Today, I am going to be entirely honest with you. My original plan was not to talk about this topic today but I have had the most horrendously horrible week and I feel I am wading through treacle. I am feeling this in all aspects of my life but it is impacting my writing as it is being constantly pushed to the back burner. I need some help and thought that there are probably other writers out there in a similar situation. I therefore decided that I would go off plan and discuss how to cope when you’re too stressed to write.
Writing is a wonderful creative outlet but it also places us under pressure – either our own or from external sources if we are writing to deadlines etc. Writing can therefore be stressful, tiring, overwhelming and incredibly frustrating. It is how we cope when we find ourselves struggling that matters and what we will explore today. Don’t let the stress of the outside world suck the joy out of your writing, find a way to move past the stress.
How to Recognise When You’re Suffering from Writing Stress
Stress can do funny things to us – both mentally and physically. There are times when it’s very obvious we’re under pressure and trying to do too many things at once. Things go wrong and things happen that are out of our control but which impact on our life. They eat into our time, our mood and our health.
However, there are also times when the stress creeps up on us quietly and almost without us noticing. Do you ever: –
- Feel like you’re constantly ill?
- Have trouble sleeping?
- Suffer from random aches and pains?
- Over or under eat?
- Rush through tasks?
- Make more mistakes than usual?
- Have a more negative outlook than usual?
- Lose your attention quicker than usual?
If you suffer from several of these on a regular basis then it’s likely that you’re suffering from stress.
Strategies to Try to Cope When You’re Too Stressed to Write
1. Take a Step Back
The quickest way to alleviate stress is to take a step back. We all know that this is often the most difficult step to take but there are times when it really is the best thing you can do. Walk away, take a break, shut the laptop, do something else, distract your mind even if it’s for a short period of time. It will still be there waiting for you when you come back. And sometimes just a short pause to realign your thoughts is enough to get you going again.
2. Examine Your To Do List
Is there anything from your to do list that can be cut completely? Are you needlessly trying to do too much? Examine what tasks you think you need to do and work out which ones actually really need to be done. Be ruthless!
If you can’t drop any tasks, make sure you prioritise the ones you have to do. Take ten minutes out to look at the list and rank them in order of priority. You can then concentrate on doing the most important first. Try to put the rest out of your mind and work through them one by one.
Be realistic! There are only 24 hours in a day and you need to ensure that the basic human tasks are completed, such as sufficient sleep, proper meals etc. Setting yourself impossible deadlines will not benefit you. Work out what working time you do have in the day and know when to stop and rest.
Do not put your head down and battle through until the end. Make sure you take regular breaks and look after yourself mentally and physically. Do not beat yourself up if you are not able to do everything you set out to do. You are human and sometimes you have to put yourself first. This is not a crime or a failure on your part.
4. Make Lifestyle Changes
Take a look at your diet, your sleep patterns, your exercise regime etc. Making small but positive changes to these areas of your life can have huge benefits on your work life.
Eat regular nutritious meals, get enough sleep and take time to get some exercise – and if you can do that in the fresh air then so much the better. Look after you because, at the end of the day, if your body is struggling then your mind will too.
For some tips, take a look at the NHS Better Health website.
5. Experiment with Your Working Environment
Do you work better outside? With music? In complete silence? First thing in the morning? Late at night?
Find out what works best for you and the situation where you are at your most productive. Try to replicate that and ensure you do the most important tasks when you have the opportunity to work in your optimum environment.
This one might sound a little bizarre but bear with me! Holding on to stress and emotion does us no good whatsoever. Imagine your body as a pressure cooker and the stress is the steam rising inside it. It needs somewhere to go or there will be an explosion. Make sure you have a release mechanism. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for everyone but make sure you work out your best way to vent. For some people this is talking, for others it’s crying, punching a pillow, screaming or going for a run. Make sure you have a safe space and a safe way to vent. Letting off the steam is often a good way to free your mind to be able to concentrate on prioritising and working through the jobs you need to do.
Do also check out my past post – 10 Strategies for Managing Overwhelm as that has loads of tips that can help when you need to know how to cope when you’re too stressed to write too.
Is stress standing in your way? Do you know how to cope when you’re too stressed to write? Do you use any of the strategies outlined above? Might you try them? What tips do you have for other writers in the same situation? Let me know in the comments.