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How to Deal with the Stress of Writing and Deadlines

By October 4, 2017No Comments

By: Beverly Peders

As a student, it’s not unusual for me to be juggling classwork, side projects, and work from my job. This causes a lot of stress that can affect my writing negatively. Sometimes it sneaks up on me when I think I’m on top of everything and sets me back on deadlines. While it seems easy enough to push past the feeling and keep throwing yourself at your work, this could lead to frustration and mistakes.

Since everyone experiences and deals with stress differently (although we can all agree it’s an enormous roadblock), here are some methods I’ve tried to reduce stress to get you back on track:

Exercise

I used to hate running and would think those who voluntarily run are crazy. Guess who runs now! I mostly do it because although I walk places, I’ve become rather sedentary and that bothered me more than aching legs. When I get stressed, I try to distract myself… usually browsing stupid things on the internet. That could waste hours of my day while I told myself it was “just a break”. Now, I’ll grab some gym clothes and run for a simple 30 minutes. Not only is it healthy (drink lots of water! If you’ve never run before, do what I didn’t and read up on how to start!), but afterwards you’ll feel more productive and energized to tackle your problems. Maybe you’ve even managed to figure out a way around what’s been bothering you.

If running isn’t an option because you don’t have access to a gym or safe streets, if you get a mat or non-scratchy carpet you can easily do some yoga. I find this is better at de-stressing compared to  running. Running is more for writing slumps for me. I have a free app called “Down Dog” which means I can do yoga in my apartment and never have to fall on my butt around other people. It’s also way more relaxing going solo. You can set it so the instructor reads out detailed instructions for what you have to do along with images. If you don’t think it’s working in the beginning, give it some time. When you’re struggling and sweating at the 30 minute mark, you’ll forget all your other problems and find that to not give up, you have to center yourself and take that weight off your shoulder. The cool down at the end not only feels rewarding, but freeing. You can set the time, so if you’re really feeling a time crunch, it can be as quick as 20 minutes.

Meditation

I’ve actually taken short course on mindfulness and meditation and let me tell you, it’s way harder than just sitting criss-cross and closing your eyes. I’m an impatient person and it will probably take me years to get to the point where I can meditate on demand. Should I give up? No, and neither should you. The brief moments of meditation I’ve been able to grasp were miraculous in the midst of stress. You gain clearer insight of your situation and you can go back with renewed vigor. The more you work at it, the better the results will be. This can improve your writing as well as your lifestyle. While your writing may be your main priority, don’t forget about your well-being!

Therapy

Speaking of well-being, if your stress is affecting more than just your writing and for longer than a few days, you should seek help. While it may seem cliche and intimidating to do one-on-one with a therapist, you could also see if there are stress-related groups. I find groups to be more helpful, because others can talk while you think of what you want to say or you can just listen instead of a talking a continuous stream of thoughts to a therapist. Of course all groups are different and you may find that one-on-one is better for you, but no one should be ashamed of seeking help.

Dip in Your Toes

I one hundred percent support all soothing bath ideas. Bath bombs? Never too many. Lavender-smelling bubbles? My favorite. This is one of my immediate go-tos if running/yoga doesn’t work. Why? Go straight from sweaty and gross to relaxed and happy. Or just skip the exercise, draw a warm bath, and dive in (maybe not literally). I usually turn off the lights and light a candle (judge me, I don’t care) and relax my eyes from all their screen time. If you practice meditation and want to kill two birds with one stone, go ahead and center yourself. If you want to give it a shot, it is the best way I’ve found to make it work. Take as long as you need and give your brain a rest from whatever problems you have. They can wait.

Step Away from the Screen

Reading a book is an easy one for me since I usually have great books I set aside during deadlines that are begging for attention. The change in subject can help refresh your mind so that – after this chapter, I promise – you can return to your problems ready to have a new look at possible solutions. Books not your thing? Go for a walk. Doesn’t have to be long, maybe just ten minutes, but that should give you a good breath of fresh air. Maybe go a different route to your favorite ice cream store and get yourself a treat. The different path should keep your mind focused on the route instead of your problems. You might see something cool on your way there, you never know. Just remember to be safe!

Alternate Activities

I’ve found that having something else you like to work on can help make you feel productive while give your mind a break from relentlessly editing or writing. Some of my hobbies are fencing, baking, and comics. A weird combination, I know, but that makes it easier to destress if I find one of them isn’t working. If you don’t have a hobby, or yours aren’t working, I find that doing chores around my apartment can help me destress. From dishes to vacuuming to mending clothing, anything that’s mundane can lull your mind into a relaxed stupor and allow you to reset.

Companions

I am too cheap for pets (and besides, I have a small apartment), so I have plants. To be specific, a particularly finicky peace lily, a small spider plant, and a succulent I saved from a previous roommate.  They’re pretty low-maintenance and brighten up the room, not to mention filter the air. If plants aren’t for you (like my former roommate said “it doesn’t tell me when to feed it”), maybe you’re looking for a pet. An adorable dog that encourages you to go outside and walk more or a cat that purrs on top of your laptop while you’re trying to work. Whichever works for you. If you’re like me and need a cheaper alternative, go for plants. Taking care of them makes me feel better since I raised the spider plant from a cutting and I get to watch it grow and thrive. I painted the pots (poorly, but it’s art) and that was very relaxing for me as well. Watering them every morning is a simple start to my day.

Phone Free

Now as someone who owns a watch that buzzes every time I get a call or text, I may not be the best to lecture about going phone free. I hate leaving messages unanswered and it drives me crazy sometimes not to check my mail, but those habits are what fuels my stress. Putting social media and conversations on hold for a few hours can remove a huge generator of stress out of the equation. Just make sure they know you won’t be responsive for a reason. Those messages and emails will be there in two hours, but those moments of peace can save you a lot of frustration during your writing or editing.

Beauty Sleep

Sleep is not only a requirement to keep your body functioning properly, sleep helps your brain. If you are worried about this deadline and are willing to sacrifice sleep time to get it done by pulling an all-nighter, you may be adding fuel to the flames. First of all, it is important to know if you’re a morning, afternoon, or night writer. I write best in the morning after breakfast with the smell of brewed coffee in the air. If you’re like me, it’s best to go to bed early and wake up early. Give yourself more morning time. If you are a night writer, make sure you have enough time to sleep in to give yourself that eight hours. Or schedule some naps! A two hour block for a nap could be the boost your brain needs mid-day after a long night of writing.