Wellness is an important part of everyday life. “Wellness” isn’t the absence of sickness, but rather a well-rounded balance of physical, mental, and spiritual health. If you’re like me, you came to the writer’s life to enjoy more freedom and security — things that can reduce stress. But being a web writer also comes with some of its own points of stress. And that stress can be detrimental to your health, wealth, and personal relationships … unless you have good coping strategies in place.
Using the four principles discussed in Don Miguel Ruiz’s 1997 book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom — plus one more! — I’ll share ways you can shift your mindset to minimize stress before it starts.
Agreement 1: Be Impeccable with Your Word
This Agreement looks simple on the surface, but dig deeper and you’ll discover that it extends further than simply “always be honest” or “do what you say you’ll do.”
To be impeccable is to be free from fault or error. And words, spoken or written to oneself or to others, are the most powerful force on earth. Words have moved people to great heights, and have caused millions of people to commit unspeakable acts. As writers, we wield this force daily, and we must do so in ways that align with our personal values and integrity.
Be careful of the words you write, and who you write them for. Take an inventory of your values, and when the opportunity to work with a new client comes up, make sure their values and integrity are in line with your own.
When writing about a product or service, research thoroughly so as to avoid the spread of misinformation. Half-truths and outright falsehoods are everywhere; this is especially evident on the Internet, where anyone with a smartphone can write and post whatever they want, no fact-checking required.
To be impeccable with your word is to keep your word as your bond (meeting deadlines, being honest and upfront), and it’s also about writing honestly, researching thoroughly, and only writing about products and services you believe in, produced by companies whose values are in line with your own. By practicing this Agreement, you’ll feel good about your work and your contribution to the world.
Agreement 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally (aka, Don’t Read the Comments)
Writing on the Web, especially blogging or writing articles, leaves one vulnerable to immediate criticism. With the anonymity of the Internet, some people feel free to unleash their harshest critic within at will, with no regard for the power of the word, or their misuse of that power. Don’t take it personally.
Engaging in arguments with people about your work in a comment thread is futile. You waste your own time, increase your own stress, and decrease your own sense of wellness.
When you find yourself wanting to get involved with online comments or other criticism, pause, take a deep breath, and let it go. Tell yourself, “This person’s opinion doesn’t affect who I am as a writer, or as a human being. I don’t take it personally.” By refusing to mentally and emotionally ingest anonymous opinions, you save yourself time and energy that can be better spent on honing your craft, relaxing, or enjoying the company of your friends and family.
Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions
In the absence of data, we all make up stories about situations to fill in the gaps. It’s part of the human condition. But when you assume instead of communicating clearly, it inevitably leads to problems. There’s no substitute for clear communication.
It’s easier to make assumptions sometimes than it is to screw up the courage to ask questions. Maybe we’re afraid of looking stupid, or feel like we should know everything about a project, or a client. However, you’ll save yourself time and mental wear and tear by getting all the explicit details about fees, deadlines, expectations, and timelines up front.
When you’re embarking on a project with a new client, make an exhaustive list of all the questions you have about the work, and about them (remember Agreement 1 and keeping your clients’ values in line with your own). Answer as many questions as you can in your initial research, and ask your client the remaining questions in your first meeting.
Don’t be afraid to ask all your questions. Take a deep breath, and speak up. You’ll be glad you did, and more often than not, your client will appreciate your attention to detail and willingness to dig deep. And if they don’t, don’t take it personally.
Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best
This Agreement can be misconstrued as always being perfect, or hitting a home run on every project, every time. But this is unrealistic and, ultimately, unattainable. We need to modify our understanding of what “your best” is.
Our ‘best’ changes from day to day, and even hour to hour, depending on a host of factors such as stress level, sleep, nutrition, and physical health. Some days, we’re super focused and nailing every task in short order, and other days, our brains are scattered like petals on the wind and we work and work all day without seeming to get a thing done. This is normal.
When you’re struggling, take a moment to assess how you’re feeling, and why you might be feeling that way. Do you have a nagging personal problem that’s distracting you? Were you up most of the night with a sick child? Have you been eating well? See if you can determine the source so you can address the root issue. Then, give yourself permission to let go of perfection, and to do your best, no more, no less.
“Regardless of the quality, keep doing your best … ” Ruiz says. “If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed … When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself, and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.”
Do your best, whatever it is, each day. At the end of each day, instead of thinking, “I could have worked harder … I should have done better … ” you’ll know, “I did the best I was capable of today.” Tomorrow is another opportunity to hit that home run.
Fifth Agreement: Invest in Your Physical Health
This “Fifth Agreement” is not part of Ruiz’s book, but it’s one I believe is a natural extension of his Four Agreements: Take care of your physical health to achieve the balance of wellness.
As web writers, we work mostly with our minds, but our bodies are an integral part of our work. A sedentary lifestyle and poor diet can contribute to back and neck pain, inability to mentally focus, high blood pressure, and obesity. These things can negatively impact your ability to work, and that’s no good for anyone.
Research shows that a nutritious diet of whole foods combined with physical activity can decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration (incurable loss of vision), lower blood pressure, and increase mental clarity. These small lifestyle changes can enhance not only your health and overall wellness, but your wealth as well.
Today is a good day to begin investing in your health through a healthy diet and exercise. Add in a few more fruits and veggies to your diet. Drink more water. Take a 30-minute walk or bike ride, get regular massages, join a gym or yoga studio, or follow along to workouts on YouTube at home.
You invest in yourself and in your business through continuing education, periodically buying a new computer, maybe even purchasing a professional wardrobe. Invest in the machinery ¾ your body and mind ¾ that keeps your business, and your life, running smoothly.
By implementing these five Agreements, you can reduce your stress level as well as your blood pressure, and increase your sense of wellness. Practice these Agreements daily for calmer, more productive days.