Wednesday, May 30, 2018

12 Ways to Cope with Writing PTSD

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Coming out of a brutal season as a writer can affect how we move forward. The reasons for the stress are as varied as the writers who suffer. This type of anxiety can be brought on by a series of difficult deadlines, an extended length of time with no forward momentum, exhaustion from a marketing push, or even a series of negative experiences.

The cause isn’t as important as recognizing the symptoms and dealing with them. 

First a disclaimer. I’m would never attempt to minimize those who suffer from PTSD because of military service or other major traumatic events. However, trauma can affect us in large ways and in small ways and I think it’s important to use what we’ve learned in treating PTSD to help us through other difficult situations. 

Tips to Cope with Writing PTSD
1. Take your fears and feelings to God.Begin with prayer, but take it a step further. Journal your prayers and what you feel God is saying to you. When we begin with a connection to the Father, the other things we do to cope are more productive.

2. Stay connected to the present.This is also a kind of non-judgmental mindfulness. Look honestly at your situation and realize it is not the same place that caused the trauma. Examine and emphasize the differences between then and now. Don’t beat yourself up for your feelings, instead study them and acknowledge what you’ve learned and apply that. 

3. Start a journal.Give yourself the gift of a place to pour out your feelings. I’ve found that especially for writers, writing down the confusing emotions we’re dealing with brings order. Give yourself permission to be messy. Don’t try to write only once a day in an orderly fashion. Instead write when you feel like it. It may be several times a day or only a few times a week. The important thing is that you have a place to pour out what you’re dealing with. 

4. Surround yourself with good smells.Yep, aromatherapy is key. Use essential oils, candles, and even soothing lotions. Our mood is affected by the odors around us. Be deliberate about enhancing that part of your environment. I’ve begun lighting a certain candle when I write. Now I’ve got a kind of Pavlov’s Dog situation. When I catch a whiff of that candle, I’m almost instantly in the mood to write.

5. Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.Yes, we’re writers and we are caffeine-fueled word machines…sometimes. Now is not that time. Instead find a beautiful glass, fill it with sparkling ice cubes, a slice of fruit and fresh water. Hydrate your water-starved body. Need something warm? Choose an herbal tea.

6. Walk away regularly.You may find yourself on a deadline again, but the time you spend on a short walk or another healthy exercise will make you MORE productive. If you’re a knitter, spend an hour with yarn and needles. Pull out your Bible journal or bullet journal and let creativity reign. Whatever renews your spirit is what you need to build into your routine.

7. Find a support group.You are not the only one who has ever experienced this. You are not weak or stupid or defective. Listening to those lies isolates us from the community we desperately need right now. In addition to leaning into God, find His people, open up, and let them support you. When you’re feeling better, you can return the favor. 

8. Don’t neglect physical activity.Go to the gym, take a hike, but most of all—work up a sweat. You need those endorphins right now. By getting back into a regular exercise routine you’ll also bring order from chaos. 

9. Weed out the unnecessary.Now isn’t the time to add to your work load. Instead look for things you can drop from your regular routine. Cut back on social media, subscribe to a meal service and let that hall closet rest without cleaning it out. 

10. Unplug from your electronics.Yes part of being a writer in 2018 is having an active online presence. But this does NOT mean 24-7. Resolve to check your phone only a few times a day. Otherwise, leave it in the other room. Consider even writing old school. Walk away from your computer, pick up a pen and record your ideas on actual paper. 

11. Refuse to give in to shame.We have all been where you are. But when we all hide it shame creeps in. Instead be the brave one who admits life can be overwhelmingly stressful. You’ll find freedom in that and release others from their bondage in the process. 

12. Prioritize daily and weekly.Every evening I use my bullet journal to make a list for the next day. By recording my to-dos then, I free up my first-thing-in-the-morning for time with God. I also keep a running list for the week so I don’t forget anything vital. I’m developing the habit of NOT looking at my phone or email until after I’ve had some precious time with God. Knowing I already have a list, frees me from the stress of feeling like I’m already behind when I climb into my work-mode. 

The biggest thing to remember is that we’re not alone. Being a writer can lead to an incredible life, but it can also bring extreme times of difficulty. With these tips you can begin to recover from the stressful times and help others in the process. 

Now it’s your turn. What would you add to my list of ways to cope? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

12 Ways to Cope with #Writing PTSD - @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)


  1. God's blessings Ms. Edie. Stress plays a major role in more than PTSD (says the fella who's survived four heart procedures through God's mercies). All on your list is great counsel, yet #1 provides the most lasting success. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Jim, what a wonderful example of God’s grace and strength!

  2. Love these tips, Edie. Just what I needed today! Thanks for sharing.

  3. i'm in rather a limbo after a year of hard deadlines (4 books in one year.) but because of what i write, much of *me* and "old ghosts" shows up in my stories - and some of the old feelings flood back in. your tips are spot on - and when I "walk away" it's to my drawings - of my dream house!!!
    blessings, my friend, and, as always, thank you for your post

  4. This post was written for me. Thank you for sharing! Carol

  5. I can’t think of anything to add. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Love this! Writing stress is real, and one of my favorite remedies is #8. Going outdoors is detox! Thanks for sharing.