Sooner or later, everyone gets stressed, and stress affects everybody’s writing, one way or another. There are a few folks whose writing is their escape from stress, who write more when they get more stressed and less when they get happy, but that doesn’t seem to be all that common among published writers (probably because it’s too hard to balance on the knife-edge of stressed-enough-to-write-but-not-so-stressed-that-there-really-isn’t-time-to-write). Most writers hit a certain level of stress, and find that it’s using every bit of energy they have just to stay alive, and there’s none left over for writing. (Which can add stress, if writing is one’s main occupation and source of income.)
Everybody gets overstressed at some point, and the result can be quite dramatic in terms of productivity (and if it isn’t, you frequently end up paying for it later). There are a bazillion books out there on how to manage stress, and they all say the same things and they’re all right: exercise, eat right, take care of yourself, take a break, take a walk, meditate, talk to people about it, find ways to reduce it if possible (move, change jobs, change the locks on the house or the phone number, etc.), see a professional if it gets to be too much. The trouble is that they’re all long-term solutions, and we’re a quick-fix society…and most people don’t even start trying to deal with stress until they’re already in over their heads and sinking fast.
But it’s like writing: nobody else is going to make you write…and nobody else is going to take all the stress out of your life for you. You have to work at it yourself. Some of it you can get rid of permanently; some, the only thing you can do is to change your attitude. And sometimes, it’s a matter of remembering your priorities. Much as we all love it, writing a book is not the most important thing in the world. Not compared to, say, getting your kid to the emergency room when she’s fallen out of a tree and broken her arm, or taking care of your elderly mother who has dementia, or calling the plumber about the flood that’s happening in the basement right now. Sometimes it’s OK not to write for a while.
It can be hard to admit that there’s just no time for writing right now, especially when your backbrain is nagging you to Get This Story Down Immediately. You have to be honest with yourself about whether writing is part of your coping mechanism (in which case it may be worth it to make the time, because it will help reduce the stress) or whether it isn’t (in which case you need to not-write, or you will just make the stress worse).
On the other hand, if your frontbrain is what’s telling you that It Is Your Job/Duty To Do Revisions Today, or that You Cannot Waste This Valuable Writing Time Just Because You’re Stressed … tell it to go take a hike. You don’t have to write when your Mom is in the hospital or your kid is running a temperature or you’re worried sick about layoffs or the roof just blew off in a tornado. You can if you want, but you don’t have to.
Be warned that which hand you’re using may well change with the circumstances. Most of the time, writing is part of my coping mechanism, but when my mother was dying and just after, I lost a good six months or more of writing time because even the thought of dealing with the plot was the very last straw that I couldn’t cope with on top of dealing with the estate and everything else. And it took a while to realize that trying to make myself write “in order to cope” (which had always worked before) was the exact wrong thing this time.
People aren’t machines…and even machines need down time for repairs and maintenance.