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Z is for Zen.

You envy her, that writer friend of yours who always seems so calm and collected. You constantly wonder how she does it: she has all the same responsibilities you have as a writer and human. Why isn’t she snapping at everyone while downing a bottle of wine with her extra-large pizza?

Let’s first look at your reactions.

You’re feeling irritable. You’d rather crush a broken box of tea in your Hulk-like fist than fix it. You’re managing your feelings with alcohol and comfort food. After a long day of work (yeah, check that daily to-do list to being awesome) you’re in no mood for exercise – you’d rather curl up with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and an extra cheese pizza. Again.


You’re stressed out.

Well, duh. If writers don’t write, they don’t get paid. No money means well, you know what it means. So you write. You blog. You comment on other blogs (networking is good for you). You barely sleep because of all the caffeine zinging through your veins to keep you alert while writing. Anything except writing seems like a waste of time (like exercising or cooking healthy meals).

At some point, no matter how hard you work, your productivity goes from cheetah to snail. You snap at everyone, snarl at happy people, fight with your bestie over nothing and the lack of comments on your blog feels like a personal attack.

You’ve finally figured out that you have a serious case of anxiety. But it’s manageable, right? It’s just stress, right?

Unfortunately, no.

You’ve gone into that dangerous area that continual stress causes: the abyss of burnout.

I’ve written about how to stop the staring contest with the abyss and get back to being a happy-hopeful-barely-stressed-writer.

And here’s some more secrets to overcome fear and anxiety.

And if all else fails: simplify.

If you’re not sure whether you’re stressed or burned out, check out Ruth Harris’s post about the difference between the two. And the consequences…

Alright, you now know whether you’re suffering from burnout or stress. You’ve tried the tips I shared to unwind and refresh.

How to fully get the best out of each day?

Be in the moment.

Theresa Barker started an experiment a few weeks ago to test how well “being in the moment” works on reducing stress. The six strategies are: intent, details, breathingmoving, white space, and gratitude.

She invited others to join in on this experiment and share their experiences. Why not try it out?

With every step you climb another mountain
With every breath it’s harder to believe
You make it through the pain
Weather the hurricanes
To get to that one thing
Just when you think the road is going no where
Just when you almost gave up on your dreams
They take you by the hand and show you that you can
There are no boundaries…
There are no boundaries.

No Boundaries, Adam Lambert

So what does that mean for us?

To stop the whole binge eating thing it’s probably best to stop having breakfast on the run, lunch at the desk and dinner at the bottom of a bottle. Your waistline, blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure will thank you.

My brain just doesn’t work right around 4pm. It’s true for the majority of people. Instead of grabbing another croissant, doughnut or other pastry of your choice, go for a walk. Stretching your legs and getting your blood circulation going again after sitting still for hours will do you a world of good. It will also help to relieve your anxiety and other psychological effects of stress you are experiencing. Besides, taking a walk instead of eating a box of doughnuts will be good for your overall health.

Not convinced?

Einstein was known for the theory of relativity – and for taking walks around the Princeton campus.

If you’re worried about your resting heart rate being over a hundred beats per minute (you should be), get a fitbit or something like it to track everything from your heart rate, your daily activity, your sleep and calories burned. It’ll help with making conscious decisions about exercise and food choices… (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

A healthy mind equals a healthy writer.

Knowing what your problem is and being honest with yourself will really help to get you to a healthier place where you can still be an awesome writer, but without your dogs being afraid of you. And don’t freak out if after a few days of doing nothing, you’re not over the burnout thing yet. It took a long time to get there and it will take a long time to get better. Breathe and know that you are awesome.

Which is where that writer friend of yours is: calm and collected.

Zen: Japanese school, of 12th-century Chinese origin, teaching that contemplation of one’s essential nature to the exclusion of all else is the only way of achieving pure enlightenment (Collins English Dictionary).

That’s my thoughts on how to be calm and collected while being a writer. It’s a hard road to travel, but it has awesome rewards. Now to take a walk… If you have anything to add, feel free to leave it in the comments.

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