For the past few years, I’ve been learning how to manage the inevitable stress and mild anxiety that living in a big city and working in the fast-paced tech industry brings to my daily life as a twenty-something-year-old. After trying a few different things, I’ve cultivated a solid set of self-care go-tos including exercise (volleyball, rock climbing, and yoga are my favorites!), solo travel, and most recently: writing.

Surprisingly, writing has become something beyond a hobby for me; it’s become a habit and a favorite form of self-care. If you’re skeptical about the power of pen and paper like I was at first, here are a few reasons you might want to give it a go:

  • It’s a relatively inexpensive and also fairly ubiquitous, form of self-care. It’s cheaper than a hot yoga class, a monthly subscription to a meditation app, and maybe even a couple boxes of tea.  
  • It’s easily accessible. I carry around a notebook and pen pretty much everywhere I go, but even when I’m in random place and find the urge to write but don’t have any paper on hand, I’ve used napkins and the backs of receipts. They do the trick too!  
  • Writing things by hand rather than on a computer has a couple of advantages: 1) it gets me away from staring at a screen which I do all day at my job anyway. 2) Since it takes me longer to write than to type, it forces me to slow down my thoughts and be more intentional about my writing practice.  

While reflecting back on this past year of writing I’ve discovered a few different patterns in how I write that I’ve subconsciously used to manage various stressors and emotions, and reflect on everyday life events—and that might help you in your own writing-as-self-care journey.

1. To detach from emotions or overthinking: write in third person.

Sometimes I find myself overthinking about a certain situation, caught up in my own emotions of it all. I’ve found that writing in third person has really helped me take a step away and detach myself from my own thoughts when needed. It was a little awkward at first to write about myself in third person, but reading about my life from a bird’s eye view can really give me a new perspective about my situation.

2. When feeling stuck or defeated in the present: write from the future.

There are some moments when I feel totally caught up in the day-to-day grind. The steadiness and false sense of complacency that comes with being an adult in the working world is starkly different than college life. We no longer measure success through frequent tests and semesterly grade reports; measuring and achieving success in the working world happens at a different pace: it feels more like a marathon rather than a sprint. This marathon sometimes gives me a false sense of complacency; like I didn’t make enough progress today or like I’m not doing enough as a whole. (Can anyone relate?!) I’ve found that writing from the future removes the feeling of being defeated in the now. It creates space for visioning, self-affirmation, and a fresh perspective to live into and create. It somehow always reminds me that right now I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

3. If you’re feeling lost or lonely: write about gratitudes.

Maybe you’ve already heard this one: gratitudes are a great way to dispel the feeling of lost or loneliness. I’ve found that intentionally writing down the people, things, and events in my life that I’m grateful for makes me feel like an abundant human. Often, I find myself writing down so much more than I ever realized I was grateful for. It reminds me that despite fleeting moments of feeling lost or lonely, my life is so full.

I admit, writing can be a challenging endeavor at first. If you’re interested in using some of these writing patterns as a consistent form of self-care, here are a few tips when getting started:    

  • Commit to it. Carve out as little as 15-30 min every week to just write. Block it off on your calendar so you know it’ll get done.    
  • When in doubt, just start with something. Literally, anything. Start with the first thought that comes to mind and let everything else follow.
  • Get comfortable. For me, coffee shops tend to be the best place for me to “get in the zone.” Whatever this environment is for you, make sure to be there when you write.  
  • Let it be yours. Take the pressure off to be witty, inspirational, logical or whatever you think you’re supposed to be as a writer. Remember that the practice is yours. And don’t forget: perfect is the enemy of good.    

For me, the process of writing is by no means pretty. Most of my journal is full of incomplete sentences, scratched out words, half-baked ideas, and the occasional coffee stain. Throughout all of it, I’ve fallen in love with what writing has given me: an outlet for creative freedom and most importantly, a sincerely enjoyable self-care practice.