Happy April! Right now, the weather is just the way I like it: not too cold but not too hot either. Though I am not looking forward to the 70's and 80's of the Summer I am glad that it's warming up a little bit. I'm ready to get back outside and go to parks and take walks and wear sandals!
Anyways, so this post has been on my mind for a while. I thought a lot about how to talk about my anxiety. If I should just free write it and see what happens or be more specific. If you can't tell, I decided to be more specific.
Anxiety is a thing I've struggled with my whole life. When I was younger I didn't really know what it was. All I knew were the symptoms. But at around sixteen a diagnosis amongst other life situations triggered my anxiety in a big way. I started having panic attacks and anxiety attacks daily. Since then I've been living with anxiety on a daily basis. I no longer have panic attacks, but I still struggle with the symptoms of anxiety almost every day.
After having an anxiety attack or just feeling weighted by anxiety all day my brain just does not have the energy to write. One of my biggest symptoms (that can also be caused by other things such as allergies) is brain fog. I usually don't even bother trying to write in that state since all I write would usually have to be deleted later anyways cuz it’s so horrible. All of these things make it hard to write or do anything and it can be very frustrating.
All that to say, I wanted to share five things I do when my anxiety is getting in the way of my writing.
- Give Yourself Grace. This one is hard for me. I push myself too hard and am a perfectionist when it comes to my work. I like being mentally busy, so I often have at least two projects I can work on/think about or focus on. Even when I'm having a bad anxiety day I beat myself up and don't give myself any grace or rest. It's frustrating that the chemicals in my brain stop me from writing and hinder my process. But you know what? Will it kill you to take a break? To give yourself a full day of rest and no writing? No. It will not. If you're serious about your writing and want to build a career out of it then you treat your writing like a job. A fun job, but still a job. And I think the fact that it is fun, and our passion can complicate the importance of rest days and weekends. People who work normal jobs every week get weekends and parts of the day off. Us writers however? Writing is a part of us. A part of our identity and our passion and what we want to do for the rest of our lives. So why should we take a break or want to take a break? Doesn't that make us bad writers? No, it makes you healthy writers. It means you're taking care of yourself. So, give yourself grace and don't beat yourself up if you just can't get those words on the page.
- Celebrate Small
Victories. Another hard one for me. Man,
I'm lecturing to myself right now
and I don't like it! If you're having a bad anxiety day and manage to write a hundred words or check that one thing off your list or write that blog post for the week then celebrate! Check it off your list, write down that word count. That's a hundred more words then you had before! Celebrate by giving yourself a break. Read a book, eat something yummy, go for a walk. Whenever I can only write a hundred words or even less for the day I feel discouraged and like I should be able to do more, but sometimes you just can't! And that's OK. Especially if your unpublished, there is no pressure or deadlines. You can take weeks, months or even years to finish this book. No one is going to stop you and no one but you is going to bash you for not reaching your word count goal for the day. So instead of beating yourself up, feel good that you got some words down that day.
- Don't Push Through It. Every writer at one time or another has heard the advice: write even when you don't feel like it. Push through it. Write every day. Force yourself to reach your word count goal for the day. I'm not a believer in that. As someone who has bad anxiety days and I'm not sure if it’s considered a chronic illness, but I have a lot of different random symptoms and issues that may or may not be related haha that often affect my physical and mental energy, I don't believe in writing even when you don't feel like it or pushing through. I feel like that advice for those with severe anxiety and depression and chronic illnesses they have to live with every day is, for lack of a better word, toxic. Because sometimes your too sick or your symptoms are just too much to deal with and you don't have the mental or physical energy to write. My thing is, if you're fine and procrastination and lack of motivation is all that's standing between you and writing then yeah push through it. But when it comes to mental and physical health? You should be able to stop and take a break. Even if you don't want to (trust me I get it!) I think it’s good to step back and not force yourself to write if you feel you can't.
- Figure out what works for you and stick with it. Throughout the years I've figured out things that help me when it comes to writing while I have anxiety. To be totally honest, my go to when my anxiety is at like a 6 out of 10 is shut the laptop and do something else. But if it’s at like a 3 or 4 I can push through. Experiment with different tactics on how to lessen your anxiety symptoms while you write. Chewing gum or sucking on cough drops helps me the most. I also just realized that writing by hand not only helps me break through writer's block but helps me write more when I'm feeling anxious. Instrumental music also helps me a lot when I can't focus. Everyone is different so try new things until you find what works for you.
- Write in a Comfortable Environment. This one is huge! Your environment one hundred percent effects your anxiety. It can make it better or it can make it worse. Sometimes when I'm feeling a twitchy, tense kind of anxious I can't sit down to write or do anything until my room is perfect. (This is the reason my room is cleaned ever. When I can't do anything until it's just the way I want it). If its messy, I clean it up and organize it. Put everything where their supposed to go. And then once I do that I am all good and feel more at ease. Make sure your environment is lessening your anxiety instead of contributing to it. If music helps you put on music. If everything needs to be clean and silent then make sure before you sit down to write that your desk is the way you want it.
So yeah, those are a few things I do (or try to do) when my anxiety is acting up. If I'm being totally honest with you guys, like I said before, my first instinct is to move away from the desk and either lay on my bed to watch a show or read or go downstairs to clean or help with something. I've come to know myself well enough to decipher the sort of anxiety I'm feeling and if I can keep going with writing that day or need to stop and step away. Everyone is different in their anxiety symptoms and how they cope with them. Really get to know yourself and take the time to figure out how you feel and how best to help yourself. Once you know what triggers your anxiety and ways to lessen your anxiety you will be able to write so much more and fit your writing routine around your anxiety.
You know, this was actually kind of fun! Anxiety is something I know a lot about, so I could honestly go on and on for another couple hundred words. There are lots of things I didn't mention in here that I might need to write another post about. This is a topic that's very close to me because I live with every day, so I have a lot of strong opinions about anxiety and mental health in general. Perhaps one of my next posts will be about those opinions. For now, though, I think this post is long enough. I hope some of these tips were helpful to all you writers out there with anxiety and even to writers who struggle with other mental or chronic illnesses. And even if none of these help you at all, I at least hope this post has made you realize you aren't alone in how you feel. Lots of other people, including writers, struggle with anxiety just like you and me.
How has your first week of April been? Do you have any tips for writers with anxiety? :)