Writing can be a very solitary profession. It can also play havoc with your emotions and sense of self-worth. Rejections, bad reviews, writer’s block… add these to financial insecurity, lack of exercise and long hours spent alone at a keyboard, and it’s not hard to see why some authors become depressed or disillusioned.
Faced with all this, it’s vital we learn to look after ourselves. And so, over the past few weeks, I’ve been making a particular effort to put myself first.
Putting myself first doesn’t come naturally. I seem to be one of those people who looks after everybody else but can’t ask for help when he needs it. Not that this is a bad thing. I have people in my life who need a lot of looking after. But I need to get better at learning to relax.
One of the things about being a writer under deadline is that I feel guilty for every moment I’m not writing. My inner voice tells me I should be working every spare moment. And if I’m not writing, I should be cleaning the house or doing the laundry…
Recently, all this got on top of me and I lost the ability to write. So, I started taking time to do small things to help take care of my mental and physical health. Here are some of them:
- Filled the house with vases of flowers (fake ones, I get hay fever) to brighten up the place
- Started meeting friends for drinks and coffee, to get me out of the house so I feel like a participant in life rather than a bystander
- Scoured the bargain shelves at the supermarket for unusual items (duck breast fillets, sea bass, turkey steaks, etc) with which to make myself more interesting and healthy meals
- Upped the amount of fruit and veg I consume
- Worried only about the things I could control
- Let go of past stresses
- Tried to get out for a walk more often
- Only eat when I’m hungry
- Bought a new bed with new pillows and sheets
- Made playlists of happy songs and tunes that remind me of good times
- Make sure I talk to at least one friend everyday, even if only via text message
- Binge watched Brooklyn 99 with my daughter
- Made a housework rota to stop me feeling like it’s all getting on top of me
- Moved my work desk into the lliving room, so the kids can keep me company while I work, and because it’s brighter and less like a cave
Tider, brighter house = more relaxed surroundings = more relaxed mind.
Plus, as a writer, it’s good to get out more. Being around people provides raw material when creating characters. It’s also good to step outside your own head sometimes.
I still have a long way to go. I need to lose a bunch of weight and my diet still has room for improvement. But even making small positive steps has brightened my general mood considerably, and helped me get my writing mojo back.
What do you do to look after yourself?
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