We’re in September – can you believe this? How has the year flown by so quickly? If we look back at 2020, it seems unbelievable how much each of us has gone through with the impact of the global pandemic. From losing loved ones, not being able to visit our elderly relatives, the loss of jobs, the travel and hospitality sectors severely affected, cancelled weddings, lockdown spent inside, fights over toilet paper, – when you take a moment to really think about it, the enormity of this situation and the mental strain that has accompanied it becomes difficult to believe. With that said though, there seems to be an unspoken bond that we share between us, a sort of humans VS virus unity, and whilst that seems like an awfully odd positive, it’s also strangely calming. This isn’t just one person against a pandemic, this is all of us and we need to support each other as much as we can.
With the world turned on its head for the best part of this year, it’s sad yet not surprising that research suggests a decline in mental health compared to pre COVID times. With lockdown lifting, a “new” normal apparent, but worry and fear still surrounding an unforeseeable future, more research has shown that people already suffering from pre-existing mental health conditions can find that their symptoms exacerbate during this time too.
So what can we do to feel that slightly bit better? Aside from trying to find a routine to stick to, adding exercise into your day, eating certain foods to boost your mood and of course, ensuring you have a healthy sleep routine, what else can you do? Well, back in 2009, a study by consultancy Mindlab International at the University of Sussex found that dedicating just six minutes of your time to reading can reduce stress up to 68 per cent (The Telegraph, 2009). It proved more effective than other popular relaxation methods, like a cup of peppermint tea or listening to music.
With that in mind, we wanted to show you some of our favourites books that are open about not always feeling okay, and show how common that mindset is. These books have proven themselves to be powerful, page turners, relatable to readers and break boundaries, speaking honestly about mental illness and showcase how to find strength through adversity, one step at a time.
1The Wrong Knickers : A Decade of Chaos by Bryony Gordon
You might think it strange to be clutching your sides in hysterics, reading about the adolescence of a woman with mental health issues, but The Wrong Knickers does just that and more. Not only does Bryony depict her 20s in possibly the most relatable way ever – from failed relationships, debt, awful experiences renting in London and job stresses – but she writes about her struggles with Anxiety, Depression, Bulimia and OCD in a way that is easy to understand during a time she was too ashamed to speak about her struggles.
2Where Am I Now by Mara Wilson
The name might ring a bell for those who recall Mara’s young face from the time she took the film industry by storm. Best remembered for her roles in ‘Matilda’ and ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, Mara was a former child actress who writes about her time on film sets, and the reasons she decided to leave her stardom behind. She writes specifically about her struggles with OCD which reminds you that even those at the height of fame, not all is as perfect as it seems behind closed doors.
3Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Possibly the most accurate, emotional, powerful account we’ve read about Depression, Matt Haig’s book depicts his battle with the illness with the help of his girlfriend (now wife) Andrea. The book is separated into short chapters, from detailing snippets of his youth and his battle with staying alive, to his eventual acceptance of his mental illness and advice to help those in a similar position. Reasons To Stay Alive is a memoir that becomes your friend if you suffer from Depression, genuinely helping you feel less alone, as well as insightful to those who don’t know about the illness. If anything, the underlying reminder throughout the whole book, is that there are ALWAYS reasons to stay alive, and if Matt found them when he believed all was lost, then you can too. His twitter is also fantastic to follow.
4How To Fail – Everything I’ve Learnt From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day
If you’ve heard of Elizabeth Day from her hugely popular podcast ‘How to Fail’, then you’ll love this book. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, but it’s the lesson learnt from those that lead you to bigger and better things. Sometimes, we’re guilty of forgetting this – but this book is a pertinent reminder about how failure is important for growth. Featuring personal life stories, anecdotes, interviews and ranging in content from relationships, friendships, families and work, this accurately described ‘part memoir, part manifesto’ is the book you never knew you needed – until now.
5The Unexpected Joy Of Being Single by Catherine Gray
This pandemic has had a really strange effect on relationships and romance. We were told from the onset that couples had to decide if they would be living together or not, which in turn threw (for a lot of us) a spanner in the works. It was either that, or not seeing eachother until lockdown had ended. For those singletons, who were looking forward to going out and meeting people, dating also took a hit and that wasn’t allowed either. Thing is, it doesn’t really matter. The Unexpected Joy Of Being Single continues to be a perfect book for those who have gone through a breakup, have been single for a while or simply want to be reminded that having a partner is not the be all or end all of everything. Catherine writes openly and honestly about her quest to feel accepted without the reliance of someone else to provide that, detailing what an enlightening experience she had by taking a year off dating, allowing her to recharge her self care batteries and realise she was okay by herself.
Do you have a favourite go-to mental health book? Let us know!