Recommended reading by Michele Engelke, self-help book enthusiast.
Reading can be healing. Whether you are seeing a therapist or just feeling curious, reading about what you are going through from a new, objective perspective brings about self-acceptance and understanding. Since we often feel shame and loneliness in connection to intense negative emotions, reading about emotional distress can make us feel less helpless and more hopeful about the prospect of change.
It is important to bear in mind that self-help books are not a substitute for therapy. Like psychiatric drugs, they do not provide you with a miracle cure. Depending on the nature of what you are experiencing, reading by itself may not be enough to promote complete healing and prevent relapse. Please contact a counsellor if you feel that what is troubling you requires greater care and assistance.
Recommended reading for worry control:
The worry cure: seven steps to stop worry from stopping you, by Robert L. Leahy
Dr Leahy is one of the most influential cognitive therapists in the world. He has written numerous bestselling self-help books, all of which are incredibly accessible to the reader. The Worry Cure is the best guide on worry control available out there. It targets prejudicial worrying from all its nasty angles, be it about relationships, money or the need for approval.
Dr Leahy’s blog on Psychology Today is available here
Anxiety free: unravel your fears before they unravel you, by Robert L. Leahy
Another of Dr Leahy’s great reads. It has everything you need to know about anxiety simply explained. It covers each related disorder, from Specific Phobia to Panic, Agoraphobia and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, all the way to Social and Generalised Anxiety Disorder until finally ending with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It also has very useful appendixes filled with resources such as diagnostic tests, mindfulness and relaxation techniques, amongst others.
Guilt, shame and anxiety: understanding and overcoming negative emotions, by Peter R. Breggin
Breggin talks about the most toxic of emotions with such courage and honesty that will truly change the way you approach negative thoughts. Simple and easy to follow, this book deals with guilt, shame and anxiety not only as psychological and clinical issues, but also as product of evolution. A must-read for anyone who feels under the spell of those self-defeating emotions.
The anxiety and worry workbook, the cognitive behavioural solution, by David A. Clark and Aaron T. Beck
Written by Clark and the developer of CBT, Aaron T. Beck, this book has useful resources for those who feel highly motivated about the idea of helping themselves. It contains over 50 worksheets to help you identify and challenge negative thoughts and core beliefs that are fuelling your anxiety.
Running on empty, overcome your childhood emotional neglect, by Jonice Webb
Webb puts forward emotional neglect as one of the main reasons for feelings of unhappiness and disenchantment with life. Perfect for those who struggle to recall anything wrong with their childhoods, or to accept their emotions. A great tool also for getting in touch with yourself through learning how to identify and validate how you feel.
Mindfulness, a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
An enjoyable read on the hot topic of mindfulness. You learn what it is about and how to practice and incorporate it into day-to-day life. It comes with an audio CD of 8 guided meditations, one for each week of Williams’ 8-Week Mindfulness Programme. A valuable learning tool for developing metacognition skills, such as observing your thoughts without judgement.
Wherever you go there you are, mindfulness meditation in everyday life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
A publishing success for over 20 years, it covers a little bit of everything you need to know about mindfulness. Kabat-Zin’s book ticks all the boxes, you get to learn not only how to meditate, but also the philosophical underpinnings of mindfulness. An unambitious, pleasant read that will sow the seeds of mindfulness in your heart.
Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel Goleman
An all-time classic. This book has changed the way we understand ourselves forever. Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence is truly compelling and life changing. A book of huge scope and application that will open your eyes to the power of feeling. A must-read for those who tend to downplay the role of their own emotions.
Progressive muscle relaxation:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation after E. Jacobson: Exercises for Deep Holistic Relaxation, by Carola Riß-Tafilaj
This CD has 3 tracks, an introduction and two guided Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) exercises. The first track gives you an overview of PMR, explaining what it does and how it works. The second track contains a long version of a 16-step PMR exercise that takes 37 minutes to complete. The third and final track is a short version to that same exercise, but divided into 4 steps that take 24 minutes to execute. It is a very good quality CD with lovely background music. It will help you relax those muscle groups and let go of some of that anxiety.
Recommended reading for ending depression:
Beat the blues before they beat you, by Robert L. Leahy
A straightforward book about depression that gives your great tips on how to overcome self-defeating thoughts and behaviours. Dr Leahy uses CBT techniques to teach you how to challenge those negative thinking patterns that are slowing you down. A thorough yet easy to follow read for anyone who is suffering or has suffered from depression.
Feeling good, the new mood therapy, by David D. Burns
This book is the most successful CBT self-help book ever written. Dr Burns is so compelling that you cannot help but feel good while reading Feeling Good. He demonstrates, through his own experience as a psychiatrist and CB therapist, how to best use CBT concepts and techniques to enhance self-love and do away with those unhealthy core beliefs.
You can watch Dr Burns’ Ted Talk on Feeling Good by clicking here
Thoughts and feelings, taking control of your moods and your life, by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis and Patrick Fanning.
Another very practical CBT workbook packed with self-help techniques for the most common mental health issues, such as excessive worrying, panic attacks, depression, low self-esteem and anger. It contains treatment plans, exercise worksheets and brief explanations of each problem. Extremely helpful to anyone with high-level motivation to make changes happen.
Escaping emotional entrapment, freedom from negative thinking and unhealthy emotions, by Daniel Rutley
Rutley’s Escaping Emotional Entrapment is a straightforward, ‘say-it-as-it-is’ guide to independence from soul-corroding emotions. Self-love, above all, is Rutley’s main message, which he communicates throughout the book in a hilariously entertaining fashion. It will not take you long to devour it.
Recommended reading for raising self-esteem:
Self-esteem, by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning
Isn’t self-esteem underrated? It is like one of those things that you only understand the true value once it is lost. If your critical voice is speaking louder than your self-love, it may be time to lend McKay and Fanning some of your attention. Self-esteem is the most comprehensive self-help book out there on how to keep a healthy self-esteem. Truly worth the read.
Mindful compassion, by Paul Gilbert and Choden
Mindfulness as the gift that keeps on giving. Choden is a former Buddhist monk and Gilbert is a depression, shame and self-criticism expert. What you get is a clever combination between science and Buddhism, mindfulness practices and the art of self-love. Above all its benefits, Mindful Compassion teaches you how to cultivate self-acceptance through self-awareness, a precious skill for a healthy self-esteem.
Daring greatly, by Brené Brown
Brown's Daring Greatly will change the way your perceive vulnerability forever. It gives us a solid foundation to get back what we lost a long time ago: the courage to accept who we are, warts and all. A treat for those who struggle to tolerate uncertainty and let go of the idea of absolute control.
You can watch Brené Brown on Ted Talks by clicking here