Stress Relief for Writers

By Glen C. Strathy

Stress relief tools should be in every writer's arsenal. Writing can be a fairly stressful process at times, especially when you are working to a deadline. Stress is a common cause of writer's block whether the stress is coming from your current writing project or other areas of your life.

One quick way to decide if it's time for a little stress relief is to discover your current level of stress. Take a look at the following descriptions of the 5 Stress States for Writers and see which one sounds most like you right now...

The 5 Stress States Writers Experience*

stress relief for writers
  1. The Ideal Creative State: You feel relaxed, engaged in your writing, productive, and open to new ideas as they come along. You feel writing is fun. You are happy to talk to others about your writing. You are confident and not worried about the project. You have plenty of time.
  2. The Workaholic State: You are engaged in the writing, but stressed. You are getting a lot done, but it feels as though there there is not enough time to do it.  You can't afford the time for self-doubt, so you tend to reject other people's valid comments about your writing, believing you alone know best. You also reject your own critical thoughts about your story. Writing feels more like work than fun, and you may work longer hours than is really healthy, putting off other activities. This state can be addictive, because of the high adrenaline associated with it. This can be a very productive state, but the quality of your writing may be less than optimal (not that you'd admit it).
  3. The Panic State: You feel overwhelmed by stress and the challenges of finishing your current project. You are prone to emotional outbursts. Nothing is going right with the writing and you don't know how to fix it. You may feel you need addictive substances (coffee, tobacco, alcohol) to get anything done.Your current story seems impossible to write and you wish someone else to tell you how to fix it or fix it for you.
  4. Writer's Block: In this state, your energy level seems to have collapsed. You become quiet and withdrawn. You have no enthusiasm for the project anymore. Writing feels like torture. You can only do easy, simple tasks (e.g. spell check).  You feel like no one can help you, so you avoid discussing the writing with anyone.
  5. Self-Sabotage: In this final stage you have completely given up. You think writing is for idiots. You may find yourself tempted throw your laptop/manuscript into a river or trash bin, or otherwise destroy the work you've done so far.

Stress Relief Strategies

You can prevent stress by using a variety of methods, some of which are common sense such as taking regular breaks, getting enough sleep and nutritious food, having social contacts, getting exercise, and not accepting deadlines that are unrealistic.

You should try to stay in the first state most of the time while writing. If you find you have slipped into one of the other states, it's a good idea to step back and apply some stress relief strategies. Different strategies work for different people, and you have to know what relaxes you.

For instance, you might take a day off. Go spend some time in nature (which automatically relieves stress). Have a barbecue in a park with friends. Hang out on a backyard deck or in a sidewalk cafe. Take a long bath, go dancing, or get a massage -- whatever works for you and is affordable.

Below is a stress relief tool I stumbled across recently which I find helps immensely when I am experiencing any kind of stress or anxiety. You can also use it to relieve stress over a current or upcoming project, or get some relief from things that happened to you in the past that have left emotional wounds. It takes only ten minutes, but it really works.

Make sure you have some privacy. Then play the video and follow the Yawn Guy's instructions. You'll be amazed how much more relaxed you will feel afterwards.

You can play this video as often as you like. And the best part is, it's FREE!

* My knowledge of the 5 Stress States from conversations with Dr. Eric Wolterstorff, an expert on organizational stress and culture. I have adapted the descriptions to apply more specifically to the task of writing.

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