10 books to help with anxiety and stress

Feeling overwhelmed? Whether your job is too much, or you're living with anxiety, these books will help.

Katie Russell
Photography: Stuart Simpson/Penguin

It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly stressful world. Between the cost-of-living crisis, climate change, and the blurring of boundaries between work and home life, it’s hardly a surprise that people are feeling more stressed and burned out than ever.

But that’s where books can help. We have compiled the following guide on the best books to help with anxiety, stress and burnout. Each tome is filled with useful advice from expert authors who know what they're talking about.

Books to help with anxiety

Anyone who has ever stared at the ceiling at 3 a.m., their mind on a roundabout of increasingly worrying thoughts, will relate to the anxiety “loops” described in this book. In Unwinding Anxiety, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr Brewer draws on his 20 years of research to explain what makes worry so addictive, and the techniques that can help us break free of the cycle. While the book is rooted in science, it still manages to be accessible, with practical steps we could all incorporate into our everyday lives.

This is one of six books in Merky’s ‘How To…’ series and it's a great introduction to how to become more relaxed. Grace Victory writes about how to focus on what's in your control, and her self-help book is predominantly about self-love, including: how to create boundaries, make time for what you enjoy, and be more compassionate to yourself when you're struggling. Particularly useful is how interactive the book is, with note sections that allow you to jot down key insights.

This book might be slim – it’s only 128 pages long – but it still manages to pack a punch. Dr Aaron Balick is an academic and psychotherapist with over 20 years’ experience in the field. His book, The Little Book of Calm, is full of exercises that can help you reduce your worry and anxiety. Subtitled Tame your anxieties, face your fears and live free, this book has tips on how to stay calm during difficult everyday situations, making it a great tool for putting your worries into perspective.

Best books on stress

Its title notwithstanding, it’s likely that somebody will have recommended this book to you already. Clinical psychologist Dr Julie Smith has racked up a cult following on TikTok, where she gives bite-sized therapy tips on everything from setting boundaries to stepping out of your comfort zone. Her bestselling book, Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?, was a word-of-mouth success when it was published last year. It serves as an easy-to-access guide to managing stress, building self-confidence, battling low mood, and more.

In this book, Dr Rangan Chatterjee identifies four key areas that you need to maintain to feel calmer and more in control of your life: purpose, relationships, body and mind. For each area, he recommends several techniques for improving wellness – from how to breathe better to how to find and ignite your passion. The changes that Dr Chatterjee recommends are relatively easy to implement, but will likely have long-lasting results.

As Dr Elissa Epel acknowledges in her book, there is no magic formula that can make our stress disappear. Instead, she argues that we should change our relationship with stress – and this transformation can take place over just seven days. Using simple, science-based techniques, Dr Epel demonstrates how you can become more flexible, distinguish what you can control, and let go of the rest. It’s a great tool for shifting your perspective on stress, and learning how to deal with high-pressure situations.

You’ve probably heard of the term ‘mindfulness’, but if you’ve struggled to get on board with the apps and the YouTube videos, it might be time you heeded the advice of former monk Ryunosuke Koike. In his book, he explains how we can incorporate simple Zen practices into our daily lives, retraining our brains to focus on our senses instead of our noisy thoughts. Koike writes that it is only by “thinking less” in this way that we can find calm.

Best books on burnout

Grace Beverley is a social media influencer and the founder and CEO of two companies – and she did it all before the age of 30. In Working Hard, Hardly Working, Beverley offers a fresh take on how to balance your work with your interests. The first half of the book helps establish what success means to you, and how to optimise your productivity. The second half focuses on self-care and the art of doing nothing. The end result? A helpful guide on how to enjoy what you do for a living, without burning yourself out.

Is your Instagram feed flooded with photos of people who have taken sabbaticals or quit their jobs to go travelling? You’re not alone. And it’s hardly surprising; in this book, subtitled How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, Petersen analyses the recent phenomenon of millennial burnout, demonstrating not just the symptoms but the causes of the phenomenon, from our work to our family and social lives. If you feel like your life is a never-ending to-do list, this is one for you.

This no-nonsense book examines why women experience burnout differently from men, tackling topics such as body acceptance, gender and racial discrimination, and why patriarchy leaves women feeling frazzled. Not only will you learn why women are burning out, but this book also empowers you to do something about it, thanks to the helpful advice and exercises.

If you’re more of a practical learner, you might prefer The Burnout Workbook by the same authors. This collection of questions, exercises and visual guides is designed to help you minimise stress and better manage your emotions.

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