For most of my reading life, reading and resting have been synonymous to me. Lazy Sunday afternoons conjure up images of pyjama bottoms and slouchy jumpers; a cup of tea in one hand and a good book in the other. Reading has been a restorative thing; a means of relaxation and of peace. It has been the plug point in which I recharge myself, and the energy supply I crave in my introvert time.
Then came along university and a history degree.
A history degree is basically a reading degree. You read, a lot. Which is great, for lovers of reading, but also bad. Because suddenly, something that was a synonym for rest, becomes entangled with work, and it can be more difficult to untangle the two.
This is something that I am still working on, and have by no means perfected, but I thought I would share a few tips that I have found useful for getting back into reading for rest.
1. Pick an easy book to read
When so much of your reading is for work, you don’t want your reading-for-fun to feel like hard work too. I generally find that choosing a book that is easy and simple to read, without too many complex themes, becomes a lot more relaxing. This is when I tend to read a lot of those cheesy romances, that would probably otherwise really annoy me, but I end up loving because they give me exactly what I need in those busy mind moments: a chance to relax.
2. Re-read a favourite book
Reading something that you know you love, and that you have enjoyed before, means that you can revisit something comfortable. When you need to relax, sometimes that comfort of reading something you already know is really helpful. It also means that there is, again, less thinking involved, and you aren’t concentrating on taking lots of knew ideas and plot in.
3. Read something short
I have started picking up collections of poetry, because they are so much quicker and shorter to read than a whole novel. If you are really not into poetry, try some short stories. Reading something that takes only a short time means that you can dedicate and schedule in an hour or two of one day in your week, and start and finish something. Finishing something feels successful, and productive, and if your mind is filled with work and productivity, sometimes that has to bleed into your leisure time too.
4. Read in a new place
I often find that part of what makes me struggle to relax while reading for fun, is doing that reading in the same environment (AKA my room/house) as I am doing my reading for work. Sometimes, physically escaping that environment for an hour or so is necessary. Take your book to a cafe, or a park, or even just to another room of your house. But physically escaping the work is sometimes helpful for mentally escaping it too.
5. Know that it is okay to take a break from reading
When reading really feels like a chore, it is okay to not read. Actually, in my experience, it’s probably not a good idea to read. If it’s not enjoyable, you might not like a book that you would have otherwise have loved had you been in the right mindset reading it. Instead, take this time to watch some TV shows or movies, do something creative, make something, or relax in some other way, until the prospect of reading becomes a little more exciting again. And know that it will be exciting and restorative again!