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How to Use Reading as Self-Care

Sandra Foreman posting for headshot in outdoor location, surrounded by trees.

Sandra Foreman is a wife, mother, attorney, founder of The Spa in Me, L.L.C., host of The Spa in Me Podcast, and spa, health, and wellness freelance writer. She shares everything she knows about wellness destinations and managing the inevitable stressors in life. Sandra helps women identify ways to make self-care an ongoing practice as opposed to
an occasional indulgence. She does this by holding retreats and two community book clubs for women.

“Oh, how scary and wonderful it is that words can change our lives simply by being next to each other.” – Kamand Kojouri

Reading books has always filled me with joy. As early as four years of age, I vividly remember going to the library to read in the comfy chairs. I also recall waiting impatiently each week to walk to the neighborhood bookmobile location near my home.  When I left for college, and then law school, my reading for pleasure was replaced by required classroom textbooks. 

Infrequently, I would set aside time to read books that had nothing to do with being a student, or with my legal career. After marriage and becoming a mother, I read plenty of children’s books to my two sons and encouraged their love of reading;, however, I had convinced myself that I no longer had time to read for leisure.

As my sons got older, I made more time for myself without feeling guilty. I rediscovered my love for reading.  I used my library card to borrow books that piqued my interest. Additionally, I would go to local bookstores to peruse numerous books and magazines before settling on those I would purchase. And, to my delight, I would often claim a table in the bookstore café, order a tea, and escape for one to two hours through the courtesy of a carefully chosen book.

Despite the noise level, or the number of people that surrounded me, the books I read captivated me and sustained my attention. I embraced the solitude I allowed myself to experience.

My family members, friends, and coworkers noticed the change in my demeanor. I had transitioned from being a scattered and stressed working wife and mother, to feeling calmer. I had improved my wellbeing by making more time to read. They shared how they read books when they were younger, but couldn’t fit reading into their demanding schedules.  

Take a deep breath. Inhale peace. Exhale happiness.”― A.D. Posey

In 2016, I started The Spa in Me, L.L.C., to help women find self-care rituals that work best for them. I wanted women to give themselves permission to slow down and to focus on their own needs. In 2018 and 2019, my company held one-day retreats in beautiful destinations to introduce attendees to self-care practices they could easily implement at home. 

My company also became a chapter of the international Silent Book Club, which I named The Spa in Me Silent Book Club – Cedar Park Chapter. In this book club, which is a meetup group for women, there is not an assigned book for reading and discussion. Instead, women choose their own books to read. Before the coronavirus, we would gather once a month for two hours. We would socialize for the first thirty minutes, read silently for one hour, and socialize again for the last thirty minutes.

As women arrived for each book club gathering, I noticed how they would deeply inhale and exhale as they bonded with other women who also felt excited about reading. Some women would drive as far away as 45 minutes to find their bliss in the comfort of a book. This one hour of concentrated silent reading in community reduces loneliness, and allows women to indulge in doing something just for themselves.

During the social time, we would often talk about the books we were reading. Reading our books not only offered entertainment and education, but they also offered insight to our own circumstances, helped us to grow personally, and to connect with the books’ characters.

Over time, I have seen the power of reading and book clubs. Not only have the discussions been intellectually stimulating, but the meetings have helped us to listen deeply to each other, offer support, and respect each other’s experiences and viewpoints. Together, we have discussed books that introduce concepts and strategies to cope with uncertainty and the constant changes in our lives. 

There is no loyal friend as loyal as a book”. – Ernest Hemingway

Although my book clubs are currently on hold, due to the pandemic, there are some really great book clubs that are meeting virtually. Two books clubs I highly recommend are This BrowneGirl Reads and Now Read This, which is hosted by PBS Newshour and The New York Times Books. These communities will introduce you to books you may have never considered reading, and you will belong to an uplifting community of people that will help you to feel less alone during this unprecedented time.

I encourage former book club members (and any readers here today!) to use reading to help reduce any stress they may feel and to find companionship in their books during COVID-19 and beyond. I invite anyone seeking an activity at this time to grab a book and start reading. And, to stay connected with The Spa in Me, L.L.C. via my newsletter. Not only will you stay informed about when the book clubs resume, but you will receive guidance on ways to slow down and quiet your mind. 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Shauna Hibbitts

    Thank you for writing this and bringing the focus of how to use reading as a form of self-care. We often overlook the power of reading and what it does for us internally.

    1. Courtney Harris Coaching

      Thanks for reading! We are so glad you are here! <3

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