Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Health & Happiness ~ My Hiatus & Reigniting My Love of Books

Hello again lovelies!

It's so good to be back! After many semi-returns (a.k.a me popping in on social media to post the occasional book pic) it feels amazing to be returning to the world of book reading, reviewing and blogging. It's been quite the journey.

This post is about the importance of health and happiness and my quest to find them for myself. 2018 so far as been a beautiful mess of highs and lows. My hiatus allowed me the opportunity to reignite my love of books and to prioritise my life so that I could not only be happy but stay happy.

♥ Read on for my complete hiatus overview ♥

Firstly, thank you to everyone.

For your kindness, support, patience and understanding. I decided to put together this post mainly because I felt that after all of your support during these past months that you all deserve an explanation as to why I was away for so long. Know that it was not at all easy to be away from the book community and that I missed you all so much.

A massive thank you to all the authors, publishers and publisher media employees for giving me the chance to catch up on my reviews and for being so patient. A special thank you to these beautiful ladies: the women of Read3r'z Re-VuJess, Joanna, MariaNenehCassieSabrinaStraight Off The Shelf and many more of my close friends for providing me with a support network when I needed it the most. 

Quick note: This post is mainly going to be about why I took my hiatus, what I learned from it and how it has helped me return to reading, reviewing and blogging with a better mindset. It's my way of giving you all an explanation for my absence as well as a way of letting you know the signs I stumbled across that led me to making some key life changes.

A hiatus is a chance to find your missing piece.

Many people feel the need to take a hiatus in order to reprioritise and to recuperate. It's an opportunity to figure out what is missing in your life and what changes need to be made.

My hiatus boiled down to three key factors: (1) my personal health, (2) my family, and (3) my studies. All three of these factors made it difficult to find the usual happiness - the usual sense of escape, of joy - that I usually found in reviewing and blogging.

I remember one evening I was typing away on my laptop. I was working on a review post - it was 11pm and the stress of the day was weighing so heavily on me that I hadn't even noticed I'd typed the same sentence twice. I'd submitted an assessment earlier that evening and my back ached from being hunched over a computer all day. Everything around me had become a brand of white noise. All I could see was stress. All I could feel was stress. All I was...was stress.

Stress had become my norm.

Every day was a blur. This isn't hyperbole, or a creative devise - every single day passed by in a daze of stress, anxiety and hopelessness. I felt as if I couldn't do everything I needed to do. When I did sit down to read, my mind was too exhausted to take in the story beyond the surface level of characters, plot, and conclusion. I would go to bed at 11pm...and fall asleep at 4am. I'd lie awake, trying to sleep, with a million things on my mind. The buzz of my thoughts wouldn't stop.

I'm by no means special. I know a lot of people who undergo the same - or worse - on a daily basis. But I can only speak from my own experiences. And those were ones that led me to the conclusion that enough was enough and I needed to make some changes.

My personal health was the biggest factor.

The first time I had a severe tension headache I didn't leave my bed for a full 12 hours.

It was the type of pain that struck me at the base of my skull and didn't dull at all as the hours ticked on. No painkillers could diminish the pain. It was a constant throbbing, drumming through my head. I've had headaches and migraines in the past (one of the joys of being a woman and a uni student!) but this was something else.

They were chronic for about six months, beginning around October. It was during the last stretch of my university degree - I was in the middle of writing my final thesis - and had the worse possible timing imaginable. Every time I would sit down at my computer, the pain would be there. It got to a point where even reading a book whilst lying down was too much strain. The only way to deal with it was to curl up and wait it out.

Being there for my family was also a priority.

During the midst of everything, four of my family members experienced major health hurdles. I won't go into the details - they deserve their privacy - but two of those in particular were very hard hitting. Seeing someone you love in pain is one of the hardest experiences ever. Seeing so many people I loved hurting filled me with immeasurable sadness and a sense of utter helplessness.

There were times when I'd go to pick up a book, or to blog (or even to binge watch a show or two!) and I'd feel guilt eat away at me. I'd worry that I was wasting time when I could be spending that time with any of them - that there was some answer to their situation I hadn't found. This cycle of worry and anxiety only got worse as the months went on.

There was a point where I had to say "enough".

Funnily enough I was inspired to do so by two wonderful bookworms and bloggers: Jeann of Happy Indulgence and Annie of Read3r'z Re-Vu. Jeann herself released a post awhile ago about being aware of your own personal health that struck a chord with me. And Annie was such a source of support for me personally - encouraging me to spend time with my loved ones because every moment in life is precious.

The advice and wisdom of these two ladies set in motion my belief that something in my life had to change. I needed time to recover - mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally - without worry, without stress and without my own personal expectations.

My hiatus was a chance to celebrate my achievements and life's greatest gifts.

In the beginning it wasn't meant to be a hiatus. I decided to press pause on the reviews I'd been in the middle of writing up and channel all my energy and spare time into being with my family and de-stressing.

As the weeks went on I realised I hadn't taken a break in so long - a real break, cut off from a pile of concerns, tasks and strict schedules. And I decided (probably around March of 2018) that I wouldn't return to reviewing and blogging until I was at a place - and in a mindset - where health and happiness were a priority.

And the hiatus proved itself to be a useful tool in freeing up one part of my life so that I could sort of the cluttered mess the other part(s) had become. I managed to fit in quite a few things that brought me a measure of satisfaction I hadn't felt in a long time:

♥  I finished my undergrad studies, graduated (thank goodness!) and found a post grad degree that will hopefully lead me to an occupation that I'm not only qualified for but I enjoy.

Got that degree finally!

I got a chance to dabble in another love of mine, photography! I'd help organise brief family trips to some of our favourite places and took in some truly magnificent landscapes.

Recipe for happiness: lots of tea, hot chocolate, garden walks and taking in the beauty life has to offer

My number one weakness = the ocean

I got the chance to do some leisure reading!! Not just reading for reviewing but reading for just the fun of it - from historical romance novels, to self-help books and autobiographies. It was a great chance to develop a deeper understanding of what I love to read and why I love to read.

All in all a hiatus was the biggest gift I could have given myself.

Because reading, reviewing and blogging aren't the issue. The highs and lows of life aren't insurmountable. Your physical health isn't a barrier to living your life. It's the way we look at life that sets the structure of our days, our priorities and how we feel when we go to bed at the end of the day.

We can't forget that we're just human at the end of the day. That we've got faults and that we probably won't get everything done that we wanted to! And that's ok. We're our own biggest critics and we need to be easier on ourselves. Taking a break every now and again isn't a cop out or giving up. It's standing up for your own needs, health and happiness.

My hiatus has helped me find new meaning in what I do.

Returning to reading, reviewing and blogging I'll now be going with a different approach. I'll be reviewing ARCs and review copies still and posting the usual types of posts, but I will be cutting back on the sheer volume (e.g. some of my old posts had like eight books featured on each!). I'll also be trying to feature books I've read for leisure - these types of reviews will be more relaxed and less about dissecting the book than about discussing why it was enjoyable to read. I also want to post more on the book community and the people who have made it the brilliant place it is. Finding a personal aspect to reading is something I really value and I want to focus more on in the future.

I'm still working on finding the perfect balance in my life. But that's what life's all about - progress. Step by step, day by day, we make the choice to seek happiness. And my hope is that all of you will make that choice for yourselves - to be happy and to find what 'happiness' looks like for you in your lives. Because you deserve it 

Thank you all so much for reading this!

Wishing you all health and happiness in your lives (as well as an endless supply of good reading material!). Reviews will be going up later this week xx

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