A  few years ago, I majorly screwed up my wrist by doing a massive Project Life catch-up. I wore a wrist brace for awhile, had to completely lay off of crafting/writing/using my right hand AND ended up going to physical therapy for awhile. There, I had to tell the physical therapist that I’d developed the pain via Extreme Crafting. I don’t think she’d ever heard that one before.

Since then, I’ve been more careful about doing massive amounts of repetitive activity with my wrist. I never wanted to return to that place again. Buttttt as time has passed and that sad, grey time in my creative life started to fade from memory, I’ve started to creep into the more extreme zones of crafting again. Now that I have my Etsy shop, it’s not unusual for me to sit down and hand paint 10 cards in one sitting. That’s a lot of fine motor movement happening in a concentrated amount of time.

Well, it all caught up to me again. Blast! I started to feel acute pain in my hand last week. Holding a pen or a paintbrush was torture. Even trying to put on pants hurt. It turns out that I’ve given myself a repetitive stress injury. The main cure is rest. Rest as in: no painting, no writing letters, no project life, no other crafting. These things bring me so much joy AND are a big part of my business. I was not pleased to get this diagnosis.

After lamenting this fact for a day or two though, I’ve started to see the silver lining of this injury…it’s definitely slowed me down in some areas, but allowed me to crank things up in others. Here’s a rundown:

1) Researching healthy habits for moving forward.

As an artist, writer, and creative, my hands are my primary tools. I’ve realized that I have to take better care of them, just like a chef would consistently sharpen their knives or a truck driver would get regular oil changes. And just taking small breaks, while better than nothing, is not going to cut it. I need to do some serious self-care.

During my desperate research, I stumbled across this article that sets forth some concrete suggestions for treating tendonitis and repetitive stress injuries. I watched the video about self-massage techniques for your arms and hands and have been trying to do that daily for myself. I also ordered the book that was recommended, titled Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Stress Injuries: A Self-Care Program. It hasn’t arrived yet, but when it does, I’ll be taking it seriously.

I’ve decided this isn’t just an “oh that would be a nice thing to do for myself,” it’s a “this is a non-negotiable if I want to keep producing art for years to come.”

2) Time to finally GO PAPERLESS!

Since my regular activities have been put majorly on hold, I’ve been channeling some of that freed up time into (finally) going paperless. It’s been a long time coming and Bobby’s been very patient with me as I was SO excited about this over a year and a half ago, bought the scanner, paid for Evernote, bought TWO separate eBooks telling me exactly how to go about things, and then got lured into other projects before I ever truly got everything organized digitally. We’ve been carting file folders filled with documents back and forth with us during each move.

Every couple months, Bobby will gently mention it and try to see where I’m at with things – to which I respond something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m DEFINITELY going to get on that! I just have so many other things that are on the go right now! But NO we mustn’t cancel Evernote or sell our scanner! I’m totally on board with the paperless thing!” (Let me be clear, we both decided long ago that I was the Nixon Peterson CFO of the family, so it’s not as if Bobby is abdicating any responsibilities here. We both acknowledge that the paperless project is much more in my wheel house.)

With this prescription of rest for my hand, the universe has basically forced me into staring the whole Paperless Project in the face. So far I’ve sorted through a ton of our papers and documents, gotten rid of a BUNCH of them, and am ready to start scanning the important documents that should be kept. This is far overdue, and I’m grateful that so many other activities have been put on hold so that I could finally start tackling it.

3) Reading and I are finally becoming good friends again.

Reading is such a faithful friend but I have a tendency to ditch it for other activities. With this injury, though, I’ve started to dive into books again. Every time I get back with the reading program I think, “How did I ever veer away from this? I love reading!” And reading just sits there and shakes her head at me and says, “Welcome back you slow learner, you.” She’s very forgiving like that.

So there we have it. Multiple reasons why this pain-in-the-butt repetitive stress injury actually has multiple silver linings.

If you’re someone who uses your hands a lot – whether it’s for typing, drawing, painting, surgery – I’m curious whether you’ve developed any routines to keep your hands and wrists in tip-top shape. Please share in the comments if you have any wisdom!