I had so many thoughts about this wonderful little book that I’ve been driven into productivity (which is saying something in itself). As much as I would love for this to be a review of the book in product-review format, it’s not going to be. It’s going to be reflective, because this isn’t just a book or a product or even a guide; it’s something wholly personal.
Something about self-care ‘guides’ has always rubbed me the wrong way. I think the list of alternate activities approach reminds me too much of “things to do instead of bingeing” (which, by the way, tends to look identical to the lists “things to do instead of self harming” and also, a little ironically, “things to do instead of eating”). Anastasia Tasou’s book does not look anything like this. Instead, unlike a set little list, this book caters to a wider audience. What works as self care for one person does not necessarily work for someone else: going for a walk or run might be good for you, could be detrimental to someone who’s fighting calorie counting.
What Anastasia knows well, and what works for her, is art. And whilst creative outlets perhaps aren’t for everyone, the way in which she invites you to just give it a try (she reminds you that what you create is for you, not for others) are welcome. There’s something incredibly personal about the book, almost in a relationship way: she has written it, shared her thoughts and been open without being negative or giving explicit detail (I think here of memoirs as a juxtaposition, perhaps), and then invites you (yes, you personally, and only you, it feels) to then reciprocate and react and share how you too feel and think. I’ve never owned any kind of book that feels like a two-way street. I like it a lot, it feels satisfying, and it feels like I am in someway important, too.
I feel like this book is a Class A example of how to combine personal experience and knowledge (because who is more an expert on our mental health than ourselves?), positive vibes and constructive energy, and also how to make the reader an active participant. Not just the use of “you” or creative tasks for us to do and blank pages to fill, but also because there is this shared understanding. Anastasia is talking to us (me) with the understanding that I am in some way needing this book, needing someone to remind me that though things are tough I’m pretty tough too (and if I’m not feeling tough enough, she’s handed me some exercises and tools to help me out in the means of drawing, writing and list-building).
Though, perhaps the most important thing I got out of reading Anastasia’s book isn’t just a reminder that I’m not so bad (and also it somehow reminded me that sometimes I use ‘self care’ acts as excuses to be unproductive .. Probably because I’ve had a pretty poo two weeks and read the book in the bath, instead of applying for much needed jobs or unpacking the new flat. Good one, Katya!) – it reminded me that there are people who are using their experiences for good and to help others. I’ve spent the last year wanting to go into schools and work with young people on mental health and alternative coping strategies, teaching body positivity and sharing personal experiences. I haven’t just thought about this: I’ve talked about it fairly extensively, to friends and contacts and even companies. But, I have done absolutely nothing practical in regards to actually doing it – which is pretty frickin’ dumb, as I’m wellplaced to pull something like it off. This book was a reminder, in the same way that Ruby Etc.’s comics and Hannah Snowdon’s openness and honesty in all that she does, and also in the academic setting an increase in service-user research (see amazing charity MQ, as an example) and my #1 Prof. Diana Rose, are all reminders that there are a group of people out there who are turning what could be a really shite time of their lives into something useful and educational. I cannot think of anything more helpful and worthwhile.
So, thank you to Anastasia for not only creating a book that I know I can sit myself down in front of when I’m feeling like the upside down smiling emoji incarnate, but also for reminding me that I have the ability to use my experiences for the power of good.
You can find Anastasia’s book here, for just £12! Make sure to check out some of her other products, too, and give her a follow on Instagram at @anastasia.tasou 🌿