There are many factors that can lead to stress in a writer’s life. The problem is that there are some sources of stress you can’t control. Examples of things you can’t control are what people think of your books, how well your promotional efforts will pay off, and what online retailers are going to do next.
So how can you cope? After struggling with overwhelming stress for the past four months, I’ve come up with a few things we can do to help put stress at a manageable level.
I think the first thing to do is set up a routine. Predictability helps to buffer you because constant change is a source of stress in itself.
Write in the same place. Do all your non-writing activities in a different place.
I suggest writing in the same place(s). This can be the same room in your home, or it can be outside the home. Once I started writing at the Starbucks cafe in Barnes & Noble, my stress level went significantly down. When I’m home, I don’t write. Some people have offices in their homes where they do all their writing. So working at home is fine. Just make sure it’s in the same place each time you do it.
I do all my non-writing activities at home. I edit at home. I do emails at home. I do blog posts at home. But I no longer write there. If you write in one room, then consider doing all your non-writing tasks in a different room.
By writing at the same place, you train your mind when it’s time to be creative. By going to Barnes & Noble for 3-4 hours a day, I have bumped my word count from an average of 1500 – 2000 words a day to 3000 to 5000 words a day in a month’s time. I’m able to write faster, and I feel fresher when I’m working.
Take days off.
I know the conventional wisdom is to write every single day, but this was killing me because I wasn’t giving my brain time to decompress. I always worried I’d lose serious word count by taking days off. But in April, I started writing Monday through Friday (sometimes only Monday through Thursday). The other days were days where I was not allowed to do any work. I could do anything else, but I couldn’t do anything with writing unless it was necessary, which was rare.
Getting back into things on Monday does take a little longer than it does on Tuesday, but I’ve found the days off have been the trick I needed in order stop feeling uptight all the time.
Sleep is important for mental and physical health. I recommend giving yourself a bedtime routine at the same time each night (if you can) to help train your mind to get ready for sleep. I like to spend one hour in bed watching a movie or TV show off my Kindle. Some people like to read for pleasure. Some people like to listen to music. Whatever relaxes you is best, and it has to be non-work related.
How many hours of sleep you need depends on your body. I need nine hours of sleep to feel truly refreshed in the morning. I don’t always get it since I have four kids, but if I can get it on most nights, I’m good. Some people can get by with less hours. Try different hours until you find your ideal hours.
I know this is not possible for everyone, but try to get as much sleep as you possibly can.
A few years ago, I was a skeptic that what we eat and drink can impact our ability to work better, but when I changed what I was eating and drinking and was twice as much productive during the day, I was convinced.
We all know the foods and drinks that are good for us, and we all know what we should avoid. I’m not saying you can’t ever have the bad foods and drinks. Just make them a treat for rare occasions instead of a part of your daily diet.
It might take you a couple weeks to adjust to the new diet. You might even need to gradually change the way you’re doing things. But if you make it a priority to eat and drink better, it will impact your ability to work better.
The choice of exercise is up to you, but I prefer walking. You don’t have to do this every single day, but if you can do it a couple times a week, it’ll be better than doing nothing.
When you’re stressed, it’s hard to laugh, but that’s partly why I believe taking days off from writing and having a wind-down time before bed every night can help relax our minds so we’re more open to humor.
And with that being said, I thought I’d leave you with a cute little comic I found that made me chuckle.