December’s theme is “Breathe,” which means this is the month to put down the pen or keyboard and give yourself a well-deserved break, just in time for the holidays. But I know I’m not the only one that hates to be told to relax without being given any advice on how to do it. “Relaxing” is not the same for everyone and there is no “right way” to do it, even though there’s pressure to do it correctly. So here are some tips on the many different ways to help yourself breathe.
Classic Self Care
I’ll start with the more traditional relaxation techniques, because while they might seem overrated, they do work for a lot of people and are proven to be effective. Keep an open mind!
Meditation: What’s a better way to help yourself “breathe” than by actually breathing? Meditation is used for mindfulness, self-awareness, and stress and anxiety relief. If sitting in silence and breathing sounds too daunting, there are many guided meditations online that will tell you what to do. And hey, maybe a writing idea will come to you! Try this exercise for a quick breather:
Exercise: Okay, I know this one isn’t a lot of writers’ top choice, but exercise can be a great way to release pent up emotion and get your heart rate up. Try out some different workouts and find something fun! There are a bunch of free videos online to choose from. I highly recommend Crista DiPaolo’s cardio kickboxing videos. It gets your heart working, and you get to pretend to punch things. What’s better than that?
Get Clean: Take a few minutes (or an hour) for a nice hot shower or bath. Put on your favorite music, light a candle, and wash off the stress of the day. Those shower thoughts might spark something for your writing, too!
Never underestimate the power of comfort books, movies, and tv shows! Taking a break from writing is the perfect time to do some reading or watching. Most people know what media they’re drawn back to, but if you’re struggling for ideas, try to make a list!
Keeping a list of your favorite and most comforting pieces of media by your desk or on your phone is always helpful if you’re looking for a little escape and in need of some recommendations.
Some common comfort movies are nostalgic children’s favorites, like the Studio Ghibli or Harry Potter films, or maybe something easy to binge, like procedural law dramas or reality tv.
(My sisters and I watched Love Island UK this summer, and it’s so easy and fun to get caught up in the drama and forget your worries for an hour or two).
Sometimes I beat myself up for choosing to watch something I’ve already seen instead of watching or reading something new. But I find a lot of comfort in already knowing the plot and just enjoy watching the story play out again. It reminds me of what I love most about writing my own stories.
Social media, while we tend to use it as a means of escape, can actually be a large drain on our mental health. Raise awareness of your own social media habits by paying attention to every time you open Instagram or Twitter. Do you often find yourself scrolling on these apps and unable to remember opening them?
Give yourself permission to log out, or set limits and specific times where you disconnect from the internet, like before going to bed. This can be tough, but it might be a good way to give yourself a moment to breathe!
Creative rest is incredibly important for any writer, and can actually lead to better ideas and better writing. Allow yourself to put down that notebook or close the Word doc, and let your mind wander freely and see what you find. Some of our best ideas come to us when we aren’t searching for them. Feel free to let them develop and jot them down for later.
Many people fall into the trap of viewing “self care” as another task they have to do. Again, don’t stress about “doing it right" and don’t feel like you have to be productive while relaxing! Relaxing itself is productive. You don’t have to convince yourself that finishing your To-Do list is how you chill out. If it is, then great, but you can add “relax” to your list and get just as much done, maybe even more. Relaxing helps you focus on what's important; it's just as valid as any other activity. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
About the Author: Lindsey Odorizzi is currently working towards her BA in English and Creative Writing at Brandeis University. She lives in upstate New York with her parents and two sisters, and her cat, Sister. You can usually find her reading, crocheting, or watching Marvel movies. She hopes to be a writer and an editor in the future to continue to help others improve their writing.