I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression for most of my life. My escape had always been stories no matter the format: video games, movies, television series, books. When I’m at my worst, I lose interest in these or have so much difficulty focusing that I just give up. Over the years, I have learned a few tricks that work at getting me over that hill and back into enjoying my stories again. I thought I would share them for anyone that may have trouble focusing when they read or who just feel “meh” whenever they pick up a book.
I know there are a lot of people who think audiobooks don’t count as reading, but as long as you get lost in the story, I don’t care how it’s delivered. When my depression hits and I don’t feel like picking up a book or don’t have the energy to read, putting on an audiobook takes the work out of it. It’s also great to double up and pamper yourself with a hot bath while you listen, if you can muster it.
It takes me awhile to settle on an audiobook because I’m picky about the narrator. If you’re the same way, try to have an audiobook ready to go so when you hit a rough patch so you don’t have to go looking for one. When I’m not feeling my best and I have to search through a long list, I tend to get frustrated and end up feeling worse with the added bonus of a headache.
2. Reading in Set Intervals
Removing the pressure to read a book in one sitting can be helpful. Setting a timer and only reading for a short time to keep you from feeling burnt out or getting frustrated can remove that pressure. I like to make a ritual of it, to sit outside at night with just enough light to read by and light a stick of incense as my timer. I prefer to sit outside during the cooler months, but I would recommend only doing this outside if you have a screened in porch so you don’t end up with a bunch of mosquito bites.
This is one of those options that requires you to not have any distractions around so try to find a quiet corner of the house or a time when the kids/partner/housemates/cats are out of the house or napping or else it can spike your anxiety that you’re not getting anywhere in your book with all those interruptions! Which leads to my next trick.
3. Removing/Blocking Out Distractions
This is actually my most used/most loved option. I love my wife so I like to sit in the living room with her when I read, but she likes to comment aloud about what’s happening in her show which is horribly distracting for me. My saving grace has been this app called Rain Rain by Tim Gostony. She can snipe at the characters on her shows and I can listen to the ocean or a thunderstorm to focus on my book.
I get anxious when I’m trying to process too much at one time, so using nature sounds helps me a lot and my wife knows that I use it to cut down on what my brain is taking in so it’s not a big deal. It helps me get back to a place where I’m not snapping at anything that happens around me. I know it’s bad when I’m sharp with my wife because she asked me if I want some water or asked what I want for dinner.
4. Change the Book
Something that took me a long time to accept is that sometimes it’s just the wrong time for a particular book. You may not be in the mindset or the right point in your life to read a certain book and that is perfectly fine. Put it down and pick up another. I tend to find books formatted as letters or journal entries to be easier to process or I might switch from my heavy sci-fi read to a slice of life type of story.
These days there are a lot of books that are written to be comedies and will have you laughing on every page, if that’s what helps you read again then go for it. There’s one particular book that I have always found hilarious, It’s All Downhill From Here: On the Road with Project 86 by Andrew Schwab. I’m not sure if it’s still being printed, but I left my copy at my mom’s house and need to buy a new one so I guess I’ll find out soon. I’m also a fan of David Wong’s books.
5. Put Down the Book
Your inability to get into your reading may simply mean you need a break. Maybe you’ve just devoured a dozen books and your brain is burned out. Go ahead and put the book down and do something else: play a board game, try a new recipe, play with your pet. Being a bookworm doesn’t mean you have to constantly be reading.
I can be a tad competitive which makes putting down a book hard when I know other people are reading a book a day and I can barely get through a paragraph, but it’s okay. I know I’ll eventually pick up a book again when the time is right. My tbr pile will wait for me.
What are some tricks that work for you?