I write for a living. Then I go home and write for myself. Anytime I’m not writing, it feels like I should be writing. I live in a world of words.
Many writers do.
But writing is hard. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes long hours of research, long hours at the keyboard, long hours with a red pen in hand, etching away at the words, until they’re the right words.
Another part that’s hard? Taking care of yourself.
I have a particular problem with this. I like to be busy. I hate being bored. So I’m always doing something: writing, reading, running, working on errands/chores…
Sometimes though, it gets to be too much.
And I’ve learned that I have to take a break. Or I’ll burn myself out.
I learned this the hard way about three years ago. I was graduating college, writing a senior thesis, planning my wedding, trying to find a job, and moving to Boston, and I got sick with physical symptoms like chest tightness/pain, parts of my face going numb, nausea, and dizziness.
It eventually got better but it took a long time, and I could have avoided much of it if I’d just taken better care of myself.
In the past few years, I’ve started taking better care of myself by running, eating better, drinking more tea, doing yoga. But I still have problems taking care of myself, especially when I’m finishing up a book. When I’m nearing the end of a novel I work with a crazy energy, writing/editing/revising non-stop until it’s done. This is great for the novel… Less good for me.
That’s why when I finished Flame of Burnt Brandy I tried hard to practice self-care. And I found some great strategies that helped me, and hopefully, might help you.
- Yoga: I do the first 15 minutes of this program that gently stretches your muscles. It’s particularly good for people with bad backs
- Exercising regularly: I run three times a week now. If you’d told me a year ago that I would love my runs… I would have scoffed and run away. But there is something cathartic about getting up early when the world is quiet and getting your blood pumping.
- Getting a massage/pedicures: I know these are luxuries that not everyone can afford, but for me, they are quite relaxing when I’ve had a long week
- Essential oils: I had a friend who recently recommended them, and kindly sent me some, and I’ve found their application very soothing and de-stressing
- Meditating: I always thought this was a bit crunchy for me, but I recently got an app called Pacifica ($2?) and it has a variety of deep breathing/muscle relaxation methods paired with soundscapes (ocean waves/thunderstorms, etc.) that calm me especially if I feel a stress/anxiety attack coming on
- Journaling: Writing (not for work/books) often makes my problems feel more manageable
- Taking a break: from work, writing, normal patterns, and chores
This last one is most important for me. Once I sent Flame of Burnt Brandy to my beta readers I left it alone and didn’t touch it for a month. I didn’t read it or dabble with edits, I just let it be. Even when I was in Paris for my sister’s graduation, I didn’t pick it up. I find Paris very inspiring (The cafes! The streets! The Seine!) but I didn’t pick up my laptop the whole time I was there. I took a lot of time to sit in cafes, eat delicious pastries (hello 20 chouquettes in one day), and wander around parks. Sometimes I was reading/chatting, but mostly I was just… being. It sounds a bit silly, but often I would just close my eyes, feel the sunshine on my face, and enjoy where I was in that moment.
Not everyone can go to Paris, but I do recommend taking some time away from your work. It’ll do you and your latest project a world of good.
I’m not a master at self-care by any means. But I’m trying to get better. I don’t want to go through life in a haze of exhaustion and sickness. I want to live each part of my life intentionally.
Have you taken care of yourself today? You should. You and your work deserve it.