Turn a new page: Reading books saved me from my anxiety disorder

Talking to loved ones about your mental health issues can help, sharing your worries and thoughts with friends or family often makes you feel better, but many people struggle with opening up, and that is perfectly fine.

There are many ways to ease the symptoms of disorders like anxiety and depression. In an ideal world, we could just click our fingers and the constant panicking, the constant feeling of sadness and the loss of energy would all fade away.

Luckily, there are many ways to ease these symptoms, so they don’t consume you. Many people turn to counselling or seek help from their GP. Others practice mindfulness or feel that exercise is the best way to manage their disorder.

However, there is one thing you can do that will help, and it’s something we’ve been doing since the age of five.

Studies have found that reading has a positive impact on your mental health. Natalie Phillips, who is an English scholar, teamed up with Stanford neurobiologists and radiologists to look at the benefits reading has on our mental health.

They found that reading increases the blood flow to certain parts of the brain. They asked participants to read a chapter of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park– both leisurely and analytically- as the participants read their brain was scanned by an MRI machine.

The team found that reading “requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions”, meaning reading exercises underworked parts of your brain.

I would never have thought reading a tattered copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby would keep my anxious thoughts away, but it did. Reading is one of the things that has helped ease my symptoms the most.

Pick up a book and dive into a new world, meet new characters and learn about their lives. Reading is a great way to push the anxiety away. It eases your mind when it is full of doubt and fear.

It is the perfect form of escapism. Pop into your local bookshop or to the college library and pick up any book that tickles your fancy; whether it’s a classic like Wuthering Heights or the latest Louise O’Neill novel.

It may not work for everyone, but something as simple as channelling your inner Matilda may keep those dreaded symptoms at bay.

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