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5 Great Mental Health Books to be Stuck Inside With

5 Great Mental Health Books to be Stuck Inside With

COVID-19 has us all stuck inside and exploring different aspects of our mental health. I thought it would be a good time to suggest books that have helped me develop and ground my knowledge on the diverse topics that impact our emotional and mental health. 

Here is a short list of books that have had a major impact on me and taught me to think critically and compassionately:

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D.

  • Bessel Van der Kolk takes the reader on an exploration of his career and the tools he developed to assist his clients in healing. His transformative trauma research began when he was working with soldiers coming back from Vietnam and noted that typical talk therapy wasn’t having the expected results. He was disillusioned but he challenged himself to go deeper and seek alternative therapies to respond to the challenges he was finding in his practice. This book is essential reading if you’re interested in how human bodies have evolved to respond to stress and trauma. It explores how we hold trauma in our bodies and offers helpful solutions for healing journeys.

It Didn’t Start with You: How inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn

  • Wolynn’s book is an introduction to how family trauma continues across generations. Mark highlights that for many years the medical world has not recognized how serious trauma’s impact is on health, bodies and relationships. Mark grounds his work in modern research and demonstrates that trauma can impact bodies in ways that are beyond our capacity for recognition. The message is that, until we learn to take this insight seriously, we will continue the cycle.

Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-of-control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life by Allen Frances, M.D.

  • Frances (the chair of the DSM-5 task force) asks why mental health diagnosis is increasing at such a large rate and considers how Big Pharma is exploiting this market to pathologize normal, everyday challenges. Frances explores the history of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to give the reader an inside perspective of how it has been developed, who is in charge of making changes, and the pressing challenges of diagnosis in the modern age. Frances approaches the DSM 5 with a critical eye and challenges the reader to do the same.

Troubling Masculinity: Reimagining Urban Men edited by Ken Moffatt

  • Troubling Masculinity explores a variety of ways masculinity might be reimagined in the modern age. The critical thinkers and theorists featured in this work consider issues of race, gender, sexuality, and social class to challenge and “trouble” how we think about masculinity. I believe this book could be an entry point into a discussion about the challenges men face in society and a meaningful exploration of the root causes of toxic masculinity. In this trying time, very few books are offering concrete solutions to the problem of toxicity. This book seeks to evolve masculinity into something to be embraced and nurtured instead of shamed.

A Dialogue on Love by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

  • When I began reading this book I was having challenges related to grief, identity, and relationships. In this piece, Eve discusses her terminal cancer diagnosis and how she grieves for her body, her family, and her relationships. She incorporates her therapist’s notes, her diary, and keen critical analysis to delve into how identity is formulated beyond the body. This book holds so many crucial ideas that challenge secular spaces to invite in a new spirituality. Sedgwick’s spirituality is grounded in the earth and challenges us to sit with the very real way we intimately hold and impact those around us.

These books have had a major impact on my development as a therapist and I hope they’ll have a positive effect on you, as well.

5 Ways to Manage Financial Anxiety

5 Ways to Manage Financial Anxiety

The past week saw a huge stir in the markets with oil prices dropping, the threat of COVID-19, and folks rushing into the supermarkets.

It’s perfectly normal that we start feeling the turbulence at home. Here are five tips to help us refine and manage that “stock anxiety” so we’re better able to manage emotions in stressful times.

1. Recognize and analyze the cognitive biases that impact judgement

One common bias at times like these is loss aversion. We often feel the impacts of loss to a greater extent than the gains we have experienced. Acknowledging this helps us to gain perspective: while highlighting a drastic drop we may be discounting the prior gains we have made.

Another is catastrophizing. It’s when we give greater weight to the potential outcome that would be most damaging. This is a troublesome bias to hold when working with something as unpredictable as the stock market because it moves along arbitrarily and is often hard to predict. This bias accelerates and enforces damaging thought patterns that may have negative impacts and increase our feelings of anxiety.

2. Seek mentorship and peer support

This provides us with a platform to meet with like-minded individuals that have dealt with similar situations. We can gain realistic tips on how to manage our anxiety when dealing with the stock market. In addition, it reminds and reassures us that the ebbs and flows of the market are to be expected.

3. Put things into perspective— adopt a bigger picture

We can use graphs to highlight the peaks and valleys that our stocks show. Adopting a bigger picture perspective allows us to see that these peaks and valleys are all over the stock market and this is not the first dip in the market and it won’t be the last. Adopting a perspective that considers the impact these dips will have in the future can be beneficial for our next moves and it can reduce some initial anxiety.

4. Research

Find an area you’re unsure of and learn. These moments of anxiety are often exacerbated by lack of understanding about markets. We can ground our anxiety and manage our expectations with validated expertise about trends from objective viewpoints that are outside of our own. We can also use this research to challenge some of the negative thought patterns that may reinforce anxiety.

5. Relax

When we experience dips in the market this triggers a fight or flight response in our body that is having a real impact on our anxiety. It is important to remind ourselves that we are safe from harm and practice exercises like meditation and mindfulness to ground ourselves in the knowledge that we are safe.

It’s completely normal to have anxiety when we face financial and fiscal challenges in the stock market. These challenges bring on new feelings of unknowing that impact our bodies in very real ways. It is integral to sit with ourselves, pay attention, and notice how stress is manifesting in our bodies.

The effort we put in now can be the foundation on which we build a strategic response to anxiety with a goal of preventing overwhelm. We’ll feel the benefits now and in the future.