Happy Equinox!

Happy Equinox! Blog post by Aspasía S. Bissas, autumn, leaves, leaf dress, fairy, fae, goddess, nymph, seasonal, seasons, pagan, paganism, polytheism, polytheist, good wishes
Photo by Alise AliNari on Pexels.com

It’s the first day of Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, my favourite season (and not just because you can apparently make a dress from the pretty leaves). My part of the world does Autumn perfectly, with colourful leaves that crunch underfoot, and crisp air tinged with wood smoke, and gourds– so many gourds. There’s an eldritch feel all around that has nothing to do with spooky decorations. And for me, every change of season is an opportunity for a fresh start, so here’s hoping that this season brings the positive changes to the world that we all so desperately need…

What’s your favourite part of the season?

Happy Equinox…

Aspasía S. Bissas

Mental Health Break: 11 Coping Techniques to Try

Like so many people (especially those of us in creative fields), I struggle with anxiety and depression. Usually it’s manageable (I’ve actually found that some mild anxiety helps me write). Every so often, though, for reasons that aren’t always clear, the scale tips from manageable to overwhelming. If you’ve ever had severe anxiety or depression you know the feeling of deep despair that leaves you searching for a reason to get up in the morning. If you haven’t experienced that kind of bleakness, then consider yourself lucky (and also please don’t give advice on something you don’t understand– it’s never helpful).

The last while has been difficult for me, both on a personal level and because of events in the wider world. It’s no secret that Covid is having a negative effect on many people’s mental health. Just the anxiety of going through a pandemic is enough to cause widespread distress. Add to that economic insecurity; the stresses of quarantine and isolation (or going to work or school when you don’t feel safe); people spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories while displaying zero empathy or intelligence; certain so-called leaders and governments content to let the virus run rampant; and countless other things that are making life scarier and more difficult than it needs to be– and the stage is set for more people than ever struggling mentally and emotionally.

I wish I knew how to break the cycle of depression and anxiety. I do my best to deal by working on it when I can and trying to work around it the rest of the time (with varying levels of success). If you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness or distress, the first thing you should do is see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed– there is help, from support groups to therapeutic techniques to medications, and more.

If you’re in crisis, you can get help right now (always keep your local hotline number nearby).

In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention number is 1-800-273-8255 (find out more here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.)

In Canada, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is: 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645. You can also chat here: http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/

There’s also good info here: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
If you’re not in crisis but are having a hard time and need something to help you through it, here are some things that work for me. It’s a good idea to experiment to find what works best for you.
Read a Book: I know, I suggest this a lot. But a book can help distract you, and provides a feeling of accomplishment when you finish it. Make sure to pick one that interests you, preferably something lighthearted or uplifting. If you’re feeling up to it, try a book designed to help people cope with mental illness (there are many to choose from, but Mind Over Mood is one that’s highly praised by mental health professionals.)
Shower and Get Dressed: It might not seem like much but it can make a noticeable difference to your mood. And if nothing else, you can say you got up and faced the day. On bad days, that’s a major accomplishment.
Leave the House: Many people (myself included) withdraw when they’re depressed, which isn’t helpful. If you’re isolating due to COVID (or feel like you can’t deal with other humans at the moment), go for a walk on your own. Somewhere green and peaceful is ideal.
Get Something Done: Pick a task to complete, no matter how small, and do it. It can be anything that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. To avoid being overwhelmed, keep a short and easy to-do list handy for times like these.
Indulge Yourself: Do something you enjoy (as long as it’s nothing harmful). If you have a tendency to feel guilty about “doing nothing,” then try interspersing the fun with simple, but productive, tasks (see above).
Spend Time with Pets: You’ll both feel better. If you don’t have a pet, try hugging a plushie. Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of a soft doll or pillow.
Avoid Things (and People) that Make You Feel Worse: This won’t work long term, but for a day when you’re already feeling crappy, it’s a necessity.
Write a Letter: Sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to someone you like but haven’t spoken to in a while. Think of some positive things you can share (they can be as simple as a great movie you saw or your thriving houseplant). Or, if you prefer talking to writing, give them a call.
Plan a Trip: It doesn’t matter if you can’t go because it turns out planning trips makes people happier than actually going. So distract yourself by planning your dream vacation (or research anything else you’re interested in).
Find the Humour: Being depressed, down, or anxious doesn’t exactly lend itself to laughter, but a bit of dark humour can actually help lighten the mood. Try looking up memes about anxiety or depression, or chatting with a funny friend who gets it. Darkly humorous shows and movies can also be good (I like the 1964 Addams Family TV series, as well as the movies from the early 1990s, and the “Adult Wednesday Addams” series on YouTube.)
Mental Health Break: 11 Coping Techniques to Try, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Create Coping Cards: This is an idea I got from Unf#ck Your Brain. When you find a technique that works for you, write it down on an index card. When you’re struggling, you’ll have a handy set of coping techniques ready to go. You can even put the cards on a key-ring and keep them with you.
Have you tried any of these? What works for you when you’re having a hard time? Share in the comments…
Stay safe,
Aspasía S. Bissas
PS: Apologies for the spacing issues–they’re thanks to WordPress’s fabulous new editor that no one asked for. Hopefully such issues will be ironed out over time.

Book Tag: The Classic Book Tag

Book Tag: Classic Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

It’s been a while since my last book tag, and as an English major, this one is right up my alley. Between required reading for school and personal interest, I’ve read more than my fair share of classics. Unfortunately, looking back, I now realize they were written by mostly British (or Canadian/American) white men (and a few women). Pretty sad. I hope schools have since expanded their definition of classic lit to include more women, more world lit, and a lot more authors of colour. I’ve been working on improving the diversity of my reading material, but I know I still have a long way to go. I think we all have a lot of reading to catch up on…

(By the way, this tag was snagged from A Geek Girl’s Guide. Feel free to post it on your blog, or share your thoughts in the comments below.)

A classic you read in school

Surprisingly, I couldn’t get into Hamlet like I did with other Shakespeare works I read, until I saw a screen adaptation. Then it finally came to life for me. I guess sometimes you really need to see a play being performed.

Book Tag: Classic Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

A classic you read outside of school

Read it, loved it, recommend it. Dumas has a very readable and engaging style of writing.

Book Tag: Classic Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

A classic you didn’t finish

It’s probably debatable whether Gone with the Wind is still considered a classic, but it was when I read it. It’s also the only classic I can remember not finishing. For what it’s worth, Mitchell is a good writer and GwtW is interesting, if cringe inducing. The funny thing is that I stopped reading it only a couple of pages from the end. I have no idea why I didn’t just finish it, but I think it was because I’d seen the movie around that time and I already knew how it ended. I guess Rhett didn’t give a damn and neither did I. Maybe one day I’ll go back and read those last couple of pages. Maybe.

Book Tag: Classic Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

A classic you haven’t read

I have it– I just haven’t read it yet (the downside of having a sizable TBR pile).

Book Tag: Classic Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

 

A classic you want to read

Considered the world’s first novel (and written by a woman), and yet I somehow never heard of it until recently. The Tale of Genji is now on my short list of must-reads (which is actually still pretty long, now that I think of it).

Book Tag: Classic Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

A classic you’ve read multiple times

Did you know that you lose your Canadian citizenship if you haven’t read Anne of Green Gables? Okay, maybe not, but if you haven’t read this classic, you’re missing out. Sorry.

Book Tag: Classic Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

 

Wondering what sort of books get written by English Majors who warp their minds reading a dubious mix of classics, horror, and fantasy? Click to find out…

Books by Aspasia S. Bissas

Love Lies Bleeding: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books, Amazon
Blood Magic: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Tooth & Claw: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

5 Dreamy Book Towns

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Book lovers are dreamers. We dream of other worlds and other lives. We dream of what we just finished reading and what we’re going to read next. We dream of homes crammed with our book collections, libraries that never close, and cozy local bookshops where we can spend massive quantities of both time and money. And some book lovers dream of entire towns devoted to books and then make them a reality. Did you know there are dozens of book towns around the world (enough that one writer even wrote a book about them)? At a time when so many events have been cancelled and travel is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us, dreaming is more important than ever. Here are five book towns to dream about (and where one day, hopefully, you’ll be able to live your dreams).

Have you been to any book towns? Which are your favourites? Share in the comments…

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Probably the best known of all the book towns, and credited with inventing the concept, Hay-on-Wye is home to numerous book and antiques shops. It hosts the Hay Festival, a literary event that (normally) travels to other cities throughout the year (click the link to watch this year’s events online). There’s also a castle.

St. Pierre de Clages, Switzerland

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

A Medieval village, St. Pierre de Clages is Switzerland’s only book town. The town specializes in antiquarian booksellers, but that’s not all you’ll find there. They also host an annual book festival that’s described as a must for “book lovers, amateur readers, history buffs or fans of comic books.” (No word on what’s happening with the festival in 2020, but it’s probably safe to assume it’s cancelled.)

Featherston, New Zealand

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

One of the newer book towns, Featherston has already established itself as a place for book lovers. Its annual Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival, usually held in May, was postponed, but a Words in Winter event is currently taking place until August– key features include author talks and book signings.

Hobart, USA

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Located in the Catskills (New York), Hobart was essentially a ghost town not too long ago. Now it’s a dedicated book town with stores featuring books on topics ranging from American history and feminism to vintage cookbooks and craft books. Massive book sales are held on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends, and Hobart also hosts their Festival of Women Writers (currently postponed but there may be virtual events).

Sidney, Canada

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Sidney is Canada’s only book town, as far as I can tell (something they’ve apparently been claiming since the 1990s). Located on beautiful Vancouver Island, Sidney bookstores include new, used, and antiquarian books on everything from military history to classic children’s fiction. There’s a special focus on local authors and culture, and many stores hold regular events. Most books are in English, but you can also find a good selection of Japanese and Chinese titles. There’s also the annual Sidney LitFest (returning in 2021).

These are just a few of the dozens of book towns that exist around the world (although most seem to be in Europe, hopefully this concept will catch on). You can find out about more book towns here and here.

Aspasía S. Bissas book covers png
If you’re looking for something to read until you can get to the nearest book town, download my books FREE…

Love Lies Bleeding: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Blood Magic: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Tooth & Claw: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas