Guest Post. Writer’s Stress: 5 Ways to Find Lasting Relief

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:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Food cravings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upset stomach
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Dry mouth
  • Forgetfulness
  • 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:

  •  Deadlines
  • 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:

  • Breathe
  • Go for a walk
  • Play with your pet
  • Take a nap
  • Enjoy a bath
  • Say “no”
  • Journal
  • 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
  • Jogging
  • Repetitive prayer
  • Yoga
  • Knitting
  • 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).

Living With Ease: Interview with Sandra Pawula

It is my pleasure and honor to offer you this interview with Sandra Pawula.  Sandra writes one of my favorite go-to blogs, Always Well Within, where I find spiritual wisdom and inspiration.  She's a writer herself, so everything she shares speaks to creatives.  Sandra has a new e-course that starts September 9th.  I'm planning to sign up–it's just $21.  Please check it out.  And read her informative comments on easing stress below.

You've been writing a popular blog for quite some time now. What made you decide to offer an E-course?

The purpose of my blog, Always Well Within, is to help others tap into their own inner spring of true happiness and freedom. A blog post can inspire, encourage, instruct, and spark change. But, you can only go so far in a blog post.

I’ve already been facilitating online meditation courses for more than five years. It feels natural to extend that into an e-course via my blog so that I can support people to grow through a process of positive change that occurs over a period of time.

I’ve led a high stress life, and I know it’s not easy to turn stress around, which is the focus of my course. You need a more concentrated immersion and an ambiance of care and support, to begin to retrain these long-held patterns.

What is the greatest enemy to living with ease?

Your own mind. Marcus Aurelius said:

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

This hasn’t changed since the time of Marcus Aurelius, thousands of years ago, and it will never be different now or in the future. Yet, many of us suffer needlessly because we don’t realize we are responsible for our own thoughts, emotions, and perceptions and have the power to change them. Instead, we function on automatic and in a reaction-triggered mode, feeling like a victim of circumstances, relationships, and our own turbulent mind. This can adversely affect your mood, your body, and your overall sense of well-being.

That being said, it’s important to know that some people are genetically predisposed to having a stronger stress response or a weaker relaxation response. Some immune-related diseases may diminish your ability to respond to stress as well. Early nurturing or lack thereof can also impact one’s capacity for resilience. A series of strong stresses that arrive one after the other can also wear out your ability to cope effectively with adversity.

If stress plays a big role in your life, you may be dealing with a unique mix of factors like some those above. If so, it’s critical to take this into account, and at the same time to know it’s still possible for most people to see significant improvement through the mindful use of stress reduction practices.

Stress is endemic in modern life. Physical, emotional, mental, and circumstantial stresses will always occur in your life. But you can learn to intercede and diminish the stress response. The long-term impact of stress can be so debilitating it’s foolhardy not to do so. Stress can be a key element in the development or exacerbation of many disorders like heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, skin conditions, and inflammatory bowel disease, among others. Not to mention it can totally wreck the quality of your life and relationships.

Is it really possible to reduce stress in our crazy new millennium lives?

Absolutely! More than 30 years of medical research has proven this to be so. Here’s one example of cutting edge research from the Harvard Medical School News, which provides an unequivocal yes to this question:

“A new study from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center finds that eliciting the relaxation response—a physiologic state of deep rest induced by practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and prayer—produces immediate changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.”

It’s true that our highly active digital engagement – even digital addiction – adds a new dimension to the activation of stress, but we can learn to disengage from time-to-time as part of our personal stress reduction strategy.

Can you share one tip for living with ease?

Breathe! It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it’s always available. Pausing to take a slow, deep breath immediately begins to change your biochemistry. It tells the brain that danger has passed, and it’s OK to relax. But, it's not enough to just breathe once! You need to learn how to breathe, and turn it into a regular practice.

And finally, since my audience is made up of creatives and writers, can you speak to the unique stresses that we face?

Stress takes on so many possible forms in a creative life: Fear of rejection and rejection itself, deadlines, an erratic work flow if you are a freelancer, resistance, lack of motivation or inspiration, finances, juggling your craft with a “real” job. These are just a few ways that stress can manifest for writers and creatives.

If you find stress creeping into your creative life, regular use of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques will help tremendously. But, you also have to dig deep and be willing to look at what triggers you. Once you know, you can begin to deconstruct the old stories that keep you struck one at a time, or put practical strategies in place that head-off the stress response. Through doing so it will be so much easier to find your flow.

Sandra Pawula is a freelance writer and inner explorer. She writes about finding true happiness and freedom at Always Well Within. Her new e-course, Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins on Sept. 9th, and you can register right now.

How do you deal with stress?  Does writing ease it for you as it does for me?  Please share!

Photo by hirekatsu.