Please welcome my friend Sandra Pawula to the blog once again. Sandra is a wonderfully wise and caring internet buddy whose blog, Always Well Within, I read regularly. I'm also an affiliate for her home study program, Living With Ease, 30 Days to Less Stress, which I strongly recommend. Sandra wrote a special post just for us on reducing writer's stress with helpful suggestions, so read on.
Writer’s Stress: 5 Ways to Find Lasting Relief
by Sandra Pawula
No doubt you’ve noticed! These days, the writing landscape mutates exponentially each year, maybe each month, bringing along a multiplicity of fresh requirements and stressful demands.
Today’s writer contends with old-fashioned stressors like resistance, rejection, and making a living plus all the new ones, for example:
- It’s harder to standout because, now, everyone thinks they’re a writer. With all the glamorous book covers, jacked-up numbers thanks to free book giveaways, and concocted Amazon reviews, it’s difficult for readers to discern between what might be trash and what will in fact be a captivating read.
- There’s no longer a clear distinction between an e-book and a “real” book, is there? E-book writers freely call themselves “best-selling authors” – an accolade previously reserved for the best of the best. No offense, of course. E-books have their place, but some are pretty slim and riddled with grammatical errors.
- Now you’re expected to be an “author-entrepreneur,” which means learning a wide range of mind-bending skills, ones that might not appeal to you in the least.
- You must have a popular blog and update it regularly with witty, informative, and unique content.
- A hefty writer’s platform is required, meaning regular engagement on social media, public appearances, slots in the news, and other forms of consistent exposure.
- Since employers can hire anyone in the world, the struggle to get paid what you’re worth may be truly aggravating.
- The chances of captivating a traditional publisher: slim to impossible. So you’ll likely need to learn self-publishing and shell out the bucks if you seriously want to get your work out there. Though you might get lucky and catch the eye of an indie publisher, you’ll still need to do most of the marketing yourself.
Yes, there are also many positives in this grand new writing world too. Tremendous opportunities abound, and you’re no longer limited by the traditional publishing game.
I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if you feel frayed, frazzled, or completely fried trying to keep up with the incessant demands. If that’s the case, here are a few tips to help you dial down the stress and find a lasting sense of sanity and peace.
1. Take Responsibility for Your Stress
It’s easy to deny stress because most of the time, we’re afraid to stop and take stock of our situation. Usually, we keep pushing ourselves to do more and go faster. But eventually the system – that’s you – breaks down.
Tune in now and see if any of the early warning signs of too much stress have become your regular companion(s). Here are just a few possible indicators:
- Disturbed sleep
- Food cravings
- Loss of appetite
- Upset stomach
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Dry mouth
- Rapid heartbeat
Left unchecked, stress can trigger or contribute to serious illness like high blood pressure, immune disorders, depression, and anxiety. And that’s just a partial list.
Take a moment to say hello to your stress. Get to know your own stress style now and learn to modulate it before you’re beset with unwanted illness or weariness.
2. Understand Your Stress Triggers
Along with all the usual unnerving triggers life tends to bring, writers have their own cache of stress inducers like:
- Lost manuscript pages
- Rejections or not hearing at all
- The prospect of writing a query letter or book proposal
- A bad review
- Rewrites for a demanding boss, agent, or publisher
- Undesirable changes to your book title or manuscript
- Doubts about the quality of your work
- InterruptionsWriter’s block
And the list goes on.
The secret to less stress is to know your personal stress triggers and take corrective action. When you know your stress triggers, you can decide to:
- Change the externals. For example, you can aim for an indie publisher or self-publish instead of seeking a traditional publisher.
- Change yourself. If deadlines distress you, decide to start early and give yourself double the time.
- Change your perspective. You can embrace social media and dive in with your full being instead of drowning in resistance.
Sit down right now and make a list of your top 5 stress triggers as a writer. Once you have the list, order them from the worst offender down.
Brainstorm solutions for your top stressor. If you get stuck, ask for help from your family, friends, or writing circle. Implement your ideas, giving yourself ample space and time. Then move on to countermeasures for the next stress trigger on your list.
Of course, you might encounter some resistance. And it will take time to change your habits. But, if you keep with it, you’ll significantly decrease your stress load and increasingly feel more ease.
3. Know Your Early Warning Signs of Stress
Do your palms sweat, heart throb, or muscles tense when stress stares you down? Do you become cranky and snap at the friendliest suggestion? Or does loss of sleep say you’re on stress overload?
Observe yourself for a week and keep a running list of your own early warning signs of stress. Put your final list in a handy place where you can revisit it from time to time.
Then, whenever an early warning sign appears, stop and do something different. For example, you could:
- Go for a walk
- Play with your pet
- Take a nap
- Enjoy a bath
- Say “no”
- Make a cup of calming tea
Pushing yourself to continue when you already feel stressed may successfully get the job done this time. But if you continually repeat this behavior eventually you’ll wear yourself thin.
On the other hand, breaks improve focus and productivity. And don’t they make life sweeter and more fun?
4. Try A Stress Reduction Technique
I know! At first it might just seem like more work, but practicing a stress reduction technique can be relaxing, enjoyable, and fun.
An effective stress reduction technique:
- Sends a calming message to your brain and dilutes the stress hormones that have been released in your body.
- Functions as a preventative measure – when practiced regularly – by increasing your resilience and threshold for stress.
However, not every technique works for everyone. Stress is an individual affair. So find a stress reducer that’s the right fit for you. Don’t give up if the first one you try isn’t your type.
Check out this list of common approaches to stress reduction and see what might appeal to you:
- Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing)
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Repetitive prayer
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction
If adding a stress reduction technique to your life feels overwhelming, start small. Just 5 minutes a day will begin to establish a positive habit of ease. You can expand gradually from there until you’re practicing 20-30 minutes a day and deeply enjoying your peace.
More than 30 years of scientific research has proven the effectiveness of eliciting the relaxation response and the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques. So why not give one a try?
5. Create Your Own Stress Strategy
An ideal stress strategy will include a mix of stress reduction techniques – ones that you know work for you. As a preventative measure, practice one of these techniques daily. Also, be ready to put it to work in an instant as soon as you notice stress beginning to mount.
Then add a few simple supportive practices like optimism, gratitude, or laughter to your stress approach. These quick practices can be powerful ways to arrest ascending stress. And, once they become your prevailing disposition, stress won’t have a fighting chance.
Master Writing and Business with Less Stress
The new business side of writing isn’t likely to suddenly disappear. And a lack of acceptance will only increase your stress. But you can make the business of writing as painless as possible by following Charlotte’s tips.
At the same time, decide you’re not going to let writer’s stress ruin your health, happiness, or relationship. Follow this 5-step plan in your own good time, and gradually you’ll come to master your own stress story with finesse. And, of course, a retreat in France couldn’t but help!
What stresses you out as a writer? Do you have trouble keeping up with all the new demands?
Sandra Pawula is a writer, teacher, and champion of mindfulness and ease. She writes about finding greater happiness and freedom at Always Well Within and helps people break free from stress through her signature course, Living with Ease: 30 Days to Less Stress (affiliate link).