To write my best, I need to be well rested. As I get older, sometimes good sleep, that real quality sleep that lets you feel refreshed, it can be harder to come by. A time came in my life when I needed to pay attention to my sleep.
Life hasn't always been smooth and I haven't always had the healthiest habits. Almost a decade ago now, for instance, someone very close to me died. I didn't handle it well. I stopped sleeping well and for a while I'm not sure I was dreaming. Normally I vividly remember dreams, and from this period, nothing.
I paid more attention to my sleep hygiene and one thing helped more than anything else. It was so successful I've shared the recipe with others, who got similar relief. It's called Gold Milk. It's an ancient recipe from India. It's simple to make and easy. There are many versions, but here's the one I use every night.
Take 1 1/4 cup of milk and add it to a saucepan. I use goat milk because I don't digest cow's milk well, but any animal milk is supposed to work. Add a pinch of turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon each. Stir and heat until it's just beginning to boil, and remove it from the heat. I use maple syrup, about a teaspoon, but any sweetener will work, stirred into the milk. Stir well and pour it into a cup. I let it cool for a while because it holds heat surprisingly well. Drink when it's at the temperature you like.
Other good tips for a restful night include:
1. Making sure the room is a comfortable temperature and your blankets aren't too warm or cold.
2. Turn off electronics early before bed, and be aware of how bright the lights in your rooms are. We stop all electronics around 9 pm, except e-readers and other devices that don't emit blue light. Lower lights as the evening progresses
3. Set a regular bedtime and wakeup time. Sure, I let myself sleep in on Saturday, my day off formal writing, but I still get up within about 15 minutes of my normal time. Going to bed at a regular time helps your body settle, too.
4. No heavy meals before bed. I'm active and need food spread throughout the day, but I try to have my last snack before 9 pm as well. Some people need to stop earlier. Try things and do what works for you.
5. Some foods can help us sleep. Do a little research and try some, if you need that last snack like I do. Your body will be different, so play and keep notes.
A proper sleep can be the difference between writing well and feeling fuzzy. If I have a less restful night, maybe a thunderstorm or my significant other didn't sleep well, I remember to be kind to myself the next day. Maybe I won't be as productive, and that's okay. Since he started drinking Gold Milk, he's slept more restfully and longer, too.
Some days, especially like today when I’m recovering from a cold, I have less energy. On these days it’s most important to eat well and eat enough to fuel my body. When I get ill and tired I still tend to eat well, but not the same variety that keeps me feeling my best.
One of my favourite snacks is simply cutting up some broccoli and carrots and frying them in olive oil. This gives me the healthy fats I need and both fibre, vitamins, and minerals that are essential to good health. For flavouring, because I’m Canadian, I put maple syrup drizzled overtop. Maple syrup adds sweetness and also gives me minerals and nutrition, instead of the empty calories of sugar.
My favourite fat sources are olive and coconut oils. I also love almond butter. That can be enjoyed in both baking and sandwiches, giving me a boost of nutrients and energy without spiking my blood sugar. Other favourites are avocados. Who doesn’t love guacamole?
Mandarin oranges are a great snack for me, especially paired with other fruits. I also like nuts and goat cheese for a protein boost. I don’t digest cow dairy well, but goat and I get along just fine. There are even local goat dairies that produce some fabulous cheeses for us to enjoy.
On days like today, where I feel like I’m dragging my backside and having trouble getting going, eating well can give me the extra pick-me-up I need to thrive, and not just make it through the day. My treats? Dark chocolate with almonds in it. Enough sweetness to satisfy and more nutrients my body can use.
Round out the meals with herbal teas for more benefits. Green teas and berry teas are a favourite. I only tend to drink caffeine in the mornings when I write, and almost always as green tea. Oolong is an occasional treat, but that’s as caffeinated as I get.
Go have a healthy snack, then get writing!
Some days we just need an easier day. Two days ago I spent too much time out in the sun and my eyes were tired yesterday. They’re a lot better today, but I’m going to take one more easy day to rest. I did write this morning, but only in one story and a scene I wanted to write.
It’s also a rainy and windy day, so not a great day to be outside. I did do a quick energizing Yoga routine when I was done writing, as that’s a great way to get a short workout in even when I don’t want to go for a run. It also keeps me moving well and stretched out after being on the computer.
So, what’ll I do with the rest of my day? Normally I’d read and game and be fit and maybe even go riding. Today I’ll probably listen to some audiobooks so I can rest my eyes and generally relax. I discovered the wonders of a short Epsom Salt foot bath, so I may indulge in another one today.
I also pay more attention to nutrition on days like this. I like a variety of herbal teas, so I’ll enjoy some of those today, too. We have lots of fruit in the house, and yogurt, nuts, and berries are always popular. Time for another recipe, though. This one keeps the brain fuelled as well as giving the body boosting nutrients.
For one person (just add more ingredients for more people) -
1 Tbsp olive oil
a splash of sesame oil for flavour if you like
1 carrot, chopped how you like
Bok choy, either 3-4 small leaves or one large leaf
Daikon, a few slices chopped up, depending on how large it is, maybe a 1/3 cup total
3-6 shiitake mushrooms sliced
1/4 cup broccoli chopped as you like
1/2 cup rice
2 eggs scrambled (I cook these separately, you can also cook them in the pan)
1/4 cup nuts of your choice, I like walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp ginger (I use the jar of grated ginger)
soy sauce to taste
Add the oils to a pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and let them heat up. Add your vegetables and cook until the broccoli goes bright green, maybe 3-6 minutes, and the mushrooms look cooked. Add the egg and nuts and heat through or cook (I cook the eggs just before the recipe and add them now, so they’re still warm). Add the rice and soy sauce and stir until mixed and heated if needed. Enjoy.
I’ve found what I eat makes a big difference to my productivity and creativity. The brain takes a lot of energy, and the best energy for me to be at my best to fuel that brain is something protein heavy. My energy death? Sugar...sadly.
It’s important to start the writing session with enough fuel, and fuel is food or drinks such as smoothies. Since the primary energy source is protein, there are a variety of different ways to do that. I’m vegetarian, so I don’t use meat, but I do appreciate the nutritional boost eggs give me. I have other possibilities, too, but I find a hot meal gets me going better than a cold meal. Find what works for you and go for it. Whatever I eat with my eggs, I make sure it’s nutritious and easy to make.
Part way through my writing I find I need a snack. Usually I go for some fruit and a tea at this point. Fruit sugars don’t bother me the way refined sugars do. Any quick energy booster would work, as long as it’s actual food and not processed. Sometimes a handful of raw nuts is a great addition to my snack. If I want a sweet kick, I might include some dark chocolate chips with my snack.
After writing I’m also craving something more filling. Often this could be some yogurt (I like goat milk yogurts) with fresh berries and nuts. It might be something else like a smoothie with fruit and yogurt. If I went late enough with my writing and post-writing workout/yoga, I might just go right to lunch.
Even through the rest of the day, I make every meal count. Controlling my weight and fuelling my body keep me feeling good and writing well. I tend to cook most of my meals, if not all. There is no one diet that works for everyone. I love being able to make foods from around the world. Then I can enjoy a variety of flavours. Many foods either take little time to cook or can be made in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
Now, you don’t need to go crazy with the protein, just make smart choices. A handful of nuts and some fruit is typically less sugary than a store bought granola bar. I’ve made home-made energy bars from pure nut butters and other simple ingredients that were tasty and low sugar.
Explore, experiment, and have fun. Food can be flavourful and exciting as well as nutritious. Some people have busy lives and need to find something easy to make that fits into their life. That’s fine, too.
I will share some recipes that I love as we go. The first is one of my favourite snacks. This is
Oven Baked Potatoes:
Take a potato or two, enough potato to equal about the size of a fist. I peel them, but that’s optional. Cut the potato into small cubes so they cook evenly, exactly how large is up to you. Add extra-virgin olive oil and a spice blend of your choosing. I like the Greek Spice mix. Place it on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for between 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven, plate it, and enjoy!
You can do something similar with sweet potatos or carrots, too. Many veggies roast well this way, for about the same cooking time. Try a bunch and see what’s tastiest!
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.