Yes, it’s important to take care of yourself when you’re involved in a contest as emotional as Pitch Wars. On the hashtag, I see a lot of people doing this with food and alcohol. Chocolate and wine are delicious ways to deal with those good and bad emotions. But here’s the thing. I’ve been there. As much as I hate to say it, I’m here to tell you that too much chocolate, wine, or [insert your favorite treat] can 100% be a bad thing, especially when it comes at the expense of healthy food.
Many readers know me as a 2016 Pitch Wars hopeful, but I was also a mentee last year, with a different manuscript, and the marvelous mentor Rachel Lynn Solomon. A few things have come up on the hashtag and in our 2015 mentee Facebook group that made me think I needed to write this post.
Last year, chocolate and wine were my go-tos for every emotion involved with Pitch Wars. I partook when I got in, when revisions daunted me, during the tumultuous agent round, and during the early rush of querying. Rejection? Chocolate and wine. Request? Chocolate and wine. Sometimes chocolate and wine would be my entire dinner (or breakfast, minus the wine). I have always been an emotional eater, and I am totally onboard with JK Rowling’s choice to use chocolate as a remedy for an encounter with a dementor. There’s something so soothing about that flavor. It’s a reminder that there’s good in the world. And the wine chilled me out, took the edge off, and helped me fall asleep.
Now, I had a lot going on during the contest last year—finishing grad school, teaching college for the first time, and managing freelance writing and editing clients. But I had it easy, compared to other folks who had kids, job changes, moves, serious illnesses, and/or deaths in the family. The rest of your life isn’t so polite as to just stop and give you time to devote yourself to Pitch Wars and the emotional drain that can accompany it.
Many of us shared (well, still share) unhealthy-in-excess coping mechanisms, each with our own chosen treats—pizza, whiskey, ice cream. Here is what happened to me, after a few months of this.
I ate an entire chocolate bar every night. Chocolate has some caffeine in it, so it’s no surprise that my sleep suffered. I would stay up, refreshing my email and Facebook for hours. I wasn’t exercising. I was replacing meals with chocolate or other baked goods. I knew alcohol and caffeine irritated my IBS and chose to deal with the unfortunate consequences. I reached my highest weight ever, and was borderline overweight, not good for someone with a family history of diabetes. The gain wasn’t good for my self-esteem, either. Being strong and fit was always a part of my identity. Now, as I was receiving so many rejections about my writing, I was also losing my physical identity. I was tired, stressed out, and nervous all the time. The chocolate and wine helped while I was partaking. But not for long after.
I knew I had a problem. Over the winter, an attempt to start running again resulted in a severely sprained ankle that still bugs me today. In early spring, I got Norovirus/horrible food poisoning. Twice. Around tax time, I ended up on the floor, surrounded by design comps for grad school and tax paperwork, sobbing.
Luckily, I have an amazing support system. With the help of family and friends, I filed for tax extensions and put myself back together. The brakes screeched on for my decline in health, and then, once I finished grad school, I started to reverse the decline. I worked my butt off all summer, started a new, ankle-safe exercise routine, and cooked some seriously amazing healthy meals. I became friends with some 2015 Pitch Wars mentees on MyFitnessPal, and we traded meal prep and cooking ideas.
After all this hard work, I finally feel like myself again. And I’m putting myself through the glory and stress that is Pitch Wars all over again. I’ve weathered these first few weeks of Pitch Wars excitement healthily (though there has definitely been moderate chocolate and alcohol consumption), and I am confident that I can continue my healthy streak.
But some of the posts on the #pitchwars hashtag about food have worried me. Yes, some days, some rejections, some celebrations, call for absolute abandon. But if you’re being unhealthy more days than not, you might be headed down an unhealthy path. And it is hard work to turn around and go the other way!
So, here are some ideas for things you can do to take care of yourself and your emotions that won’t hurt your health.
- Take a walk or play with a pet. Sometimes I rush around so much that I forget the joy and comfort I find in simply playing with my dog for five or ten minutes. Walking him every single day has also helps me keep up my exercise routine!
- Cook an amazing meal. Taking the time to create delicious, healthy food for yourself is part of self-care. Last night I had steak, baked cauliflower, and sautéed green beans with thin garlic slices and pine nuts. YUM! I finished that meal feeling stuffed and like I just ate a feast—without any of the refined carbohydrates like pasta or bread that give me sugar spikes and crashes.
- Eat some fruit or vegetables. I keep a healthy supply of carrots and berries on hand at all times. I also get two bunches of grapes and freeze half of them in single-serve plastic bags. Frozen grapes aren’t quite ice cream, but they’re delicious.
- Paint your nails, or get a mani-pedi. Make yourself look polished even if you feel like you are falling apart. Taking the time to force yourself to do something just for you feels great!
- Wear your favorite outfit. Who cares that it’s dry clean only? A friend of mine always says “feel shitty, look pretty,” and let me tell you, it’s fantastic advice!
- Maybe there’s a piece of jewelry you only wear on special occasions. Get it out! Wear it! Let it sparkle!
- Play a game. Give yourself the gift of thirty minutes to play Sudoku, bubble shooter, or whatever game you want.
- Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. I bet talking to them will make you feel better. You don’t have to talk about the contest/writing.
- Take a long bath/shower. The point here is to just take some time to yourself.
- Go somewhere and leave your phone where you can’t access it. I do this twice a week at the gym, and it’s amazing for my psyche. Give yourself this gift.
I’d love to hear more ideas from you, in the comments, or on Twitter @tracycgold.