Thursday, August 16, 2012

TEN Simple Relaxation Techniques & Stress Relievers for Writers

By Jordan Dane

Recently I served on a panel at the Romance Writers of America annual conference on the topic of "Care and Feeding of the Writer's Soul." Below is only a fraction of the empowering presentation put on to a full house by Ellie James, Trinity Faegen, and yours truly. I had no idea how important our message would be to the attendees who found us afterwards and hugged us with tears in their eyes. So my message today is to take care of YOU.

1.) Meditation – Meditation isn’t about chanting “Ohms” and contorting your body. ANY repetitive action can be considered meditation—walking, swimming, painting, and knitting—any activity that keeps your attention calmly in the present moment. When your mind is at rest, the brain can be stimulated in a creative fashion.

2.) Visualize Being Relaxed – Imagine a relaxing setting away from your tensions, your perfect dream spot. This could be a vacation spot or a fancy luxury spot where you are pampered. Visualization could also include something you touch to trigger that feeling of calm—a silk robe, warm water, or a cashmere sweater.

3.) Breathe Deeply – Relaxed breathing is deep, not shallow. Get in a comfortable position and let out all the negativity in a deep expelled breath through pursed lips. Drop your shoulders to release the tension and imagine your core as the powerful place of your strength. Keep your mind focused deep into your power spot and consciously expel the stress with each breath. Breathe in the new and expel the negative until you are renewed. Believe it and make it so. Do this TEN TIMES and feel your body relax more with each step.

4.) Take a Look Around You – Something an author should do anyway. Keep your mind focused on one thing. No multi-tasking. Stay in the moment and focus on one thing or activity. Staying in the present can help promote relaxation, without all the clutter the mind can generate. If you are outdoors, focus on a bed of flowers or the sound of the birds. If you’re in a mall, keep your attention to one window, maybe one pair of shoes. Focus on how it was created, examine the details. Tell a story about that one object. As long as you focus on one object in the present, stress will take a backseat.

5.) Drink Hot Tea – Make a moment in your day to have a cup of tea. Go green. Coffee raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, while green tea offers health and beauty. Chamomile tea is a traditional herbal favorite for its calming influence. Any black tea is a stress reliever too.

6.) Show Love – Cuddle your pet or give an unexpected hug to a friend or family member. Giving a hug is like getting one back. Snuggling is good too. Snuggle that spouse who supports your writing. Social interaction helps your brain think better. Ever try a hug or snuggle for writer’s block? Physically showing affection—like stroking your pet—may actually lower your blood pressure. It can’t hurt.

7.) Self – Massage – If you don’t have time to visit a professional masseuse, try giving your neck a rub with both hands or use one hand to massage the other arm and alternate. The act will increase your blood circulation and be part of your newfound ritual to take care of yourself. Reward yourself with this each day when you’ve hit your word count. Make it your ritual of caring.

8.) Take a Time Out – When you sense stress happening or too much is bombarding you, take a time out. Walk away. Go to your happy place. Don’t let stress win. Find a quiet corner or room and decompress. Listen to your breathing and your heartbeat. Slow everything down. Remember that time is always on your side.

9.) Take a Musical Detour – Maybe with your afternoon tea, add music. If your mind is focused on the beauty of each note, this can also accomplish relaxation by keeping you in the present, away from your stressers.

10.) Take an Attitude Break – Believe it or not, THIRTY SECONDS is enough time to switch from stress to relaxation if you make the time. To do that, engage your mind in positive thoughts. Do this by anything that triggers a positive feeling in you—picture your child or your spouse, imagine your pet doing something cute, or picture wearing your favorite jewelry or shoes. Whatever that image is, it will slow your breathing, relax your tense muscles, and put a smile on your face. Your heart rate will slow down and a feeling of peace will follow.

Share what gets you through stress. You have any good tips?

To close, I’d like to share another secret with you: the outrageous benefits of Laugh Yoga. The technique is simple and can be done at any time, including five in the morning in Mumbai.

If you have trouble with this video, click on the link HERE.


  1. Well my former unhealthy answer to relieving stress was eating--usually food that was unhealthy.

    Bad idea.

    But the one thing that has consistently helped me cope with stress is walking, and now that I'm working out regularly, strength training. Especially helpful after a typical high stress day at the office.

    I'm hoping to work with a trainer and do some boxing soon. I think that would be a great stress reliever too.

  2. Great post, Jordan. Particularly #6. Sometimes it's tough to get a cat to cooperate, however. It's a toss up between 1)getting a purr or 2) getting a look that says "Wuddya want from me?"

    I would add two. The first (not for everybody, obviously) is target shooting. Working through a box of practice ammo at a licensed shooting range is a great stress reliever. The second might come under your #1. I recite the Serenity Prayer in it's short form several times on a daily basis when I find myself getting stressed. The short form (courtesy James Lee Burke) is "F*** it. Just "F*** it." Amazing how well that works.

  3. Exercise is a great stress reliever for me--but it's stressful to make myself do it, lol.

  4. Hey BK--

    Snacking on chips or other fun stuff can pile on the pounds during a project. When you're in the zone writing a book, you often get caught up in a vacuum and don't even realize you're eating sometimes. Walkind is a great way to clear your mind and let ideas flow.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hey Joe--

    I'm a long time cat lover. Have two rescues and you gotta be a secure human being to hang out with them. I love their independence and they make me laugh everyday. Oh, the feline drama.

    Target shooting is definitely relaxing for me. Weird, I know.

    JLB's serenity prayer has been known to cross my lips too. HA!

  6. Kathryn--Your comment made me laugh. I can so relate. I have a recumbent bike in my office.

    It taunts me.

  7. Those are all very helpful as this is something I really need. Taking a break is the best thing that works for me. It might mean shopping, meeting a friend for lunch, or just taking a walk and enjoying nature.

  8. Nancy--I treat myself (usually each week) to meeting with friends. The video on this post, from the Laugh Yoga, reminded me how important those meetings are. Laughing aloud or silently is very therapeutic.

  9. Hi, Jordan. Here's one more: make elephant stew...and freeze most of it.

    My life could be crazy-making right now: two major, volunteer projects for a national organization with a month-away deadline coming up (that will lead to even more work); a WIP that will be coming back from my editor some time "soon" (whatever that means), followed by all the necessary edits, building a web site, figuring out a marketing plan, etc., etc.; new house plans to review now, leading toward starting to build it perhaps later this year; a new WIP to start...the list goes on.

    No way I can eat all of those elephants at once. So I won't.

    Instead, I'll chop 'em up into bite-size bits, mix 'em all together, spice 'em up, cook 'em up...and put most of the servings in the freezer. Then more or less every day I'll take one serving out, heat it up, and take care of it. Won't go so well with bourbon but red wine's a good complement.

    Sure, new elephants will come along, so I'll never go hungry, but there'll come a day when I've eaten all of these first elephants...and kept my sanity in the process. (OK, OK, so what fun is that?)

  10. Sanity is overrated, Ross.

    You might have to post your recipe. Sounds like a hearty dish.

    But after you deal with all the elephants on your list, you might have to hit #11, like anonymous suggested. Just sayin.'

  11. If only I liked bourbon. A glass of ice-cold Stolichnaya, now, that I could do.

  12. There you go, Ross. Stoli and tonic, my summer drinkee poo. No umbrella required.

  13. I'm a pretty chill guy, not many things get to me.

    My relaxation comes in a few ways, dependent upon the kind of stress. If I need to relax and can get out into the forest or mountains for a walk, or even better an over-nighter, that's the best. Even in winter for me I love camping. Our Boy Scout troops up here in Alaska spend at least 1 night a month sleeping in the snow.

    If the stress is more of a type requiring release I used to hit the weight stack with a vengeance. But after a few too many injuries in my chosen hobby I don't toss bits of iron about much anymore. So my municipal shooting range membership has lately been getting a great deal of use. Blasting bits of paper with my .45 or other boom-sticks also double's as research.

    If its just a simple case of unwinding, I sit back, listen to some good music and float to the ethereal world of my soul where I drift into my muse's arms and we sit on bench of cloud, sipping cups of heaven tea, and chatting about tales yet to be told.

  14. By the way, a well-crafted locally brewed glass of ice cold stout used to be one of my relaxers...but not working out 2 hours a day anymore, those things have stouted me to excessive proportions. Therefore I've lately taken to chillin' with tea, more often than not, unspiked.

  15. As I recall, Simon & Seaforts has a wall of stout ales, Basil. Dining there and watching the sun go down, exploring the libation offerings and wickedly good seafood is a fond memory of mine, amongst a ton of others. I do miss the smell of a good campfire and the sound of white water most. You live in an amazing place, my friend. I miss it.

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