SPA Girls Podcast – Episode 111 – 10 Health Hacks For Writers
Staying healthy (and sane) especially during stressful times and holiday periods can be a challenge for us all. This week Cheryl, Wendy and Shar talk about the health hacks they’ve found have helped to calm the chaos, stay sane (sort of) and keep our bodies and minds working well. It can be hard to put self-care on the top of your Priority List, but it’s vital. From mindfulness to stretching, gratitude to social media-strangling, we hope you’ll find our healthy hacks helpful. As a wise commercial says, you’re worth it.
According to mindfulness teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment”.
It’s not magic, or mysterious. It’s simply focussing on what you’re doing when you’re doing it, without thinking about anything else. Turning our brain “off” isn’t the goal here – what we’re aiming to do is practice being present. This slows down the monkey chatter going on it your head and it’s particularly helpful when you’re writing (helps that negative self talk shut up) and when you’re editing and proofreading (focus, grasshopper). If a pesky thought enters your head, distracting you, you “observe” it with detachment.
A clear and focussed mind is a beautiful thing, and there’s a reason this is called a “practice” – ie it’s something you need to consciously do throughout the day! One app many of us have tried is Headspace.com which is guided meditation.
Other mindfulness app recommendations here: https://www.mindful.org/free-mindfulness-apps-worthy-of-your-attention/
Pure H20 – the stuff you splash in with your whiskey doesn’t count.
Keep a bottle by your desk and stay hydrated. Side benefit: all the getting up and going to the bathroom enforces you to get off your chair!
3) Fresh Air / Exercise
Fresh air (for mental and physical health) is vital every day. We all know the benefits of exercise – the key we’ve found is to find something you enjoy (eg walk while listening to podcasts) and change things up so you’re not bored.
4) Healthy Fuel
Not going to get into dietary advice, except to say “stop eating crap” and remember that to function well your brain and body need good fats and protein. No secret that many of the top tier of romance writers we met at RWA over the years pay good attention to their health and wellness. We’re in this for the long haul people! Ass-spread as a result of sitting is a very real danger. As is heart disease, diabetes and a host of other illnesses. You’re a Ferrari Of Awesomeness – give yourself the right fuel to run.
5) Healthy Sleep Habits
Who hasn’t lain awake at night wrangling plot problems in their head? But poor sleep can have a really negative impact on your health and your writing, so it’s worth paying as much attention to your healthy sleeping as it is when you’re awake. Consider: bed time routines, exercise / fresh air, healthy food to aid sleep, magnesium and other natural supplements, turning off “blue light” devices before bed. Many writers struggle with depression and anxiety of which poor sleep is a symptom. Courage is asking for help, no need to suffer alone.
Our fellow podcasters James Blatch and Mark Dawson had an excellent episode with sleep expert Dr Anne Bartolucci which is well worth a listen at: https://selfpublishingformula.com/episode-76/
6) Trim back on Social Media
- Especially at this time of year, social media, holiday stress and buy-buy-buy emails can be really anxiety-inducing. This is where tips we’ve talked about previously can help. In our Author Overwhelm book, we suggest:
Understand what you’re trying to achieve by using social media
- Take a step back and look at your overall social media strategy. Do you want to engage with fans? Do you want to meet other authors to find cross promotion buddies? Or do you want to just sell more books? Each of these aims would require a very different social media strategy. Once again, as soon as you have a specific goal in mind it becomes easier to decide what actions to take, and where to spend your time.
Pick one social media platform to learn at a time
Pick Facebook first
Limit your daily social media activity
- This means only looking at certain times of the day. And turn off your Facebook feed between those times. You’ll only get sucked into a cute kitten/sexy-firemen-holding-puppies time-warp that will steal your writing time.
Consider scheduling posts and other automation assistance
Plan ahead and stay focused
- If you think you might be spending too much time on social media, it could be from lack of planning. If you don’t know how much you want to do, and how often, you can sometimes overdose because of the guilt from not doing as much as you think you should. If you have a clear plan, and you know on a week-to-week basis exactly what you need to have on your social media platform, it will be much more streamlined and effective. The temptation not to plan because you think it takes too long is a false economy (but for time, not money).
If you can’t do it regularly, don’t do it at all
- This applies to blogging most of all, but also to social media platforms. If you can’t give your audience what they need, perhaps it’s time to rethink your strategy. Honestly, the world will not fall apart if you’re not on Twitter.
Try taking a social media vacation
- This is the same as above, but less permanent. Try just having a break for a while. Trying to keep up with all the posts, retweets, and must-haves on social media can be tiring. Sometimes you just need to step back and take a break. You can use automation to keep a presence, but take yourself out of it for a month.
7) Be Grateful
Yes, we know Gratitude Journals, a la Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah, can seem just one more darn “thing to do” but keeping the spirit / creative well / mind healthy is key to writing success, just as much as upping your marketing game or nailing tropes. This is an amazing, awesome time to be a writer and it’s easy to forget that when we’re lost in the fog of To Dos and If Onlys.
A team of researchers from the University of Limerick’s study published in 2017 found gratitude journaling had a significant, positive impact on well-being. Interestingly, those who were more depressed got the most benefit out of expressing their gratitude.
8) Ya Gotta Laugh
When we spoke with screenwriter Kathryn Burnett last episode, she reminded us of her sign than overcomes her resistance and helps ground her: it says, you will die. Which we all laughed at (a bit uncomfortably at fast) but that is SO true. And in the same way, laughing at your current (writing) situation is a huge stress release. Even the crazed cackling at 2am when Amazon won’t upload your darn cover image.
Humor not only helps with stress, it also has physical benefits (apparently a hearty laugh benefits your circulation, lungs and tummy muscles!) as well as boosting your creativity.
9) Stretch Yourself
Not just mentally, but physically. Take care of your back, your neck and your hands (dictation is worth mastering). Try Pilates (Wendy), Essentrics : http://www.essentrics.com/media.html (Shar) and read our Author Overwhelm book for more exercises and tips.
Can be a friend and a foe. Our previous podcast guest, Melissa Storm, talked about turning it into her Superpower (Spa Girls Podcast Episode #109). When a foe, it can be crippling, and many writers suffer. Getting some kind of help is vital – see your doctor, therapist, natural health practitioner and talk to other writers. You are not alone.