Do You Have Writer's Block or Anxiety? | Pen and Parent
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Do You Have Writer’s Block or Anxiety?

This is a guest post by Anita Fernandez   

Are you so stressed managing kids and life that you've got a bad case of writer's block, or could it be something more?

Writer’s block is an excuse that we may use to avoid or put off writing. That said, did you know that there are some situations in which your inability to write or express yourself might actually stem from anxiety?

Anxiety is a real medical condition that affects an estimated 40 million Americans.


So, is anxiety stopping you from reaching your potential as a writer, rather than writer’s block? If you answered yes, check out my tips to manage anxiety and keep writing.

Ask For Help

Some amount of work anxiety is normal for every writer, but if you’re always stressed about your writing work, you might need some help. For most individuals, anxiety is intermittent and arises in response to certain situations. If your anxiety isn’t rational, but always surfaces when you have to work to the extent that it interferes with your ability to function, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Difficulty staying focused, memory impairment, and avoidance of tasks are some warning signs that could be associated with an anxiety disorder. If you have reason to believe that you might have an anxiety disorder, you should seek help, no matter how mild the symptoms might be. It just makes the problem easier to overcome if addressed early.

Even if you don’t have a clinical anxiety disorder, it will help to use these tips to cope with, and lower stress levels the next time you’re anxious about a writing task.

Work within Your Limits

Writing is a creative pursuit that can be demanding mentally and emotionally. As a writer, you’re more likely to be overly self-critical. Your work is representative of your skill and not every creation can be a source of pride. The best that you can do is to accept and understand these limitations so that you can work with them.

Don’t take on more writing work than you can handle or commit to deliveries that you just can’t make. Constantly exposing yourself to high levels of stress is unhealthy and increases the risk of depression, chronic stress, and anxiety disorders. Make it a point to take time off, not just for vacations, but also to unwind on a regular basis.

Be Present

When you have a lot to do, it helps to focus on the task at hand, especially if the scope of work is likely to induce a panic!

Time management helps to lower stress levels, so plan your days wisely and keep track of your progress as you work. Just be realistic with the timelines that you create. Following such an organized routine has been shown to help combat anxiety and stress disorders.

Practice Mindfulness

There are proven benefits to mindfulness when it comes to anxiety disorders. Mindfulness-based therapies can include a wide range of techniques including yoga, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

A study that appeared in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, described such mindfulness-based approaches as a ‘promising intervention’ to deal with anxiety and mood disorders. Such practices can help to strengthen your focus and concentration, allowing you to overcome anxiety and get down to writing. For practical purposes, mindfulness can be practiced through any method that trains you to focus on the present and on your surroundings, while ignoring all external distractions and thoughts.

Relaxation Techniques

Aside from meditation and yoga, there are other relaxation techniques that are used to help patients cope with stress and anxiety. Studies show that relaxation therapy can be effective at relieving stress, anxiety, and depression even in patients who suffer from malignant disorders like cancer.

Breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation are some of the most effective relaxation techniques and can be practiced in any setting, whether you work from home or out of an office. You can also try using other strategies to lower stress levels when writing, such as listening to music.  

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which the therapist helps you analyze your thoughts and attitudes, and how they affect your behavior. It is the most commonly used form of treatment for a wide range of depressive and anxiety disorders, and has been proven to be highly effective.

Research suggests that most patients who undergo cognitive behavioral therapy experience significant improvement in levels of anxiety and stress. When dealing with severe anxiety disorders or clinical depression, this form of therapy is typically used in combination with medication. Strategies that are taught in cognitive behavioral therapy can serve as powerful coping mechanisms, helping you overcome obstacles that could otherwise send you into a downward spiral.

Here's a directory to therapists near you.​​​

How Writing Can be Therapeutic 

For those of us with social anxiety disorders, writing serves as a tool to better express our thoughts and feelings, especially when it’s hard to speak out. However, writing can be therapeutic for individuals suffering from other types of mental health issues too.  

Writing  gives you the ability to observe your thoughts and emotions in a more objective manner, allowing you to get clarity and focus. While it may not be the standard recommendation for everyone suffering from anxiety disorders, studies published in the Journal of Affective Disorders and Anxiety, Stress & Coping  suggest that expressive writing can be a helpful technique to lower depression and anxiety levels, particularly when used alongside other interventions.

So, the next time you’re staring at a blank document and starting to despair, just remember that you’ve felt that way before (we all have) and will eventually get past it if you persist. After all, as Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

​​Need more help? Check out NAMI's mental health hotline.​​​

P.S. Need a little help overcoming your writer's block? Our books Write Compelling Content and Grammar for Writers & Bloggers are full of writing exercises that will help elevate your prose! 

Anita Fernandes


Anita Fernandes has been writing extensively on health and wellness for over a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and weight loss and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publishers. Anita has a unique perspective on healthy living and lifestyle, as she has battled and overcome eating disorders and obesity. She shares her experiences in an effort to help others overcome the physical and mental health problems that can sometimes seem insurmountable.

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