As a writer with a focus on beauty and health, the two are often at the forefront of most of my work, and I am no stranger to self-care. But, here is the secret: Self-care only works if it works for you. Not everyone is going to sweat from every pore in their body in a sauna and leave feeling brand new (it does feel great, though!), and not everyone thinks at-home facials are the most relaxing part of their night — heck, most of us can’t even remember to wash our makeup off at night (but, please try — your skin will thank you!). I would be lying if I said I did not fall under the spell of self-care rituals. They make me ooh and ahh and I want to try them ALL. But, when it comes down to it, it is the surprising things that we do without even realizing we are doing it that really helps nourish our selves and our souls. For me, that is fiction.
Reading was never on my self-care regimen. I did not see it in the same light as dry brushing my skin or jumping on my rebounder. And, although the two technically go hand-in-hand, I did not even think about reading in the bath before realizing how it significantly impacted my mood (now I do it all the time … it is a self-care twofer). Yet, it is the single most powerful tool in my box that levels me out and makes me feel like myself again. Subsequently, reading is also part of a writer’s unwritten requirement. With every page, a writer’s voice is supposed to flourish with a burning desire to tell a story. That is if you actually do the reading assignment. And, I can’t say I have — or did — up until recently. After taking a two-year-long hiatus to read non-fiction and binge-listen to podcasts (both of which are still great for my writer’s brain), I found myself craving a good piece of fiction, not just for the story-telling, but for the need to get lost in a world other than my own.
I have spent all of my life falling in love with characters and plot lines that transported me out of my life and into the world of someone else’s. It is why I chose to become a writer: Because I fell madly in love with what the gift of storytelling can do for the mind. Stories provoke something in us, like an emotional beast waiting for its release. But, with a full-time job and side hustle, my fiction reading habits sat shelf-side, collecting dust alongside my beloved book collection, waiting for the day I would come back to myself and revel in imagination once more.
Earlier this year, after the emotional dust had settled from two great losses in my life (and the emotional trauma that follows suit), I felt as though I had no choice but to bury my nose in a novel — and sometimes even a Kindle, which is something I never thought my paper-flipping thumbs would be down for — and fall for fiction once more. The first book I picked up was Still Me by Jojo Moyes. I am a sucker for a Jojo Moyes book (especially her Me Before You trilogy), and everything down to the title of this book felt like a good place to start my deep dive into literature again. I was slow to start and it took a lot of discipline for me to sit down and read before bed instead of falling asleep with re-runs of Friends playing in the background but, slowly, I did it. With every page, I began to realize that I was not just being called back to an old hobby, I was being called back to myself — back to a place where I can reset my mind and feel more “me” every time I close a book.
With every chapter,
I reached a deeper sense of inner peace.
What I have gained from reviving this old habit goes far beyond my job requirements of a strong voice and itch to tell a good story (though I am attempting my first novel, so there is that). After six months and nearly two dozen books under my belt, I have found that literature does not just make me a better writer by inspiring me to look at potential stories from new angles and deliver captivating description, it makes me a better me… and is a damn good source for self-care.
I picked up fiction for the first time [again] this year for the same reasons many of us pick up a good read: Travel. With a lot of anticipated downtime, I wanted to be prepared for when boredom struck (and, honestly, I needed to spend less time in the mindless scroll of social media, too). I never expected to crack open a crisp new hardback and experience the same transcendence that meditation and yoga have offered me through my healing journey. But, with every chapter, I reached a deeper sense of inner peace — something my newly anxious, the worrisome self has not felt in quite some time, no matter how many downward-facing dogs I do.
If it is hard to come back to reading, I get it — it took desperation for me to get here. One way to start again is to join a book club (either in person or online). Being held accountable by others can not only help you pick up a good book and create a reading pace, but it can also spark inspiring conversations and might even result in some extraordinary friendships! You might also find inspiration on social media — yes, there are book influencers, too! My favorite bookfluencers are Ashley Spivey (she also has an online book club called @spiveysbookclub!) and Kate Hutchison. But, I also find inspiration from iconic book store accounts such as the Strand in New York City and Books Are Magic (they really are!) in Brooklyn, New York.
Self-care looks different for everyone. And, quite frankly, many of the most powerful self-care rituals are often overlooked. You do not have to love fiction to experience the same meditative state I do when reading. All you need to do is revisit something you once loved — be it a sport or hobby — and get back to it (and yourself).
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