I recently wrote about how to practise self-care as a writer. Today, I want to expand on a point I made in that post- that reading is one of the most effective forms of self-care.
For as long as I can remember, I have used books not only as form of escape, but also as a way to release stress.
Books have always been my passion, but they are an effective form of self-care, whether you are an avid reader or not.
Why is it important to practise self-care?
Self-care encourages us to take a step back from the stress of life and focus on ourselves. In our constantly moving world, this is more essential than ever.
It’s essential that we put as much importance on our mental health as our physical health. Not feeling our best mentally can affect personal life, work and creativity.
Instead of pushing through feelings of doubt and anxiety, engaging in active forms of self-care can help us to manage and keep on top of our mental wellbeing.
Life is often overwhelming and sometimes, there isn’t much we can do about this.
Constant stress can often cause anxiety and negative feeling. But practising self-care regularly helps to reduce these feelings, and focus on ourselves.
Working until you can’t keep going might make you feel busy, but it isn’t truly productive.
Taking time for yourself to recharge and rewind will help to work more effectively in the long run.
Taking a step back from a project or goal can feel completely impossible, but it’s likely that you’ll come back to it with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. So take that time for yourself, and push past any feelings of guilt you have over it.
Why is reading effective for self-care?
Self-care goes a lot further than just yoga and a bubble bath (although both those are great starts!). One of the reasons reading is so effective for self-care is that it’s an activity that both engages and relaxes us.
It helps us escape
With the world the way it is right now, what better way to forget about it for a while than through a book?
Unlike listening to music or watching a tv show, reading is completely consuming and requires us to actively engage with the story. Reading offers ‘another world’, often completely different to our own, and each interesting in its own way.
It calms us down
A study taken at Surrey University found that reading reduced stress levels by up to 68% (even above listening to music and going for a walk!). It’s no wonder that so many of us spend hours immersing ourselves in books every week.
We spend a lot of our lives multi-tasking and skipping from one piece of work to another. When we pick up a book, it signals to our brains to focus on just one thing- the story.
It allows us to be creative
Reading is one of the most effective ways to refill our creative well. This is especially important if you’re a writer, artist, or some form of creative.
Books both relax and inspire. The ideas and worlds that can be found in fiction are perfect inspiration for if you’re feeling creatively drained
It brings us back to childhood
What better way to relieve stress than to be a child again for a little bit? Books provide the perfect place for our imagination to run wild, without any expectation or stress.
Embrace your inner child and pick up a childhood favourite like Narnia, the Hobbit or Harry Potter.
It helps us sleep better
Reading for just 20 minutes before bed can greatly increase relaxation, and reduce stressful, late-night thoughts.
This is also a great alternative to scrolling a mobile phone, as blue light can signal to the brain that it’s time to wake up, not slow down.
For full relaxation, choose a book that isn’t too stimulating, but that you are actively engaged with.
How can we use reading more effectively for self-care?
Books are so good for our mental health, but only if we treat reading as a fun activity, and not a competition!
Read genres you enjoy
Self-care means taking time to do the things you enjoy. Reading for self-care isn’t effective if you’re only reading genres you don’t enjoy, or that you think you should read.
Remove any expectations for how reading should look, and instead really purely what helps you to relax and escape. This could be fantasy, historical fiction, romance, horror, or any othe genre that takes your fancy.
Don’t put any pressure on yourself
So many things in life involve stress and deadlines. If reading becomes like another form of work, it won’t be relaxing; in fact, it will probably stress you out even more.
Allow reading to be purely for fun. This means removing any expectaions in terms of how long you should read for, how many books you should read in a week or which books you should be reading.
Stop reading a book if you’re not enjoying it
I know a lot of us sometimes feel like we have to push through feelings of boredom and frustration when reading, just to reach the end.
I certainly sometimes catch myself wanting to keep on reading, despite the fact that I’m not enjoying a book, because of the sense of achievement I’ve attached to it.
When considering whether to continue reading a book or not, ask yourself whether you are reading for the story, or because you feel like you need to finish the book. If the answer is the latter, put it to the side, and pick up a book you actually enjoy!
Do you enjoy reading? Do you use it as a form of self-care? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or you can connect with me directly on any of my social medias.