Question submitted by Dennis A.

Hi Eliott!

I am an aspiring self-taught artist. I study hard every single day, sitting for hours and hours while drawing. At times I feel eye strain, headaches, back pain and fatigue.So I was wondering, do you have any advice on how to keep up with health while studying, or healthy habits that you have developed over the years?

Thank you in advance!

Hi Dennis, the short answer to your question is to TAKE BREAKS

I’ve gone through all of those symptoms myself and when I went to the doctor, that was the advice she gave to me. Eye strain means you are either staring at your subject for a lengthy period of time, or may be sitting too close or staring too intensely (don’t forget to blink). Same goes for back pain headaches and fatigue.  I’m no doctor, but from your description, your issues are likely due to the intensity of your work ethic.  Now, I’mm all for a strong work ethic, but pushing too hard can cause you all kinds of grief down the road. Carpel Tunnel is a serious career ending threat that every artists will face over time.

So, here’s what I do:

I start my day off by walking my dog for about 30 minutes in the morning.  This tiny amount of exercise helps me achieve my daily goal of walking 6,000 steps.  It also gives me time to think about my tasks ahead.

Unless I’m in “the zone”, I have learned to take a ten minute break from work every two hours or so, and a one hour break every 4. Setting aside this time not only gives my hands, eyes, and back muscles a break, but also allows me to step back from my desk to asses the work that I’ve done.

At the end of my day, I walk my dog again and decompress from the stress of the day.

Remember: Protect you hands. Protect your eyesight. Protect your brain. Complications in any of those can hurt your career.