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4 Books That Help Ease My Anxiety During Rough Phases

by Aditi Balaji about a month ago in anxiety

A book that gives you a new perspective is like discovering a new planet — the opportunities are endless

4 Books That Help Ease My Anxiety During Rough Phases
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

I have been reading books ever since I learned how to read. I started with fairy tales and fantasy fiction, as all children do, and kept branching out to other genres all through my life. Now I read everything under the sun.

Books have added to my life in a variety of ways. They unlock a place to escape to. They provide a sense of wonder and magic, that is therapeutic while navigating the real world of challenges and disappointments.

But the most important thing they bring to my life is a sense of fresh perspective.

Now and then, my anxieties take over and threaten to disrupt my routine and everything I’m working towards. There is only so much that my friends and family can do to calm me down. Books, however, have made a large difference during these situations.

I just want people to take a step back, take a deep breath, and actually look at something with a different perspective. But most people will never do that.

- Brian McKnight

When I find books that resonate with me in this way, I start using their quotes as self-affirmations. Over time, it becomes a full-blown faith. And faith is something that can help us get through the toughest days. Faith can even help us create stronger relationships.

Here are some of the books that have created such affirmations in my mind.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Image from Goodreads

Plenty of people have talked about Sapiens and its merits. It teaches you how the world works together, and talks about why people hold such strong beliefs.

For me, the biggest takeaway from this book is — everything is an imagined reality.

“- an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world. The sculptor from the Stadel Cave may sincerely have believed in the existence of the lion-man guardian spirit. Some sorcerers are charlatans, but most sincerely believe in the existence of gods and demons. Most millionaires sincerely believe in the existence of money and limited liability companies. Most human-rights activists sincerely believe in the existence of human rights.”

- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari

Whenever I witnessed politics at work or sexist incidents in my life, it used to make my blood boil. I would rage at the unfairness of it and break down, ultimately harming my own mental health.

Ever since I obtained this new perspective on why other people do seemingly stupid things, it has helped me calm down and approach the problem with a deeper understanding.

It has taught me to view everything as an imagined reality. The things that bother me only exist in somebody’s imagination.

This is an uplifting perspective. It has helped me accept the things I cannot change.

Atomic Habits

Image from Goodreads

I am a routine-oriented person. I love having a schedule to follow, and it helps me make small changes towards big goals.

Sometimes, I hit a rough patch. My motivation is extremely low, and I simply can’t muster any hope for the future. I start to feel like it’s pointless to work on anything at all.

On those days, this line from Atomic Habits comes to mind.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.

- Atomic Habits, James Clear

This is a really powerful affirmation. When I repeat this to myself, I find the strength to sit down and do the impossible task for ten minutes. And that makes all the difference. I find that my motivation always returns the next day.

Man’s Search for Meaning

Image from Goodreads

When I first read this book, I only picked it up because it was so popular. I read this book out of FOMO.

I never thought I would be able to relate to anything in this book. It’s about finding meaning while surviving a concentration camp! My comfortable, privileged life has nothing in common with the author, right?

I was wrong. This book has made so many changes to my life. The author has provided me with a powerful shift in perspective.

Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless.

- Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl

I am generally not someone who closes their eyes and lives in the past. But I do spend a good portion of my life in the future. Which is just as harmful. As Dumbledore says, it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.

This quote from the book reminds me to lean into my anxious phases. To accept them for what they are. And to even appreciate them, as periods of personal growth.

Paradoxically, this has helped me overcome these phases faster than before.


Image from Goodreads

We generally tend to compare ourselves with our role models. Sometimes, it can get overwhelming.

It’s extremely hard to look at someone on page 300 of their lives when you’re still on page 50 of yours. You fail to picture yourself getting there. You wonder if it is possible at all.

The beautiful thing about Michelle Obama’s memoir is the vulnerability she has shown in her writing. She opens a window into the time when she was only on page 50 of her life. She talks openly about her thoughts and fears. She makes you relate to her.

And it is an empowering feeling when you start to relate to someone like Michelle Obama.

I was realizing that the next phase of my journey would not simply unfold on its own, that my fancy academic degrees weren’t going to automatically lead me to fulfilling work.

- Becoming, Michelle Obama

On hard days, it helps to remember that Michelle Obama was once as lost as I am. It gives me a newfound sense of determination to keep going as she did.

Aditi Balaji
Aditi Balaji
Read next: Never In the Cover of Night
Aditi Balaji

Writing about relationships and all things women. Introvert, fantasy/sci-fi nerd, dog-mom.

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