Anxiety is a tricky, often crippling, and scary disorder that is often misunderstood. I suffer from anxiety, and I have since middle school. My anxiety peaked a few years ago. A severe battle with pneumonia, several hospital trips, and a move to a massive city with no family nearby conjured anxiety on levels I'd never dealt with before. Though I had a great psychologist who helped me sort through my thoughts and worries, at the end of the day, it came down to me deciding to overcome and understand this issue.
When I say anxiety is tricky, I mean that one day a certain method of relaxing your mind can work, but the next day that same method can trigger anxiety. I'm a reader in every sense of the word, and anxiety turned it into a torturous activity. For a while, I couldn't sit down to read an entire book, let alone finish a chapter with all of the buzzing, worried thoughts running through my mind. It was an entirely new battle I had to face, but facing it head on and finding some incredible books happened to be the best cure.
Once I could sit down and finish a book, it became one of the stepping stones to getting better and handling my anxiety in a way that wasn't exhausting. It's these nine books that helped me take on anxiety and feel better overall. If you're struggling with anxiety and in need of some fantastic self-help, or even just escape-worthy books, here are nine great ones to consider picking up:
1. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Lawson is a hilarious writer, and if you read her previous memoir, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, then you know she isn't afraid to talk about the difficult stuff. Her goal with this book was to write a hilarious book on depression and anxiety, and she certainly succeeded. For anyone who deals with anxiety, on any scale, you'll be able to relate, laugh, and even feel a little better about your own stressors and anxious thoughts through Lawson's fantastic writing.
2. SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal
Jane McGonigal's TED talk, website, and book helped me overcome my anxiety. If you have anxiety and love to play video games, or any type of game for that matter, I beg you to check out SuperBetter, as well as her incredible book by the same name that includes decades of scientific research on how games change our responses to stress. Full of mind games that will improve your mental health, along with just about any other struggle you might be facing, this book will indeed make you super better.
3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
You might be tilting your head at this addition, but I swear to you, an old childhood favorite may be able to distract you from your anxious thoughts. I chose A Wrinkle in Time, because it's the story of a young, lost girl trying to get it together and find her father (and herself) — all while jumping through space and time. I read this whenever I can't sleep at night, and I still bring it with me when I travel. It's a comfort book for me.
4. Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo
Otto Ringling and his sister are on a mundane road trip back to their hometown — that is, until his sister tricks him into letting a guru tag along. In a frustrating twist, the holy man answers every one of Otto's questions with a riddle. This is a fun read, and one that'll open up a few mindful doors for you.
5. The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
Jade DeLuna, a 17-year-old with a panic disorder, has to face a lot of changes her senior year of high school. With her family falling apart, her friends breaking away, and her own mind betraying her, it seems the only thing that can calm her down is watching zoo animals, especially the elephants, online. As she begins to gain more self-control, her story intertwines with a teenager father. Read this if you're trying to relate to someone else and not feel so alone.
6. The Anxiety Toolkit by Alice Boyes
Instead of looking at your anxiety as a disorder, look at how it can be helpful and useful to you with Alice Boyes' The Anxiety Toolkit . Whether your anxious thoughts cause you to overthink a problem, worry to the point it becomes harmful, or put yourself down over not being perfect enough, this is the book that'll help you understand why you do those sorts of things and how to use these thoughts in constructive ways.
7. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
As 14-year-old Audrey makes steady progress on her anxiety in therapy sessions, she meets her brother's teammate, Linus. She can open up with him and share her fears and anxieties with him, but it's still a struggle — one she realizes is worth fighting through. This is the sort of YA book that's going to make you feel better about your own anxieties and show you that you are stronger than you think.
8. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
This inspiring memoir is one of those books you should read at any point in your life, but especially when anxieties are at an all time high and you're wondering what to do about it. Frankl describes his life, including his time in four different Nazi death camps, and his search afterwards for meaning and purpose. He argues that while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose to cope with it, to gain strength from it, and to find meaning from it.
9. Hardcore Self Help: F**k Anxiety by Robert Duff
Some self-help books can seem like a list of chores. Duff offers a different sort of book; this one includes lots of swearing and gut-wrenching humor. It's the sort of book that'll help you kick anxiety in the butt, and one that'll prepare you handling any anxieties down the road.