Must read books for the anxious mind
Ok I’m going to start here with a bit of a caveat. Endless reading of self help books is not the answer to beating anxiety (if indeed it has to be beaten). So while these books have got amazing insights and handy tools, there’s nothing like a roaring good read of fiction to capture the an overactive imagination and lead it, even if only temporarily, out of the anxiety loop.
But here are a few books that have given me some ‘aha’ moments, shifted my perception or just gladdened my heart.
- Thich Nhat Hanh – Fear: Essential wisdom for getting through the storm
Really I’d recommend any book by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese zen buddhist monk, nobel peace prize nominee and prolific writer of books about mindfulness. But seeing as I’m writing about anxiety, it seems right that I mention his book called ‘Fear’ in which he shows us that by looking deeply and embracing our whole experience with acceptance, love and understanding, we can go beyond fear and anxiety to find fearlessness and inner peace. It includes some helpful mindfulness based exercises and is written with simplicity and love.
- Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance
I came across Tara Brach being interviewed one day and she emanated such an aura of love and peace that I knew I wanted to know more. Turns out she’s a buddhist teacher and psychologist and has written a couple of books, the first being ‘Radical Acceptance’. From the title it’s fairly clear that it’s about accepting rather than trying to change those difficult emotions and she uses case studies of past patients to illustrate the principles, plus a bunch of guided meditations.
- Feeling Good – The New mood therapy by David D. Burns
This was the book that first introduced me to the concept of CBT and awakened me to the possibility that what I was thinking wasn’t necessarily true. I found it a really useful tool and has loads of great exercises. It’s one of the forefathers of the self help books and is a classic.
4. Anxiety as an ally: How I Turned a Worried Mind into My Best Friend – Dan Rykart
Sometimes rather than a professional with their perfect, anxiety free life telling you what to do to feel better, it’s reassuring to hear from someone who’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Dan Rykart’s book charts in a journal style his life from sudden onset of panic attacks in 2003 to using anxiety as his ally.
5. Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks – Barry McDonagh
Barry McDonagh, psychology graduate, author and one time sufferer of panic attacks has come up with a no-holds-bar technique to move through anxiety which he shares in this second book.
I haven’t read this book as I don’t tend to have panic attacks, but the reviews are good and it looks like it’s worth a read.
6. The Mindful Way Through Anxiety: Break Free from Chronic Worry and Reclaim Your Life – Susan M. Orsillo, Lizabeth Roemer
I really believe that mindfulness is a useful tool not just for anxiety, but for life in general. So it was great to find a book that refines the approach to people with anxiety. I read it a few years ago and found it useful and lent it to a friend who’d been having some life limiting anxiety episodes and says it’s changed his life.