Raise your hand if you read to relax. These books take it a step further: each one aims to explore or improve some aspect of your mental health. So that feeling of R&R can last long after you turn the last page. Book it to a cozy nook and crack open some self-care.
Get chatty with yourself. “Chatter” by psychologist Ethan Kross is all about self-talk and how negative conversations with ourselves can affect our health, moods, and more. Kross uses behavioral research and case studies — including one about a Harvard undergrad living a double life as a spy — to illustrate how the most important pep talks can come from within. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Sometimes the title says it all. “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health” delves into the ways that racism has impacted Black Americans’s mental health. It details the issues and then maps a route for how to move forward and improve access to quality mental health care. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Truth hurts. “The New Normal,” written by ABC News’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Ashton, combines reporting with practical tips for how to navigate the reality of the pandemic. Step one: accept the current situation for what it is, not what you wish it were. Easier said than done. Dr. Ashton is like your mental health whisperer for this unfamiliar (now becoming too familiar) world. (Amazon, Bookshop)
I’m burned out. This book, which grew out of a viral Buzzfeed article, argues that burnout — not emoji communication or avocado toast eating — is the definitive millennial condition. Peterson details how and why this came about (unrealistic expectations of success, precarious jobs and industries, pressure to create and maintain an online persona, and other fun modern ailments). The article went viral for a reason and you won’t be able to stop reading or talking about the book, too. (Amazon, Bookshop)
The facade can easily crack. For ABC News correspondent Dan Harris, it happened on national television. After having a panic attack on TV, he knew he had to make some changes. This book is the result. It gets into his journey with meditation and his practical tips for reining in the negative voices. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Enter: a memoir about feeling misunderstood. Amanda Stern’s “Little Panic” is all about living an anxious life and feeling like her own body and mind are out of sync with other people and the world around her. At age 25, she was diagnosed with panic disorder, giving these feelings a name. The bulk of the book focuses on her quest to get to the bottom of her mental health struggles. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Come together, right now. When social distancing makes that impossible, there’s “Together” to make you feel less alone. In this book, Dr. Murthy — former US surgeon general — talks about loneliness as a public health concern. He traces issues like drug and alcohol addiction, depression, and anxiety back to this root cause, giving you a really good reason to phone a friend. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Here’s a different kind of trip. “How to Change Your Mind” and its research into psychedelic drugs will blow your, yep, mind. Author Michael Pollan combines personal experience with research to unearth how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief for people suffering from anxiety, depression, and addiction. (Amazon, Bookshop)
It’s what’s on the inside that counts, but this book’s outside doesn’t hurt. “I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying” explores Ikpi’s life as a Nigerian-American immigrant struggling with a bipolar II diagnosis. Her lyrical essays challenge the idea of what it means to be “normal” and confront how our mental health affects every aspect of our lives. (Amazon, Bookshop)
“The Collected Schizophrenias” will take you there. In this collection, Esmé Weijun Wang —a former researcher at Stanford — explores her diagnosis with schizoaffective disorder. She writes about everything from disagreements over labeling mental illness within the medical community to using fashion as a coping mechanism, blending personal narrative with rigorous research. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Burn the wick instead of burning out. If only it were that simple. As women, it’s especially hard to avoid the stress cycle. This book about burnout, written by sisters Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., and Amelia Nagoski, D.M.A., details why women experience burnout differently than men, and how we can lighten our stress load. (Amazon, Bookshop)
What about an ancient proverb? Author Sarah Wilson found one to unlock her lifelong struggle with anxiety, and reframe it in a more manageable light. Some of her practical tips to living with the “Beast” include eating to curb anxiety, starting a gratitude ritual, and studying people through history who’ve dealt with anxiety. Oh, and letting go of FOMO — a good idea when we’re not socializing as much as we once were. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Drop the f-bomb. As in, failure. This book, inspired by a popular podcast of the same name, is British journalist Elizabeth Day’s journey through failure and how we can learn from it. Hint: it’s not the failure, it’s how we respond to it. If your mental health struggles stem from striving for perfection or negative self-talk around failure, this book will be your friend. (Amazon)
Remember you have as many hours in the day as Tina Turner. And it turns out the music icon is also an author and wisdom dispenser. In this book, she writes about her journey with Buddhism, and how it’s given her a template for living a happier life. Simply the best. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Terese Marie Mailhot can relate. After a tough upbringing and a post-traumatic stress and bipolar II diagnosis, she grabbed a notebook and started “writing her way out of trauma.” And this book was born. It’s an intimate portrayal of a woman in crisis, climbing her way back into the world with a pen as her vehicle. (Amazon, Bookshop)
How does vicarious group therapy sound? “Group” by Christie Tate is a hilarious and gutting memoir about one woman’s mental health struggles (including body image and suicidal thoughts) and how they improved with group therapy. Mix an unconventional therapist, a razor-sharp lawyer-slash-writer, a wild cast of group members...and stir for a book you’ll binge. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Now exhale. In this book, journalist James Nestor travels the world to discover how humans are supposed to breathe and all the benefits that breathing correctly has on our mental health. Because modern research shows that adjusting your breathing patterns can solve a whole host of issues. Nama’stay breathing. (Amazon, Bookshop)
PS: If you buy anything from this, theSkimm may get something in return. Oh, and if something’s out of stock, oops, it was there when we published. Thanks.
Skimm’d by Becky Murray, Avery Carpenter Forrey, and Jane Ackermann
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