With NaNoWriMo approaching, I wanted to talk about self-care. To not get burned out, you have to have coping strategies. I asked a few of my writing groups (Fiction Writing, Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Zombie Pirate Publishing Writers Group, and Creative Fiction Writing) what they practiced for self-care and wanted to share their answers with you. First, let’s take a look at what self-care is.
“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
― Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
What is self-care?
Self-care is the act of giving your soul what it needs to replenish. It’s different for everyone, as what works for one person may not work for another, so keep that in mind as you try new ways. Self-care is important for all walks of life, not just writers. Creating art is not what makes you creative. What makes self-care a universal necessity is creativity is deeply woven into the fabric of human nature. Regardless of passion or profession, we are all creative.
Without art, we’re not human. –Augustín Fuentes
Self-care is a habit, which means that even if you claim you don’t have time for it, you can make time. New habits form all the time. The good news is, you don’t have to devote hours to it daily. All you need is 15 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. See where in your schedule you can fit it in. Get off social media for 15 minutes, fit it in during your children’s naps, on the bus during your way to work, or anywhere else you can.
Types of self-care
There are 5 common types of self-care. Depending on what type of person you are depends on which one you focus on the most, though it’s a good idea to try meeting all of them.
10 Tips on self-care
As I stated before, you have to find what works for you. Here are some of the ways fellow members use self-care.
- Creative play
- Video games
- Free writing
- Getting off electronics for a bit
- Eating the right foods
As you probably guessed, sleep is important. A good night (or day, depending on your schedule) of sleep can help you reduce stress, improve your memory, help regulate your metabolism, boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, help your focus, and among other benefits, keep you in a good mood.
#2: Healthy eating
You may be surprised to learn the connection between stress and food. More specifically, the connection between stress and your gut. As you know, the brain is in charge of all things emotional and behavioral. Yet, your gut sends some of those signals through neurotransmitters. This is called the gut-brain axis. Can you guess what it’s also connected to?
The immune system, which you probably also know can be affected by stress.
Eat good foods to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Check out healthline for a small list of things you can eat to live a healthy lifestyle and read about the gut-brain axis.
As with healthy eating, exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression by the release of feel-good endorphins. A good routine can keep your energy up, keep you fit, and keep you writing.
You know how we make others feel better by listening to what they have to say? The same applies to you with yourself. Journaling is nothing more than giving yourself attention. See how much more clear-headed you are after a few minutes of journaling.
#5: Spend time with yourself.
Just as it’s important to listen to yourself, it’s important to give yourself quality time with, well, yourself. Take yourself on a date, treat yourself to a massage, to dinner, to a movie.
#6: Be Grateful
Give thanks, especially for the small things. When you’re having a bad day, stop for a moment and thank the universe (or whichever higher power you believe in) for the current weather, no matter what the weather is like. Rain makes stuff grow, sunshine spreads warmth, storms show power, snow is beautiful. Be grateful for family, for being like them or having the strength to be different. Be grateful for lessons and gifts.
#7: Keep records
Write down the good things that happened. When you have bad days, you’ll have material to make you happy. Keep track of your goals and priorities, as well. They don’t have to be large ones, and checking off ones you’ve met will give you a boost of confidence.
#8: Get out of your comfort zone
Do what you’re afraid to do. These are often the most worthwhile memory makers. Do what terrifies you like it’s your last day on earth.
#9: Be forgiving
Yes, of others, but mostly yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes, for expectations (yours and what other people think for you), for acting out of character, for not achieving your goals right away.
#10: Say NO
If it doesn’t serve your priorities and goals, say no. You have enough on your plate without doing a ton of favors for others. No need to stretch yourself so thin that you don’t have enough time for what really matters, including self-care. “No” can be a hard thing to say, but you know what? It can also be easy.
One last note: self-care and self-medication are not the same things. One is healthy, one is ignoring what your subconscious is trying to tell you. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member, or health professional. As someone who struggled with substance abuse (which isn’t just drugs), I personally know things can get better.
What do you do for self-care? Leave a comment below!