Self-Care for Writers: 10 Ways to Avoid Burnout

This post contains everything you need to know about self-care for writers. We include 10 practical strategies any creative can try.

Writing is a lonely and sometimes boring profession. If you don’t take care of yourself properly, you’ll feel burned-out. Self-care is tricky for a writer since you need to find a balance between taking care of your needs and those of your clients.

We are bombarded with messages from famous entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Mark Cuban and Gary Vaynerchuk telling us to grind for more than 16 hours every day if we want to succeed, but is that really helpful?

You’ll find little benefit to working that much because you’ll start neglecting yourself. Then the quality of your work will drop rapidly. So how can you make time for yourself while staying productive? Here are 10 self-care for writers strategies to help you with that.

1. What Do Your Eating Habits Look Like?

Self-care for writers 10 ways to avoid burnout

You are what you eat. This statement couldn’t be more true, and if you’re a writer, you should follow this rule like it’s the law. 

If you’re eating processed junk food all the time, you’ll feel tired and uncreative. Your productivity will be non-existent. You’ll also be missing key nutrients that you don’t get from processed foods. This is where eating whole foods can make you much healthier.

Nutrition might seem like rocket science with so much information and misinformation on the internet, but a simple rule I like to follow is that if it’s made in a factory, don’t eat it.

This means no sweets, chips, soda and fast food. Stick to “real” foods like organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, eggs, fish and fruits. Our ancestors ate these foods, and our bodies know how to properly digest them.

By simply not eating anything that comes out of a factory, you’ll start feeling more energetic, creative and productive. You’ll also increase your chances of living a long, healthy life and decrease your chances of developing common chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Now let’s talk about your exercise routine.

2. How Important Is Exercise to You?

An effective exercise routine incorporates resistance training and cardio. Both are crucial for staying fit, strong and healthy. 

Lots of writers like to make the excuse that they don’t have time to exercise. They say they’ll need to travel to a gym and wait for equipment to become available, but you don’t need to buy a gym membership to stay fit as a writer.

Gym memberships are costly, and if you have a few deadlines to meet, the last thing on your mind is traveling to the gym and working out.

That’s why I highly recommend setting up a home gym. You don’t need hundreds of dollars to do this also. All you need is your bodyweight and a pull-up bar, which you can buy off Amazon for about $30.

You can do some pull-ups, push-ups, bodyweight squats and bridges for a killer workout. If you still have energy left, jog around your neighborhood. It’s an effective cardio workout.

This way you save a significant amount of time and money.

Let’s say you have a deadline to meet. All you need to do is hang your pull-up bar in a doorway and start working out.

Read our guide about Exercise and Creativity.

3. Is Sleep a Priority to You?

Sleep is your body’s way of repairing damaged cells. Numerous studies have found that if you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll perform like someone who’s drunk. 

You wouldn’t try to meet deadlines while being drunk, so why would you if you’re sleep-deprived? The quality of your work will suffer.

This makes sleep one of your biggest priorities alongside proper nutrition and exercise.

Most people try to sleep 8 hours a day and think that’s enough. But the length of your sleep is only one factor to consider.

Are you falling asleep and waking up about the same time every day? If not, you’re confusing your body, since it doesn’t know when to release the proper hormones like melatonin, adrenaline and cortisol. 

Try to go to sleep about the same time every night. Your body releases the hormones mentioned above at the right time, and these hormones can do wonders for your energy levels. It’ll help you wake up early to write.

Second, are you waking up naturally? If you’re waking up with an alarm clock, you’re cutting your sleep short. Your body is designed to wake itself once everything is healed by producing cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prevent you from waking up feeling groggy.

Last, do you have a shutdown routine before your sleep? A basic shutdown routine includes:

  • Avoiding caffeine eight hours before bed
  • Avoiding blue light since it blocks sleep hormones
  • Taking time off from work at least two hours before bed to give your brain time to relax
  • Writing in your gratitude journal.

By developing these simple habits before bed, you’ll give yourself a better chance of de-stressing and getting better quality sleep.

4. What Does Your Social Life Look Like?

We humans are social creatures. If we go long periods without socializing, we can become depressed and anxious. Writers are especially prone to this since we spend most of our time alone trying to complete writing projects and books.

Simply setting aside a few hours of your week to socialize with others can do wonders for your mental health. An easy way for writers to socialize more is to join networking events for writers and meet new people. This usually takes only one to two hours, and the people you meet can become lifelong friends.

Another way to meet people who share your interests is to take up a new hobby. For example, if you love surfing, go for a few surfing lessons and make friends with the instructors and students.

If you’re really busy and don’t have a few hours to set aside every week, then simply make small talk with the people around you like cashiers or servers. This barely takes a few seconds.

5. Are You Taking Care of Your Mental Health?

Most people focus only on their physical health by watching what they eat and exercising, but your mental health is equally important, if not more.

If you’re spending eight to ten hours indoors writing by yourself, you need to start prioritizing your mental health. The best way to do this is to speak to a therapist. Even if you don’t have major problems, a therapist can provide you with an objective view and help solve the little problems you face every day.

This can help you in many areas of life like:

  • Increasing self-confidence
  • Providing constructive criticism
  • Helping you find your purpose
  • Making room for self-development.

If you don’t feel like going to a therapist or you’re not comfortable with it, simply setting time aside to meditate and read every day can give your mental state the downtime it needs to recover and come back sharper.

Meditation for writers is a helpful strategy when you’re in a creative rut, while reading a book is an easy way to get ideas for your writing projects.

Another way of putting your mental health first is to keep a gratitude journal and jot down what you’re grateful for every day. This reminds you of the things you have instead of dwelling on everything you don’t have.

6. Is Your Life Simple?

Keeping everything simple is one of the key factors to living a healthy and happy life. That’s why we’re seeing minimalism skyrocket in popularity. 

Even famous entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are selling all their belongings to keep their lives more simple. This also helps them work 16-hour workdays since there aren’t many distractions in their lives.

The average person has no reason to sell all of his or her belongings, but the principle of minimalism can greatly improve your life. 

Are items in your house just sitting there because you never use them? Get rid of them! The dust collectors are just causing unnecessary clutter. 

This principle also translates into buying things you can’t afford. If you don’t need it, why are you buying that huge house that’s just going to cause more headaches than happiness? Keep things simple.

Writers, keep your work process simple. If your freelance writing business is super complicated, then try to find ways of simplifying work processes. This makes your life easier, and your mental health will thank you.

7. Are You Constantly Rewarding Yourself?

As writers, it’s important to constantly reward ourselves for completing small tasks. When we have a goal that’s too big and too far away, it’s easy for us to lose motivation and get sidetracked. When our goals are small and rewarding, however, we’re more likely to reach our ultimate goal.

For example, if you wanted a dog to climb a hill, you wouldn’t put a bag of treats at the top of the hill and expect the dog to reach it. You’d create a path of treats for the dog to follow so it can reach the top.

Our brains work the same way. We find reaching the ultimate goal difficult without any “treats.” When we treat ourselves along the way, our journey becomes easier.

How you treat yourself is also important. Many people would use treats like social media, movies, and video games. These rewards often create more harm than good since our brains constantly want more. It’s never satisfied. 

Remember the last time you wanted to reward yourself by spending five minutes on Facebook? That five minutes quickly turned into 30 minutes.

Instead, use healthy treats like:

  • Meditating
  • Reading
  • Watching short, entertaining videos
  • Spending time with friends and family

This gives your brain time to relax and recover, but it doesn’t suck you into an endless scrolling frenzy. 

8. What Are Your Hobbies?

Having a few hobbies to enjoy during the weekend is a great way to take your mind off work. If you’re working eight hours per day every day, then you’ll need some extra stimulation in your life after a few months.

Hobbies can also lead to some much-needed inspiration when you’re writing a book or an article. 

If you’re watching a lot of TV or scrolling through social media for hours, then a hobby can also help you reduce the time you spend on these sites. Hobbies improve your focus and keep you moving instead of prolonging sedentary behavior.

This is also a productive way to reward yourself. If you’ve completed a chapter in your book or finished writing an article, then reward yourself by going out and getting better at your hobby.

9. What Does Your Alcohol Consumption Look Like?

Some writers are famous for their high consumption of alcohol. Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald were known for drinking ridiculously large amounts of alcohol. 

Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t the reason they were great writers. Hemingway normally indulged in his habit after finishing all his writing for the day. Fitzgerald tried reducing the amount of alcohol he drank toward the end of his career.

Does alcohol make you a better writer? While it might put you in situations for interesting stories, it’s still a toxin that’s harmful to your health. Restrict your alcohol consumption and be responsible.

10. Are You Using Social Media Mindfully?

A golden productivity rule to remember is that if an app has endless scrolling, it’ll suck up hours of your time before you know it. Common platforms that have endless scrolling include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • YouTube.

The good news is that you don’t have to delete these apps. They’re powerful tools for research and growing your freelance business, but you’ll need to make a few adjustments.

To block the endless feed on YouTube, install the Chrome extension Distraction Free for YouTube. This doesn’t block only your YouTube feed; it blocks the sidebar and comments too. This is helpful because when you’re researching for a post or book, the videos on the sidebar can draw you in and suck up a lot of your time.

For Facebook, head over to the Chrome Web Store and install News Feed Eradicator for Facebook. This extension does exactly what the name suggests. It removes your news feed so you’re free to do what you need to, whether it’s checking your ad campaign or replying to a few messages.

Final Word On Self-Care for Writers

Finding time to take care of yourself as a writer can be tricky. You’ll need to balance your needs with the needs of your clients or audience. With the 10 self-care for writers strategies, you’ll keep your physical, emotional and mental health in peak condition while keeping your motivation to write.

Is Journaling Important As A Writer?

Journaling is important since it allows you to not only increase productivity but can improve your self-care and self-love habits over time. Journaling can be as simple as keeping a small notepad with you and journaling your feelings and experiences during the day.

What Are Some Inspiring Gratitude Journaling Prompts?

1. Journal about your favorite person and their best qualities.
2. Write down a random act of kindness you did for someone that day.
3. Journal about something that cheers you up when you’re sad.
4. Write about your favorite hobby.
5. Describe your favorite part of every day.

How Do I Practice Self-Love? 

Self-love goes deeper than self-care. It’s about accepting yourself as you are, with all your strengths and weaknesses. A quick way to practice self-love is to keep a journal and write a few self-love journal entries in it every day.

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  • Yaseen is a personal trainer turned professional writer and he’s obsessed with everything health, fitness, and business-related. If he isn’t at the gym, you can find him playing video games or spending time with friends and family.

  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.