Can a book help you if you are stressed or overwhelmed or depressed?
Yes, it totally can. BUT it’s always sensible to mix being self-reliant with a bit of involvement from other people; so reading a great book doesn’t mean that sometimes we might need someone else’s help as well; wether that’s a chat with a mate, or a session with a professional.
There are some amazing books out there based on both solid theory and practical testing, which really work when dealing with emotional or mental health.
There are also some shockingly awful ones, that might sound impressive, but should be avoided with a barge pole.
What to avoid
Anything that mentions the word ‘Happy‘ – it’s not possible to be happy all the time, you will drive yourself crazy.
Anything that mentions becoming more ‘Positive‘ – although balancing ‘negative’ thinking with some ‘positive’ is wise, you can’t be positive all the time
Anyone offering world peace – yep, that’s not going to happen either. Philosophically speaking, true spirituality/religion will match science; and we will always have a duality in this world of ours.
Anyone mentioning the ‘Law of Attraction‘ – at least 90% of these people don’t understand the full law and think that by focussing on what you want you will only attract those positive things into your life.
Anyone suggesting they can quickly or completely fix you and that you’ll never have to do anything about it again – yep, that’s just not the way the world works; they are probably actually very well meaning, but naive.
Books that really helped me
I have a HUGE bookshelf full of books on health, personal development, therapy and spirituality even after several massive culls. However, a small number of books have been crucial to my life. I’m listing them in order of reading, rather than priority:
Dr Phil Mcgraw
Life Strategies – He might not suit everyone, but this short, pragmatic, straight talking book was a real help to me a long time ago and I think his ‘rules’ help us ‘romantics’ to get a firmer grip on reality and how life actually is.
‘Loving What Is’ – Byron created a method called ‘The Work’ which is 4 simple questions and brilliant at dealing with some of the stresses about how people behave in our lives. I find it particularly useful from a Mum’s perspective and having only read the book (I haven’t had sessions from practitioners of ‘The work’) I can apply what she calls the ‘turn around’ to probably 80% of irritations.
Dr John F Demartini
Many books – this guy is my mentor, and I’ve studied with him for 10yrs now. He has studied more than anyone else in this field and created a great methodology for resolving stress and trauma. The most important part of his philosophy is the power of gratitude. The only problem with his work practically speaking is that if you are a busy mum juggling many things, his books might be a little too complex and challenging to start off with. They are definitely a good place to end up though. If you are into what makes people tick, then I would go for ‘The Heart of Love’. For an introduction into gratitude ‘The Gratitude Effect’ is great. For a full on introduction to his methodology go for ‘The Breakthrough Experience’ (but expect to find it challenging).
The Secret – I watched the DVD, which I think is better than the book. I would add a HUGE health warning to it as it has loads of all the things that I said you should avoid. However, it was a brilliant pick-me-up at a time when I really needed one, and being a DVD it really gets the message across that there is a lot we can control about how we think about life.
The Magicians Way – I love the simplicity of this book and the way that it is woven into a story, which makes it subtle and recommended to re-read.
The Artists Way – I’ve only just started doing this, but one aspect that she recommends I’d funnily enough also recommended in my book (she calls it the ‘morning pages’, whereas I had a section about writing our problems down). It’s a 3 month course you do yourself and is both therapeutic and also great for anyone who wants to improve the creativity in their lives. Personally I would do it in a group or with a mate and not on your own. A friend of mine who studied counselling for years said that she got more from this course than everything she had done previously, which is a huge testimonial.
Can Depression Really Go Away?
When I say ‘help’, what do I mean? Do I mean, ‘improve’, ‘change’ or ‘fix’?
I was involved in an interesting talk about this on a Facebook group the other day (which inspired me to at last write this post). It’s an interesting quandary; to give depression enough importance for it to be tackled and dealt with effectively, without giving it too much power and suggesting that it has to rule our lives forever. Remember that the stats suggest that 1 in 4 of us will at some point struggle with our emotional and mental health, but there is a huge range a difference in the types.
The difficultly is that the symptoms of depression make it tough for sufferers to have the energy to get help. Then they have to find enough energy to get the right kind of help. It does often feel like a lottery as to who does and doesn’t get good help and can be a hard slog. It can be a lot quicker to get help privately than via the NHS, but it can be a minefield to find a good therapist privately and understand all the different options.
So can depression ever really go away? Or is that only possible if you have a lighter form of it?
From my experience both personally in my life and having specialised for a many years with helping people with serious mental health issues I would say the answer is neither ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
For some people the depression might be a fleeting thing caused by life events, which once they have received some help, will recede probably never to return.
For others of us who succumb more frequently due to habits in the way that we think and see life, we might have to have considerable help in the beginning, but over the years become more and more capable of managing ourselves and the blips; therefore only having to touch in with external help every now and again. So it’s more that we learn to make sure we stay above the red line and know the warning signs of trouble coming so can get help more quickly.
For those were it extends to chemical imbalances, it is still possible to get it under control, but practically speaking there is more work to be done, and I’m not sure that standard treatment for mental health will really get people as far as some alternative therapies, which of course have the downside of being private.
So yes, I think at the very least it can be managed and improved, it might even appear to ‘go away’. But I for me it doesn’t feel as though I could now go off and forget to drink water, eat healthily, exercise, and manage my life and thoughts carefully. I don’t mind having to do those things as they have other benefits to the quality of my life, but I couldn’t stop. Maybe in another 10yrs it will be different; I hardly ever remember that I smoked for 10yrs having been ‘clean’ for over 15yrs now. Perhaps I will gain greater trust in my system to maintain itself as the years go by.
Whatever your particular situation, just remember that you are not alone, there’s nothing to feel guilty for, look after yourself physically as much as you can, get some help and don’t put up with sub-standard help or prejudiced attitudes.
If you have a favourite book that has helped you, I’d love it if you would post it below, or a blog post about books that you enjoyed.
Or if you try any of these books, please do let me know and if you have any questions about them I’m always here.