Reading, Your Brain, and Mental Health

It’s Guest Blogger time again!

This time it’s from @NLOAnxiety on Twitter. I think this post is incredibly important and really opens up discussion over the importance of reading and the connection with Anxiety.


 

Reading, Your Brain, and Mental Health

 

People are in a constant search for the newest and best of everything. What is the latest treatment for anxiety? What is the best way to feel calm? How can the latest technological innovations lead to a newfound sense of peace and tranquility?

Surely, there is great benefit that comes with pushing forward and looking for modern solutions to old problems, but there is a catch. When people are so focused on the future, there is a tendency to lose track of the past.

Then, you begin to ignore the tried and true solutions that have worked for so many over the course of not days, not years, not decades, but millennia. Such is the case with reading.

Reading is not glamorous. It is not fashionable. It is not pushing the limits of technology or advancement. In a lot of ways, it’s boring.

Despite its shortcomings, reading is a fantastic exercise for the mind that produces and strengthens the characteristics you are looking to build.

However, not all reading is equal. Reading a biographical account of a noteworthy historical figure written by a respected author is quite different than scanning your favorite checkout line headlines.

Reading a classic novel bursting with tension about characters consumed by unclear motivations varies greatly from clicking through an article about celebrities who look differently than they did 30 years ago.

To benefit from reading, you have to be reading quality material that is of interest to you. So, how exactly does reading help anxiety and mental health overall?

 

Gaining Information

 

Where do you get your information? Where do you get your news? What sources do you consult for pivotal periods of history?

There is a tremendous amount of information available in the world, which means there is even more misinformation surrounding you. Seeking out and reading valid and reliable sources will make you a better-informed citizen who is able to form opinions and make choices based on accurate data.

If you base all of your political information of what your neighbor tells you or what you read on a conspiracy website, you might be missing some facts. The truth will serve to diminish stigmas and prejudice others suffer.

 

Witnessing Communication

 

People with anxiety often struggle to communicate their feelings, thoughts, and opinions effectively to others. They just do not know how to begin.

Books are a great source of communication. By reading and noting the interactions between characters, you will construct a basis of communication that you can apply to your relationships.

Does the protagonist falter due to being too aggressive or too passive? Were their opportunities missed, or would the results have been better had they slowed down?

Great writers create characters who interact in realistic ways that you can use as a case study. You can find solutions to your problems based on their problem-solving skills.

 

Building Empathy

 

Therapists use empathy every day to gain a better understanding of who their clients are and what they endure, but an accurate sense of empathy can benefit anyone. Reading a story puts you in the shoes of the narrator, and chances are good that person is completely different from you.

This gives you a window into the psyche and thought process of another person. This experience can be easily translated to real life to provide a new perspective of the people you come in contact with on a daily basis. If you understand them, you can get along with them.

 

Reframing Perspective

 

Taken a step further, building empathy for characters in a book can reframe the perspective you hold for yourself. Too often people get locked into one way of thinking and one way of feeling, and this becomes extraordinarily restrictive.

People who have fluid ideas and demonstrate an amount of flexibility tend to be happier and more accommodating. Being able to see yourself objectively can lead to better decision-making, and it all starts from reading a book.

 

Boosting Self-Help

 

Fiction, nonfiction, journalism, and poetry all have a way of indirectly improving your mental health. If you are looking for something more direct, try anxiety self-help strategies from the self-help section.

This type of book covers most topics available, from ways to lower your depression, measures to boost your relaxation, and ways to learn a foreign language in no time at all. If anxiety is your enemy, pick up a self-help workbook on the subject and begin working your way through the pages. As you read and explore the experiential tasks, you can accomplish your goal.

 

Practicing Attention

 

Attention and concentration are skills that need constant practice to maintain and improve. If you do not challenge your mind, your skills will diminish to the point that nothing will keep your interest.

In a time where technology is constant and rapid, a book is slow, methodical, and trying, but it is completely worth the energy. Reading forces your brain to tap into areas that are underutilized with today’s innovations.

These areas are still important, though. A strong mind will provide for you well into older adulthood.

 

Applying Distraction

 

At the end of the day, sometimes you need an escape pod from your life. Reading can be the way you jettison away from the monotony of your life into a great adventure or romance as you jump inside your favorite literary figures to see the world through their eyes.

Your world will be waiting for you when you return, but you will face this world with new energy and a sense of rejuvenation.

Though the above benefits will vary wildly, they share a common theme: stress-relief. This is the central benefit of reading. If you find yourself in a stressful, overwhelming, and anxiety-provoking situation, take out your favorite book and start turning the pages.

It is true that e-readers, tablets, and phones will make reading more convenient, but do not underestimate the gratification that comes with turning to a new chapter or dog-earing the page you complete.

Accomplishment comes in all forms. One of the best accomplishments you can have is reading a book. If you do, your world will be a better, more accurate, and more rewarding place.

 

 

Eric Patterson, LPC is a professional counselor in western Pennsylvania working for the last 10 years to help children, teens and adults achieve their goals and live happier lives. You can find more of his writing on NewLifeOutlook.

 

 

Happy Birthday Cassandra Clare!

It’s the Birthday of the Author who brought us Jace, Clary, Emma, Julian, Tessa, Will, & James! Plus so many more! And to locations like New York, Los Angeles, London, & Shadowhunter home land, Alicante!

Happy Birthday, Cassandra Clare! I hope your new year is a great one with new ideas, new books, and new adventures!

Interview with Kendare Blake!

I got the special privileged to have a small interview with Kendare Blake!

If that name rings a bell it’s because of books she wrote: Anna Dressed in Blood, which is currently being opted for film, and Three Dark Crowns due out Sept 20th, 2016!

I’m so humbled at the fact that Mrs Blake was so willing to open up about mental health and her own personal struggles with Anxiety. So with out further ado:

Evening! I’ve been mulling over questions and how to do this interview for the last few weeks. Then I was conked on the head and ended up with a concussion. Ouch! I’m okay! It was minor, just put a slow down in reading and getting things like this done! I did a little research on you before I started this and I have to commend you on your pets names. Absolutely PERFECT! LOL! (Their two cat sons (Tybalt and Tyrion Cattister) and their red Doberman dog son, Obi Dog Kenobi!)
First for the basic fun stuff!
When did you know that writing was a passion of yours? So early on that I can’t remember. It seems that it stemmed rather naturally from an intense love of reading. Stories, stories and more stories, and at some point I began wanting to tell some of my own.
Did you have any small writings published in your local high school or neighborhood paper? Or contests? Not in high school. I never had anything published until grad school actually. I did try, but the work just wasn’t ready.
Did you read or write Fan Fiction? Both.
If yes, what Fandoms were your favorite go to’s? For fan fiction the only real fandom I got into was Harry Potter. And Sailor Moon. 
Now the more difficult.. 
When did you realize that Anxiety was possibly presenting itself in your life? Shortly before I got married, right in the midst of writing Anna Dressed in Blood. I didn’t know what it was then. I didn’t recognize panic attacks as panic attacks. I just thought I was ill.
Did you battle Depression thus exacerbating one problem with the other? No. Thankfully depression has not factored into it.
Was there a particular Anxiety attack that changed your perspective on your mental health? Or getting yourself help? (no need for details on what happen, of course) Yes, actually. I was at ALA, the big librarian conference, promoting…oh, it must have been Girl of Nightmares at that point. I’d just met my editor for the first time there, and she was with me before I had to do this thing called an “Author Tea Party” or an “Author Speed Date”, basically a gigantic room full of tables with people at them, and they start you at one table and you have three minutes or so to chat with them about your book or whatever and then someone blows a horn and you dash to the next table. It lasts about an hour usually. I’ve done quite a few since then, and often they’re quite fun. But the noise and the heat of the room got to me that time, and I had to excuse myself to regroup in the hall before starting. My editor was very understanding, but I was humiliated. Mortified. I’d been self-managing for a few years by then, but that was when I said fuck this, and started thinking about treatment.
Did you discover that writing helped your Anxiety? Actually I don’t think writing does help my anxiety. The two don’t seem to be linked that much. Though when I’m writing, like the physical act of writing, I’m never anxious. 
Do you think a book centered around a character with a mental health struggle could be in the future? (I’d be excited about this! Lol!) I don’t think so. At least, not centered around a mental health struggle. There will certainly be characters in my novels who struggle with different levels of anxiety, different levels of depression, narcissism, etc., but that will only be part of the story. 
Any tips for those of us who still struggle daily with Depression and Anxiety? What works best for you on your bad days? On my bad days, I medicate. When I go into a situation where I know I might have an issue, I medicate. And when medicating doesn’t work, I just wait it out. But I have no good tips, I’m afraid. Anxiety is a beast of variety and it seems that everyone has different ways to cope.
Anything else you’d like to add about yourself, your books, or anything coming up? Not really. Though I will say that I’ve never done an interview on anxiety before! As far as I can recall, I’ve never mentioned having it. But the more writers I meet, the more common it seems. Actually the older I get, the more common it seems. Both of my best friends deal with it, and so does my mother. Is anxiety some kind of epidemic? Because if it is it needs to stop. It’s annoying as fuck to have.
Thanks for having me by the blog, Bella!
THANK YOU for taking the time to answer some questions about Anxiety! 
It’s easy to forget that Anxiety and other Mental Illness can effect someone you love. It happens with in a blink of an eye. The brain is something not fully understood as of yet. Maybe some day we might be able to reroute mental illness or, at least, be able to cure certain kinds with things more effective then ‘here, take a pill’. Some day in the future! 
Thank you so much to Mrs Kendare Blake for the interview. I hope to do another one with her, perhaps, later down the line.
Look for other interviews with authors in the future!

Concussion

Like the title says for nearly over a week I’ve been dealing with a concussion. So thus the lack of updates and reviews on the blog.

I won’t go into the details of how it happened, it was really stupid and completely accidental. No, it wasn’t from doing anything of a ‘Here’s Your Sign’ type, wipe your stupid off the face of humanity stunt. It was just an accident at home that basically is laying me up for some unnumbered amount of days.

I’m alright and health checking out is the biggest relief. TRYING to get any reading done is a bit of a hassle as staring at books or any amount of phone or computer screen is very straining on the eyes. The dizzy spells and hair triggering headaches are very quick to come and go.

But give me a few more days and I should be back to 100%. Other than that I’m still active on my Instagram ( https://www.instagram.com/anxiousbookaholic/ ) since it doesn’t take much to post there if I’m feeling particularly under the weather.

I will return soon with a vengeance! Fear me! LOL!

 

(C) Image to its creator

Anxiety Is A Playground by E. Rachael Hardcastle

E. Rachael Hardcastle wrote another amazing piece regarding Anxiety. I couldn’t help but share her words with you once more.

 

With out further ado,

Anxiety Is A Playground
by E. Rachael Hardcastle

 

Anxiety has plagued me for many years but as I’ve grown so has my tolerance. I’ve learned to view each anxious attack as an individual experience, therefore approached my methods of dealing with them all in different ways too. I’ll use a child’s playground as a metaphor to explain my ideas.

A quick disclaimer – these are my own methods. I am not a medical professional or an expert in any way. This post is purely from experience and these suggestions may not work for everyone.

 

  • The Swing 

Anxiety isn’t always about feeling depressed and low. There are mixed emotions, leading to many levels of severity. Much like a swing moves back and forth, so do we move through these levels, eventually slowing to a calm state once again.

To deal with the swing, I close my eyes and take deep, smooth breaths. During this time, I try to relax each part of my body, starting with my feet and working my way up.

 

  •  The See-Saw

Anxiety often upsets the balance of our bodies. For women this can affect our monthly menstrual cycles or lead to depression and increased mood swings.

To deal with the imbalance of the see-saw, I lower my caffeine and alcohol intake, and exercise where possible to burn off excess energy. When I feel moody or stressed, cleaning, organizing and finding a focus for an hour or two takes my mind off the unexplained feelings, acting as a minor form of self-therapy.

 

  • The Sand Pit

Anxiety attacks cause us to feel suffocated and drowned in our own bottomless pit of emotions. The more we dig to escape, the deeper the hole gets until eventually we’re in over our heads.

To deal with the sand pit, I stop trying to fight my way out and allow the symptoms to take their course, reminding myself that panic attacks are uncomfortable and unpleasant, but they can’t hurt me. Most of the time the symptoms are worse than the worry, so once I have that reassurance, they go away on their own.

 

  • The Slide

Sometimes we just can’t stop ourselves from slipping. We land with an uncomfortable thunk, but we pick ourselves up quickly and dust ourselves down.

To deal with the slide, when I feel myself climbing those stairs, I tell myself to stop and physically slam a fist on the desk (without hurting myself, of course!). I like to call it my mental slap. I get a few seconds of relief to change my mind. Of course, it’s not as easy as deciding not to panic, but if your mind is clear enough to recognize you need to stop worrying, that tells you more than you realize.

I’m sure there are lots of other similar metaphors for the problems we face when dealing with anxiety. I hope those I have listed above help you to put each problem in perspective and tailor your solution.

 

Next time you’re near a children’s playground, smile and hold your head high. As adults we’re too old for the sandpit, too heavy for the see-saw, too big for the slide and too tall for the swing. If challenged, we’d defeat them all.

 

That’s why we pass the playground by. We have no need to go inside.

 

(C) Image courtesy of Lowes.com

ARCs & 4th Weekend Update

I apologize for not being around as of late. Things in life have been a bit.. screwy.

For a bit of good news first, I received an ARC of NeverNight by Jay Kristoff which has me SUPER excited. I can’t wait to get into that one as soon as I finish Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall and The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia!

Yay for Books! On top of that happy, LATE, book release birthday to Victoria Schwab for This Savage Song! I pre-ordered it ages ago to get it ON release day and wasn’t disappointed! Thank you, Amazon.com!

From there I went into Chicago to see friends for the 4th of July. Not a bad thing at all. I brought my Pomeranian named Bear thinking it might be better than leaving him home. BOY, WAS I WRONG. Due to stupid crap and someone turning off the white-noise maker that was going on to try and drown out the fireworks my poor Pom is now even MORE terrified of things that go BOOM.

The trip itself wasn’t the problem. I got to see friends, go to parties where Bear came with me, hang out, received an amazing coloring book as a late birthday present and so on. Where Bear got traumatized was my bff’s boyfriend and family invited us out to his family’s boat on to Lake Michigan from the Naval Base to see the 4th fireworks. I couldn’t turn it down. But knowing Chicago could get noisy we took all the precautions we could. We sound proofed the house with white noise, I put things that smelled like me out so I knew Bear would lay down and sleep on them, the other dog in the house was cocooned in the owners bedroom where she feels safest. We did everything right to make sure the dogs were SAFE.
Midnight comes and we get a text and my dog is under the the couch and won’t come out, the other dog broke down bedroom door. It turns out the fireworks were being done SO CLOSE TO THE HOUSE the dogs FREAKED. They tore the house apart. And the freaking room mate TURNED OFF THE WHITE-NOISE.

WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! The one thing keeping the dogs sane was TURNED OFF. Fireworks were going off before we left and we couldn’t hear it over the white-noise. So Im sure the close ones where what freaked them out but the white-noise HELPED. We know it did.

So thanks for that. Now Bear is worse off, I found out after a storm the other night. That was.. fantastic. He did everything but try to crawl into my clothes and skin that night all while trying NOT to throw up on me.

Things since then have left me exhausted. I haven’t read in days. I sleep A. LOT. Nearly napping every day because the last few days have been storming so Im checking on Bear or comforting him all the time while he calms down. I found a way to counteract it which is play the HAMILTON soundtrack LOUDLY from my phone.

Ugh..

So that’s my life update plus an update on the ARCS of books I’ve received. A real update on books and depression is coming soon.

I have another guest blog coming from someone whose been here before! So keep an eye out!

Love ya!

Anti-Anxiety Pills

Yesterday was one of those days I needed an Anti-Anxiety Pill. I take, either, Clonazepam or Trazodone depending on how bad the symptoms are.

I haven’t had to take either of them in a while because I’ve been pretty good are keeping the emotions in check and knowing when to get out of a bad situation. I just don’t know what came over me yesterday. Nothing bad was happening.

All that was going on was having the plumber over to fix the sink and the basement. Was I worrying over the bill? That he couldn’t fix it and we were going to be continually screwed? All possibilities. How they directly effected my anxiety I’m not entirely sure. But what I do know is that I got my butt thoroughly kicked yesterday.

After taking the pill and the plumber left I passed out for FOUR HOURS. Wasn’t exactly on my plan for the day but with the attack and the pill I was completely wiped. I hate episodes that are just so body draining there’s nothing left to me.  I feel like it leaves me useless for the rest of the day if not into the next twenty-four hours or so. The migraines that sometimes follow are no laughing matter, either. Thankfully I managed to by pass that this time.

That was my Friday.

How are you Anxiety days? Anything similiar?

Writing A Book

I apologize for not being around to much the last week or so.

Things have been a little nuts around here. Our dishwasher doesn’t work. Our kitchen sink has also stopped working. I’m working on reading The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia for review. We’ve gotten SEVERAL days of bad weather, yesterday having been the worst of yet, but we got VERY lucky unlike some other counties around us. Life has been a whirl wind!

That being said while I have three book ideas started I finally have a fourth that might be one I can take to completion if the idea sticks with me. I just need to keep making notes. Essentially it’s going to start real life experiences I’ve been through and then lead out into another story. Hopefully I can do it flawlessly so we shall see. It will be YA and it will be contemporary. Not something I saw myself writing but if I can do it well I will, hopefully, be on the right track and it’s the right inspiration to really get me going.

Maybe it’ll be the inspiration to be the writing career boost I needed. So I’m going to continue working on it, IN SECRET, the best I can. IN SECRET being I really don’t want my family to know about it until it’s a DONE project. I don’t want them to read it or know about it because it will have real life experiences in it, all under fake names, I will have another name as my author name (I hate my birth certificate name), and so forth. I’m not putting them in a bad light, I just don’t want criticism from them specifically. From everyone else, fine I can take that, them not so much. Because they WILL want me to change it which will make me lose my drive to continue the story and I can’t afford that. That’s not what the creative process is about.

I won’t let anyone silence me. I’m not hurting anyone.

So that’s the lately update. Look for a review soon about Kami Garcia’s newest book which is out in October!

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Synopsis: In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic ― the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.

I LOVE Jay Kristoff books. He’s also a VERY kind man. I met him a few times at Bookcon Chicago 2016. He responds so well and so kindly on Twitter (@misterkristoff).

I posted this book because it’s very different from what people mostly know him from which is his continuing Illuminae series. Gemina is due out later this year or early next, I believe. Ah! October 18th, 2016 to be exact! However, I bring you this book because it’s a much different book than that series. It’s high fantasy with a dark under tone of, as it says, REVENGE looming over head. Something that caught my attention very quickly.

I love YA and the some what romance types but I love a good revenge story as well. So if this book brings you the excited feels as it does me, please click on the book above and pre-order it as soon as you can!

Summer Time

I’ve noticed, for me, the summer time can be easiest and the hardest time of the year when it comes to Anxiety and Depression.

The reasons being:

  • Distance from my friends
  • Lack of Job which meant no money
  • Inability to Drive

I believe that’s where my love for reading really came in handy for me. My family moved to my tiny northern IL town in Spring of ’06. I didn’t have much going on. I was never really a reader in my youth. TV was getting repetitive. I had no money to go out and do vacations.

So then a friend suggested Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. Both of which I devoured in days. From there I was hooked and I was reading any time I could afford it. I would baby sit a friend’s kid, get $20-30 and I’d ask to go to Borders (*cry*) and I’d get the next couple books of each series. Then I branched out.

From there I’d read any time I got the chance. I still can’t drive and my friends are at a distance, and I’m still looking for work but in all of my trying to get my life together while exhausted, I read. A lot. It drives people nuts but it’s how I like to spend my Summers. Inside or out. On dry land or at my friends lake house on their boat. I read. Or try to when there’s no noise.

But even in all of that, it’s very easy to become isolated. Sitting out in the sun to soak up those rays really do help elevate the mood but it’s nothing compared to interaction with friends. And I know you know this. So while your nose is stuck in a book this summer, please get out there and do your book shopping or hanging out in book stores WITH FRIENDS. They truly make all the difference. If the tragedies of this weekend in Orlando show you anything, life can be snuffed out very easily. To quickly. So hang out with your friends, tell them you love them. Go on a road trip. Raid book stores in different cities or states. Travel to book or movie filming sites. Something!

Don’t let that Anxiety and Depression beat you! Don’t let life pass you by! But still, bring a book or two in a bag with you, naturally. 😉