For as long as I can remember, reading as always been an escape for me. As a child, I used it as a way to get out of my small, suffocating town and explore the world without actually leaving my bedroom. As I got older, reading started to become a solace I turned to after every heartache, before every decision, and during every big life transition. Now, reading has become the most important part of my self-care routine. It gives me an opportunity to unplug from the world, a chance to rest and recharge before the next battle, and an opportunity to learn something new.
For so many people, 2017 has been a rough year to say the least. In the last three months alone, Americans have borne witness to hateful and deadly racist rallies in our city streets, senseless violence at music festivals and houses of worship, and a slew of unnatural disasters that left tens of thousands of people homeless, injured, or dead. There are so many mornings that I wake up afraid to look at my phone, log onto my computer, or turn on the news for fear of finding the next great tragedy has unfolded overnight.
That's why reading has become the most important part of my self-care routine: it gives me a break from the real world, a chance to walk away from all of the ugliness for at least a little while. It's an effective tool for tuning out the news, turning off the TV, and turning down the noise that is constantly trying to me the country is on the verge of internal combustion. Whether I'm getting lost in a fantasy novel, trying to solve a mystery, or learning about an inspirational figure, reading provides a much-needed temporary escape from it all. When I'm engaged in a book, my mind and my body have a much-needed chance to relax, rest, recuperate, and get ready for whatever comes next.
One of the reasons self-care is so important, and one of the reasons my reading routine is so effective, is that without properly caring for ourselves, we are unable to care for anyone else. In the context of my life in 2017, that means that without meeting my own personal needs and making sure my mental, physical, and emotional health are cared for, I can't hope to make a difference in the increasingly dangerous and destructive political and social environment we live in today. Reading gives me a chance to do all of those things, and more. It not only gives me a break from reality, but it offers a chance for me to harness my emotions, refresh my mind, and rest my body so I can be ready with a clear head and a full heart to do whatever is needed next.
Millennials are often criticized for being self-absorbed snowflakes who are lazy, entitled, and easily offended by the politically incorrect. A generation that spends more than any the on the $10 billion the self-care industry, we are even criticized for being selfish about the way we take care of our mental, physical, and emotional health. Reading is the kind of self-care I don't need to feel guilty about, though. It doesn't cost me an exorbitant amount of money, it isn't considered vain, and it doesn't require a special kit or subscription service. It's an independent activity that can inspire, educate, and inform, one that even the biggest critics of the self-care movement can't hate on. This is not to say that anyone should be crafting a self-care routine whose purpose is to satisfy the expectations of others, but for me, it certainly helps that I don't feel guilty, exclusionary, or narcissistic in my reading practice.
In fact, I feel the exact opposite: empowered, motivated, enlightened, and more empathetic than ever.
Sometimes when I am taking care of myself with the help of books, I like to get swept away in a passionate romance, whisked on an adventure in and epic fantasy, or simply thrilled by a suspenseful mystery. Other times, I like to settle in with a nonfiction work that either educates, inspires, instructs, or informs. No matter what I decide to read, books help me expand my theory of mind and improve my ability to explore the points of views of others without losing my own. It's a crucial skill for navigating the increasingly divisive world we live in, and one I can thank my self-care reading routine for helping me understand and improve.
That's just the thing about books: they are there when you need them with a nudge of encouragement, a voice of reason, a touch of comfort, a vehicle for escape. Simply put, books are magic, and they are the most important part of my self-care routine.