Just like a cup of tea, there’s very little a good book can’t fix. Providing a pocket of escapism in a busy day, carving out a bit of time to switch off and live through the words of someone else, even for a short while, does the ol’ stress levels a world of good. However on a deeper level, ones of the ‘shelf-help’ variety can also supply the tools needed to help you overcome your mental stumbling blocks such as low confidence , fear of failure and anxiety .
If you’re in need of an emotional and psychological boost, these are the books that we draw support and inspiration from to help us better deal with life’s good and bad moments. Literary versions of a good chinwag with a close friend, we hope they serve you as well as they’ve served us.
How to Survive the End of the World by Aaron Gilllies, £5.99
If you’re prone to ‘what ifs’ and catastrophising, regularly being told by exasperated friends and family that [insert dilemma] is not the end of the world, this book is for you. An anxious mind is one that expects the worst case scenario in everything from a quick drink with a friend to starting a new job - and Aaron Gillies (you might know him as @TechnicallyRon), with his personal experiences of severe anxiety and depression, knows it only too well. Is this book going to cure your anxiety? No, of course not, but what it does is show you the inner workings of a terrified mind in a way that makes you pause and think ‘Wait, I do that too!’ or ‘Hang on, is that not what normal people do? Is that an anxiety thing? Can I get help for that?’
Gillies strikes the right balance between serious and self-deprecating, with plenty of humour despite the dark topic - including dealing with the topics of suicide and self harm - and lifts the lid on his own troubled mind to give an insight into anxiety which, without eavesdropping on a therapist’s office, you might never know. As well as helping sufferers understand why they can’t face small talk or why getting up in the morning is such an uphill battle, he examines the science of anxiety and makes it easy to understand with examples, both personal and imagined, to hammer the point home that anxiety sufferers are really at the mercy of their body’s confused, broken processes (much like a soothing person sitting you down and telling you it’s really not your fault). The book does contain plenty of advice on how to get help or manage your anxiety levels, but most of all it’s a relatable guide to understanding what’s going on in your head - and that’s the best first step you can make to recovery.
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig, £4.99
Described as a ‘personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century’, Matt Haig’s latest book examines why the world around us is causing us to feel stressed and anxious. In sometimes brief, pensive ‘notes’ (hence the title) as well as lists, rhymes and quick soundbites, Haig’s follow up to his bestselling ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is a thoughtful read that asks how we can stay sane amid ever developing technology, ‘life overload’ and a general feeling of excess; we have access to more information than ever before, more people than ever before thanks to the click of a Twitter reply button - so it’s no wonder our minds are sometimes struggling to cope. With everything from an ode to social media ('When anger trawls the internet, looking for a hook; it’s time to disconnect and go and read a book.’) to an applause-worthy explanation of what the beach really thinks of your ‘beach body’ (spoiler: it doesn’t care), Haig looks at all manner of modern problems and gives ideas on how to deal with them. It’s not so much a self-help manual as a thought-provoking one, but the effect is the same - it makes you as the reader step back from your overcrowded, over-stimulating life and consider where you might need to make a change.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, £10.99
If fear’s stopping you from reaching your full potential, add this book to your Kindle library. Written by straight-talking New York blogger, Mark Manson, it’s full of tips and advice for helping you get out of your head and stop caring so much about what people think of you to help you move forward personally and professionally.
According to Mark, pain and loss are inevitabilities in life and so rather than avoid them, we should embrace them. Thought-provoking and hilarious, you’re certain to come away having learned something new (including a historical anecdote or two that you can bring up at dinner parties) but more importantly, you’ll start to see failure as no longer a hindrance, but rather a necessary part of growth and success.
How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, £6.47
If you read Moran’s regular Times columns, you’ll have had a taste of what’s coming here- think feminist writing that’s sharply relevant, relatable and incredibly funny. Moran’s first book is by no means new, but we turn back to this whenever we need reminding that everything from our bodily functions to preferring to wear big pants and just wanting to sit around eating cheese is totally normal. Moran discusses the everyday realities of womanhood with deft, sweary humour, while also openly and honestly explaining the emotional and physical pain elicited by having an abortion. Most of us will identify with hiding at work, never knowing what to wear or having repeated, burning bouts of cystitis at very inconvenient times (it’s FAR more common than you might assume). From sex to sibling rivalry and highlighting how fundamentally silly sexism really is, Moran doesn’t scrimp on matter of fact, sometimes gory detail, but the humour she injects into almost every subject is genuinely uplifting and has the capacity to make you feel that, not only are you not alone, but there’s a whole sisterhood behind you who have you back, and no they haven’t shaved their legs either…
The Self-Care Project by Jayne Hardy, £9.32
‘Self-care’ - it’s one of the biggest buzzwords of the moment, and one of the most Googled too. We all want to do it but (as illustrated by its high search traffic value), not many of us have a clue where to start. Cue this book, a useful and sensitively-written reminder that it’s something that should be as much of our daily routine as brushing our teeth.
Written by Jayne Hardy, founder and CEO of mental health awareness enterprise, The Blurt Foundation, it’s full of practical advice for drawing up a personalised self-care plan of action and words of wisdom to help convince you that self-care isn’t a selfish thing - quite the opposite in fact. Transforming the trend to a restorative tool for body and mind, it’ll help you take back control of your mood, feelings and mental wellbeing if stress and overwhelm have resulted in you not quite feeling yourself as of late.
How To Be A Grown-up by Daisy Buchanan, £7.07
Relatable, funny and practical, this is a must-read for anyone who feels like they haven’t quite mastered this whole ‘adulting’ thing yet. Written by Daisy just as she turned 30 after reflecting on the life lessons she learned in her twenties, it’s full of useful ‘how-tos’ to draw motivation from, as well as practical advice for overcoming common grown-up pitfalls such as low body confidence and the ups and downs of grown-up friendships.
Written with refreshing transparency and honesty, you’ll end up folding down the corners of a fair number of its pages. If you’ve ever felt uncertain about your place in the world or perhaps tend to be too hard on yourself, you’ll love it.
The Anxiety Solution by Chloe Brotheridge, £9.99
Drawing from her first-hand experiences of being stuck in a cycle of anxiety and her career as a top therapist, this mental health-boosting book balances the personal with the professional extremely well. Designed to help you recognise and break self-destructive habits that have been exhausting your physical and emotional resources, it’s filled with practical tools and steps (such as meditation tips and breathing exercises) to help you regain control over your feelings and actions. A practical self-help guide that women in their twenties will reap greatest rewards from, it’ll help you feel a little calmer and more socially confident every day.
Do you have any mental health-boosting page-turners that you turn to? If so, we'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments sections below.