Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stay Strong!

Today we wanted to talk a bit about health, since in these chilly winter months, colds abound and it's not fun trying to paint with the flu. Believe us.

While we always talk about sustainability with creation, we do realize that there are times where everything else goes out the window in order to get a project done, or a proposal turned in, or a competition entry postmarked. Whether you're turning in an illustration for a client or having to send out product to your customers, it pays to be professional and as punctual as possible - and sometimes that means that you sacrifice sleep, eating, etc. to get it done.

So, while many of us are busily trying to finish holiday card illustrations (ARG!) or turn in finals or just get some work done in this busy busy busy time of the year, here are some tips to survive the winter.

1. Keep a glass of water close by. The bigger the better. For one, Monkey + Seal tend to work long hours at the computer, digitally painting or creating websites or whatever, and we tend not to get up for long stretches. Keeping hydrated in these dehydrating winter months is super important (even in non-winter months). If you have a big jug of water on hand, you're more likely to drink, and you're more likely to not run out of water before you take a break.
This also encourages bathroom breaks, where you're forced to get out of your chair and go do something else that doesn't involve a computer. Take the time on the way to the potty to do some stretching.

2. Take breaks. Please avoid repetitive stress injuries if at all possible. Too much time at the computer is never good, and if you take a break every hour or so you'll be more fit in the long run to keep on going. Powering through might seem like a good idea, but if you ever have week-long stretches where project after project is due, you can seriously injure yourself.

3. Stretch. It's a good thing to do on your breaks. Plus, the physical activity will help keep you awake in those 3am crunch-time sessions. Just remember - if you don't hold the stretch for 10 seconds, you're not really stretching anything. A good one that we do a lot is to hold out your arms parallel to the ground. Now try to raise your hands (not your arms) up - you should look like you're about to push a giant box. Now try to hold them there for at least ten seconds. Let your hands rest, then clench them into a fist and move your hands down, so it looks like you were trying to push a giant box with the top of your hands. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat over and over and stretch those hand tendons!

4. Avoid/Embrace stimulants. So Monkey doesn't drink coffee or tea or energy drinks, even when he does a 30 hours marathon of craziness (try to avoid these if at all possible, they aren't pretty). If he drinks a few red bulls, he gets shaky, he can't focus, and nothing really gets done besides poor-quality work and lots of twitching. Seal on the other hand, needs a nice warm low-caffeine coffee or tea with soy milk to keep going late at night, and she feels fine the next morning. Really, whether you use caffeine or sugar or whatever is fine, but if you don't normally use them to stay up, just be wary that it might make you weird. Also, cutting them out in an effort to cut back might also make you weird, so don't experiment when your work is on the line. Do what works!

5. Sleep. When you can, but do it as often as possible.

6. Eat healthy. We know, we know, it's hard to eat healthy when you're glued to your chair and working non-stop, but it really does make a difference. You'll find you have more energy and feel less lethargic eating lots of vegetables and carbs from grains rather than heavily fatty foods and chips. Monkey definitely has to watch this, as he'll eat a whole bag of pretzels for a meal, but try to get some healthy food. If ordering out is too pricey, see if maybe you can team up with another artist who is on a different schedule and you can bring each other meals. Collaboration and trades are always awesome!

7. Superfood. We're not paid to endorse Odwalla, but whether it's a psychosomatic effect or not, whenever we've started to feel sick and had to keep going, we've bought a few of the Superfood (the green one, not the berry one!) and pounded those and we've managed to fight off the cold at least until we didn't have any more work to do. Eating/drinking a crapload of vitamins (especially vit. C) or fruits and vegetables probably will do the trick as well (maybe just gallons of orange juice), but for whatever reason, if we can afford those little $4 bottles of juice they seem to do the trick.

8. Lemon/Ginger. So when you're already sort of sick, we grate some ginger and cut up a lemon and throw it in a pot of water and boil it for a while. We then take this crazy sour concoction of death and drink it. Monkey highly recommends using some Chrysanthemum tea (super sweet, buy it from your local Asian grocery store, looks like little sugar rocks in a packet), to kill the bitterness, but people can also use honey. Seriously, drink a few cups of these over a few days and you'll kill pretty much most colds. This stuff is hardcore.

So there you have it. The Monkey + Seal formula for staying healthy while burning that 3-4-5am oil. What tips and tricks do you recommend for surviving the winter?