“Self-care” is a term I’ve heard a lot over the past couple of years. Anyone who attended the RWA Conference in New York might have noticed that a lot of the workshops covered topics related to self-care, nurturing your muse, and learning to embrace your own writing method and speed. I attended as many of those as possible and listened to others on the recordings I purchased after the conference and believe me, I feel like I needed every one of them.
I don’t know if we’re all collectively exhausted or what, but it was nice to know I’m not the only author who has kind of been in a writing funk lately. For me, and I suspect many others, a lot of that comes from stress. Job stress, publishing industry stress, politics, family, health. All that stress can really kill your creativity and make it really hard to put words on paper.
So in the past year or so, I’ve actively tried to practice self-care. I’ve come to realize that self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Especially for writers and other creative types.
Here are my top three ways to take care of myself and my muse:
- Meditation: One of the simplest, yet most difficult methods of relaxation I’ve found, daily meditation is a huge part of my self-care regimen. I don’t do a set amount of time, though I do have the Calm app on my phone (I can’t recommend this app highly enough) that chimes every five minutes as a reminder to keep me focused on my breath. Some days I feel relaxed and centered after 10 minutes, but there have been some days when something really has me hacked off and I go for 40 minutes before I feel better. If you haven’t tried it, you really should. Start with just a few minutes and concentrate on clearing your mind. Feel each breath fully and when worries pop into your mind (they will!), acknowledge them and let them flow away as if they’re on a river through your mind, and then return to breathing.
- Acupuncture: I first tried acupuncture about six months ago and I LOVE it. It’s an ancient Chinese medicine that involves the practitioner placing very fine needles at key places on your body to encourage the flow of your life force. I was curious about it, but sort of skeptical. I expected to maybe feel more relaxed or something, but the results were much more visceral. My acupuncturist told me that on the first visit she liked to do a general opening and clearing. And two days after the procedure, things started to clear….like my colon. How can needles in my feet and hands cause a colon cleanse? No idea, but they did. And other things happened, too. Immediately after the session I felt like of loopy, like I was kind of in a happy cloud. I also had vivid dreams for at least a week afterward. And I just felt really relaxed and good. Now I go back monthly for a tune-up, with a focus on relaxation and creativity. I always feel super chill after a session and more open to the creative ideas all around me. I look forward to each session and consider it a vital part of my self-care program.
- Nature: I am a nature girl. Being outside, especially amongst the trees, has always been my happy place. But now there are scientific studies showing that time in nature has a measurable effect on stress level, concentration and happiness. I recently read that some doctors in Asia and Europe are prescribing outdoors time for patients suffering from anxiety and depression. Fresh air, exercise and sunshine are all good things, but in our busy world, we often find ourselves rushing from one man-made box to another, with barely a minute or two to reconnect to the web of life we are all a part of. My favorite place to meditate is in my back yard—I can hear the birds singing, the leaves rustling in the wind and the squirrels scampering in the big oak tree right by my deck. It’s sort of a double dose of relaxation. But even if you live in an apartment or in a more urban environment, you can find a place and a few minutes to enjoy nature therapy. Take a walk in a park—no headphones! Observe other living things like bees, birds, flowers, trees. Note the colors, the smell, the feel of the sun or wind on your skin. Personally, I like to camp as much as possible. The sound of the wind, the owls, even the rain is super relaxing to me. But just a few minutes outside will do wonders for you, even if your idea of roughing it is checking into a Holiday Inn. Give it a try and really be present for the best benefits. You might even try writing outside (I do!)
There are many ways to proactive self-care and I think it’s especially important for writers to make time for it. In an industry where creativity is everything, it should be part of your “job”. I challenge you to think of a way to practice self-care you right now, for just five minutes. I promise, it’s worth it!
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