Reading as self-care: a screen break

More often than not, I am left to feel quite tired after a long day of staring at a laptop screen, scanning online documents for clues on how to create a successful essay, or tapping away at tills surrounded by lights in the place I work. I feel like everyday is one continuous tiring cycle of getting things done, the gaps in between filled with an endless, unproductive scroll down my social media feed. As much as I love instagram, twitter, wordpress (!!), it can accumulate to a few different feelings.

a) Inadequacy. I’d admit that about 80% of the people I follow online are those I am either inspired by or I resonate with. This can lead to huge feelings of self-doubt, and ultimately the over-arching fear of not being enough. I know what I want to be and when I see others smashing that same goal and achieving it, whilst I’m trailing behind, locked in the library or slaving over tables in a restaurant, it is hard not to feel disheartened.

b) Physically strained. My eyes hurt, my brain hurts and the gap between my finger and my thumb really hurts. Being on my phone is addictive. I heard someone describe the scrolling process allegorically quite recently and it put me at ease hearing the same compulsive feeling put into more tangible terms. She said it was like sitting at a penny slot machine. You keep loading, and loading, and loading the machine with money, hoping for one tiny kick of life to give you some kind of enjoyable experience at the end of it. That kick for me is finding something which genuinely makes me feel good, or interests me enough to like it, but before I can get to it I have to sift through a million copper coins (or boring, damaging content).

Anyway, after that rather depressing realisation, onto the more positive topic of this post. My biggest relief and my biggest enjoyment amidst all of this stress (which realistically cannot be completed avoided) is reading. To me, reading is a very big part of my life. The most obvious reason being for this is the fact that I am studying English Literature. As much as I enjoy the books I study, they aren’t always what I would choose from the shelves. And not to mention that most of the studying process is reading things online about the books, not the actual content themselves.

This means that when I do get chance to read for myself, it is a hugely relieving and enjoyable experience. Taking in the words, close analysis for my own satisfaction rather than an argument, forming opinions which haven’t been influenced by lecturers or module titles. Its all so exciting. Reading isn’t for everyone, but in terms of self-care, I belief it can be a big treat for a brain thats screaming out for a break from the screens. Sometimes it is nice to read things that aren’t books too. Magazines, journals, creative essays, graphic novels. All very readable, (most of the time) easily digested, and don’t take up too much time. Time is often what holds people back from the books, but putting your phone down for an hour and picking up a good comic can be the best mental breather your brain has had all week. Sometimes an intensely meaningful novel can be a bit much when everything is getting on top of you, and for some that will be the best escape. All depends on the person, but all reading is good reading to me.

There’s some food for thought, anyway. Now I shall list a few books which I always find myself coming back to or thinking about when it comes to giving my brain a bit of TLC.

Hot Little Hands

-This may be a slightly contradictory one if you’re not into intensity or heavy thought when you are needing some self-care. Although it does fit the bracket of light when put literally, as it is a book of short stories. These coming of age tales of various girls around the world are super thrilling and engaging, but also really easy to read and turns its own pages.

Paper Girls

-Another of my 2017 reads, this graphic novel is so readable, witty and enjoyable whether you like sci-fi or not. I’m not a particular fan of the genre but I got really into Stranger Things when it was released on Netflix and I heard somebody compare this graphic to the show. There are definitely similarities, and the girls this story follows are just as bad-ass, if not more so.

T.S Eliot, Four Quartets

-Some beautiful poetry that just keeps you reading. But also conveniently divided into, well, four quartets, so it won’t take too much time away if you’re preoccupied by other things. Beautiful words also provide me with inspiration, and being someone who is always looking for creative surges to feel self-worth, this is v good self-care for me.

Granta Magazine

-Granta is one of my favourite publishing companies and for the last year or so I have been enjoying dipping in and out of their magazine for new literature. You don’t have to pay to subscribe for the print edition (even though they are beautiful and I really want to subscribe myself), because you can view plenty of content for free on the website. It is a great way of reading work you will have never heard of before, refreshing the mind completely and allowing you to explore so many different genres and themes in one place.

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