It has been well documented that writing is good for our mental health, especially when writing about thoughts and feelings related to stressful or traumatic events. And of course we all know that exercise is good for all of us. The problem with us writers is that we tend to get so caught up in the ‘zone’ that we often forget to look after ourselves. Here are some tips that I have learned (often the hard way) to looking after your mental and physical health (Hint: Most of them you will have already heard from your mum).
- Join a club that meets at least once a month
Being a writer can get lonely, especially when you work from home. There are no water coolers to gossip around, nobody to go to lunch with, and more importantly, nobody else to vent to or ask for advice when things go wrong. Part of being lonely is not having anything to go to. Putting dates in your diary for events that you’re interested in gets you out of the house and out of your own head. For instance, I belong to a book club that meets every six weeks. It’s a great way to unwind and catch up with old friends (frankly, the book receives very little air time!)
2. Get some exercise!
When you’re in the throes of writing, it can be tempting to spend day and night in front of your screen. Don’t. Not only is this bad for your posture but too much screen-time will make you less alert the following day. If you are not disciplined enough to do the exercise yourself (like me), then join an exercise class. Not only will it make you feel better mentally, but it will help to iron out all that tension in your neck and shoulders which is sadly an occupational hazard for most writers.
3. Have a Regular Sleep Routine
I know I’m beginning to sound like your mum, but do get to bed at a reasonable hour and set your alarm to wake up at a similar time every day. Too much sleep makes our minds foggy, and too little reduces our concentration. Some writers feel better writing at night while others are early risers. Whatever category you fall into, just make sure you get a decent sleep allowance every night.
4. Eat a healthy diet
Alright, I am your mum. Stick to regular mealtimes and try to eat healthily (especially if you’re one of those people who can’t stand exercise). Also, if you have an important deadline or you’re on a bit of a writing roll, try and not overdo it on the alcohol. It took me years to admit that I can’t write to the same level when I’m suffering from hangover.
5. Do a writing warm-up
Before you launch into your writing, consider doing a quick warm up to get yourself into the ‘zone’. For example, you could answer a few emails or write a to-do list – basically anything that gets your brain in writing mode. When I do this, I find that the writing flows much more quickly.
Emma Murray is a best-selling, award-winning author and ghostwriter, specialising in business, psychology and higher education. She also ghosts blogs, articles, case studies, and book proposals.