Disclaimer: This blog post is what I do personally to stay healthy and creative. I’m not a mental or medical health professional, and this no substitute for medical advice.
For transparency, and to help those also suffering, many post on social media about their struggles with mental illness, addiction, or illnesses in general. I, myself, post on my private Facebook my struggles with my own mental health, parenting two neurodiverse children, and my advocation for them with the education system. I also post an annoying amount of selfies at the gym and about working out.
Why? Do I have buns of steel or washboard abs? hahaha No. I’m a sweaty, red-faced mess. I want people to know that I’m taking care of myself as well as my family.
This brings me to the list of six things I promised:
- Exercise: I work out for an hour at least twice a week. Hard. Sweaty and gross, sore the next day hard. Even if it’s just going for a three mile walk, movement cuts my stress and gives me the happy hormones. I know this is something not all people can do. I suffer from arthritis, so I feel you. There are days when all I can do is controlled breathing.
2. Sleep: I have a psychiatrist who once said, “There’s no pill I can give you that sleep, a healthy diet and exercise can.” I suffer from insomnia sometimes. I’ve learned to shut off all screens an hour before bed and have a nightly ritual. Again, this is a privilege, but it’s one I take full advantage of.
3. Eat/drink well: I know this must all sound basic, but this is not only good for my mental health, it’s good for my physical health. I drink at least four bottles of water a day to combat my two cups of coffee every morning. I don’t deny myself deserts, an occasional burger, or any cravings. Though I try to avoid processed sugars because they do exacerbate my arthritis. I just make sure I’m getting veggies and fruit, the proper amount of protein and grains for someone who exercises regularly. I worked this out with a registered dietician, not a book or trend.
4. A Regular Schedule: Time management is key for me to DO ALL THE THINGS. I have the type of brain that functions best with a routine and structured schedule. This is something that has benefitted my children as well, even my kid who is neurotypical likes a routine. I have little alarms on my phone reminding me what to do when. A typical weekday goes like this:
7:00am-7:50am: work out
8:00am- wake kids who aren’t already in virtual school. Load dishwasher or laundry. Shower.
8:30am-Zoom and write with writing group.
12:00pm-break for lunch/chores
4:00pm-Stop writing. Family time.
5:00pm–make dinner/family time
8:30pm-bath/read-listen to audiobook — or watch tv with family
This is excluding doctor visits and Zoom class tech support, emails, and other things that pop up for the day, but it brings me to my next point.
5. WRITE: I chip away at my current WIP, blog, email, update my social media for my author stuff every day. Do I scroll through social media or read the news? Sometimes, but I try to keep away from those time sinks unless it’s writing related. Having specific goals and tasks every day helps me keep on track. Sometimes they’re met, sometimes I’ve done the bare minimum. However, it keeps me prolific.
6. Go outside: Even if it’s for a drive, I get outside every day regardless of the weather. It is good for my brain to switch up environments and see nature. I’ve been poor, lived in a crime-ridden neighborhoods, and have been without a vehicle as an adult, so I know this is a privilege. But, even when I lived in a not so awesome part of Baltimore, I used to do yoga on my balcony every morning before work (much to the amusement of my neighbors). It helped me keep centered, even with busses passing by and city traffic.
So, this is my big secret to staying creative while the world burns. I have the fortunate life circumstances to make writing a full-time career. Hope you all have your coping strategies in place as well. Take care.