How Reading Helps My Mental Health

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you will know that mental health is a subject close to my heart. Last year, during 2017’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I opened up about the struggles I have with my mental health. To this day, it is the blog post I am most proud of. I remember hitting publish and feeling fear fill my whole body, wondering if I had done the right thing. It turned out to be my one of my most positively received blog posts, and I was overwhelmed by all the positive messages of encouragement and bravery that I received from those who read it. A year on from that post, my mental health has evolved. Admittedly, since that post were I wrote about how confident and strong I was becoming, things ended up getting much worse. It ended up putting my life on pause and left me struggling to understand just where I had gone wrong in my recovery. I was doing absolutely everything I could to get better, so why wasn’t anything working? I started to look into other ways besides medication and therapy that could help relieve my symptoms, and I ended up falling back in love with something I enjoyed so much as a child – reading.

This year’s┬áMental Health Awareness Week is all about stress. I’ve touched on why I became a bookstagramer in an earlier post, but the main reason was to share my love of books. Reading has become a pivotal role in my daily routine and something that helps me escape from what is going on in my mind. Even if I have a busy day, just cramming in one chapter or a handful of pages helps recentre me before I go on with whatever task is at hand – be it a busy day of meetings or housework. I get overwhelmed by things very quickly. If I have to engage in social situations, I find them to be quite draining afterwards. If I have a big task to do, I break things down into little chunks. Reading helps with all of the above – it helps me relax and allows my mind to refocus after a brief period of escaping to another fictional world. There are days where if I haven’t managed to read, I can find myself getting frustrated easily and it is all because I haven’t been able to do such a small thing like read a page or two of my current read.

It may sound silly to some but when you have a mental health condition, finding a way to manage it efficiently is pretty challenging. There are so many outlets that people heavily subscribe to such as yoga, meditation and exercise. I’ve tried yoga and meditation, and quite frankly, I didn’t get it. I felt so uncomfortable, and with meditation, I felt once I concentrated on my breathing, I started to wonder if it was normal and it sends off a domino effect of worries in my mind that I don’t get the ‘switch off’ benefit it gives so many. Exercise definitely helps. I love to do spin, walk or do weights but sometimes, we need a less strenuous way to cut off our mind and reading has been just that for me. It is my biggest stress buster, and I’m so thankful I managed to fall in love with picking up a book because it has helped my mental health immensely. I love that I can transport my mind to another world and switch off from reality for a little while. I have such admiration for authors and how they have the ability to be able to kickstart your imagination and focus your mind on something completely different with their craft. I write a little bit creatively, and it is a skill I would love to hone, but right now, I just love reading others work.

Another big positive about reading is that I’ve finally found my blogging niche. I was worried about making the step to book content as it was extremely different to the subjects I blogged about previously. Instead, I found the bookstagram community to be so welcoming and I finally feel that sense of being part of a blogging community – something I’ve openly spoken about not feeling a part of before. I now love to write on my little corner of the internet and engage with likeminded people like me. I feel so happy with the content I produce because I’m talking about something I am truly passionate about and it gives me the platform to talk to likeminded people like me who just love books.

If you’re looking for a way to help you block out everything that is going on in your mind and life, then I couldn’t recommend reading enough. It has helped me through some dark times and allowed me to escape from the feeling of constant dread my body has sadly dealt with for a long period of time now. Getting a Good Reads account is a great way to start. You can discover books from all different genres, and I find the reviews to be much more detailed than the likes of product reviews on Amazon, Waterstones etc. If you don’t find you have much time to read after your day, audiobooks are great for commutes, long drives or simply to accompany you on a daily walk, housework etc. There is so much choice on the likes of Audible and iBooks. I didn’t like audiobooks until this year, and now, I try to listen to one per month – mainly non-fiction as I find it easier to learn facts verbally.

What is your favourite way to switch off from stress? Do you use reading as a tool to relax or switch off? I’d love to hear your thoughts below, or as always, you can tweet me or leave a comment on my Instagram. Thanks for reading.