A dirty six letter word that haunts us all is stress. As writers, we blame it on the internet, changes from the good ole publishing days, or significant others interrupting us in our writing caves. But the truth is, stress is frequently a mismanagement of our lives mixed with reality that drops in our laps at inopportune times and places. It’s the year when family gets ill, the kids all decide to get married, and you’re moving across the country for a new job or to be closer, or perhaps farther away, from relatives.
Writers get particularly cranky when winging through a chapter, with a perfect idea in mind to enhance a character or plot, only to be interrupted for a simple question and totally lose the train of thought. Yes, it is like walking into a room and forgetting why you were there. The computer screen devoid of your idea stares back. Stress builds. The mind shuts down further instead of coughing up that sweet idea to make the story a bestseller.
You decide to take a break and struggle out of the chair. Cramps tighten your legs, and a sore backside is numb in places. Thoughts of writers die young echo in your head. So we admit that stress hangs over us like a gremlin on our shoulder waiting for the opportunity to up our angst. How can you counter it?
Magazines, blogs, and various articles offer a bevy of solutions, but few fit us all. A Forbes article suggested focusing on half of what you need to get done and let the rest go. Some of it will fall back in your lap, but you will shine through by doing a stellar job of managing the half you kept. Not a bad idea, but it requires blinders and nerves of steel. And the ability to say NO. I’ve been working on that for the last twenty years.
Since family and friends have proven to be wise sages, I asked them what they did to relieve stress. The question had two parts. What simple thing do you do to relive stress when time is tight? And what do you do when time is favorable for something more extensive?
Predictably food and drink rated high on the list of short term solutions. Chocolate, ice cream, and tea popped up in several answers. However, more than one of those who succumbed to sweets, felt they had to work off the added calories. So if you like to exercise, chocolate as a stress reliever might work. If physical activity is not your thing, the very act of eating anything might only increase stress.
Mental meditation also relieves stress. One person mentioned thinking about funny things and good times. Many liked to read (a song to a writer’s stressed heart). Others mentioned yoga, prayer or meditation type exercises. Several listened to music, while relaxing, painting, exercising, or hiking. One writer mentioned writing something then throwing it away as though getting rid of the stress with the paper. Studies have found using expressive writing exercises reduces the stress in patients. Physical touch between humans or between a human and their pet also produces particularly calming results. One woman said after a stressful day, tea and a hug from her husband fixed everything.
Exercise plays a strong role in stress relief. Running and forms of weight lifting dump chemicals into our bodies that act against stress. Gardening seems to be cathartic for several as does playing with grandchildren, shooting hoops or hiking. Combine nature into the hike and it can be calming, peaceful, and a distraction from stress producing thoughts. Harvard Health suggests deep breathing exercises.
My first step might be to take one respondent’s advice and put things in “time order” or rather prioritize. Some things can wait while others can’t. Set up interruption times so people will be aware of when to leave you alone. List makers often reduce their stress by checking off completed items and proving to themselves they have made progress.
One exciting but stressful event for me is the upcoming release this month of two romantic thrillers in the Taking Risks series. The first book, Under the Radar, comes out October 17 and the second, Off the Chart, two weeks later. Thanks for visiting and have some chocolate before diving into your stressful day.