Mental Health Awareness Week (18th-24th May 2020) feels very timely this year. This year’s theme is kindness, which I’ve mentioned a few times already this year. I’m sure a lot of you have found that your mental health has taken a bit of a battering. Even if pre-pandemic you thought of yourself emotionally resilient, there will have been times over the past few months that this will have been tested. Reading has been a sanctuary for me. I’ve been reading much more than I did before. Agatha Christie, spy thrillers, dinosaurs, musical scores, Thomas Cromwell. I’m nothing if not eclectic in my tastes.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, and the fact that I’ve actually had chance to read a book from cover to cover, I’ve decided to write about three books that have helped me to contend with mental health challenges. I’ve linked the books to a local independent bookshop here in Norwich, because Amazon will survive the pandemic, like a cockroach after nuclear testing.
This is in no way intended to replace professional medical help. Please, please talk to your GP, nurse or mental health professional if you are having symptoms that you are finding hard to manage yourself. There are loads of great resources on the Mental Health Awareness Week website.
The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee
Dr Chatterjee has written three books and as a GP he has encountered lots of people who are struggling with the emotional and physical effects of poor mental health. The Stress Solution breaks down the causes of stress and helps to find a way through with manageable activities. He is a compassionate and accessible writer and he also has a podcast, Feel Better, Live More which is well worth a listen.
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
This is a gentle, thorough and well written introduction to mindfulness and meditation. It follows an 8-week course of mindfulness that is practical. The authors don’t sugarcoat the process – they know that some parts of learning to meditate and be mindful are difficult. This book helps you build a long-term sustainable mindfulness practice. I love the bit that says ‘week eight is the rest of your life’. Truth.
The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I was a total skeptic of the KonMari method. I thought it was a swizz, how can tidying up change your life? It’s a chore and something to be done as quickly as possible. Well, come the first week of lockdown I binged her Netflix series. I needed something non-scary, non-gruesome. A seed was sown. A few days later, I set about my wardrobe, then the chest of draws, bedside tables, jewellery box, make up. I get it now. I have a system in my bedroom now. Everything has a place and I have kept things that I love and mean something to me.
And now, when I open my wardrobe, I get a little dopamine hit from looking inside. What has this got to with mental health? Her approach places respect and value on yourself as well as your possessions. Also, there is calm and peace to be found in organisation. This is a manga graphic novel written by Kondo, and it definitely sparks joy. NB the rest of my house has NOT been Kondo’d and it shows.