Friday, June 02, 2006

Destressing

I spotted this bumpersticker yesterday while I was on the road:

Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.

Too true. What we really need, though, is a SpeedPass.

Aside from self-esteem, motivation and time issues, stress is one of the things that regularly gets between a writer and the work. Stress is created by whatever bugs the hell out of us: the day job, finances, personal relationships, or the various demands of being a human being in our particular region, country, or moment in history.

Stress from external sources burrows into us like termites and starts eating away at that elusive stuff that makes us creative. Some writers like this and use it as motivation -- stress over deadlines has probably finished more books than we could ever count -- but most of us don't like it and don't thrive on its pressures.

Stress from internal sources is worse, because we cook it up on our own and feed ourselves to it. It's tied directly to our ambitions and sense of self-worth, so if those things are taking a hit we'll add to the misery by piling on a lot of feelings of failure and doubt.

Wherever the stress comes from, it generally doesn't serve us as writers. That's why it's so important to remove as much stress from your writing time as possible. I sometimes imagine my writing area to be like the Free Parking space on a Monopoly board. Great place to land, and I'm going to make money by being there. Whenever I'm working in that space, I'm a writer and nothing else.

Things that relax you can help ease stress before you start writing. This means engaging your senses in something that triggers a relaxation response in you. Chamomile tea is one of my favorite soothing beverages. The smell of eucalyptus works on me, too, and is often used in stress-relieving aromatherapy. Listening to tranquil music is very relaxing; holding and petting a cat or dog has been shown to actually lower blood pressure. If I'm somewhere and can't enjoy any of those things, I can pop a peppermint Lifesaver in my mouth (mint is also a natural soother.)

There are no SpeedPasses on the crazy roads of life, but we don't have to drive on them and try to write at the same time. Giving yourself permission to leave stress outside your writing space may be tough at first, but it's a good habit to acquire.

More information:

Prevention.com's article A Step Ahead of Stress

MindTools.com's Stress Management page

David Leonhardt's article Three Stress Relief Techniques

6 comments:

  1. Yeah. Although stress is still considered a 'fake' disease. I know well that it's not.

    But I have my various affirmations now. I don't have to complete that report ahead of schedule. It's okay to be a little late. If I don't do something, the world will not end. Stuff like that.

    Otherwise, it's headphones on, book in hand, couch curled up on - world, and nagging conscience, ignored.

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  2. Then there are those of us who can't work without stress. *g* Us freaks...

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  3. I work really well with deadlines. They actually really help me. It's the other kinds of stress that kill me. The personal relationship stress really screws up my ability to focus and concentrate.

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  4. Was this post for me? *g* I have been trying to figure out how to do EXCACTLY this. Personal stress completely fractures my creative process. It's like it takes up all the subconsious space and leaves none for the writing.

    Thank you. I really needed this post.

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  5. Funny thing is... writing IS my stress reliever most of the time-- because it is what I do WITH my free time since I work a theoretical 9 to 5 (that inevitably ends up being a 7 to 7) job. Even when writing under a deadline.

    Now personal stressors... especially of the children or family variety... well that is an entirely different story.

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  6. Gosh, I'm suffering through a whole bunch of external and internal stresses at the moment and it's sucking up all my creative energy. Thanks for this post, it's given me a few ideas on how to reclaim my space.

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