Four Books to Support Your Mental Health Journey
(1) For struggles with anxiety & a practice guide to the nervous system:
The Science of Stuck: Breaking Through Inertia to Find Your Path by Britt Frank, LSCW
If you are a reader that likes to highlight, definitely gear up for this one! It is by far one of my most dogeared and highlighted books. With a research-based yet practical approach, you will learn about the role the nervous system plays in what we often call “feeling stuck” and “laziness. Britt Frank covers a wide range of breaking down impacts of trauma and offers what she calls “trauma myths” and “trauma truths”, where she gently reframes common beliefs rooted from our traumatic experiences.
Biggest takeaway: Frank beautifully wraps each chapter with bottom-line takeaways, do’s and don’ts, and five minute challenges. Through it, you will learn about the connection of neuroscience and the nervous system to trauma and how you can gain greater autonomy and regulation to take empowered steps forward. Chapter 2 & 3 are great ones to review a couple of times!
Memorable Quote: “There is no such thing as ‘lazy’. Inertia and immobility happen as a response to trauma from the past or as an energy conservation strategy to survive threats in the future.”
(2) For parents… and really anyone (in my opinion):
Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want To Be by Dr. Becky Kennedy
I originally heard about Dr. Becky via a podcast and could not get enough of her unique and powerful parenting philosophy thereafter. Rooted not only in empathy, she focuses on the importance of connection versus correction. She debunks the idea that validation of feelings condones behavior, offering the suggestion that in reality behavior is often a window into feelings, thoughts and unmet needs in a person. The book provides helpful suggestions for varying scenarios pertinent to parenting struggles such as tantrums, sibling rivalries, defiance, anxiety, and more. I appreciated that so much of what is discussed is applicable in our own journeys as adults in relating to our personal beliefs about ourselves as well as how we connect with others.
Biggest takeaway: Dr. Becky presents what she calls, “Most Generous Interpretation- MGI” as a way of flipping the narrative typically given to children’s challenging behavior. What is the most generous interpretation I can give to this scenario? This mindset shift is provided with the intention to see people (and our kids) as good humans who have difficult moments. She shares that when we approach difficulties from this perspective, we may have an easier time connecting from a place of relationship because we realize that we have, too, experienced something similar in some way, shape or form. Dr. Becky validates all of our human experiences with fumbles and learnings.
Memorable quote: “Feeling seen is a powerful bonding tool, and feeling close to someone motivates us to want to cooperate with them. When we verbally acknowledge what our child is doing in the moment, it’s as if we’re saying, ‘I see you: you are a real person with real wants and thoughts and feelings.’ We send the message that we are listening to our child in this moment, which allows them to return the favor and listen to us.”
(3) For understanding & nurturing our stories:
Already Enough: A Path to Self-Acceptance by Lisa Olivera
Olivera provides a beautiful way for us to approach parts of our life, and others, from a profound place of curiosity. Given her approach rooted in Narrative therapy, she challenges us to consider the stories we tell ourselves about our lives evaluating those that enrich and those that bind. Throughout the pages, you will learn how to reframe stories so that you can remember who you are beyond the ones that feel “stuck” and on replay. This book feels like sitting with a thoughtful and listening friend over a cup of coffee.
Biggest takeaway: At the end of every chapter, there are beautiful reflection questions to consider. These are great for journal prompts, or prompts to think on and bring to your therapist to process together!
Memorable Quote: “When we give ourselves the opportunity to unlearn the stories that keep us feeling broken and less than, we can relearn our inherent goodness. The goodness that has always been there, underneath what’s been piled on top of it, as we’ve moved through our lives.”
(4) For setting & honoring your limits:
The Book of Boundaries: Set the Limits that Will Set You Free by Melissa Urban
Boundaries are a hot topic, and for good reason! However, they can often be tricky to integrate and stick to. Melissa Urban provides a user-friendly and very down-to-earth approach to what it looks like to actually establish boundaries and navigate challenges with follow through. She offers guidance in various scenarios in which boundaries are often needed, including relationships, the workplace, friendships, and more.
Biggest takeaway: Urban sets up a three part “color system” to best understand and move through which kind of boundary is most appropriate for the situation. Offering scripts with easy to use and clear language for what she names green, yellow and red territory, indicating levels of “threat”, Urban helps set up some navigation for tricky situations and managing push-back.
Memorable Quote: “I define boundaries as clear limits you establish around the ways you allow people to engage with you, so that you can keep yourself and your relationships safe and healthy. You’re always in charge of where those limits lie, and enforcing them.”