Things to get you through the darkest timeline

It's 2018. We did it guys, we made it through the past year and have hopefully come out stronger on the other side. While this year hasn't quite started out the way I had hoped, my husband and I are trying to stay positive despite feeling like we're stuck in the Upside Down.

This really got me thinking about how important self care is during times of uncertainty. When I'm stressed I often put myself on the back burner. I'll get off my gym schedule, stop going to bed at a decent time, and eat all the chocolate. It eventually catches up with me and I'll crash -- hard. So in order to hold myself accountable and actually start taking better care of myself, here are 5 self care things you can do if you think you're stuck in the darkest timeline.

Bath bombs!

Is there anything that makes you feel fancier than taking a nice, long bath with a good book? I don't know why I was so late to the bath bomb train, but these little babies are the best thing to happen to a girl. I've found great one at Target, but when I was on vacation in Vegas last month I discovered Nectar and will definitely be ordering from them once these run out.

Visit the library!

You can't get many things for free these days, but thankfully the library is still around and providing services for people. Having access to thousands of ebooks and audiobooks at any time is also a pretty great feature, especially if you get snowed in this winter. Or if you're looking for a new job, trying to apply for health insurance, or just want to do some research, the library can help you through all that.

Drink all the water!

I have a really hard time remembering to stay hydrated, so one of my goals this year was to drink more water. That might sound silly, but some of us need reminders. There are plenty of apps that can help you out or you can just keep the biggest water bottle you own on your desk and refill it throughout the day.

Pet more doggos

Dogs are the best and you should definitely pet as many as possible this year. I'm sure there's a sciencey link I could find that shows research about how dogs lower your blood pressure or something, but honestly who cares? If you've ever been around a dog you know how awesome they are and there's nothing better than puppy cuddles.

Move your body!

Not gonna lie, I love laying on my couch and watching TV. But I know that even a little exercise every day makes me feel better. Sometimes I'm pretty sure I'm working out more for my mind than my body. I love working out at home and currently do both Yoga with Adriene and barre3 online. I'm also trying to get back into a gym routine by following Nia Shanks' Lift Like a Girl Program.

I know self care can be hard for some people, especially if we're used to taking care of others and not putting ourselves first. Just remember that self care is not selfish. We all need to take care of ourselves if we want to keep kicking ass at life.

Empathy + Books

A few months ago I took a test at work to determine my top five strengths. This was for a strength based training we were doing that encourages people to play up your strengths rather than try to work on your weaknesses. My top five strengths in order are:

  1. Empathy
  2. Achiever
  3. Strategic
  4. Relator
  5. Consistency

I wasn’t totally surprised by these answers because they’re skills I use every day while working as an office administrator at a busy preschool. But the one that really got me thinking was Empathy and how that not only affects my work and personal life, but also my reading life.

Webster’s Dictionary gives this definition of empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully , communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

I don’t think I was really aware of how much empathy I feel ALL. THE. TIME. Mostly towards my husband and coworkers since I’m around them so often, but I even feel it with my dog. He has a lot of feelings and I feel them all.

So this got me thinking about how reading and empathy can be both a positive and negative thing depending on the book. Over the weekend I was frantically trying to finish a book that’s due at the library, and this book not only had a very heavy subject (murder mystery on top of family issues), but it was also written as a graphic novel which brings even more emotions through the illustrations. I was imagining myself in this scenario and honestly it became a bit too much to empathize with these characters. I put the book down and decided to just return it to the library unfinished.

I’m not saying I won’t go back to this book eventually, but right now it was just too much. I think with the holidays approaching and my school term winding down I’m feeling overwhelmed in my own personal life and I need my reading to feel a bit separate. Right now I need reading to be an escape, but I still need to be careful when going down that path.

Last year I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and I don’t think I’ve ever empathized with a book so much. It’s a roller coaster of emotions and I found myself thinking about the book long after I had put it down. It changed my perspective on a lot of things and has honestly changed my life. The fact that I could feel so much from a book that it altered my thinking of the world is pretty amazing, but I wonder if this is because I have too much empathy.

I also think sometimes I use the escape of reading to empathize with others so I don’t have to focus on my own life. Sometimes this can be a good thing, but once it starts getting in the way of me dealing with my own issues, it can be a problem. I do this with friends and family too, trying to take on their feelings so mine get pushed to the back. This can be helpful for a little while but it’s not sustainable.

This weekend I experienced a crash of holding on to too much empathy for things I care about and I had to take a huge step back to focus on what I needed in that moment. Folding laundry and listening to The Giver on audio was the cure I needed right then, and I’m thankful I was able to identify it. I’ve realized that too much empathy can often lead to anxiety or depression, which can spiral easily if not dealt with. So while I think of reading as a hobby, sometimes it can feel like emotional labor depending on the book. That’s why I usually try to keep lighthearted and fun books close by when I’m needing to just laugh and take a break from holding on to so many emotions.

What books have you read that have felt like emotional labor? And do you think they were worth the read?

The First Half of Riotgrams October 2017

I'm a sucker for a photo challenge on Instagram. My brain is often full of school and work stuff, so having someone give me prompts for photos is extremely helpful. Book Riot has been killing it with their Riotgrams challenges every few months, and the prompts for October might be my favorite yet. Here are a few of my favorites from the first half of the month. And remember, it's not too late for you to join in! Just search #riotgrams on Instagram to get all the prompts and find some bookstagram inspiration.

Let me know if you have a favorite Instagram challenge you like to participate in!

5 Reasons to Bail on a Book

I rarely bail on books because I'm a crazy completionist and honestly I have no other excuse. This weekend I was reading It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover and I honestly couldn't take it anymore. 47% in and I returned the ebook to the library and marked it as DNF (did not finish) on Goodreads and Litsy. So if you're looking for an excuse to not finish that book you're reading, here's a few options:

  1. It makes you uncomfortable, and not in a good way. If the book is racist, sexist, ableist, or triggering in some way that makes you uncomfortable then put it down and walk way. You don't owe a book anything that will disrupt your mental health.
  2. It's boooooring. You gave it 50 pages. Then 100. And you still don't see what everyone is raving about. If the plot doesn't catch you then throw it aside.
  3. Not the right time. I'm a big believer that certain books should be read at certain times. If you're not feeling the book right now feel free to jump ship and come back to it later.
  4. You have other things to read. If you're like me I read 5-6 books at a time. Sometimes it just becomes too much. Books aren't going anywhere, so don't feel bad putting it back on the shelf.
  5. It just sucks. Not all books are created equally, and some books just flat out suck. Return it to the library, sell it at a used bookstore, just get rid of it.

Now go forth and bail without guilt!

The night before the readathon...

Dewey's 24 hour Readathon starts tomorrow morning and I'm MUCH EXCITE. Unfortunately I have a hair cut scheduled and a work event in the evening, but I plan on trying to squeeze in reading whenever possible. I'm trying to not pressure myself too much like I have in the past. I just want to enjoy the challenges and make some good progress in my books.

I plan on listening to The Clancys of Queens by Tara Clancy. I've had so many people recommend it and I really can't pass up a good memoir read by the author. On my iPad I have It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover which I started yesterday. I haven't read a lot of contemporary new adult books but everyone on bookstagram has been having emotional breakdowns because of this book.

Readathons can sometimes be discouraging for slow readers like me, so I might end up downloading some comics or graphic novels from Hoopla so I can break up any regular reading.

I think I just need to keep my focus on quality not quantity.

So happy reading to everyone this weekend! Open a bottle of wine, kick back, and read something you love.