Tag Archives: Self-help

You Are Enough

Book cover of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie MackesyStressed out? Feeling powerless in the face of situations beyond your control? Perhaps beating yourself up for not achieving as much as you had either hoped or expected what with all this newfound “free” time you’re finding yourself with? (Nevermind that most of us didn’t really choose to have this “free” time.)

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is here to let you know that that’s fine. Whatever you’re doing, is enough. It might not always feel like it, but this overarching message is a welcome reprieve from the constant overbearing pressure to optimize your time and improve yourself. You. Are. Enough.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is kind of an odd book, as far as categories go: I’m tempted to say it’s self-help, in the same way that This Difficult Thing of Being Human is, or The Body is Not an Apology (available via Hoopla Digital as an e-audiobook), which I’ve written about before.

This New York Times article is also a good reminder if you find yourself being hard on yourself for not doing as much as you think others are doing during this time, or not being quite as productive as you had hoped to be: Stop Trying to Be Productive. You can access the New York Times for free using your library card by following the instructions on this page on the VPL website. The free code is only for 72 hours, but you are free to repeat the process as many times as you’d like.

Need more feel-good books to make you bawl like a baby because what do you mean I’m not intrinsically flawed to the point of failure and require a lifetime’s worth of working on myself before I am worth anything to anyone?  Look no further! (Well, just beyond the cut.)

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Can’t Sleep?

Insomnia book cover by Marina BenjaminOne fun side effect of quarantine is a sleep schedule that slowly, seemingly on its own, creeps off axis, until suddenly it’s 3 am and you decide now is a good time to listen to all your favourite songs from high school. What makes it weirder is that, for a lot of us, we are still getting up in the morning and clocking in for a workdayI, for one, am not sleeping until noon to make up for my late nights. So why is this insomnia happening, and what can we do about it?  

I’m someone who deals with a precarious sleep schedule on a good day; some nights, for no reason at all, I’ll be wide awake until 5 am, only finally passing out once the sun comes up. Is it caused by anxiety? A lack of exercise? Too much caffeine? Any answer is plausible, and it’s never obvious. But being locked inside for the past few months, I’ve been much more confident attributing these sleepless flare-ups to the low-grade anxiety that thrums through us at every point in the day. Just because we might not actively feel the anxiety (although, sometimes, we do) doesn’t mean it’s not always there. You might notice it manifesting in weird, unsettling dreams, which appears to be a common trend right now (mine have tended to be about being locked out of my apartment, my car being towed, being late for work because the Starbucks barista had to cook a whole chicken for me…). There is also the strange sense that time is both speeding by and not moving at all—another scientifically documented byproduct of quarantine. Without distinct markers for the passage of days, our brains have trouble differentiating them. Since all our days look the same, it just feels like one looooong day. Next thing you know, a whole month has gone by.

Because of this, the best thing to do for yourself is create a routine. This is something I struggle with a lot; normally I’m too busy to worry about a routine (besides, like, going to work) and I’m tired enough by the end of the day that I can usually hit the pillow with ease. Without anything forcing structure on me, I’m like a bag in the wind. Routine lets your mind and body know what it should be doing when, including when it should be winding down for sleep. I’m sure you’ve heard the usual “no blue light before bed” rule, but it’s true! Give yourself at least half an hour without screens before bed. The blue light from screens confuses your brain into thinking it’s daytime. So as much as I would love to continue my binge watch of The Magicians at 2 am, I know that’s not the right move. It’s honestly all about fooling your brain.  

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The Science of Well-Being

(Posted on behalf Sierra) Through these turbulent times, it’s difficult to unplug from the news circuit and prioritize mental well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us with barren schedules and feelings of anxiety. I myself have been very tempted to close the curtains and withdraw into the comforts of my bed, drowning all worries in Netflix and true crime – a temptation I regularly succumb to (not to brag, but I finished streaming Tiger King in two and a half days). However, soon after this nation-wide shutdown began, I made a decision to take advantage of the rare opportunity that’s come with this devastating crisis: free time.

Big-top Bonanza

Big-top Bonanza

I’ve never had so much of it! Maybe in elementary school when summer vacation promised limitless fun and presented me with Phineas and Ferb’s “annual problem”: “finding a good way to spend it”. Except, this isn’t a vacation, and leaving our homes isn’t a viable option at the moment, so that rules out both fighting a mummy and climbing up the Eiffel Tower. Alas, in search of a solo indoor activity, I turned to Coursera.

Coursera is an online learning platform, founded by Stanford professors. The website has free online modules and certifications from internationally acclaimed universities. It’s a tome of anything you could ever want to learn! If I’m being honest, it was a bit daunting at first: did I want to study Italian? Graphic Design? Water Supply and Sanitation Policy? The world was my digital oyster!

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