On My Mind: The Importance Of Self-Care

You’re a writer, and what do you do? You write. Or at least that’s what you should be doing, right? Well, not always. Even when most successful and prolific writers tell you that you should be writing, there is one major reason for you to take a break: your health.

It’s been years since I’ve been diagnosed with chronic pains and I’ve struggled with it since. There isn’t anything that can be done about it except painkillers. There is nothing wrong with my brain, just my joints and muscles which act up at certain times (and never predictable). I was always mentally fit for work and I had no fevers or something contagious, so why wouldn’t I go to work if I just had pain that wasn’t going to kill me?

That attitude is the wrong one long term. Pain is often enhanced by stress, which you possible get from being in pain, and it becomes a downward spiral. The further you go down that spire, the more radical the change you have to make to break that cycle. Don’t wait for it to get that far. Listen to your body.

If you feel that you’re not going to be as productive as other days, take a moment to think about how you can get back in your rhythm. Take a bath to relax your muscles and mind, or go for a run to keep your body active while you clear your mind. Go have that strawberry shortcake that you saw in the bakery window the other day. Spend a day in bed watching mindless TV or read your favourite book.

I’ll just say it bluntly: you have to take care of yourself. If you don’t know how or what you need, ask someone who does. The people who know are usually happy that you come to them and will be happy to help you. Don’t be embarrassed or feel guilty. There’s no need. You should be proud of yourself that you’re taking steps to become a better you. Your work will be there when you feel better.

Self-care is always important, no matter what profession you are in and it doesn’t matter if it’s for physical reasons or mental ones. I recently saw a post about a woman who took leave because she needed a few days for mental health reasons and her boss encouraged it. This is great! We need more of such bosses. Not feeling well isn’t just limited to how our bodies feel, but also to what mental state we are in. If you’re mourning or heartbroken, depressed or have a migraine, a fever or a hangover. Do what you have to do to come back with full power. Or reintegrate a few hours per week, until you can commit all you have again.

After you’ve taken care of yourself, you can go back to writing. Should you go back to writing too soon, chances are that what you write will be of a lesser quality. Bad writing is still better than no writing at all, but consider the time you have to take to rewrite that badly written part. Is it worth it? Will it help you move forward regardless? As always, look at your own situation and how it all fits together.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m in desperate need of a piece of chocolate.

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