Our Reading Lives

How I Learned to Exercise Self-Care Through My Local Library

Amanda Diehl

Staff Writer

Amanda Diehl escaped to Boston to get her MA in Publishing & Writing. Though she loves her new home in the Northeast, she will forever mourn the loss of Publix and sweet tea. As for Amanda’s voracious love of reading, she got it from her mama, though her favorite genres are romance, horror, and the occasional memoir. She reviews romance novels for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and when she’s able to scrounge together some free time, you can find her napping in front of the TV with the latest trashy reality show or scarfing down brunch-related foods. Twitter: _ImAnAdult

Hi, my name is Amanda and I’m a workaholic. The inability to stop working and focus on relaxing activities as self-care (reading especially) has been a problem for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried parsing out time during my daily routine for self-care, setting reminders, and putting blocks on certain websites in order to force me to relax. But up until a few weeks ago, nothing really had work.

And then I discovered a solution that was so simple and obvious that I don’t know how I missed thinking of it earlier.

Libraries. Libraries are the key to exercising some quality me-time with a good book and a fluffy blanket and, when some people need that personal time now more than ever, I thought I’d share why this works so well for a person like me.

I’m fortunate enough to have a job where I get to work from home and set flexible hours. I get to write and talk about books all day long across a variety of websites, but admittedly there are some downsides. Mainly, the aspect I struggle with most is separating work and play. When there’s no physical separation, like actually getting to leave an office and your work email, it becomes extremely hard to ignore my to-do list.

I like getting ahead. I like knowing I’m being productive. When I stop working at 5pm and pick up a book or watch some trashy television, I immediately feel guilty. Why am I not doing more work? I have posts to write, don’t I? Stop slouching, Amanda, and get back to work. You can read that book another time.

Except I don’t. I just continue working, forgetting about the excitement I had for whatever book I bought over the weekend or received in the mail or downloaded to my Kindle.

But with a personality like mine, one who thrives on deadlines and projects, it’s really a no-brainer why getting books from a library appeals so much to me.

Admittedly, I have a ton of books, which I think goes for most book lovers. But with so many books that I own, it’s always easier for me to put a book down in favor of doing work or household chores or really getting anything done hat has little or nothing to do with self-care or fun or relaxation. Those books are always going to be on my shelf of waiting on my Kindle. There’s no hurry. I can just save them for my next vacation; I do have some flights coming up. Truly, there is no shortage of excuses when it comes to me and work.

Though with checking out books from a library, it gives me a deadline. I have X number of days to finish a book and I definitely see that as a challenging assignment. There’s also a nice little triumphant sense of accomplishment when I slide my books back into the book drop, knowing I have several days left before they’re due back.

I understand that some people see deadlines as stressful, but I thrive off them. I was certainly a college student who would wait until the last minute to write a term paper, but that was because I did my best work when I could feel like deadline (and that very real threat of failure) breathing down my neck. Knowing I’d have to return a book, and potentially not be able to immediately check it back out, motivates me to add some reading time into my schedule. It may not be every night, but I’m finishing more books now than I was a month or so ago.

Up until now, my library usage as been pretty lax. A change in jobs has taken me out of the way of convenience from a main branch, but I discovered that another branch in a separate library system (don’t get me started on Boston proper vs. the surrounding areas like Cambridge) was just off the main square where I live. It’s pretty simply to take a five minute detour when running around doing errands or going to my weekly Wednesday afternoon therapy session.

Usually, it’s easiest for me to put books on hold and go and pick them up, since the location I frequent is rather small. But if I have the time, I’ll poke around inside and pick up something that sounds interesting. Because the other great quality about libraries is that there’s a pretty low risk. I don’t feel bad for not enjoying the book because I’m only borrowing it; I didn’t buy it and it’s not taking up coveted shelf space.

While it’s still pretty early in my newest self-care routine and there are times when I’m working well into the night, to the point where my eyes begin to ache from being at the computer, I think this is a step in the right direction. I’ve thanked libraries before for getting me through a rough patch in my life, but I owe them another word of thanks for aiding me in my quest to balance my life, because all work and no play….(you know the rest, readers).