How to Take Care of Yourself After Finishing a Book or Any Major Project

When I started writing – like, seriously committing myself to getting the blasted thing done – I was armed with all the knowledge required to get from point A to point B. I spent hours researching the best times of day to work, how to craft a good hook for chapters, when to start each new draft, and how many words are deemed acceptable for each genre. In fact, I feel quite confident that I could write my own “how to” manifesto for first timers based on all of the tips and tricks I’ve acquired over the last year of my life. It was a wonderful experience, however time-intensive, and I’ve learned a great deal about not only the art of writing, but myself. I am in the debt of helpful authors who go out of their way to explain how lost souls like yours truly can arrive at the end of their manuscript with the hair on their heads intact.

However, the one thing no one thought to share with me was just how beaten up my body and mind would feel after completing the job. Most of the information I received went something like this:

“Write every day without rest, don’t over-think the first draft, and be sure to let someone you trust read through and give you notes before you dream of giving it to an editor. Oh, and once it’s done you’re going to feel wonderful! But don’t wait too long to start the next one.”

That’s a lot of information, right? But what’s missing is the piece that has got me bent out of shape, quite literally. You see, no one told me that after finishing my novel I would feel like someone took a baseball bat to my hips, or that I would feel as though a part of me was painfully exposed to the world. Those wonderfully helpful authors conveniently forget to inform me that I would be exhausted like never before – and I ran cross country! I suspect they knew I would back out of the endeavor if I knew what awaited me at the end. How many of us would do the thing if we knew said thing would make us cry? Luckily for you, I’m going to tell you what you need to know to bounce back from the writing, or any kind of major project, without going mad.

Stretch. Seriously!

We might have spent years at desks in school, but nothing can prepare you for sitting still for hours on end typing away with your eyes trained on a computer screen. Sure, I used to devote an unhealthy amount of time to chatting on AOL with my internet friends back in the day, but my post-20’s body isn’t as resilient as it used to be. My greatest physical complaints after finishing my book was how badly my back ached and the strain I felt in my wrists and fingers. I even had aches in my hip flexors and calves! It makes sense: your body is bent in one way for a long period of time that is unnatural for it. Your joints long for stretching and your muscles need a break. If I could do anything differently, it would be taking a rest every hour to two hours to stretch. I wouldn’t have needed to invest in massages and pain relief like I do now. Save yourself some money in the long run and go smell some flowers!

Isolation, like fear, is the mind killer.

Thanks to Henry David Thoreau, I thought it was mandatory for a writer, or serious artists (TM), to be cut-off from the world with only coffee and the agony of creation to keep one company. If I were to let people into my writing space surely I would be too distracted to complete my precious book. Well… that isn’t necessarily true. In fact, going to a writing workshop in Sacramento smack-dab  in the middle of finishing my final draft was exactly what I needed to keep me going and finish long before I would have on my own. Sometimes people suck, but sometimes people are what we need. By speaking with other writers I learned to put my process in perspective. A bonus: I learned how to take new chances with my writing.

You’re gonna need some TLC at the end.

I used to roll my eyes when people referred to their art as their children. I mean, there’s nothing like a living, breathing, crying, human coming out of you, right? Boy was I shocked when I was hit with a bout of depression that was unlike any previous episode I have hitherto experienced. Now, childbirth and writing are wildly different, but it made me rethink what people mean when they get defensive and protective of their creations. I went from joyous to fearful, then to resigned and grief-stricken. I felt like I had created a new piece of me only to put it into the hands of strangers with the power to destroy what I shared. I had several panic attacks as I inched closer to the final pages, even contemplating deleting the whole thing from my computer. It would be better, the shadow in my mind said, if no one ever got their hands on it. Thankfully, I didn’t listen.

You’re going to be all over the place once you’re done, so take care of your mind and body. Get in to see a therapist or counselor if you can afford it, speak with a beloved confidante, or write in your journal all those thoughts you dare not speak, because doing something of this magnitude is bound to have you discombobulated. You don’t have to fake joy when you might be feeling terror; this is a major step and major steps are difficult on the mind! Whatever you’re feeling, know that it will come in waves and eventually pass.

Embrace laziness!

Trust me, friend, you have earned a few extra hours of sleep and a blank mind. Our culture has a tendency to promote working ourselves to death like it’s an admirable quality, but your trusty aunt LaKase is here to put that misconception to rest. You have the right to put your mind to sleep. I’ve found that when I am immobile and without a pressing project the creativity naturally begins to spark. If you don’t give yourself space to just be a human without a plan you’re going to find yourself riddled with something worse than ulcers. Don’t believe me? Watch this video from the School of Life (my fave channel ever!) and see what you think.

That’s all from me this Monday, kids! Next week I will be back with more information about how to approach the creative process and media that is getting me excited about being a writer. Have a great week and don’t forget to take care of yourself!

Self-Care 101: Sunshine

GIRL. (or guy)

Did you know seasonal depression is real, and definitely not something I made up to get out of going to a boring Christmas function? I could never quite put my finger on why it was so hard for me to leave bed from October to March (give or take a few weeks), yet it was easy as pie once the warmer weather rolled around. For a while I thought it was just due to my association of summer with freedom, but now I know it’s a legit thing.

James Curran GIF
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As we slide into colder weather, our bodies are directly affected by the seasonal change,  i.e. minimal exposure to the sun, our serotonin levels drop. This is important, because serotonin regulates our anxiety and overall mood, and decreased serotonin has been tied to depression. With less sunlight exposure comes decreased Vitamin D, increased likelihood of specific types of cancer, and skin conditions such as acne. Of course, you shouldn’t go outside sans sun protection like hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses, but being in the light more often than not is better for our bodies than staying in.  If you are physically, or mentally, unable to leave the house consider taking Vitamin D supplements and increasing your time with the windows and blinds open. I know better than most that sometimes just leaving the house is far too much to ask. Still, I get closer to being well by cracking open the window.

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So, slather on some sunscreen, run around in your neighborhood, and soak up that good stuff! If you aren’t able to yet, then sit by the window and listen to the world as it wakes back up. Just remember that feeling better after a long winter takes time and create enough space in your mind to be filled up with some joy. Tough? Yep. Good? Definitely.

Self-Care 101: Sleep

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.

Homer, The Odyssey 

I spend most mornings burrowing under my blankets, desperate for a few more hours of shut eye no matter how much rest I got the previous night. My days aren’t particularly strenuous in a physical sense; in fact, most of my time is spent talking to myself as I play out dialogue and pacing from room to room until I arrive at the “perfect” solution to a narrative issue. Still, I collapse into bed at around 9:00 PM ready to be transported to my own version of slumberland. It usually involves flowers and candy.

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Though I’m not spending my days engaged in super intense activities, I’m still exerting a lot of mental effort. It all builds until I’m too tired to stand, let alone make it through an episode of “Killing Eve”. We all have to push ourselves during the day, regardless of the tools of our trade. From writers to welders, we’re all better off after a good night of rest. However, in the United States, we worship at the alter of tired. Sleepless nights are a status symbol, an indicator that we are taking our lives too seriously to ever give into the Sandman. Last week, Steve Harvey went off on a tirade about the superiority of the wealthy, equating it to their not needing to sleep.

Hopefully, this all sounds batshit insane to you.

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We are ticking time bombs without sleep. Studies have shown that going without the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep can result in high blood pressure, weakened immunity, mood changes and increased likelihood of accidents. Throw in mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder, and you’re going to have a bad time – to put it mildly. Think of it like this: your body isn’t invincible. Unless you’ve got some super soldier serum laying around, you’re gonna have to sleep like the rest of us normies. I find that I’m not just more creative after sleep, I’m also able to finish tasks faster and with fewer mistakes. Sleep makes the difference between hours of trying to focus on work and a few minutes of targeted focus. Sounds legit, amiright?

So take care of your body, get some rest, drink water, and – for the love of God – moisturize! (More on that to come.)

 

 

Eyes On The Horizon

Spring is traditionally seen as a time of thawing, when the things we’ve buried in the snows of winter are released in the renewed warmth of the sun. Our bones creak out as we shake off the cobwebs of hibernation. We move easier, dream larger, and strive to complete the tasks that appeared insurmountable in the short daylight of the colder months. It is the dawn of our time.

I started this space one year ago, with a post about what self-care means to me, because there was a beating in my heart that I couldn’t ignore. It was the pull to create. The desire to make a space that felt good, and useful, and safe for anyone who stumbled upon it. So, I started doing the only thing that made sense – I wrote. It has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

And Then I Lived has pushed me to meet new people, discover new ways to take care of myself, and create the world I want to occupy. It has only been one year, but in that time I’ve thawed out a piece of myself that had been in hibernation for long enough. My space has a humble following, but if you are part of it in any way I want to thank you for coming along on this journey. I hope you’ll stick around for what comes next!

Today, in honor of Spring, I want to share some beautiful images which capture the essence of freedom I feel in the sunlight and when I’m writing. These monthly mood boards have been excellent tools for directing my goals and intentions. Organizing my thoughts has always been a struggle, but through this exercise I’m able to hone in on what I want to convey for the month. As I go forward with my space, I want this month to be focused on brightness, self-discovery, and fearlessness in any endeavor. I hope you find some inspiration among the images.

Onward, ho!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jonathan lipkin captures the ocean's fleeting nature in composite photo series

Sleep inside my Soul ღk

 

 

 

 

 

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What does Spring mean to you?

How To Bounce Back From A Self-Care Extravaganza

I had the pleasure of traveling across the country to New York City for the weekend with my good friend, Jesse, for a girls’ trip.  We ate great food, marveled at the beauty of human creations in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and walked all over the Upper West Side until our feet felt like they’d been stomped by elephants. It was glorious. It was the kind of caring I could only ever dream of, but got to experience thanks to my phenomenal friend.

The Met, Egyptian Art
Amelia, Yours truly, Jesse
A happy tourist (Me)

The trip also got me thinking about what comes after something so great. What do we do with ourselves after the dust settles and we must return to our regular lives? You might not be flying for hours, spending money wildly, and luxuriating in a hotel like an heiress, but what if you take all the time you need to replenish your defenses only to come home feeling even more spent?

Taking care of ourselves can be just as exhausting as running our bodies ragged in the normal days of our lives. So, I would like some of my tips for bouncing back in your return to normality. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my access to travel, self-care, therapy, and wellness options, and I have found that even with the best of times I still need a little help finding my equilibrium. Below, I’m listing my tried and true habits for not only maintaining the good vibes of self-care, but also maintaining healthy expectations for who I’ll be afterwards.

Sleep!

tired jet lag GIF
Disney

Sounds obvious, but is it something we let ourselves do after vacation? Or after a yoga session, or a hike, or a round of face masks and Judge Judy? Nah, didn’t think so! Think of it this way: you’ve just pumped your body full of that good stuff, like endorphins, adrenaline, and other sciencey things. Thus, your body is going to need to power down. I hate to sound like Morpheus in The Matrix, but at the end of the day we’re all walking and talking batteries. We need to recharge even if we’ve just been doing another form of powering up. Catch some zzz’s!

Ease back into your routine

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I know most of us use the weekend for our self-care extravaganzas – it’s just the way our work lives function. We feel guilty missing work, so we hold out until Friday evening to get down to business. That leaves us with going back in on Monday to face the monotony. This goes counter to everything we’re taught, but I would challenge you to not take on big projects right away, or act like the superhero you are first thing Monday morning. You’ll be feeling unstoppable, no doubt, but you’re going to be regret biting off more than you can chew. This isn’t about avoiding work all-together, but rather not falling prey to the urge to do it all. Take your time.

Don’t throw all the internal work out the window

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This is really the tough one for me. I was super zen in New York, but that’s easy to do when you’re far away from responsibilities, stressors, and a regular routine. I was able to unwind and be introspective without being bogged down with the minutiae of life. When I go back I was understandably tired and sore from walking, then flying for 6 hours, but I was instantly unhappy when I set foot through my front door. So, what gives?

Well, I think I was looking for reasons to be stressed out.  If I were to go deeper, I would discover I was hunting for reasons to rob myself of the goodness that felt unearned. Self-sabotage is real, especially after something bigger than what you normally allow yourself to have.  So remember this, first and foremost: You have earned the good things that you get. We deserve the cakes, face masks, rest, hikes, movies, hours of conversation with loved ones, vacations, therapy sessions and joys of this life, no matter what.

Whether you be traveling far, or taking a weekend for yourself at home, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest without worrying about what comes next. We’ve got memories to make, after all.

Celebrate Make It Rain GIF by Captain Cuts