This week at the SFF Seven we’re talking destressing. We’re asking, “What’s one thing you do to keep (or reestablish) your equanimity when life is too much?”
That’s always the question, isn’t it?
It’s especially pertinent for me today because I’ve been stressing about whether I can get GREY MAGIC, book #3 in Bonds of Magic, written in time for release. See, I’ve known for a while that I wouldn’t make my original release date of December 20. Yes, the December 20 that’s nineteen days from this post. I made a deliberate choice there when Agent Sarah asked me to write more on a book she really wanted to take on submission this fall. “I’ll just postpone the release date,” I thought to myself. Then, yesterday, I was deciding what I should push the date to, as Amazon requires that we change the date at least five days ahead. Yes, that still gives me two weeks, but I wanted to get a feel for that – and if it means I also have to push the release of THE STORM PRINCESS AND THE RAVEN KING. (Reader: I do. Apologies! These things have a cascade effect…)
So, I was picking my ideal, least-amount-of-stress date when I realized: Amazon only allows us to push the date by 30 days. For those not wanting to do the math, that made the new release date January 19. At first I tried manipulating my schedule and wordcount goals, considering writing on weekends, which I normally take off to relax and refill the well, and then I realized that I would be incredibly stressed trying to do that. I ended up soliciting advice. My plan is to call Amazon and see if they’ll grant me dispensation to push both release dates out to a comfortable distance. Apparently they sometimes will, and I stand a good chance as I haven’t done this before. Wish me luck! And I’ll report back.
Fair warning: those dates I’ll be requesting are mid-February and mid-April, just to give myself plenty of room since I don’t want to have to try to change them again.
Onward to the actual topic!
Stress isn’t easy to combat, especially since it can be so insidious. Our neurological systems are built to constantly re-establish baselines, so we can be alerted to new dangers. This means we become inured to the presence of chronic stressors, in order to be aware of acute ones. In essence, we forget about the alligators in the watering hole that are always there, so we can be alert to the arrival of the tiger.
But only our conscious awareness “forgets” about the alligators. Our adrenal system is revved about those stinking alligators, punching up our nervous system every time we take a drink. For modern humans, our alligators are those constant concerns of our lives: money, health, family, deadlines, politics, etc. We think we’re not stressed about these things all the time because we’re used to it. Often it’s only when the stress relents that we become aware of its absence – with sheer, blessed relief.
For me this means being proactive. I make an effort to combat stress even when I don’t feel particularly stressed. What do I do?
1) Take deep breaths. I know this may feel like hackneyed advice, but really is the best. Studies have shown we hold our breath when reading emails or when social media notifications arrive. By reminding myself to consciously and conscientiously breathe deeply, I release and fend off stress.
2) Speaking of email and social media notifications, I silence as much as possible. All those pop-ups, pings, and badges? Turn them off! Very little needs our immediate attention. For email, I try to confine my engagement with it to once a day. Much like the paper mail. I treat it like it arrives once and I read and respond then.
3) I try to be kind to myself, doing those things that others have mentioned here. Yoga is great, not only for the energy realignment and breathing (!), but also because it makes me step away from the phone and computer for an hour and be only in my body. Being outside works for this. Long walks. Reading in the sun. Unplugging and focusing on non-monetized creative tasks.
What do you all do to destress?
My DARK WIZARD is on sale for only 0.99c!
This week at the SFF Seven we’re throwing out some promo to other creatives in our community. I’d like to give a shoutout to two people who’ve been a huge help and source of insight and calm guidance to me in the last week, P.H. Lee and Phoebe Barton.
Lee, who prefers not to be gendered, is a writer of mostly fantasy and science fiction, and is a member of SFWA. Lee has a number of stories you can check out, but I recommend starting with Your Own Undoing. It’s a haunting and compelling take on the wizard-familiar relationship, and explores a fall from power with gut-wrenching and unflinching empathy. Lee told me it’s a metaphor for an abusive relationship, which I absolutely can see. So, fair warning on that content, but if you can take that, absolutely give it a read.
Phoebe Barton is a queer trans science fiction writer who serves on the SFWA Board of Directors as a Director at Large. You can check out her stories, games, and nonfiction. The one I’m recommending today is The Mathematics of Fairyland. This is a delightful and mind-bending mashup of fantasy and science fiction that explores how Martians handle faeries and how a princess can access Fairyland from a space station in order to rescue her princess. It’s a heartbreaking and deftly woven glimpse into the madness of grief.
In news from my world, I’m sorry to say that we’ll be delaying release of FIRE OF THE FROST. Not by much! It will still release in December, just a couple of weeks later. Ish. As soon as we set the new release date, we’ll let you know!