & Communication Conference, Wilson noted the contradiction inherent in writing about health while neglecting your own health.
Wilson says weight gain, low back pain, and constant stress are common in the medical communication industry. He seeks to create the same types of wellness support systems for freelancers that some companies offer onsite or remotely.
Make Your Remote Office Work for You
Most experienced pros recommend that anyone working at home create a dedicated workspace. Work/life balance is easier to achieve when you can create some physical and psychological separation between work and home responsibilities.
Medical communicators spend many hours a day on screens, usually sitting down. Bodies aren’t meant to sit for long periods of time. That’s why so many people working on computers experience shoulder, arm, back, and neck pain. Mousing or typing can lead to other repetitive strain issues.
Setting up an ergonomic workstation is a great way to keep your mind and body happy while you work. You’ll need to think about how far the monitor is from your face, the height of your desk, and the distance you are reaching for the keyboard or mouse.
Above all, you need to get up and move, stretch, and counteract the forward curve that comes from poring over important medical documents all day.
One analysis of 13 studies found that nonexercisers who sat for more than 8 hours a day had a risk of dying that was similar to that caused by smoking or obesity.
If you need a reminder to get out of that dangerous chair, set a timer. Most ergonomics experts say we should be taking at least a short break every 20-30 minutes.
When you are sitting, imagine a string pulling your spine gently toward the ceiling. Get up frequently to walk or stretch. AMWA events and conferences are starting to include yoga and walks into sessions and activities to make sure that our members stay healthy and aligned.
If you are working remotely for an employer, investigate whether the company offers virtual wellness programs, and take advantage of opportunities targeted to medical communicators.
Attendees at the 2022 Medical Writing & Communication Conference will have another chance to attend one of Reggie Wilson’s presentations: “Fighting Burnout at Home: The Hidden Value of Health Habits.”
“The variable schedule of working remotely and/or running a freelance business challenges our boundaries,” Wilson writes in the session description. “It becomes easy to say yes when we mean no, and we often forget to take care of our needs in the process. Habits regarding food, physical activity, and planning have an outsized impact on our mental clarity and resilience.”
Wellness for All
The pandemic has ushered in a new era of working at home for medical communicators.
Whether you are your own boss or working remotely for an organization, there are opportunities to learn and grow your career in a sustainable way.
When medical communicators use principles of self-care to nurture the health of their minds and bodies, they work better, smarter, and more productively.
Happy writers can help make a healthier world.