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Recommended Reads

10 books to avoid burnout for Mental Health Awareness Month

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May 13, 2024

It’s all too easy to get lost in a maze of well-meaning advice, mindfulness and meditation techniques, essential oils, and herbal remedies when you’re feeling overwhelmed. But sometimes no amount of “namaste” and chamomile tea can soothe your stressed out soul, signaling a journey down the highway toward Burnout City. And on this road trip, sorry, there are no rest stops.

Instead of adding more, in this era of quiet quitting and mounting anxiety, many of us are looking for less. Turning off the TV, stopping the endless scroll, skipping the unnecessary obligations, and distracting yourself to relax yourself. The simple pleasure of getting lost in a good book instead of your endless to-do list has been proven to help us chill out. One research study even found that reading for just 6 minutes per day can reduce your stress by 68%.


“...reading for just 6 minutes per day can reduce your stress by 68%.”


May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so if you find yourself veering off course, pump the brakes and reach for one of these books on the Libby app. While any book can offer a mental break from daily stressors, these recommendations offer insights on how to navigate life’s challenges and avoid the pitfalls of burnout culture.

NONFICTION

Can't EvenCan’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Peterson
NONFICTION - SOCIOLOGY

While burnout may seem like the default setting for the modern era, Buzzfeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen argues that burnout is a definitional condition for the millennial generation, born out of distrust in the institutions that have failed us, the unrealistic expectations of the modern workplace, and a sharp uptick in anxiety and hopelessness exacerbated by the constant pressure to "perform" our lives online.

Utilizing a combination of sociohistorical framework, original interviews, and detailed analysis, Can’t Even offers a galvanizing, intimate, and ultimately redemptive look at the lives of this much-maligned generation, and will be required reading for both millennials and the parents and employers trying to understand them.


I'm So Effing TiredI’m So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout, Boost Your Energy, and Reclaim Your Life by Amy Shah, MD
NONFICTION - HEALTH

Women of all ages are suffering from an epidemic of fatigue and burnout. But exhaustion doesn't have to be your new normal. Inspired by her personal wellness journey, integrative medical doctor Amy Shah has created this program so that you can regain your energy and reclaim your life. The key is tapping into the powerful energy trifecta: the complex relationship between your gut, your immune system, and your hormones. In just two weeks, you'll feel your energy surge. In three months, you'll feel like a whole new person. It's time to regain the energy you've lost, so you can get back to the life you want to live.


BurnoutBurnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD
NONFICTION - HEALTH

What’s expected of women and what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s world are two very different things — and women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. How can you “love your body” when every magazine cover has ten diet tips for becoming “your best self”? How do you “lean in” at work when you’re already operating at 110 percent and aren’t recognized for it? How can you live happily and healthily in a sexist world that is constantly telling you you’re too fat, too needy, too noisy, and too selfish?

Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead of asking us to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between women and well-being, they explain with compassion and optimism what we’re up against — and show us how to fight back.


The Body Keeps the ScoreThe Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
NONFICTION - PSYCHOLOGY

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga — that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity.

Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, this book exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal — and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.


ExhaustionExhaustion by Anna K. Schaffner
NONFICTION - PSYCHOLOGY

Today our fatigue feels chronic; our anxieties, amplified. Proliferating technologies command our attention. Many people complain of burnout and economic instability and the threat of ecological catastrophe fills us with dread. We look to the past, imagining life to have once been simpler and slower, but extreme mental and physical stress is not a modern syndrome. This book demonstrates how exhaustion has always been with us and helps us evaluate more critically the narratives we tell ourselves about the phenomenon.

Mapping the political, ideological, and creative currents across centuries of human development, Exhaustion finds a more significant effort to master ourselves in our struggle to overcome weariness.


NiksenNiksen: The Dutch Art of Doing Nothing by Annette Lavrijsen
NONFICTION - SELF-IMPROVEMENT

Nowadays, doing nothing can feel almost impossible. Overwhelming workloads, social pressures, omnipresent smartphones, and family commitments leave you exhausted, frantic, and stressed. The Dutch have a simple 'be idle' solution: Niksen shows you how to resist the daily grind, ditch your endless to-do list and reclaim peace of mind. Studies show that you get more done when you work less. So find out when, why and how to niks for a happier, healthier, and more productive you.


WinteringWintering by Katherine May
NONFICTION - BIOGRAPHY

Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time, but embraced the singular opportunities it offered.

A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May's story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat.


FICTION

The BurnoutThe Burnout by Sophie Kinsella
FICTION - ROMANCE/HUMOR

Armed with good intentions to drink kale smoothies, try yoga, and find peace, Sasha heads to the seaside resort she loved as a child to relax. But it’s the off season, the hotel is in a dilapidated shambles, and she has to share the beach with the only other occupant: a grumpy guy named Finn, who seems as stressed as Sasha. How can she commune with nature when he’s sitting on her favorite rock, watching her? Nor can they agree on how best to alleviate their burnout.

When curious messages, seemingly addressed to Sasha and Finn, begin to appear on the beach, the two are forced to talk — about everything. How did they get so burned out? Can either of them remember something they used to love? And the question they try and fail to ignore: what does the energy between them — flaring even in the face of their bone-deep exhaustion — signify?


My Year of Rest and RelaxationMy Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
FICTION - HUMOR

Our narrator should be happy, shouldn't she? She's young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart. It's the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation can be. Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it's a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers.


Self CareSelf Care by Leigh Stein
FICTION - HUMOR

Maren Gelb is on a company-imposed digital detox. She tweeted something terrible about the President's daughter, and as the COO of Richual, “the most inclusive online community platform for women to cultivate the practice of self-care and change the world by changing ourselves,” it's a PR nightmare. Not only is CEO Devin Avery counting on Maren to be fully present for their next round of funding, but indispensable employee Khadijah Walker has been keeping a secret that will reveal just how feminist Richual’s values actually are, and former Bachelorette contestant and Richual board member Evan Wiley is about to be embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal that could destroy the company forever.

Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and seen countless influencers who seem like experts at caring for themselves — from their yoga crop tops to their well-lit clean meals to their serumed skin and erudite-but-color-coded reading stack? Self Care delves into the lives and psyches of people working in the wellness industry and exposes the world behind the filter.


*Title availability may vary by library & region.

Download the Libby app to start reading and get your 6 minutes (or more!) in per day. With free access from your local library and automatic returns, there are no additional fees or errands to run — one less thing to do — phew.

RELATED READ: 12 books on hygge, niksen, ikigai & more for a balanced, happy life

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About the Author

Annie Suhy has been working in the book industry since 2006. When she’s not working, practicing yoga, or petting cats, she’s doing paint-by-numbers and buying more plants. An avid poetry fan, her favorite collection is "The Splinter Factory" by Jeffrey McDaniel.

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