The Anxiety Management Toolkit for Writers

I didn’t get round to doing my week that was post this week, but in lieu of that, here’s a wonderful guest post from Natasha. She’s the facilitator for Lumenkind, which “offers tips, tools, and courses for navigating stress and managing anxiety.” I was really impressed when she sent this through, and knew you guys would love it as much as I do. Natasha’s contact info and bio can be found at the end of this article.

Thanks, Natasha!

The writer’s life is like any other life except for one important aspect: the need to create. We’re always thinking about that next blog post, e-book, poem, or short story. We’re hungry to put our thoughts and ideas on paper or screen. We get anxious when life gets in the way of our writing. Whether it’s writer’s block, or just not having enough time, it stresses us out. We need simple tools to get the gears turning, help us navigate stress, and manage our anxiety. Here are three easy tasks that can help.

Move

Whether it’s some simple stretching or a walk around the block, get up. The biggest excuse for lack of exercise is not having enough time. We make ourselves believe that if we’re going to workout, we need to do it everyday for an hour or more. The pressure keeps us from taking that first step, and the lack of movement dulls our brain activity. Make the task as simple as, “Put on my walking shoes,” or “Get on my yoga mat.” Just five to ten minutes of movement can trigger the endorphins you need to pump your brain full of great ideas, and relieve anxiety. Go ahead; what will your simple exercise be?

Write

It’s easy for writers to get hung up on over-editing and self-censorship. We live in a world of instant publication, so we spend a lot less time simply writing for ourselves. Grab a notebook and a pen, and just dump out the contents of your mind. Don’t use your computer! You’ll get distracted by your news feed, timeline, and email. The physical act of holding a pen in your hand and pressing it to paper amplifies focus. Write for three pages, nonstop. Even if all you write is, “I don’t know what to write,” that’s great! Don’t cross anything out. Don’t think about what you’re saying. You can complain about your neighbor, or write a list of pizza toppings. Write for the sake of writing, and you’ll be able to express feelings and emotions that you didn’t even realize you were experiencing.

Breathe

There are no excuses for this one. You might not have time to exercise or write in a journal, but you are always breathing. Focusing on the breath can trigger the relaxation response, which reduces the flow of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Listening to the sound of your inhales and exhales brings you to the present moment. When your mind is like a broken record, pay attention to breath coming in and your breath going out. You can do this while you’re driving, running errands, cleaning, or even procrastinating! So often our stressors are just thoughts in our head, and not real or tangible threats in our environment. Focusing on your breath keeps you from staying in a state of fight or flight. It also clears out negative thought patterns and makes room for new ideas.

Bring It All Together

If you want to make these three activities part of your daily routine, make them as painless as possible. Start out doing each of them for five minutes, which will be a total of a paltry fifteen minutes of your day. Do some push-ups and stretching for five minutes,  journal nonstop in your notebook for five minutes, and finish with five minutes of focusing on your breath. You can do it in the morning, before bed, or for break in the middle of your day. And you can do them anywhere. Will it make a difference? Absolutely. It’s fifteen minutes of concentrated self-care, fifteen minutes of being mindful, fifteen minutes that don’t belong to anyone or anything else but you.

Try it for one week and see what happens. What have you got to lose?

Author Bio:

Natasha Akery is a professional writer and certified yoga instructor based in Charleston, SC. She is the facilitator for Lumenkind, which serves people struggling with stress-related symptoms, illnesses, and disorders through meditation, yoga, and writing practice.

Twitter: Twitter.com/Lumenkind

Facebook: Facebook.com/Lumenkind

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