Hello! It’s me, Anna-Marie, I’m back again writing another blog post for the most amazing company Lulu Press. My past posts have been reviews and how-tos, however, this time I wanted to dig a little deeper and open up a bit more. Being that May is Mental Health Awareness month I want to share with you all about my mental health journey and how reading has saved me multiple times from falling into a very dark hole. I hope my experiences shed some light on the benefits of reading in regards to mental health because if it has saved my life, and I believe it can help others as well.
Everyone Needs to Escape Sometimes
When I was younger I had a very difficult home life. Like many other people around the world, I was not born into a “nuclear family.” My father had issues that he was not able to work on, so he took it out on my family. Unfortunately, my home was not a safe place for me.
Even when my mother and father separated, there was still dysfunction due to the trauma we experienced. As a child that’s a lot to take on, and I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions and the constant anxiety. The reality of my life was too much to bear at certain points and I needed a break, and that’s where reading came in.
Reading was the one place I could go and dive into someone else’s life, and not have to think about my own. It was like a mini-vacation, and we all know everyone needs a vacation. Some say escaping reality could be bad for you, that you need to face your problems head-on. But who doesn’t escape reality at some point in their life?
In my experience, it was beneficial. Reading became an outlet for me and gave me an opportunity to de-stress, and focus on myself rather than focusing on everyone else. Being able to immerse myself into a story helped my brain and body relax, and I finally wasn’t in constant fight or flight mode. Since reading allowed me to relax, I was able to calm down, and really process the things I was going through.
Reading not only gave me a well-needed break but also helped me cope with the high anxiety I was experiencing.
The Science Behind Reading And Mental Health
It’s understandable if some of you reading this are still uncertain about the benefits reading can have on your mental health, however, there have been studies done that show that it can lower your stress levels. According to a 2009 study at the University of Sussex:
[S]tress is reduced up to 68% just by reading! Only six minutes of reading can slow down the heart rate and improve overall health! It calms the mind and relaxes the body. This will not only help prevent potential conditions caused by stress but will also set a person up with a clearer mind.
You can check out the full article here.
Everyone Needs Something or Someone to Relate To
In my teenage years, I was diagnosed with PTSD. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Getting diagnosed with that in my early teenage years was hard for me. I felt alone. I felt like an outcast to my peers because I couldn’t control my flashbacks and emotions during school if something triggered me. And I know many of my peers thought I was faking it and couldn’t really understand where I was coming from. It made me isolate myself more because I was afraid of what others thought of me. So what did I turn to when I was in need of help?
I turned to my books and my love of reading. I started researching more on what PTSD meant, how I could help myself, and I started to find that I wasn’t alone. There were plenty of people going through the same thing I was going through.
Reading people’s books on their experience with PTSD and how they overcame or helped themselves, gave me a different perspective than my own, and it also validated my feelings. It slowly brought me out of my negative thoughts and gave me hope that I too can get through this because many people before me have.
Finding books that can relate to what you’re going through in your own life, really can help you change the way you think about yourself and your situation, and you indirectly feel like you have a community of people backing you. Being able to relate to other people, and hear other stories, I was able to open up more to the people I trusted the most with what I was going through. If it wasn’t for all the books I’ve read I don’t think I would have been able to heal as quickly as I did.
For everyone reading this, if you are struggling with mental health, please know you are not alone. There are plenty of books and people out there that are going through similar situations, so if you feel alone, research a book that can help you, or reach out to someone.
Everyone Needs a Good Night’s Rest
As an adult, I still struggle with my mental health and constantly try to overcome my anxiety. Something that has come up for me in my adult life is that I have trouble sleeping.
My brain rarely shuts off. I’m constantly in a state of overthinking, which has caused me many sleepless nights. Then the more I think about not sleeping the less sleep I get. It’s a vicious cycle. My nighttime routine used to be watching television until I was tired enough to fall asleep.
But I’ve done some research and experts say that looking at screens is not beneficial right before you sleep. They recommend reading a book.
Cell phone and computer screens, like your television, create a bright light when they are operating. While this illumination fills your dark bedroom, your body has a hard time sleeping. When reading your eyes will be focused on paper pages instead of a device that is lit up even though there is a lamp on. Starting this activity an hour before you want to go to bed will help your body transition away from the glare of technology and assist it in falling asleep.
If you want to read more on this topic please visit this article.
I decided to try out reading before bed because I was desperate for a good night’s sleep. And believe it or not, it works! Many times I fall asleep with the book in my hand, and I am able to sleep through the whole night.
I feel like this also relates to what I’ve said before on escaping reality. Because I’m so involved in the plot of the book my brain turns its attention to what I’m reading rather than my constant thoughts. Staring at a book rather than a screen right before bed is less straining on your eyes and your brain equates it to relaxation mode.
So if you ever awake at an ungodly hour desperate for some shut-eye, I highly recommend reading a book that you like, or even a book that’s super boring. It will definitely put you right to sleep.
Being vulnerable and opening up about my past experiences and my mental health doesn’t come easily to me. But I hope shedding light on what I went through, and what helped me can help others who are struggling with their own mental health.
If you are struggling and need to de-stress, pick up a book, there are many benefits. You’re able to take a break from your own life, it helps with stress levels, it helps you to relate to others and makes you feel less alone, and if you struggle with sleep as many people do, reading can help that as well.
Even though reading has helped me, that is not the only factor that contributed to bettering my mental health. So while reading can definitely help you cope and relax it won’t solve all of your problems. If you are going through it, please reach out to someone. Mental Health is something we need to be talking about constantly because it is just as important as physical health. Normalizing the conversation about mental health allows people to talk more and ultimately get the help they need.