Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Body Wisdom (Worktoomuch? Well, you'd better cut down a little then)

Body Wisdom

I have some challenges in the area of body wisdom. It's never really been a strong suit.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to climb higher, run faster, eat more sugar and stay awake later than was good for me.

Once I became an adult, the main things I tended to overdo were food, booze and work.

Getting older took care of overdoing the booze (well, mostly anyway), the food is a work in progress (more on that later) and the last thing to come to the table is work.

Worktoomuch? Well, you better cut down a little then.

It's easy for me to overdo working. For one thing, they pay me to work and just like anyone else, I need money to survive. For another thing, work sits in positive semantic space in our culture. When I work hard, I'm rewarded with approval as well as money. I once told a boss, "I come for the paycheque, but I stay for the praise". And finally, as a freelancer, there is a temptation to "Never Say No". If you say no, you might not be asked the next time.

I do a lot of digital typesetting of financial reports. And that means I have a "busy season". A lot of companies have their year-end on December 31 and therefore, a regulatory deadline to file their annual report by March 31. Which means that February and March can be very, very busy months for me.

Sometimes I work 10-, 12-, 14-, 17-hour days for 40 or 50 days in a row. I don't work much the rest of the year and so, it seems like a fair trade.

This year, though, my body is telling me working that much is not good idea.


A few weeks ago, I had a rough couple of weeks personally. Someone very close to me had a life-threatening illness (much better now, thank you) and the relationship I had been in for the past two-and-a-half years broke up.

That, in combination with 10- and 14-hour work days, using the trackpad on my laptop with my (dominant) left hand, was enough to make all of the muscles in my left shoulder seize up.

I didn't even notice at first. (See above where I say body wisdom is not one of my strong suits). It wasn't until I had a shower and the water felt funny on my left shoulder that I realized that all of the skin on that shoulder was numb.

It's the strangest feeling and one that I've never had before.


I hoped it would just go away on its own. I gave it a couple of days, went for an already-scheduled massage, but instead of getting better, it got worse, with the numbness radiating down my left arm into my hand. I did a little Google diagnosis (adding a new word to my vocabulary: Parasthesia) and briefly flirted with the idea that this was a sign of MS or a severe anxiety disorder, before deciding that the simplest answer was probably the most likely: stress > tight muscles > pinched nerve > numbness.

I booked an appointment with my osteopath.

The osteopathy treatment helped, though the prediction that the numbness would go away in "a few days" has not come true. I'm due to go back for another osteo appointment tomorrow. In the meantime, the numbness has been joined by a "nerve itch" in my left earlobe and on the left side of my neck. It's a horrible sensation, an itch that is INSIDE the tissues, so that scratching does not offer any relief.

Slowing down

Last week, I turned down 4 new jobs. A couple of years ago, I would have taken at least some of them and added a few hours on to my already-long days. The trouble is that I've already committed to typesetting about 500 pages in the next three weeks. Along with doing work as needed for my non-financial clients.

How will I get through this?

  • I bought a mouse so I can use my right hand for more tasks and rest my left
  • Work at my awesome ergonomic desk (Because it was so cold upstairs, I had been working downstairs by the woodstove,with my arm at an unhealthy angle)
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Put heat on my shoulder several times a day
  • Continue going for massage and osteopathy as often as possible/necessary
  • Try to get more sleep (not always easy with that nerve itch which woke me up at 2:30 this morning *shudder*)
  • Try to stay positive – know that this will heal given time and the end of the "Annual Report Season"
  • Start making plans now to avoid this sort of injury next year (with my expenses decreasing thanks to my new tiny home, I should be able to work less)

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