Monday, September 18, 2017

On Self-Care (& ACK! - A New Picture Book for Grown-Ups)

Let's talk about self-care, shall we?

Over the summer a lot of readers requested that I share more on the behind the scenes of TST, and on the balancing act that is having a real life and running a blog. I started writing that behind the scenes post several times over, but realized I didn't have much to say on balancing these two aspects of my life because...well, I wasn't really doing a good job of keeping that balance.

Long story short: TST has grown by leaps and bounds this summer, which is amazing and wonderful and totally overwhelming. I have more books on my to-read shelf than ever before, and real deadlines. In past years, the blog could slow down when I needed it to because it was a more of a hobby and less of an endeavor. But social media and working with publishers equals more stress, and while I'm grateful for every single opportunity that's come my way this year, I flew by my breaking point and only realized it when I contemplated quitting Instagram and the blog all together because it felt like too much of my life was being spent worrying about the thing that makes me most happy: books.

After a few weeks of intentional time unplugged, some calming and kind words from a fellow reader and blogger that I greatly admire, and a mention on my Instagram that my priorities needed to shift, I've reached a transition period.

One of the things that compelled me to take a look at the causes of my increased anxiousness and make some changes was the book ACK! One Simple Secret on How to Beat Bad Days, and Live a Happy, Joy-Filled LifeThis book was sent to me by the author, Cory Sanchez, and pitched as a picture book for grown-ups who have too many things on their to-do list and are feeling overwhelmed and drained. The book features a character named Jennifer, which also happens to be my mother's name! Jennifer is ordinary -- she's a mom, wife, yoga lover, and chocolate fanatic, but on most days, she wakes up feeling like a zombie. (We've all been there, right?) Feeling tired and stressed led Jennifer to a negative cycle of actions and words, so she set an intention to change the way she thinks about her day.

This is the important part, friends, and it's the part that I'm working to implement in my own days. The idea is to take the negative thoughts in your head and reframe them in a positive way. To take that little voice in your head that says, "Ugh! I hate having to vacuum the house!" and replace that thought with, "After I vacuum, the house will feel clean and that will make me happy!" (This may be a bad example, as we all know I find vacuuming to be extremely satisfying. A more apt example from my own life would be taking "Ugh! I don't want to go to the gym after work." and replacing it with "When I go to the gym, I'm taking care of myself. Afterwards, I'll feel much better!")

It sounds a little silly, to basically talk to yourself in your own head, but I swear it's been making a difference in my days, especially when I wake up feeling groggy or a little more stressed than usual. Having this book on my bookshelf is serving as a physical reminder that I set an intention to take better care of myself, so that I can take better care of the other people in my life, too. (And if you have someone in your life who is moving into a new season and may need a reminder of this, I think ACK! would make a great gift for a close friend.)

Self-Care + Top Shelf Text

Here are the three steps I'm taking with TST as I transition to a phase of new ground rules and as one bookish friend put it, a "return to the roots of TST":

Giving myself permission to unplug from social media as often as I need it. (This is not to say that I hate social media. I, in fact, love bookstagram so much that I have trouble pulling away from it. But I feel better when I set boundaries, so this practice stands.)

Learning to say, "No thank you," to review requests that come my way. I spent the summer saying "YES!" to every opportunity and ended up with too many deadlines and not enough room to choose for myself. So I'll be setting a limit for how many advanced copies I'll request or receive each month, to make room for Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club picks, the Diverse Books Club picks, and books with older publishing dates that have been patiently waiting on my shelves. (Many of you requested older books when I asked for feedback -- I loved hearing that!)

Working on my Newbery Project, since I've made little headway on it this summer. I do tend to pick Newbery Books for my audiobooks, but I have a whole shelf of these waiting to be read! I was glad to hear this was a project that many of you are eager to follow along with more. Keep an eye out for an update on this soon!


Self-Care in My Real Life

To follow through with my intention for more self-care, I'm also taking some steps in my life outside the blog. Here are my big three:

It took a month, but I finally got myself signed up for a gym in our new city. I've set a goal to get there every day after school, and I'm finding the break so beneficial to relieving stress before I get home. I may not have the same beautiful views that I had before we moved (I miss my walking route every day!), but moving my body (for the purpose of health, not weight loss) is what's most important.

I'm making plans for our weekends. We're in a new place and we have a lot of exploring to do, so we sat down to make a list of Autumn activities to schedule on our weekends! Some weekends will be busier than others, but I'm looking to find a good balance between getting out of the house and taking time for rest. Weekends well spent truly make a difference in feeling rested for the work week. Some activities on our Autumn list include apple picking, decorating for Halloween, carving Jack-O-Lanterns, going for a hike, and finding a new date-night spot. We also have a trip coming up for a friend's wedding, which serve as a fun mini-vacation!

I'm getting back into my bedtime routine. I talked about this on my stories over the summer, but I keep to a pretty strict bedtime during the school year. I do this because the littles in my life are truly impacted by the mood that I'm in when we work together, and they don't deserve the version of me that's present when I haven't had enough sleep. (Plus, whether or not you get enough sleep impacts all of the other choices in your day -- what you choose to eat, how much energy you have to put into exercise, the way you speak to others -- it's all part of overall health!) My routine gets skewed in the summertime, and I'm okay with that, but it's important to stick to it during the year. Here's what it looks like: at 7pm, an alarm goes off on my phone. That's my signal to put it away (I charge it in our dining room, so it's not available to me when I'm in bed) and also my signal to start getting ready for bed. I make a cup of calming tea and pack my bags (school, gym, and purse) for the next day. Most days, I also pick out my outfit for the next day. As soon as all that is done and I've taken a few minutes to tidy the apartment in general, I hop into bed with my book. I generally can get about an hour or more of reading in, and it helps to prep my brain for sleep and allows me to wake up at 5am without a problem (most days). On the nights when I come home and ignore my alarm because I'm working on the blog, a school task, or on DBC things, I feel the impact of it the next day, so I'm working to follow it faithfully this season.

All of these steps are helping me to feel much better these past few weeks. I'm happier overall, and finding that when I'm vocal about needing to take care of myself, other people in my life start to express that they've been thinking about how to do that too. No matter who you are or what you do for a job, we all have busy seasons, and it's so important to take care during those seasons so that we don't burn out or drop into a negative cycle. Here, I want to say thank you to Cory, for putting ACK! into my hands and for giving me the push to talk about these things with all of you!


Tell me, how are you practicing self-care in your life?

P.S. If you're looking for strategies to help you follow the advice in ACK!, then I suggest you join us for #ackthechallenge, for which Cory will post seven days of prompts to help you boost your mood and overall well-being. The challenge starts today, so hop on over to Instagram and make sure you follow @ackthebook


  1. This book sounds great! Picture books for grownups are awesome.

    It's hard to know from the outside how much work and time goes into a blog (and the DBC! And Instagram!) Finding balance is so important and I'm glad you are doing that for yourself. It's far too easy for a hobby to start feeling like work and that's no good for anyone (well, except maybe for publishers, but that shouldn't be a requirement!) If it turns to all deadlines and stress, it will affect how you feel about those books anyway. And who wants to resent reading?!?

    I'm really mulling over how I can make better use of my time and work on sleep in particular. Your thoughts about how sleep affects everything else are really hitting home. I've felt stuck in a rut with poor food choices and feeling exhausted for everything else in life lately. With an SUPER energetic 2-year old (who doesn't always sleep through the night), I know I don't have complete control over my schedule, but I know I can do better. Thanks for sharing and making me think this morning :)

  2. Learning how to do this in baby/toddler season has been challenging! (With lack of sleep) But I'm trying to put some routines in place. I also do an evening routine that includes tidying up and reading, so the next morning feels a lot better. Avoiding responsibility usually just makes me feel stressed, so I'm learning it's better for me to just tackle a task and then do what I enjoy. Love this post! Glad to know others are working on this too.

  3. Reading is the biggest thing I do for self care. With three kids, I have found it so important for me to allow myself to take time for myself so I can be a better person all around.

  4. A 20 minute power walk ALONE while listaudiobookan audiobook or podcast!!

  5. Thanks for sharing! I like these steps. You also showed a picture on your Instagram story of the jarred drink you have before breakfast & lunch I believe. Will you share that?

    1. Hi Samantha! That drink is 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar + 2-4 oz no sugar added, organic pineapple juice + a splash of water! It's great for your digestion, metabolism, and skin! Plus, if you're not a coffee drinker (I drink one cup per day), it's a great little boost before lunch.