Writing and creating new content for your website is fun when you’re just getting started, but once you’ve developed a habit, it all might start to feel a bit robotic.
Wake up, write, publish, go to sleep. Wake up, and do it all over again.
Or, if you’re not feeling like a robot, you may find yourself getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content there is to create.
Perhaps you run a blog or website that’s all about tips for traveling around the world and visiting tourist destinations. Well, there are 196 countries in the world today, so you’re going to be busy writing articles for a while.
Before you even produce the content, you’re probably taking the time to plan out when you’ll write about various topics, filling each day of your calendar with a different content-related goal, big or small. And after writing the content, you’ll put it through the editing gauntlet and search engine optimization before clicking “Publish.”
And the fun doesn’t stop there. Don’t forget to share it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat … (okay, maybe not Snapchat).
When you’re exhausted and trying to produce quality content and make a solid plan, there’s a much higher risk that the writing won’t be as inspiring or thoughtful as you originally wanted it to be. And in an online world that’s saturated with content, the pressure’s really on to produce the best writing possible.
As a freelance writer and editor, believe me, I’ve felt this combination of exhaustion and pressure many times. The stress can become overwhelming to the point where it squashes my creative spirit.
While I’m by no means an expert at de-stressing, I’ve found that practicing mindfulness and different mindful activities can re-inspire my creativity and also help me feel more confident about the content I’m creating on a daily basis — I feel like I understand the goals of my content after a mindful activity and a bit of reflecting.
When I’m in those panicky moments of feeling overwhelmed or I’m stuck in a writing rut, thinking, “How the hell am I going to pull off this deadline?”, I just take a moment to breathe. And over time, this habit of “pause” has helped me stay focused and feel re-invigorated about my daily writing goals as well as my overarching, long-term goals.
If you’re finding yourself feeling overwhelmed by all this content creating mumbo-jumbo, I’ve got some suggestions for how you can work a little bit of mindfulness into your daily routine.
Mindfulness (the practice of awareness of the present moment) and mindful practices can bring you back to a grounded place where you can regroup and refocus your mind when it’s swirling with stressful thoughts. In Buddhist teachings, mindfulness helps one attain self-knowledge and enlightenment.
You might be wondering if I’m going to start telling you it’s time to sit in a circle, hold hands, and repeat mantras aloud. Or you might think I’m going to tell you to go stare at a wall for an hour and “think about nothing” (which, come on, is that even really possible?).
That would be funny — writing an article all about how to stare at a wall for an hour — but I’m not in the business of being funny. (Or at least not all the time.)
Being mindful of the present moment means to become aware of your surroundings and to focus on things other than all those thoughts swirling in your head … without necessarily making those thoughts disappear.
It’s easy to get confused about the difference between mindfulness and meditation, since mindfulness is a form of meditation where you engage your senses in the present moment. Both provide relief from stress, but mindfulness can take the form of everyday activities, not just sitting quietly in a room by yourself.
Mindful describes mindfulness as observing the present moment without judgment. It’s possible to practice mindfulness without even knowing it — it’s those moments when you aren’t letting your thoughts or feelings about the past or the future interfere with enjoying the present moment. It could be something you already do, like going on a run in the morning or scrolling through your Instagram feed like a zombie during your bus ride home from work (I am not saying that I’m speaking from experience here …).
But if you’re finding yourself getting consumed by all the things that you have on your calendar, to the point where it’s stifling your ability to get work done in the present moment, it could be time to shake up your routine with engaging in a mindful activity.
By stepping away from your keyboard and refocusing on the present moment, you can save all that time that you’d typically spend on stressing out and worrying (or simply procrastinating), and get back to what really matters — writing kickass content.
Especially when you’re in the midst of writing an article on a deadline, stress might be what’s preventing you from getting out your ideas. Close the laptop and get outside (or walk around your apartment, if it’s freezing cold outdoors), because sometimes the best thing to do when you’re trying to write something is to not write at all.
To go on a mindful walk means to walk around and intentionally focus on the sights, sounds, and smells around you, rather than the source of your stress (that damn deadline!). Try to take at least a 10-minute walk to really give yourself some time to reset your mind back into the present.
Don’t worry about putting on earbuds and listening to the right song or podcast — this is all about focusing on the act of breathing and walking.
Something that comes in handy for me is to focus on the sounds all around me — the birds chirping, the sound of cars passing by, maybe a dog barking. Your mind will want to wander and not think about what’s going on around you, as busy minds do — you might hear a little voice in your head saying, “Get back to your desk! Stop wasting time!”
But really, if you’re just sitting at your desk stressing out, you’re basically already wasting a lot of time and even more mental energy.
By focusing back to the present moment, and repeating this action more than once in a blue moon, you can give your mind a chance to reset itself. Perhaps inspiration will strike you while you’re on the move — but don’t put any pressure on yourself to find the solution to your writer’s block during your mindful walk.
Once you’ve de-stressed a little, you may find that ideas come more easily to you, and you’ll be able to sit down after your walk with more things to write about.
Exercising, even if it’s simply walking around for 10 minutes, can help you release a bit of the tension that builds up in your body when you’re under stress.
You can also relieve some of this tension with deep breathing exercises that help your body feel better, or even just by pausing to focus on your breathing.
It may come as a surprise to learn that there’s a lot of different types of breaths (like “fire breath” — and no, I’m not talking about what happens to your breath after eating lots of garlic).
To practice deep breathing exercises, try to find a quiet-ish place to sit and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting slowly, 1 … 2 … 3 …, and then releasing the air back out just as slowly. After doing this a few times, you can just sit and pay attention to how you naturally breathe.
It might seem weird since we really don’t think about our breathing. But by paying attention to the way you breathe, you’re focusing on the present moment by engaging yourself in an activity grounded in reality, rather than the buzzing thoughts in your brain or the notifications popping up on your phone of things to do.
Once you’ve been breathing for a little while and you’re starting to feel calm, you’ll find that it’s much easier to return your thoughts back to one or two big questions of the present moment: “What are my goals for this piece of content?” or “What are my goals for today?”
Taking the time to remind yourself of what your goals are while you have a calm mind can help you recenter yourself and your content with more important questions and ideas. You’ll be in the right mindset to read over something you’ve produced, or something you’re planning to produce, and be able to evaluate how to make that content match the goals you have for it.
If you enjoy more sensory experiences than just paying attention to your own breathing, try mindful listening, a music exercise where you listen to music without reacting. This helps train your mind to become less reactionary and more observational, which, in the long run, will help you with reacting to something like a change in schedule with a little more agility.
Observing without reacting is incredibly difficult to do — I’d bet that even the most mindful yogi out there who drives a car on any type of road can’t help but curse in anger at a car honking at them during traffic.
Start by picking a song, with or without words, and listen to the different instruments and sounds made throughout the song. Try not to let your mind wander while listening to the song — if you find it’s starting to provoke certain memories, bring yourself back to the present moment of the song you’re listening to, rather than getting wrapped up in the past or in your mind.
By listening to music and not reacting, even if it’s only a song or two, you’re training your brain to take in an external sensory stimulus and process it without attaching your own emotion to this song or experience. It’s almost like teaching yourself to listen to the world differently.
From experience, I’ve found that listening to podcasts in this way — fully engaging myself in the interview I’m listening to, or the story being told — has helped me learn how to be a better listener overall, too.
Once you’ve practiced it enough, you can take a moment to observe something that usually makes you feel stressed or upset and see if there are ways to observe the situation without reacting immediately with anxiety or anger.
Avoiding stress and feelings of anger are both pretty important things to do when you’re trying to write.
Learning how to not react can also really come in handy when you’re brainstorming new content ideas with a team of people. If someone throws out an idea that you don’t agree with, you can practice mindful listening by observing what has been said without accidentally making a face that reveals your dislike for the idea. (Hey, it’s never a bad thing to have a good poker face.)
This way, you’ve bought yourself some time to figure out a tactful way to say, “That’s a great idea, but let’s table that for now in lieu of this whole other idea.”
When you’re writing content, observing without judging is also helpful for overcoming feelings of self-doubt that might be causing some writer’s block. If a self-doubting thought arises while you’re typing away at your computer, you can observe this thought without letting it consume you or make you feel anxious.
In a world that moves as fast as ours (maybe not physically moving around the sun faster, but you know what I mean), it’s hard to slow down and really think about why we’re doing what we’re doing.
You might be the owner, CEO, CFO, C-you-name-it of your own online business. Or maybe you’re a freelance writer, hustling every day to keep up with your ever-piling-up workload.
The immensity of all these responsibilities is enough to make anyone feel exhausted by the end of the day — or even at the start of the day. That’s not taking into account anything stressful that might be going on in your personal life.
Taking a moment each day to pause and think about things to be grateful for, or even to remind yourself about things you enjoy about your career, can help with refocusing back to a core belief that led you to want to create content in the first place.
This daily practice of pausing can help re-establish a mindful approach to your content creation, as well as your life.
One of my favorite things to do at the end of the day, right before going to sleep, is to take a moment to write down in my journal a couple of things I’m grateful for. Sometimes, I’ll add a few things I’ve accomplished with my day. This way, I’m ending my day on a positive note, focusing on the good feelings rather than any feelings of stress or anxiety that popped up during the day.
The things I write down that I’m grateful for on a daily basis can even be something that would seem very small to someone else but means a lot to me. Like, “I’m grateful for the coffee shop across the street from my office because seriously, how else could I get through my day?”
When you start reflecting on the bigger picture, though, you can start grounding yourself back to the goals that you originally had for your company or for your content strategy. If you find yourself journaling about how you are grateful for the chance to share inspirational content with other entrepreneurs, for example, this might help you guide your writing or editing team back to a centered, focused approach to content creation.
Journaling might also provide a little inspiration for your content. Maybe you realize that you’re grateful for the opportunities you had during college that helped you get to where you are today — this could turn into an inspired piece about the benefits of working during college or the benefits of finding the right internship (and not just settling for the first one that comes your way).
A post like this could help your audience get to know a little more about you, and it’s also great content for people to gain something from; with relatable personal examples, your reader can place themselves in your shoes, and perhaps gain insight on situations in their own life.
Anyone who writes as part of their profession probably wants to write well. Sometimes, writing well means taking care of yourself — especially your mental health. Stress, anxiety, and worry (if they extend beyond healthy levels) can cause a whole slew of problems — and not just in your career.
It’s difficult to produce quality content when you’ve gone past your mental limits, but practicing mindfulness can help you maintain your health in many different ways. It can also help provide you with the inspiration to produce stronger content because you’re able to focus your creative energy on developing ideas that also relate back to your core goals.
So grab a chair, or put on some comfortable walking shoes, and take a mindful break. Your mind and your editors will thank you.
Julia Hess graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Master of Arts degree in English. She has worked as a college writing tutor and instructor, a contractor at a major tech company, and a freelance editor and writer. An avid podcast listener, Julia provides editorial feedback, consultation, and detailed show notes for CYC’s podcast, Writers Rough Drafts.