The holiday season is upon us and my levels of anxiety are rising as I write about it. Far too often, a time of year, meant to remind us about peace, compassion, love and self-reflection, can instead lead us to batten down the hatches and to prepare for the worst.
We spend our time trying to “survive” the holidays and expend our energy rushing, buying and worrying instead of savouring an opportunity to connect with loved one and to care for ourselves.
Outside of a health care setting, self-care refers to the cultivation of self, focused on nurturing our personal needs and allowing ourselves to relax, regenerate and recharge in meaningful ways.
In anticipation for this year’s season, I am already managing my anxiety levels as I think about demands on my time, things to buy, party invitations and social commitments. This month I am sharing my holiday secret with you.
I have decided that my holiday helper will be a good book.
Books open windows to the familiar, the unknown, the ugliness in the world and the beauty of the human condition. They are powerful entities that provide readers with escapism, travel, comfort, terror, laughter and a chance to understand something more, outside of ourselves.
Did you know that reading books is good for your health?
- Reading can affect/transform individual personalities and self-perception.
- Reading fiction provides cognitive and emotional simulations – we run stories through our minds, similar to a computer running a simulation.
- Reading sharpens our social skills making us more empathetic and understanding.
- Books and poetry provide therapeutic uses in counselling and cognitive therapies.
- Literature can enable us to express and understand our feelings in a safe and imaginary setting.
- Freud said, “Our actual enjoyment of an imaginative work proceeds from a liberation of tensions…enabling us…to enjoy our own daydreams without self-reproach or shame.”
Never underestimate the healing properties of a good book.
This month, I invite you to identify your holiday helper and administer a little self-care in order to delight in the moment, instead of just surviving through it.
What I have been reading lately:
- The Birth House-Amy McKay (fiction)
- Out of the Blue-Jan Wong (non-fiction, memoir)
- Gender Failure-Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote (non-fiction, short stories)
- Balades Indiennes-Multiple authors (fiction, short stories-French)
- Currently reading: Obasan-Joy Kogawa (fiction)
Bruneau, L. & Pehrsson, D-E. (2014) The Process of Therapeutic Reading: Opening Doors for Counselor Development. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 9, 346-365.
Djikic, M., Oatley, K., Zoeterman & Peterson, J.B. (2009) On Being Moved by Art: How Reading Fiction transforms the Self. Creativity Research Journal, 21:1, 24-29.
McArdle, S. & Byrt, R. (2001) Fiction, poetry and mental health: expressive and therapeutic uses of literature. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 8, 517-524.