November is NaNo Month!

It’s NaNoWriMo season again!

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, run by a non-profit group aiming to help young, new, and aspiring writers to find their voice and learn to hone the craft of writing. It began in 1999, with a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Hundreds of thousands of writers participate each year. Once you sign up and log in, your progress is tracked in real-time, and you can reach goals and earn reward stickers.

Hundreds of thousands of people will try and may actually succeed in completing the challenge, but does it really get you anywhere?  Mmm, depends on how good you are. Water for Elephants began its first draft as a NaNoWriMo project. It was picked up, sold more than four million copies, and in 2011 became a major motion picture. So yeah, dreams do happen.

I must make this perfectly clear: Dreams do happen, after LOTS AND LOTS OF EDITING. Please don’t send your finished first draft to any non-family member to read. Poor editing will kill your chances before you even think of your book cover. Edit, edit, edit. If you can’t pay for a professional editor, then check out some books and learn to do it yourself.

But have no fear!  Cheshire Public Library can help you with that as well. Join us once a month for Cat Tales, an open group for writers of anything, beginner to published, playing with a rough idea or finished draft in hand. Talk about the ins and outs, the how-tos, editing, publishing, development, and more. Read us something you’d like feedback on, or maybe try a writing prompt.  Subject doesn’t matter – Memoir, non-fiction, fiction, romance, science fiction, action-thriller, young adult (Who doesn’t love Hunger Games?) – we can talk about them all. Learn how to take that NaNoWriMo novel and beat it into shape.

Cat Tales has been meeting virtually during the pandemic, but will be returning to in-person meetings this winter. Check the calendar for the next meeting!

May is Mental Health Month

One in every five people in the US carry some sort of “mental Illness” diagnosis – 20% – making it almost twice as common as killer heart disease, yet people hear the term “mental illness” and pictures of unshaven, alcohol-soaked homeless men and babbling old women with uncombed hair and too many cats come to mind (Don’t judge me!).

In reality, that’s far from the common truth. The umbrella term of “mental illness” includes everyone from your depressed cousin, your churning anxiety over political situations, and Uncle Louie, who served in Iraq and spends most days with his friend Jack Daniels. It includes the teen with autism who works down at the laundromat (don’t jump on me; a strong majority of autism includes OCD and anxiety, with phobias topping the list at 30%), the hoarder you drive past on your way to work, that girl on the cheerleading team who wears a baggy size 0, and that guy at work who stays four hours later than anyone else and talks so fast you can’t follow him. It includes celebrities, like Robin Williams, Margot Kidder, Robert Downey Jr, Brittney Spears, Carrie Fisher, Brooke Shields, and so many more.

“Mental Illness” is more common than COVID.

While some introverts have fared well through the pandemic and quarantines, many people have not. Rates of depression in adults went from 8% pre-pandemic to 28% – almost one in three – after. For those who lived alone, the rates approach 40%. Isolation, job loss, poverty, loss of loved ones, anxiety, and long-haul COVID symptoms all play their part in feeling crushed by a microbe. Among children, who can’t always understand the details of what’s going on, rates of depression and anxiety straddled 40%.

Unfortunately, our image of “mental illness” is tainted by historic images of schizophrenia, the king of all mental illnesses, and often the most resistant to treatment. We watch movies such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, while not remembering that these movies depict mental illness treatment from as much as 70 years ago, when diagnoses were vague, medications were ineffective and dangerous, people believed in insulin comas and the disaster of lobotomies, and there were no PET or MRI scans to show exactly what the problem was. There was a time not very long ago when the number one treatment for syphilis was mercury. Times have changed, and chances are there’s actual help for that now.

How can something affecting 30% of the population be abnormal? Here’s a fact: it’s not, but our refusal to admit it keeps people feeling ashamed and afraid to seek treatment. If you feel down, if the social distancing and anxieties are getting to you, if your child is fearful and withdrawn and having trouble sleeping, reach out! Help is just a phone call away. No insurance? No worries. There are places to help you get medical coverage, and places that work on a sliding scale. There IS help, for everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask.

If you feel like life is overwhelming you, if you are worried about a loved one, if you are struggling with just getting through your day, CALL the CT ACTION line (Adult Crisis Telephone Intervention and Options Network). It’s available 24 hours a day, because the worst thoughts usually happen during the night.  1-800-467-3135,  or just call 211, which is the general help line for state services.

Don’t want to feel like you’re the only one on the planet feeling down? Check out these popular books and films on people having difficulties. Chances are, yours aren’t that bad.

The Magic of Mindfulness and Meditation

This post comes to us from our Head of Adult Services, Bill:

“Slow down, you move too fast You got to make the morning last Just kicking down the cobblestones Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy” ~ from The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Paul Simon (1966)

Our world in 2020 indeed moves too fast for many of us! This can have negative effects on our mental and physical well-being. What can we do to counteract these negative effects? Maybe try a little mindfulness…

Mindfulness is a form of meditation and its magic comes in the form of improved concentration and happiness, and physiological improvements that often include lower heart and blood pressure rates. It can also reduce stress and chronic pain as well as improve sleep.

A few years ago, Forbes Magazine published and article detailing  6 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Mindfulness And Meditation:

  1. Mindfulness reduces anxiety
  2. Mindfulness meditation reduces implicit age and race bias
  3. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) may prevent and treat depression
  4. Mindfulness meditation helps increase body satisfaction
  5. Mindfulness meditation improves cognition
  6. Mindfulness meditation helps the brain reduce distractions

Though the practices of mindfulness and meditation have been around for centuries, the science behind it has only recently become more understood. Health practitioners, and even the  business world, have begun taking the concept of mindfulness quite seriously as more and more evidence comes to light on how the practice can actually change the “wiring” of our brains.

Want to learn more about the practice of mindfulness and what it can do for you? This month Cheshire Library is presenting a 3-part Mindfulness Series:

Check out these books for even more information:

Mindfulness and Meditation : Your Questions Answered by Blaise Aguirre

Aware : The Science and Practice of Presence by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D

Bliss More : How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying by Light Watkins

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren, with Carlye Adler

 

Self-Help Books to Boost Positivity

Why wait for January’s New Year’s resolutions to be your best self? You can start any time during the calendar year. Small incremental changes work best, and this is where self-help books shine. Go at your own pace, ease in slowly, and you might find you don’t need a New Year’s resolution at all. This month’s Reader’s Depot focuses on self-help books to bring notes of gratitude and love into your daily life.

Almost Everything by Anne Lamott – Presents an inspirational guide to the role of hope in everyday life and explores essential truths about how to overcome burnout and suffering by deliberately choosing joy.

 

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin – Offers manageable steps for creating a more serene, orderly environment, which contributes to maintaining inner calm.

 

Let Love Have the Last Word by Common – Explores how love and mindfulness can guide people in living their lives and interacting with their communities, and calls upon readers to give and receive love in their lives.

 

Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson – A counterintuitive guide to hope looks at contemporary society’s relationships with religion, politics, money, entertainment, and the internet, and challenges people to be honest with themselves and connect with the world in ways they had not considered before.

 

Where the Light Enters by Jill Biden- The former second lady describes her marriage to Joe Biden and the role of politics in her life and teaching career, sharing intimate insights into the traditions, resilience, and love that have helped her family establish balance and endure tragedy.

 

Nanaville by Anna Quindlen – The author discusses her role as a grandmother and how she learned to support her grandson’s parents by stepping back and following their lead.

 

Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani – The founder of the Girls Who Code nonprofit shares insights into the toxic cultural standards affecting girls today, explaining how girls can transition from perfectionism to more courageous practices that understand the value of imperfection.

 

The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey – Offers a guide for identifying one’s purpose and creating a framework for a life that is both successful and meaningful, sharing inspirational quotes by some of today’s most influential cultural figures.

 

Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manual Miranda and Jonny Sun – The creator and star of “Hamilton” presents an illustrated book of affirmations to provide inspiration at the beginning and end of each day.

 

On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff – An inspirational memoir based on the popular workshop of the same name reveals how the author’s years of waitressing and hearing impairment taught her to recognize unexpected beauty, relinquish shame, and find love in the face of imperfection.