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Take A Mental Health Break: 8 Books for Healing, Well-being and Self-Discovery

Stress can come from any number of sources: work, personal relationships, current events, physical health issues… the list seems endless some days! That’s why May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s right around the corner. That means it is now the perfect time to stock up on books that can help you better understand your mental health and take steps to improve your outlook on life.

As you peruse this list, keep in mind that books, despite being invaluable resources, cannot replace professional advice. If you have a mental illness or are truly struggling, it is important to get proper healthcare, take any medication as prescribed, and listen to your doctor’s instructions. However, if all you need is an encouraging pick-me-up or inspiration to get through a tough time, the books below will put you on the right path.

Death is no laughing matter, but that doesn’t mean those touched by it can’t find comfort in a little dark humor. After the unexpected death of her husband, Leslie Gray Streeter finds herself facing widowhood far sooner than she ever could have expected. She recounts her experiences in Black Widow. In this raw yet hilarious memoir, she talks about navigating the grief stages, the trials of single parenthood, and the disappointment of being unable to wear a leopard-print dress to her beloved’s funeral—in short, everything that anyone needs to know about dealing with a traumatic loss.



Children are just as prone to stress as adults—perhaps even more so, because they have not yet developed the coping skills to deal with negative emotions. In Just Feel, Mallika Chopra shows children how to stay calm in the face of challenges and take responsibility for themselves. Soft, colorful illustrations and short sections will keep children engaged, and simple exercises help them to practice and apply the advice given in the book.



What is stopping you from achieving your goals? According to Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass, you need to fully understand all of your great (and not-so-great!) qualities before you can make an effective plan to fulfill your dreams. Part of the “You Are a Badass” series of self-help books, this volume shows readers how to look deep inside themselves and use the tools they already have to find success in whatever they put their minds to.



Trauma can be life-changing, especially when the victim is a child whose brain is still developing. However, that doesn’t mean those who experience or witness terrible things are doomed to be unhappy forever. In his acclaimed book The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, psychiatrist Bruce D. Perry revisits some of his most difficult cases and explains how he helped those patients to live better lives.



When we talk about improving our mental well-being, the discussion often turns to the medical or psychological side of things—in other words, fixing things from the inside out. While this is certainly important, Ingrid Fetell Lee argues that the world around us is just as significant for good mental health as is the world in our minds. In Joyful, Lee explains how our environments affect our moods, and how small pleasures like flowers and sunsets can make a big difference.



Elizabeth Vargas has been a high-profile reporter for decades. She also struggles with anxiety and is a recovering alcoholic. Between Breaths is an important memoir for anyone who has ever had trouble balancing their mental health with their responsibilities as a parent and/or a working professional. We can’t all be on TV, but we can all relate to feeling overwhelmed and needing to find good coping mechanisms to deal with life’s stressors.



The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a man tries to make his wife doubt her sanity so he can steal her money. It now refers to any instance where someone deliberately tries to manipulate another by asserting their own version of reality over someone else’s reality. If someone in your life is a gaslighter, Stephanie Moulton Sarkis’s Gaslighting will help you deal with them, whether that means learning to work together while protecting yourself or walking away all together.



Even after a traumatic event ends, the survivor may not achieve a new normal if they do not have proper support systems in place. Fortunately, the process of recovering from trauma, no matter its source, is not impossible. In Trauma and Recovery, psychiatry professor Judith Herman delves deep into how trauma of all types can change a person. Most importantly, she also discusses which treatment methods can help traumatized patients to get better.



Eileen Gonzalez is a freelance writer from Connecticut. She has a Master’s degree in communications and years of experience writing about pop culture. She contributes to Book Riot and Foreword Reviews, and she occasionally tweets at @eileen2thestars.