5 Self-Care Rituals for Writers

Writing about trauma means I have to prioritize self-care in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed. In expressive writing exercises, even if you’re not writing about particularly difficult experiences, writing still requires focused emotional energy.

Writers need nourishing acts of self-care to keep them from becoming depleted.

In my recent Poetry and Ritual workshop, we talked about the parallels between the two arts. I won’t give away the good stuff (you just had to be there). But we agreed that ritual e x p a n d s behavior, requiring that we slow down and take notice. Much like poetry comes from an intentional placement of words, rituals are also steeped in intentionality, symbolism and mindfulness.

Self-care rituals can be practical actions, such as laying down for rest or eating nourishing foods. But they can also carry symbolic meaning for our healing process and the relationships we want to nurture in our work. Creating small rituals can help writers stay grounded and balanced through their focused creative work.

The following body-based rituals help me get through writing about the hard stuff. Maybe they can inspire your self-care routine.

Becoming grounded in my body:

  • Walking barefoot outdoors always brings a sense of groundedness for me, as do most activities in nature. If I’m in an area where walking barefoot is not ideal (i.e. a city neighborhood or a park with dogs!), wearing shoes and walking mindfully still works.

Symbolically, I focus on my physical connection to the earth. When I feel spiritually distressed, it can often feel like being tossed about by strong winds. Walking mindfully, I find my stake in the ground and anchor myself until the storm passes.

Try it: Schedule some time to get outdoors during your writing week. Visit a local park or a nearby nature center. If you can’t get away, even your backyard or around your home can be beneficial in this exercise. As you walk, slow it down to a snail’s pace and pay attention to where your foot touches the ground. Notice the weight of your body shifting from one leg to another, from your heel to your toes and back again. Keep your awareness on your breath and move as slowly as necessary. You may only need a few moments of walking to return to a calm, grounded feeling.

Returning to the present moment:

  • Hugging myself or placing my hands on various parts of my body helps me to remember the present moment. This is especially helpful if I get sucked into bad memories or intrusive thoughts as I write.

Feeling the weight of my hands on my shoulders, on my midsection, or on my legs brings me back to my body if I’m coping with stressful sensations. It is also a good way to show myself gratitude and loving kindness.

Try it: During a writing session, take a moment to cup your hands together and fold them into each other. Then begin firmly squeezing your hands with its opposite hand. Work your way up to your wrists and forearms and up to your shoulders. As you work up your arms, feel the weight of your hand on your body. Remind yourself that you are safe in your body and in this present moment. End with a big loving hug for yourself with your arms wrapped around your shoulders.

Increasing gratitude and self-love:

  • Cleansing and nurturing activities in my personal hygiene routine help me to increase my gratitude and self-love. Like hugging myself, cleansing and moisturizing my body is particularly helpful when I’m feeling less than loveable.

Water has a clearing property that symbolically and spiritually works to wash away negativity. A simple action like washing my hands becomes an act of self-love when I bring in genuine compassion. I might wash for longer than necessary followed by a gentle massage or cuticle care with a moisturizing essential oil. I may do the same for my feet or my face.

Try it: You can symbolically mark the end of a writing session by washing your hands and face. Focus on gently cleansing and moisturizing spending extra time caressing the delicate skin on the top of your hands. In a nurturing way, try to recognize the physical, intellectual, and emotional work required in your writing. You can say a declaration of intention and give thanks for an abled body. Remember that there is gentleness, care, and compassion to be had and it can begin with loving yourself.

Self-care rituals are important in our work. They can be as big or as small as we like. The important thing is to find practices that best support and nourish you in ways you need it most.

Do you have self-care rituals that work for you during challenging times? Tell us about it in the comments.

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