Our Reading Lives

Why Self-Care for Me Needs to Involve Less Reading

Beth O'Brien

Staff Writer

Beth is an east coast Canadian, born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is (unsurprisingly) obsessed with books and is a public library assistant and book blogger. When she’s not convincing all her friends to be friends with each other, she’s trying to convince them to read YA. She likes poetry and coffee and the ocean, but her true love is her cat Edith.

Self-care seems to be a buzz word today on blogs, in articles, in books. People are spending more time being mindful of how stress can affect our lives and our bodies, and are seeking ways to live a balanced life.

People can get a bit ridiculous with this, but, at its core, self-care is a beautiful idea. We need to fill ourselves up before we can pour ourselves out into our work, our family, our friends, our lives. It’s important to not let ourselves become run down or stretched too thin.

Balance has always been something I’ve struggled with. I’m a fangirl at heart. I throw myself wholeheartedly into whatever I’m focused on. Sure, that can be helpful sometimes. But I can also be almost destructively single-minded, unable to find balance.

When I’m in a good book, it’s all I can think about. When all I want to do is read, all I do is read. This might seem like a perfectly okay thing. You like to read to recharge? Reading is self-care for you? Great! But when I don’t have balance, that method of self-care can become counterproductive.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I suffer from anxiety. One of the forms I suffer from is social anxiety. Retreating into books when my anxiety hits is just such an easy fix. Grab a blanket and curl up on the couch with my book. Sounds pretty good, right? Yes, it absolutely is. After a long day, this is often the self-care I turn to. But when I start to do that every night, it makes it far too easy to say no when friends want to make plans. 

In the past, I’ve embraced a hermit-y lifestyle. I would go to work, come home, lock myself in my room, and read my books. But something was missing; I wasn’t truly happy. While I loved reading, when I’d step out of my books I’d realize I didn’t really love my life.

After a breakup with a long-time significant other, I realized I didn’t really have anyone to turn to, and, sadly, books weren’t always enough. I had let all my friendships drift away while I focused on my fictional ones. I let my anxiety keep me in a bubble, thinking that this was just who I was.

When I forced myself out of that bubble, I starting experiencing the joys of having friends again. Real friends that could hang out with me and be there for me when I needed them (and vice versa). I started making new friends and reconnecting with old ones.

But then I threw myself into being social and reading went by the wayside. That didn’t make me happy, either. It’s that pesky balance thing again.

Today, I find myself back on the hermit side. My roommate is out of town on tour for a play, so there’s not even those built-in moments of socializing. On the whole, I’ve been fairly social (for me), so when I say no to things, my friends don’t yet see a pattern. But it’s becoming one again—I can feel it. When a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while cancelled on me the other night, I was relieved. That sent up a red flag.

I don’t want to backslide into a hermit lifestyle marked by depression and fear. I want to be able to remember the joy my friends bring me and not let my anxiety keep me from them. I’ve got to remind myself to put down the book sometimes. It will be all right.