How to Practice Self-Care through Writing
Written by Aakanksha Gupta (Weloquent)
The novelist Anaïs Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
We writers relish experiences and love documenting them in various lengths, styles, and genres. Writing gives us catharsis and a sense of accomplishment, though it can often be accompanied by a fair share of stress. So how can we manage stress, prevent burnout, and enjoy the writing process? Below are four ways to write as a means of self-care:-
1. Start With the Bigger Picture
Before diving into writing, create and maintain a self-care routine focused on improving your daily functioning. Commit to non-negotiable activities such as getting enough sleep (7-9 hours), eating nutritious food, staying hydrated, and exercising.
Next, figure out what relaxes and re-energizes you when you’re stressed and/or tired. Here are some activities that help me unwind:-
Making time for no screens.
Focused breathing and stretching.
Listening to music or playing an instrument.
Talking to a loved one and/or doing an activity together.
Watching a movie, a show, or a video.
You could try filling this table made by psychologist and author Ellen Bard:
2. Journal About Yourself
In recent years, I’ve been using a journal to jot down and process my emotions. When struggling to handwrite, I use my phone’s notes app or a word document. These practices have fueled my creativity and improved my overall state of being. Journaling hones our ability to regulate our emotions and connect with our thoughts more deeply. Research shows that this reflective writing style also leads to:
Long-term improvements in mood, stress levels, and depressive symptoms.
Increased chances of fighting diseases like asthma and cancer.
If you’re dealing with writer’s block, here are ten types of journaling to inspire you:-
Unsent letter journaling
Journaling using photographs as prompts
Read more about 1-7 on Psychology Today and 8-10 on Good Therapy.
3. Read for Fun
To quote the author Stephen King, “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” Reading undoubtedly helps us write better, but when it feels like work, it’s natural to put it off. Writers are often told to read classics, but it’s normal if you, like me, have a stack of high school literature that you didn’t particularly enjoy.
Moreover, you don’t always have to read with the intent of bettering your craft! Try removing the pressure of what you “should” read from the equation. Consider these strategies:-
Narrow down your options by searching for genre-based or year-based booklists on platforms like Goodreads.
Check out Recommend Me A Book to read the first pages of novels. If you like a certain page, click on “Reveal title and author.”
If you already have a list of “to read” books, read the synopses and pick the story that sounds most appealing. Also, if something no longer interests you, feel free to remove it.
If you’re feeling indecisive, assign each book a number and use a random number generator to choose for you.
If longer reads are intimidating, look for articles, essays, or poems. Bookmark the websites you like and browse through them when you’re looking for shorter and/or easier reads. For example, I often read about movies on Bright Wall Dark Room or mental health on Healthline. If I’m in the mood for fiction or poems, I go to The Bombay Review or Poetry Foundation.
4. Write Playfully
Challenging and putting aside the desire to produce “perfection” makes a world of a difference! By adding playfulness to writing, we're more likely to enjoy ourselves. Research shows that the act of playing reduces stress, supports our well-being, and strengthens connections to others. Play also improves attention, concentration, learning, and thinking capabilities.
If you want to kickstart your brain, you could use fiction or non-fiction writing prompts from websites such as Writers Digest, Poets and Writers, and The New York Times. You could even start with openings from writing you like. Below are two of my favourites:-
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)
“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood.” (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan)
If you prefer writing with someone, reach out to a friend and/or a fellow writer. I love doing a collaborative activity that my friends and I call “The Story Game,” which is derived from “Exquisite corpse,” an art technique dating back to the 1920s. The objective of this activity is to go sentence-by-sentence to write fictional stories, poems, or songs about anything you’d like. The time limit encourages you not to spend too much time pondering what sounds “good.” My favourite method is agreeing on a theme and starting each story with a related sentence.
The following are some simple rules for The Story Game:-
Create a Google Doc with a page per person.
Decide how much time you need for each sentence and set a timer.
When finished, move to the next page and read each other’s first sentences.
Next, set the timer again and continue the story.
Make the first sentence invisible by changing the font colour to white. After you switch to the next page, you will only see each other’s most recently written sentences.
Keep playing with the same rules.
When you have reached the end of your original page, write the last sentence and then read your stories to each other.
I hope these strategies support you in your journey of self-care! What are some practices that you’ve found helpful so far? Tell us in the comments!
Aakanksha is a passionate storyteller inspired by the power of literature, films, and music. She loves to guide people to share their ideas and work together to form strong narratives.
Aakanksha Gupta is an Editor and Writer at Weloquent.