As we move through the tumult, chaos, and disbelief that is the current presidency, many of us feel obligated to stay on top of every breaking news story, lest we miss the latest terrible thing. For those of us trying to maintain a level of sanity and go about our day to day lives, going to work, taking care of kids, etc., it can be difficult to balance responsibility with the impulse to check social media every damn second we get. The issue is that we are left with very little time to breathe and re-energize and, if you’re like me, your stress level goes through the roof!
Taking regular breaks from social media has been a “thing” for a while now. People check out from their preferred site (usually Twitter or Facebook) for a month or more and then come back with a fresh perspective. I have tried that, but honestly, it isn’t enough. I did manage to quit Facebook for good, but it’s Twitter that really gets me. I download the app for my phone, only to remove it three days later in disgust. I do this again and again. Inevitably, when I have it on my phone I lose countless half hours, when I could be reading, scrolling down and down, refreshing and refreshing and refreshing…. Until I’m stressed out and miserable, and my brain is good and distracted. It is especially bad late in the evening and early in the morning, times when I should be relaxing and rejuvenating.
While it is true that we should stay active and engaged in what’s happening in the world, it is also true that we should allow ourselves some moments of the day to be free of the big, bad news. It’s okay to work on that novel you’re writing or that blanket you’re knitting. It’s also okay to binge watch that show you love. Self-care routines will help loosen your shoulders and clear your head. When it comes to reading, my personal favorite mode of self-care, I have been experimenting with a new method for reading more and stressing less and the good news is that it’s super simple! Here are the four steps to take:
- Remove all social media and news apps from your phone. This doesn’t mean that you have to completely abandon online news or social networking. You can still log in on a personal or work computer, or, if you don’t have either of those, on a public access computer at the library. (Just remember to log out!). This will encourage you to curtail your use and remove the temptation. I find this step helps me stay away from scrolling through Twitter before trying to sleep (ha!) and checking it when I first wake up, which is, let’s face is, a really effing depressing way to start the day.
- Add a Digital Book App to your Phone. There are so many to choose from! Consider apps used by public libraries to access their digital catalogs like Overdrive and Hoopla (where the books are free!), to apps for e-readers like Kindle, Kobo and Nook. There’s Bluefire for galleys, and Scribd for various original works. And if you love comics, you can use the Comixology and Marvel Unlimited Apps on your phone.
- Every time you feel the urge to look at your phone, open up your book app and read! Let’s face it, even if you take the social media and news off of your phone, you are still going to have the regular urge to look at something on that screen. Habits are habits. If you have your book app all set up with whatever you’re reading, think of all the time you will have to dedicate to books! If you don’t like reading small amounts at a time, consider re-reading a favorite book so that you can just sort of dip in and out without losing the plot thread. I’m currently re-reading Little Women this way, and it’s lovely. Another option would be to have a non-fiction book that in other circumstances would be difficult to read straight through. For me, this is something like Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. I love it! But I am not inclined to read it for hours at a time, like I would a novel.
- Read and Repeat. That’s it! Think of all the books you can get through this way. Think of how less stressed you will be re-reading those three pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire then say, scrolling through someone’s cousin’s friend’s wedding pictures on Facebook. Anything’s better than that, right?
What about you? How do you stress less and read more?