Book Review: A Book That Takes Its Time

Book Review: A Book That Takes Its Time | Writing Between Pauses

Do you ever impulse buy something that turns out to be done of the best decisions you ever made? 

That's about how I feel about this book: A Book That Takes Its Time, by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst. I bought this on impulse at Target in late March; it was on sale, it looked pretty, and I was intrigued by the mini notebook that the book opened to automatically. (They know how to sucker me in, honestly.) It was only when I got home that I realized this was more than a fun journaling book; it was a book dedicated to helping people learn mindfulness in a way that is creative and helps ease anxiety. 

Take time to breathe. Take time to create. Take time to reflect, take time to let go. A book that’s unique in the way it mixes reading and doing, A Book That Takes Its Time is like a mindfulness retreat between two covers.

Created in partnership with Flow, the groundbreaking international magazine that celebrates creativity, beautiful illustration, a love of paper, and life’s little pleasures, A Book That Takes Its Time mixes articles, inspiring quotes, and what the editors call “goodies”—bound-in cards, mini-journals, stickers, posters, blank papers for collaging, and more—giving it a distinctly handcrafted, collectible feeling.

Read about the benefits of not multitasking, then turn to “The Joy of One Thing at a Time Notebook” tucked into the pages. After a short piece on the power of slowing down, fill in the designed notecards for a Beautiful Moments jar. Make a personal timeline. Learn the art of hand-lettering. Dig into your Beginner’s Mind. Embrace the art of quitting. Take the writing cure. And always smile. Move slowly and with intention through A Book That Takes Its Time, and discover that sweet place where life can be both thoughtful and playful.

I've been pretty open about my mental health here on my blog (although there are certain things I am hesitant to share and I still wonder if my mental health story would be more full if I shared them--but c'est la vie, right now, I'm not sure if I want them as part of my public history). I've shared about my postpartum depression. I've shared the habits I've started to help reduce my anxiety, as well as tips to reduce stress. I've written about how staying creative helps me be a better mom. I've talked on Instagram about how I struggle with boredom (I get bored very easily, but with a toddler to manage, it's hard to actually dedicate myself to projects), as well as perfectionism and imposter syndrome. I feel like I always need to be busy in order to feel productive--and when I'm not productive, I turn to destructive behaviors, like stress eating and napping throughout the day, which only compounds my feelings of boredom and disappointment in myself. 

Millennial Culture

At the center of A Book That Takes Its Time is the idea that it is ok to slow down; it is ok to not be working every waking hour, even though it has been drilled into us (especially us millennials) that being productive matters more than anything else. That being busy is a competition and if you admit to not being busy, you have somehow failed. 

Each chapter walks you through a specific part of learning to be more mindful about the world around you. About letting yourself just sit in silence for a little while, instead of scrolling through your phone while watching TV. About learning to name the plants and animals you see outside your home, so you can more fully connect to the natural world. About learning hobbies, like lettering and collaging, that give you time to disconnect from the digital world and unwind. 


Learning mindfulness, especially for someone like me who finds themselves thinking of 100 things every second of the day, can be a real challenge. But also at the heart of A Book That Takes Its Time is the idea that once you allow yourself to really relax and be mindful, you actually get more done in the time that you're working. That thought is somewhat revolutionary to me: I tend to think of work as a glass to fill up, that can never overflow. But if you're constantly overflowing, you never really fill the glass. 

I really enjoyed working on all the chapters and activities in this book. It has helped me to relax and really unwind in the evening (instead of lying in the bathtub pretending to relax, but really listening to a marketing podcast and answering emails at the same time). There are some activities I have skipped--like lettering, which is very labor intensive and sparks some feelings of perfectionism for me--but I've otherwise enjoyed just about everything, from learning the names of plants and animals to working on a 30-day writing journal. It has helped me to get back into bullet journaling and feeling passionate about art journaling in the evening. And as a bonus, I have gotten more done since then. 

I don't want to make a grand statement like, this book totally helped my anxiety! That's just not true. I'm still anxious most days. I still struggle with boredom during the day with Forrest and I've yet to find a good solution for that. However, I found reading this book very relaxing and gave me some methods to deal with my feelings of guilt surrounding being busy and working, as well as dealing with my anxiety.

If you're interested, this is a great book for those wanting to learn about being mindful, especially if you're a bit high strung (like me). You can find it on Amazon here

10 Habits I've Started to Reduce Anxiety

10 Habits I've Started to Reduce Anxiety | Writing Between Pauses

I've struggled with anxiety since I was quite young. 

When I was 2, I was well known for twirling my hair. This habit didn't go away when my pediatrician said it would; in fact, it got worse. If you know me today, you know that I still twirled my hair near constantly. Not as obviously as I did when I was 2, but still noticeably. I like braiding my hair or rubbing it between my fingers, or twisting it around my finger over and over again. 

I never associated my hair twirling with anxiety, but I've learned, as I've gotten older, that I use it as a way to comfort myself when I feel anxious. 

The last few years of my life have been defined by anxiety--to the point where my anxiety started to have effects on my health. 

Lots of people have lots of different ways of dealing with their anxiety--and what works for some people definitely doesn't work for other people. For me, my anxiety often calms down when I'm able to spend a whole day cleaning my house and getting bits of my life in order (something I've been desperately wanting to do for ages now). For others, they feel better when they get a chance to relax or treat themselves in a way they normally do. It just depends!

When I sat down to write this post, I thought of every different way I could indicate that these are just the things that work for me and I'm sharing them only in the hope that perhaps they can help you deal with your anxiety. I'm not a doctor and I'm not being prescriptive with this list. If you're really struggling with your anxiety, the best place to turn is a doctor--not the internet, unfortunately. (It's also important to remember that acts of self-care aren't just bubblebaths and eating your favorite foods, but also include self forgiveness, acts of self-kindness, and much more--and ultimately, self-care can't replace other forms of treatment for anxiety and depression! Get the help you need!) 

So, if you want to learn a few ways I've been helping my anxiety lately, keep reading!

1. Bullet Journaling

I've written about bullet journaling before and I know that for those with anxiety, bullet journals (especially as they appear on the internet) can feel really demanding and, honestly, a little anxiety-inducing. But once I gave bujo a chance (and let myself do it my way, instead of feeling like I had to have The Perfect Journal) it was really fun! I spend every evening working on my bullet journal, writing about my day, and filling out any pages that need filled. 

2. Exercising

I know this feels a little bit lame, but it's been a year since I started working out again and honestly, it's one of the best choices I ever made. For me, exercise walks a fine line between "reduces anxiety" and "causes anxiety". I have to be really mindful of how exercise is making me feel and if it starts to feel bad, I take a break. But overwhelmingly, getting myself in a routine feels really good; I love having my exercise time three days a week where I get out of the house. 

3. Creating a cleaning routine

The way my surroundings look is really important for me. I have to be in a clean, organized house. This has been a sore spot for me for a while because my husband is the exact opposite. I genuinely think he could live inside an active, operating barn and be totally fine, probably not notice a thing wrong. I've started doing what I call my "5 tasks" in the evening before bed and it makes a huge difference: emptying the dish strainer, loading the dishwasher, wiping the counters, cleaning the coffee pot, and sweeping the kitchen floor have made a huge difference in my anxiety level each morning. 

4. Reading

I've always been a reader and I read quite a lot, but for the past probably 6 months, I just haven't made time for it. But taking 10-20 minutes every day to read, instead of look at a screen, has really helped me not get my usual afternoon tension headaches. 

5. Washing my face

As much as I love skincare, sometimes I'm the worst at washing my face. But I have found that washing my face and doing the skincare routine that I really, really love helps relax me in the evenings and lets me unwind much easier. Who knew!? 

6. Listening to podcasts in the bathtub

I love podcasts (I've written at least three blog posts about it!) and I love taking baths. I used to primarily read in the bathtub, but I found that actually didn't help me relax as much as I wanted it to. I've started turning on my podcasts as I soak though and it's exactly what I need: something to occupy my brain, but not too much. 

7. Going to bed early

I have this weird thing about "using the time I have before bed", whatever that means. After Forrest goes to sleep, I feel like I have to accomplish everything: clean the house, food prep, whatever. So I usually don't get into bed until 10pm, then I'm up at 5--and frankly, that's just not enough sleep sometimes! And some nights, I just don't feel like tackling my rapidly expanding to do list and... you know what? Sometimes I don't have to. The email can wait until the morning. The blog post can get written some other time. Crawling into bed at 7pm simply because I feel like it is the best treat I can give myself. 

8. Eating breakfast

I've always really struggled with breakfast, as I'm usually not hungry right when I wake up and then I don't have time once I leave for work. But skipping breakfast also gives me a lot of anxiety: I worry about getting hungry later in the day, not having anything to eat, having to find something and spend money... you know, anxiety thoughts. I've been packing simple breakfasts for myself lately--cheese and crackers, yogurt and granola, smoothies, that kind of thing--and it's made a huge difference in allowing me to focus on my work and not feel anxious about getting hungry. 

9. Reducing how much coffee I drink

I love coffee. When Forrest was a newborn, I drank probably 3-4 cups a day, which is substantial for me, someone who never liked coffee before. I've gotten it down to less than 3 in recent months, but even that is quite a lot. Especially since I have pre-existing anxiety issues! I've started limiting myself to one cup in the morning and one cup in the afternoon. Hopefully soon I can cut out that afternoon cup! 

10. Quitting if I need to

I pride myself on not being a quitter. I try not to give up on tasks I set for myself, especially if they impact other people. But lately I've realized that sometimes my insistence on "finishing things" ends up biting me in the butt, for two reasons: firstly, I tend to not do that great of a job if I end up forcing it; and secondly, it just gives me horrible anxiety. Allowing myself to quit something, or at least set it aside for a few weeks and return to it when I feel motivated and able to complete it, has been really freeing. 

Getting Back on Track

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In my newsletter a few weeks ago, I wrote about how I'd been having really bad anxiety lately caused by a mix of macro and micro issues. For me, macro issues are global: things are happening every single day that just feel, well, bad, and it can be very scary. Micro issues are personal, individual, smaller issues that give me anxiety. The macro puts me in an anxious mood; the micro issues push me over the edge. So that when I freak out about a bunch of bugs in my living room that I need to vacuum up despite being terrified of bugs, I'm actually freaking out about the threat of nuclear war. 

For that reason, my blog, my Instagram, and my newsletter have been kind of all over the place. I tell myself that, for the sake of my mental health, I need to take a break. So I do. Then I feel bad about not blogging, about not writing my newsletter on Friday evening so it can send on Saturday, about not scheduling a blog post all week despite having a very clear editorial calendar set up. 

Then I get more anxious about it. And thus, the cycle continues. 

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I love blogging; I love that it gives me something to do that isn't horribly high-pressured outside of my day job. I can experiment with methods here that I can use in my day job. I like having a sense of purpose in everything I do and blogging gives me something to do in my downtime. But I know I can take it a little too seriously. Almost too seriously. 

I get very overwhelmed very easily, despite the fact that I seem to always be looking for something new to take on! I've let myself get too overwhelmed because I try to stay up to date on everything: politics, blogging, what's happening in content marketing. It does not help that I often spend evenings working for my day job, doing tasks for social media and more in the time between when my son goes to bed and I do. 

So what's a girl to do? 

As I've written before, I know I need to work on forgiving myself. I know I live a relatively easy life and, for that reason, I often feel like I can never slack off because I need to earn what I have. As well, I know I need to be easier on myself when it comes to finishing things; it doesn't have to be perfect and my version of success doesn't have to be others versions of success. I don't want to be a blogging phenom; it's hard when the measure of success in the blogging community is a certain level. But realistically, I don't want hundreds of thousands of people reading my blog or emailing me! 

A few months ago, I was doing a great job reducing my anxiety through working out, giving myself real time where I didn't do anything, and saying "no" to new tasks. I know I need to take that on again, so this is a way to hold myself accountable. If you're struggling right now too, I hope you join me. 

I'm Overwhelmed by Email

If you were to steal my phone from me (which, please don't--all I have are 3,000+ photos of Forrest on there), you'd find something really shocking: when you get it unlocked, my little Mail button will show over 1,000 unread emails. That shockingly large red notification dot will stare at you, possibly the same way it stares at me. 

They aren't pressing emails. Mostly. They're notification emails, sale emails, and marketing emails. If my mom emails me, or a freelance writing client emails me, I answer right away (...most of the time). 

I occasionally set goals to delete (and unsubscribe to) unnecessary emails every evening. But after one evening, I forget or lose focus or just get tired of doing it. Then, two weeks later, I realize I have over 1,000 unread emails again. 

I find email totally overwhelming. It used to be my preferred method of communication, but now, it stresses me out as much as face-to-face meetings. The sales and marketing emails are the worst: I simultaneously want everything they're trying to sell me (baby clothes! make up! underwear!) and am repulsed by their methods (those emojis in the subject line aren't fooling me, American Eagle!). 

I'm trying to be better about clearing out my email and getting on top of it--and not letting it stack up like that. My ultimate goal? Have under 10 unread emails at any given time. We'll see how that goes. 

I'm Scared to Launch a Project

I've had this idea for a project (a lifestyle newsletter) for two years now. I've hemmed and hawed about it. I've created pages, hidden them, and then deleted them. I've put out feelers on Twitter. I've told Danny about it. I've gone back to hemming and hawing. I've written blog posts, prepared launches, scheduled blog posts--and then backed out at the last minute. 

I'm scared of launching a newsletter and watching it fail. I'm scared that, like many things I do, it will never reach its full potential because I get scared at the last minute. I'm scared that no one will be interested, that I'll feel dumb at the end. 

Mostly, I'm scared of something I really, really care about being seen as self-serving or stupid. 

The nature of my anxiety is one of holding me back. Some people deal with anxiety by being busy, having schedules. I deal with my anxiety by staying in bed, not doing anything. I look around at my messy, cluttered house and think, "I want to change this," but I can't bare the thought of not getting ahead. I think about projects (novels I want to write, blog posts I want to write, projects I want to start, community events I should attend) and give up before I even fully commit. 

By nature, I'm a homebody and in many ways, I can be very lazy. My biggest critic, however, is myself and I know it: I know other people look at me and see a hard worker, a mom who is doing her best. But at night, I think of all the times I spent sitting on the couch, or standing in the kitchen, or aimlessly listening to podcasts. Why don't I start running again? Why don't I start that project I wanted to? 

Why don't I just start the dang newsletter? 

Then the little voice says, you're not popular enough. No one cares about your blog, or you, or anything. Your Instagram isn't curated. Your Twitter is boring. So I rewind: I unschedule the blog posts, delete the tweets on Twitter, tell Danny I'm backing out. 

It's hard to feel so nervous about something. It's hard to want so badly to do something, but to be so paralyzed with fear about failure. I want to be better at this blogging thing than I am--and admittedly, I'm much better at helping other people at this funny game than I am at doing it myself. 

Maybe one day--someday soon--I'll be braver. Until then, I'll keep thinking about it, talking myself into it. I got so close to doing it, launching that newsletter, this time. Maybe next time I'll be braver. 

4 Simple Stress Relief Tips

I’d like to think I’m a beacon of zen, stress-free living... except that I am really, truly not. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a horribly anxious person. I twirl my hair, bite my nails, jiggle my legs, fidget, and generally act like a personified ball of stress about 75% of my life. If I ever have a moment of 100% stress-free time, I immediately begin to wonder if I’m forgetting something to be stressed about. 

That being said, a mom has taught me that I have to find ways to deal with my stress... other than comfort eating. So here are my 4 super simple tips for relieving stress, whether you’re pregnant or not. 

1. Go for a walk or a drive. 

Sometimes, when I’m in the thick of serious stress or anxiety, I just need to leave. I need to get out of the house, stop crying, stop talking about what’s bothering me. I just need to get out of it. Usually, I will head over to my mom’s, but sometimes, I’ll just go for a drive. Other times, I’ll walk around the grocery store or the park. I always go back home feeling a little better about the situation. More than anything, by going to a public place, it gives me time to think over the problem (or whatever is bothering me) and find a solution without resorting to insane tears. 

2. Read, write, or cut up magazines. 

Do something with your hands! Anything! I’m a fidgeter, by nature, and if I occupy my hands, I effectively occupy my brain. You can read a book or a magazine, or just tear your favorite pictures out for future scrapbooking. You can write in a journal or notebook, draft a blog post, or send a message to someone you haven’t talked to in ages. There is lots you can do to take your mind off your anxiety. 

3. Invest in a coloring book. 

And I don’t mean a little kid coloring book! I recently purchased The Secret Garden and it totally changed my life. Whenever I’m feeling particularly stressed out (by all the cleaning I need to do, by the laundry that’s been sitting, clean and unfolded, in my bedroom for a week, by all the prep I need to do for baby), I spend 15-30 minutes coloring. 

4. Take a shower or a bath. 

Clean body, clean mind? Maybe. I find showers and baths incredibly relaxing. Typically, if I feel dirty (if I haven’t washed my hair or my face or shaved my legs), I find it very difficult to refocus my anxiety. Everything just feels wrong until I get cleaned up and smelling good! Plus, the shower is the perfect place to think, mull over your problems, and even cry... without messing up your make up. 

Do you have something you always do to relieve stress? Share with me on Twitter