As the semester ramps up toward finals week, I’ve been making time to read some self-care books. These self-care books are my go-to books when it comes to treating myself right when I’m under a lot of stress.

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Self-Care Books

Original photo byJoão Silas
My stress and anxiety always manifests in a few key ways. Firstly, night terrors. (Seriously. Just ask my friends who shared a lake cabin with me the weekend before last.) Just because I’m not acknowledging my stress when I’m awake doesn’t mean it’s not there. And because it’s there, it tends to come out in my sleep when I can’t consciously repress it.

Secondly, my muscles are always sore from being tense all day long. This tends to make my posture terrible. And the muscles in my back become an intricate series or knots that hurt to the touch. It ain’t ideal.

And finally, I find myself not taking time to do the things I love, like read. When I’m stressed, I do a lot of extra work because I think accomplishing tasks will make me feel better. And sometimes it does, but mostly it just makes me really tired. And I feel particularly frazzled, since I’m not taking time to read, which is one of my favorite things to do.

(Also, it should be noted that I binge eat garbage when I’m stressed. I’m working on it.)

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So, with that in mind, I’ve created this list of self-care books to help combat my most prevalent stress symptoms.

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Self-Care Books

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Dr. Kristen Neff
When I’m feeling anxious, I struggle with being nice to myself. In fact, I spend most of my time inside my head yelling at myself about what a screw up I am, and how if I were just more organized or more capable, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Naturally, this isn’t ideal.

One of the key takeaways I got from this book (which I’ve mentioned before) is that I am human, and if I wouldn’t say it to someone else, I shouldn’t say it to myself. This is a constant struggle for me, especially when I’m in the middle of a self-hating shame spiral. But going through this book and looking at the sections that I’ve highlighted definitely helps me periodically.

The New Rules of Posture: How to Sit, Stand, and Move in the Modern World by Mary Bond
Like I said before, the physical manifestations of my stress and anxiety are almost always poor posture and tense muscles. And while it would be ideal if I could just run off to a two-hour vinyasa flow yoga class to take care of my tension, I can’t always do that. But I can actively work toward having better posture, which tends to lessen the muscle tension.

If you’re the type of person who hates the idea of a yoga class, or just doesn’t have time for it, I highly recommend reading up on posture and the little things you can do throughout your day to make it better. While I can’t guarantee your results will reverse the effects of a lifetime spent at a computer, I can say you’ll feel better. Though, admittedly, you’ll probably still end up a hunchback whose fingertips have fused to the keyboard. I mean, we all will.

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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
If you’re confused as to how this children’s book made the list, know it’s because I absolutely love it. One of the worst things I do when I’m in the middle of stress freak out is that I don’t take time to consume the stories that matter to me. I don’t sit down and get lost in a story. But I’m actively working to make that happen.

So, I’ve added The Phantom Tollbooth to this list to remind you to read something for fun when you’re freaking out. This book was a joy when I read it at the beginning of the fifth grade, and it’s a joy every single time I pick it up. Your book choice may be different and that’s totally okay. But make sure you let yourself read something that makes you genuinely happy.

Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel
One of the biggest causes of my stress is feeling like I have so much to do all the time. There’s all the things that need to get done for my job, and all the life things that I have to do in order to be functional human who isn’t living in a rat’s nest of garbage. Then, there’s the stuff I want to do that consistently gets pushed to the back burner, and it feels like I’ll never get to do it all.

If you feel this way too, then know this journal may be something that will help you. This journal is designed to help you nurture your creativity and self-motivation, which are things that tend to go by the wayside when you’re freaking out. Ultimately, this book will help you know yourself and remind you that you can achieve your dreams, even if it feels impossible.

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How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith
When I start to feel like I’m not creative or like there’s nothing new in the world at all, I need a good reminder to start looking at things differently. And this is the type of books that really encourages that. Think of this book as a workbook to help you take notes about your surroundings and see things you’ve never noticed before.

While this may sound like it would be a great creative exercise and not some much something that will help your stress, know that it’s a great way to get out of your own head. When I’m in full-on anxiety mode, I can’t stop wallowing in negative thoughts. But this book takes the focus out of my head and puts it onto the external world. Taking a slow and quiet moment to look around is a great way to not feel so much stress.

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What are Your Favorite Self-Care Books?

Do you have some self-care books to recommend? What book always makes you feel less stressed? When your anxiety flares up, how do you get out of your own head? What book from your childhood helps you relax?

5 Responses

  1. I may have to look into the one about posture. I sit quite poorly when at my desk and often suffer from lower back pain, tension headaches, and sciatica. Let’s just say ibuprofen becomes my best friend some weeks. It’s not pleasant.

    There are other areas of self-care I need to work on (eating garbage comes to mind) but tend to get lazy and too damn comfortable in my ways. Oops.

    1. Ugh. I’m totally the same. I tend to eat garbage to cope with stress. I’m trying to get better about it though, just because junk food really increases the effects of stress for me.

      1. I get severe nausea when I eat too much junk food and it often behaves like morning sickness. So not fun, especially since it can (and often does) affect my eating habits.

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