Opposed to popular belief (at least to me), selfcare isn't just "treating yo self" or taking a "mental health" day. Of course it can include these things, but in order to truly benefit, one needs to view selfcare as a part of their life, not just a special treat they get when they're stressed or an excuse to blow off all responsibility.
In the world today, it's too easy to get distracted; there's the news, social media, and minicomputers attached to your hand at all times. Though it may be the opposite of what you've been taught to think your whole life, you are the most important thing. You have to take the time to connect with yourself and disconnect from everything else.
This is important for everyone, but writers are unique in the fact that we spend a lot of time alone in our own heads, which is an amazing thing, but it can also become overwhelming juggling all these characters, worlds, plots, and everything else! So I've compiled a short list of things I personally incorporate into my daily routine to give my mind and body the attention it deserves.
Never Underestimate the Power of Being Quiet
Writers' brains are constantly busy, even when we aren't writing. We are forever gathering information from the scenery around us and storing it away for when we are next sitting down at the computer. This is a great skill that we should be proud of. However, with so much information filling our minds, we cannot overlook the simple action of sitting still and silent.
This could mean meditating, but people tend to have this romantic idea of what meditation is. It isn't always sitting cross-legged and chanting "ohm" and it isn't about shutting out all thoughts. It's about relaxing the mind and body and letting the thoughts come, recognizing them, and letting them go. Writers need this as much as the next person. I take ten to fifteen minutes each day doing guided meditation and it always helps me think and feel better.
However, if sitting still isn't your thing, there are other ways to be silent with yourself. Sometimes if I can't fit in a full meditation session, I'll clean, go for a walk, or journal. Anything that gets you out of the "writer" head space and into the "human" one will work!
I Know It's Hard, But Go Outside
*And while we're at it: go drink a glass of water. Chances are you aren't drinking enough.
Every writer I know spends way too much time indoors and I am the most guilty of this by far. I even have a vitamin D deficiency because the sun is enemy to all vampires. Seriously, though. We need to get out more. As horrible as the idea of leaving your writing cave is, getting out for a little while is important. Writers need fresh air, too! Also, you can get some quiet time on a hike in the woods while spending time with yourself; two for the effort of one. I'm willing to admit that I need to work on this, but it's winter and snowing all the time and I hate being cold, so I'm confident once spring is actually here I'll practice this more.
You Need To speak to Real People
Though it may seem simple, I often find that if I lived completely alone, I would have no problem not speaking to another living soul (except maybe the cat) for days on end. In my situation, I work from home and write from home, so when my partner and roommate leave for the day to go to their "normal" jobs, I'm by myself until they come back. I easily slip into recluse mode, not wanting to leave the house when I'm knee-deep in a manuscript and turning down offers of hanging out with friends. While some people are more social (I happen to not enjoy people as much as others. Go figure) and it's perfectly fine, sometimes jumping into plans with people outside of your head without worrying about your work will recharge you and make you feel human again, not like you're a walking vessel of words waiting to explode.
You're Allowed to Have Other Hobbies and Interests
Whenever I used to do interviews, when asked what I liked to do when I wasn't writing, I always found myself struggling for answers. Sometimes writing becomes my life and I don't realize it until something like this happens and forces me to look at the big picture. Before I thrust myself into my writing career, I had lots of hobbies that weren't related to the book world. Somewhere along the way, they got replaced with more writing.
Now I try to spend more time practicing my other passion of art; painting or sketching, practicing my form and shading. I don't put pressure on myself to make it look "good" or "perfect". I just let my pencil or brush glide across the page and see what happens. The process is a lot like writing, but it also gives me a break. You don't need to feel guilty when you aren't writing. Don't get into the habit of thinking that if you aren't working towards a goal every second of the day, you aren't a "real" writer. Let yourself have your time and do one of the many other things you love and perhaps have forgotten about. Your story will still be there when you come back.
No More Negative Talk
This idea doesn't just apply to writers. For non-writers, this means simply being kind to yourself. Don't look into the mirror and tell yourself you hate what you see; instead pick out what you love and focus on that. In writing, the same rules apply--especially during the rough draft phase. I'm not saying you should tell yourself each word on the page is gold, but there is a big difference between being critical and being cruel. Don't tell yourself that you can't write, that you suck, that you had no idea what you were thinking...
Instead, take it all in and assess it without a judgmental eye. Appreciate the things you love about what you're writing and treat the weaknesses as learning opportunities instead of road blocks. Be kind always. Don't beat yourself up. After all, you started writing because you love it, right? Don't make yourself dread sitting down at the computer by being negative.
Other Small Things You Can Do
For those of us who need selfcare but don't know where to start or just need to start small, here is a list of things you can do right now to take care of your mind and body. Don't forget that these are the only minds and bodies you get, so nourish them the way you nourish a new story idea!
As mentioned before, drink more water
Light a candle
Drink your favorite tea or coffee
Put on some chap stick or lotion. Chances are you aren't taking care of your skin enough.
Have a bath before bed
If you have a pet, take frequent snuggle breaks
Keep a journal that is solely for your thoughts and not writing
Eat something that is borderline healthy (so you don't have to feel guilty!)
Watch a movie or TV show (I choose ones that I've watched tons of times and they've become comforting)
Take a nap (you're probably not sleeping enough if you have a deadline, and indie authors in particular ALWAYS have a deadline)
Watch some dumb Youtube videos or trash TV--something that doesn't require much thinking
Organize your desk (a clean space does wonders!)
Do a puzzle. No technology required
Scream into a pillow or rip up paper to get out aggression (cliche but effective)
Do something with your hands (play with some legos, bake something, build that ikea furniture for your office, Nikki...)
Go to the dollar store and pick out the most ridiculous thing you can find (this is really fun with friends too!)
Read (but it can't have anything to do with work!)
Brush your hair
Get yourself a heated blanket (trust me. It will change your life)
Create a different type of art (draw, paint, sculpt, etc. It doesn't have to be good!)
Call someone just to chat (I know, phones are almost as bad as going outside. But try it out!)
Approach everything with gratitude (be thankful for what you do have instead of lamenting over what you don't)
Well, that's it for this week! What are some ways you practice selfcare? Let's help each other out to be more balanced! Mental health is important for everyone. If your mind is out of whack, your writing will reflect that and the rest of your life will, too. Take the time to check in with yourself even if it's for a few minutes each day.
Until next week,