On the Topic of: Reading Slumps, Mental Health, and a Global Pandemic

Dear Reader,

The Year 2020 was certainly one for the record books – from the Australian bush fires, to a dramatic American election, and a global pandemic, we certainly cannot say that it was a boring year. If nothing else, we will certainly remember 2020 for years to come.

On a personal level, 2020 was also quite the adventure for me. On March 12th, when the Government of Ontario announced the temporary closure of schools in response to growing concerns about COVID-19, I certainly didn’t foresee the series of events that would follow. “Pivoting” to teaching online was certainly an adventure, it was also exhausting. After mere weeks of teaching online, I found myself constantly feeling burned out, experiencing exhaustion, and generally feeling overwhelmingly anxious. So I made the decision to put my own mental health first, and I took a step back to consider how I could reduce the every day stress and pressure that I felt. A large part of this involved spending less time on my devices – whether it be my computer in general, or social media in particular, I knew that I had to spend less time living virtually and more time enjoying the world around me. But I couldn’t simply walk away from teaching – which led me to the difficult choice of walking away from all things bookish.

Since then, I have experienced a plethora of highs and lows – from living through a quarantine, to getting engaged, and then returning to a much changed in-school teaching experience. One of the biggest struggles I experienced during all of this was the toll on my personal mental health – something that manifested in many ways, one of which was a seemingly never-ending reading slump.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have never experienced a reading slump for yourself, it is essentially the state of not being able to pick up a book and read, no matter how hard you try. Honestly – Urban Dictionary defines it as a reader’s worst nightmare – and they are not wrong. Reading slumps are a time when no story seems to hold your attention, and you simply are not motivated to read. It can happen after reading an amazing novel, or it can occur over time. For me, it happened as I grappled with the startling and often overwhelming new realities of a world thrust into a pandemic it was simply unprepared for. At first, I was frustrated, then simply disappointed in myself, as I tried and failed to finish a book, time and time again.

Then, I returned to school in an in-person setting, and I realized that I was not on my own in my struggles with mental health in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. My students, despite their young age, were grappling with a much changed reality, as were my colleagues. And while I was overwhelmed – exhausted, stretched thin, and discouraged – by the experience of teaching during a global pandemic, I also found myself suddenly surrounded by like-minded individuals feeling the same way I was. And slowly – oh so slowly – I began to heal.

I began slowly – reading fan fictions and short stories, then re-reading some of my favourite novels, and then finally tackling a new read. I’m still not reading as much as I was pre-COVID, and I don’t know if I will ever read quite so much again, but I am finding my way a day at a time – in more ways than one.

So, Dear Reader, if you too are struggling in light of these unprecedented times and tumultuous events, take heart – and take action. Find the things that being you joy, seek out opportunities to learn and grow, and most importantly, take care of yourself and your loved ones.

From your friendly teaching bookworm,
One Page at a Time

A Book Blogger and Reader Burnout

“Creative types are haunted by a specific misconception: that because we are spending time doing what we love, we aren’t allowed to be burnt out by it, exhausted from it, or tired of it.” – Leah Rachel Won Esson, BookRiot

Well, long story short – I am woefully behind on my reading list, my book reviews, and my engagement with the bookish community in general. I could list excuses, but the fact of the matter is this – I have simply been feeling burnt out. For those of you who have (luckily) never experienced true “reader burnout”, let me tell you – it is undoubtedly a real thing. And when you, like me, are embroiled in the world of book bloggers and bookstagramming, this burnout seems to be unequivocally associated with guilt and feelings of inadequacy.

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Truly, I see this a lot in the reading community, albeit mentioned under different names or explained though different terms – but at its heart, so many of my fellow blogger and book lovers are looking for support to pull them out of their “reading slump”. This is accompanied by a pervasive fear of missing out, of not being among the first to read the hottest new releases, or of not having the most followers. Even the most ardent of book lovers are sure to feel overwhelmed and disappointed in themselves when constantly comparing themselves to others’ success and achievements. The pressure to keep up can seem insurmountable (at least it certainly felt that way to me), and this alone is undoubtedly a major factor in “reader burnout”. 

“Forcing yourself through burnout will only make the books go by slower, and forcing yourself to read when your mind is pulling away will only make reading less of a pleasure.” – Leah Rachel Won Esson, BookRiot

Upon this realization, I have recently come to realize (through some intense introspection and self-reflection) that I have nothing to feel guilty about. I have not fallen off some path, I am not falling behind some imagined finish-line, nor have I stopped loving reading and blogging. I have come to realize that I can love something, but still need a break from it (it being reading and blogging, of course). And I did desperately need a break from it – because after four years of blogging almost weekly, I was running on empty. So instead of forcing myself through books I didn’t feel equipped to read, or writing reviews I simply didn’t have the energy for, I stepped back and started just spending my time doing whatever it was I wanted to do – whether that was playing Pokemon Sword, or binge-watching Star Wars. I considered why I was reading what I was reading – was it for me, or for others? Were my goals self-driven, or a reflection of my own subconscious fears of falling behind my peers? Once I worked through this, and began to really consider why I began on this path at all, I began to feel more myself again. A break was what I needed to gain perspective, to reinvigorate myself, and to remind myself why I love reading in the first place.

“Self-care can come in many different forms and sometimes the best care you can give yourself is a break.” – Leah Rachel Won Esson, BookRiot

So to my fellow blogger, bookworms, and/or Bookstagrammers reading this – please remember that you are not lost. You are not failing yourself, or anyone else. In taking a break – by embracing your so-called “reading slump” – you are really taking care of yourself. And when you are ready, you will pick up that next book, or write that next blog post. 

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BLOG UPDATE: Post #1

Hello Bookworms!

For those of you that follow me on Instagram, I recently shared my plans to update my blog – to give it a more modern, streamlined look. A look that reflects how far I have come since I started this blog just over three years ago.

The first step in this update was a bit of branding, which I have been hard at work on this past week (with some awesome artistic input from Flavia the Bibliophile herself!). I wanted something simple that would reflect my hopes for my blog going forward – not just what my blog is in this moment.

Continue reading “BLOG UPDATE: Post #1”