5 things we learned about anxiety from books

Sometimes another motivational Instagram quote isn’t going to cut it, but luckily, there are some brilliant books that tackle the subject of anxiety.

Five of our favourite lessons from five of our favourite books on anxiety.  

1. Thinking positive isn’t always the answer 

We spend a lot of time filled with fear that we aren’t happy or relaxed enough. The world tends to tell us to ‘think positive’, ‘look on the bright side’, or ‘smile, it might never happen.’ Largely unhelpful and yet universally dolled out to those in need of help. “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” by Oliver Burkeman puts an end to all of that, instead recommending a path that also embraces negative thinking. It’s not as sad as it sounds. Burkeman simply argues that we should embrace failure, insecurity and uncertainty instead of forcing relentless optimism in the futile pursuit of constant happiness. Time to turn that smile upside-down? 

 2. Our minds can be tamed

Fresh from a masters in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy, comedian-turned-campaigner Ruby Wax wrote “Sane New World,” a book which acts as something of a manual for mental health. Mastery of emotions is one of her key takeaways for anxiety sufferers. Brain scans prove that if you focus on something that makes you feel calm, the areas of the brain that are responsible for calming you down spring into action. Success comes from practicing this in times of need. Mindfulness is like exercise, she explains, except the muscle you’re working on is your brain. Watch your thoughts – and it’s the equivalent of doing a mental sit up. 

 3. We need to get better at social media 

In his book, “Notes on a Nervous Planet” Matt Haig confesses he used to spend far too long checking social media, starting the moment he woke up. His book is filled with useful advice, but being careful on social media is one of his fundamental messages. He stresses the importance of going to social media with a specific mission in favour of logging on for hours on end with no goal or purpose. Haig now charges his phone in the kitchen to prevent early morning swiping and has turned off notifications, which act as extra temptation. We like. 

4. Anxiety isn’t always a bad thing

The clue is in the title of Sarah Wilson’s best-selling book “First, we make the beast beautiful.” Driven by her own personal battles with anxiety, Wilson struck a chord with fellow sufferers when she advised accepting and even exploring anxiety rather than trying to fight it. “"I wouldn't give it up,” she says. “I wouldn't give back the richness, the depth, the emotional spectrum I've experienced.” Anxiety has caused her terrible problems and delivers challenge after challenge, but she’s stopped fighting and started to question whether it could be turned into a thing of beauty. Happily, she found that it could. 

5. Other people should know how you feel

When you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, it can be tempting to isolate yourself and retreat to your bed. In his book, “ Everything begins with asking for help” Kevin Braddock explains how asking for help in a Facebook status update set him on the long road to recovery during a major depressive episode. As well as advising readers to reach out to friends, family and professionals as he did, he also includes tips on listening and learning from others.


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