3 lesser-known books to help you understand, manage, and overcome anxiety

3 lesser-known books to help you understand, manage, and overcome anxiety

Readers, I have a short but important book list for you today. I’ve struggled with anxiety in the past; mine was brought on by 9/11, and it took a long, long while to get it under control.

In tomorrow’s podcast episode I’m talking to Kristin Economos, a 30-year-old Minnesota professional who also struggled through a serious bout of anxiety. You’ll hear her full story tomorrow—it’s sooo good—today I wanted to highlight three books about mental health and anxiety that Kristin shared during our conversation.

Update: Now that the podcast episode is live I wanted to share it with you right here. You can listen directly on this page without a podcast app by simply clicking the play button below. More detailed show notes can be found here.

Kristin sought professional help to overcome her anxiety, as did I. Kristin credits these nonfiction books, recommended by her medical health professionals, with helping her overcome her anxiety by teaching her effective strategies, pointing her towards new resources, and making her feel less alone.

These are the books I wish I’d had when I was in my own anxiety muck. (Not that I feel like it will ever be 100% behind it, but I am not deep down IN IT like I was then.) Kristin and I wanted to share them with you in the hopes they will help you or someone you love overcome their own anxiety. Books can’t substitute for professional help, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do you a world of good.

Stay tuned—Kristin’s episode airs tomorrow and it is one of my favorites. (Do I say that every week?) We talk about anxiety in detail, and I so appreciate Kristin’s transparency and openness in talking about her struggle. Lest you think that sounds very, very serious, we also talk about book clubs, best friends, and a book brunch that will turn you green with bookish envy (or planning your own, or both).

Would you share your favorite anxiety and mental health resources in comments? So many of us, like Kristin and I, can benefit from the effective strategies, new resources, and feeling of normalcy that a good book can deliver.

Series: Books for Anxiety
Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day

Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day

This handbook to meditation and mindfulness is from the creator of the Headspace app. In our episode, Kristin explains how she was at first resistant to meditation, but her doctor (and a few good books) convinced her it was worth trying. Now she's a believer. In this book, Puddicombe explains why these practices are so important in modern life, and gives very practical advice on how to get started for yourself, with interesting anecdotes to illuminate his points. More info →
Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts

Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts

The title says it all, right? This one is worthy of "best book you've never heard of" status. In this practical guide, Winston and Seif explain how to deal with an uncomfortable truth: Your attention may be hijacked by junk. They explore just what intrusive thoughts are, debunk common myths surrounding these unwelcome thoughts, be they fleeting or persistent, explain strategies to handle intrustive thoughts when they happen (I found out I was doing this wrong), and show you what it would look like to get over them for good. More info →
The Chemistry of Calm: A Powerful, Drug-Free Plan to Quiet Your Fears and Overcome Your Anxiety

The Chemistry of Calm: A Powerful, Drug-Free Plan to Quiet Your Fears and Overcome Your Anxiety

This was the first book Kristin's physician recommended when she sought help for severe anxiety. The bulk of this book is about building a strong foundation for mental and physical well-being. In detailed chapters, Dr. Emmons explores how the right diet, regular exercise, nutritional supplements, and a practice of mindfulness affect the way your body operates and feels. He also explores why anxiety affects so many people today, the seven different types of anxiety, and how we can cultivate resilience for our bodies and minds. More info →

What are YOUR favorite books and resources for anxiety and mental health? Please share them with us in comments.

books about anxiety

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  1. Theresa says:

    I’m one of those people that needed meds before a book would help, although I realized something was wrong and tried desperately to absorb as much information as possible prior to it. Afterward I found the books by Edmund J Bourne to be helpful The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook and Beyond Anxiety and Phobia. They covered a lot of ground and so are books you want to set aside time for going into each section.

  2. Trisha says:

    I’m a big fan of getting through things or past them by doing something beautiful. That beautiful thing that you love doing will carry you through your troubles and then stay with you forever. So in that vein, I recommend Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, for example. Remembering it, there is a part where he talks about ‘diving into your typewriter’ when life throws those terrible moments at you. Follow his advice and maybe you come out with a writing habit too. There is also a book–Yoga for Depression. I read it a LONG time ago. I’m a huge yoga fan and it was so interesting to see something research based about the way that something like yoga can affect your mood. Plus it’s something meaningful, beautiful and fun so you won’t just do it to survive the worst days. It will be something you love on the good days too!

  3. Jessemy says:

    What a great post. Thanks, Anne! Reading books has been an important part of coping with my own anxious thoughts. I first read Claire Weekes’ Hope and Help for Your Nerves, which is just a primer on all the different ways anxiety manifests itself. It has a decidedly old-school feel, sort of paternalistic, but it really demystifies all the symptoms that make panic and anxiety so uncomfortable (ie, you have palpitations…not the same thing as a heart attack). The second book I read became my favorite. When Panic Attacks by Paul Burns teaches you how to write down your distorted thoughts and challenge them. I still use his worksheets to this day!

  4. Meredith says:

    I’ve always suffered from anxiety. About a year ago, I was ready to ask a doctor for a prescription, but a friend recommended I start taking sublingual B12 supplements and it’s changed my life! Things I’m worrying about don’t stay stuck in my head like a broken record any more. The difference is amazing. I’m not a doctor, but I wanted to share something that has had such amazing results for me.

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi Meredith, I have been struggling with anxiety a lot this past year, maybe I should say A LOT, as it has been killing me. I have just added Magnesium after a fair amount of reading and seeing that recommended repeatedly and it helped with the heart palpitations and constriction of muscles in my chest. I have also seen the B12 a few times and maybe I’ll add that too. Thanks.

  5. Patti says:

    I have friend who is suffering from PPD since giving birth a week ago. She had serious anixiety prior to delivery and was and is under professional care. Which of these might be the most helpful or appropriate for her? I will be visiting next week with food and gifts. We keep in touch as I am her MOPS mentor. Any help is appreciated. This post was very timely.

    • Anne says:

      That’s a hard question! I think Intrusive Thoughts might be the one that is easiest to put into immediate practice, but it’s also the one that makes the strangest gift (because it’s not the kind of title you see every day). The Chemistry of Calm focuses on establishing healthy habits in all of life, and that may be a good read during a time of transition. (Wishing your friend well, thankful to hear she has someone like you in her life, and hoping her therapist also gets her the resources she needs.)

    • Becky says:

      DARE by Barry McDonagh is also very quick to put into practice. Super practical book, the best I’ve read on the subject. There’s also a free app with audio clips that I’ve found helpful and a supportive FB group. Can’t recommend it enough!

  6. Casey says:

    I really liked Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe! I read it shortly after starting to use the Headspace app to manage my postpartum anxiety. When I filled out your Reader Survey a few weeks ago, I was surprised to find that the Headspace book was the only one I had rated five stars on Goodreads in the last year or so. Truly life-changing for me.

  7. Amelia says:

    I wouldn’t say that I suffer from clinical anxiety (mostly because I’m currently able to self-manage it), but I’d say I experience feelings of anxiety pretty frequently. One book I’m currently reading with my small group that has been meaningful for me–especially in my moments of anxiety–is Life of the Beloved by Nouwen. It doesn’t deal directly with anxiety, but being reminded that I am beloved by God helps me to cope with the other stuff. Beyond that, I’m all about literary escapism as a way of avoiding my feelings!

  8. Heather says:

    Like so many women, I have my own anxiety story. A perfect storm of hormones, meds, and stress brought on depression and anxiety. I got the help I needed, and was supported by my amazing husband and loving parents. The book, Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff (and her website) helped me immeasurably. I also learned about mindfulness and picked up a few other tools to help me find my normal self. My experience is a black hole that I don’t look back into, but I am grateful for what I learned. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

  9. Melanie says:

    The book “The Highly Sensitive Person”. By Elaine Aron. It helped me realize even though I am wired to let things overwhelm me; I can still thrive. This is constantly a work in progress so thanks for all the suggestions!

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