Friday, June 24, 2016

Author Self-Care Tips

I often see authors talking about depression, anxiety, and other issues they are struggling with on a daily basis.

Working at home as a writer can be really difficult. It's isolating. It can be lonely, physically exhausting, and emotionally exhausting.

I have a few personal tips that have helped me, and I thought I would discuss them today.

1. Keep the lights on!

As soon as my husband went off to work, and the kids were off to school, I used to turn out all the household lights to save on the electric bill. I only kept on my office lights. But I noticed something. The darkness was oppressive and melancholy--especially during the winter months when there was very little natural light/sunshine entering the house.

I tried a little experiment. I kept on the kitchen and living room lights. It made a huge difference in my mood. When you're trapped in the house all day writing, your space is very important. If it's cluttered, you feel unsettled. If it's dark, you feel down. I noticed right away that my mood improved when I was surrounded by light vs. darkness. That sounds melodramatic, doesn't it? Hee hee. Well, it really worked. Try it!

2. Put the food away.

If you're trying to diet/stay healthy and work from home, it's tough when the kitchen is always five steps away. Also, food can be a distraction when you're trying to get work done. My kids have bags of chips and cookies everywhere. It's way too easy to grab a handful of potato chips when the bag is lying open on the kitchen counter.

I make a point to clean up the main kitchen island. The only thing allowed on there is a bowl of fruit. All cookies, chips, and other snacks must be wrapped up and put away in the pantry. Out of sight, out of mind. No more mindless snacking.

Just because you are working at home does not mean you need to eat constantly. And when you *are* hungry, it's good to have healthy snacks ready to go. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and good protein will keep your mood elevated. Having a shelf in the fridge with pre-cut veggies/fruits, cheese sticks, mini yogurts, and other healthy snack foods is a great idea.

3.  Add morning structure.

It can become overwhelming to have eight hours of freedom, especially if you are prone to anxiety. I have a to-do list for the morning to get me started. It includes making my bed, starting the first load of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and walking. The two "W"s on my list are walking and writing. I walk for at least 30 minutes--which clears my head and helps me to percolate about my book--and then I come home and write for at least an hour. Usually, that turns into 2 hours, but as long as I can check off "1 HOUR WRITING" on my list, I feel like I've accomplished something.

The to-do list is really critical for folks who have trouble getting organized and staying on top of their anxiety. That structure makes you feel in control and like you are achieving your tasks. Also, by having "A WALK" on my list, I am forced to get dressed, get outside, and not hide like a hermit in my house all day. The walk is incredibly important for both physical and mental well-being. More about that later!

4. Take a social break.

Living in isolation is not good for your soul. Sometimes we need quiet time to concentrate and work. And sometimes we need to reach out and connect with people. Social media--in theory--can be a great way to accomplish this. However, more often than not, social media can be rage-inducing or depressing or horrifying. Too many disturbing news stories, animal torture pics, etc.

When you need a pat on the back or some support, make sure you have a way to connect with your friends. A private Facebook page where you can vent is fabulous. A group text where you can discuss the latest Tom Hiddleston news is also wonderful. Private emails are good, too. Just make sure you have a way to be in touch with the folks who know you, love you, support you.

One more thing...never underestimate the power of a pet connection! One hug with my dachshund Lucy can change my whole mood. There's a reason that research shows folks with pets are happier. Unconditional love and affection is everything!

5. Get outside and move.

This is a biggie for me, and probably for a lot of other writers. We all remember those deadline days when you never change out of your pajamas, you forget to eat, and you sit in a chair for ten straight hours finishing your book. That's not healthy for mind or body. And probably not that great for your book either!

I make sure to walk every morning. It makes me feel connected to my environment, my neighborhood, and to a larger world than my little office. It's great for your physical health, and it's vital for me working on my book. I walk and think!

I also try to add some errands into each day that force me to get out of the house. It could be something as simple as heading to the post office or picking up dinner at the grocery store. For folks dealing with anxiety, sometimes getting out of the house can feel daunting. Making--and achieving--little goals is a good thing.

Any other bright ideas to combat depression, anxiety, or help with at-home work?

Hope these tips help!