books on stress and mental health

Books formed a large part of my research on stress, in particular those from experts, as this is where most of the evidence base lay.

I also chose to focus on Irish context for a lot of my readings. Having said that, it was impossible to ignore those on the international stage (part 3).

Although I have used the word ‘experts’, all of the books mentioned are designed for anyone with an interest in stress, mental health, emotional resilience and wellbeing – as in my opinion – all of the authors have made every effort to keep them as jargon free as possible – providing valuable information and practices towards stress management, positive mental health & wellbeing. The books mentioned are the ones I have read.

I should also add that many of the books mentioned are not specific to stress, but all make some reference to stress in the context of health and wellbeing. In particular, the positive and negative effects of stress. To this end, all authors agree that stress can be both helpful and unhelpful.

Irish authors include: Dr Harry Barry, Dr Sabina Brennan, Dr Eddie Murphy, Professor Jim Lucey, Dr Paul Gilligan, Dr Keith Gaynor, Dr Maureen Gaffney.

Dr Harry Barry  – “Flagging The Problem – A new approach to mental health”

Dr Harry Barry is a highly respected medic and Irish author. He has 36 years experience as a GP with a keen interest in the area of mental health and suicide prevention.

In an Irish context – Dr Harry Barry is deserving of the title ‘Father of stress and anxiety’ (In my humble opinion).

He has endeavoured to simplify the technical and medical jargon associated with mental health to inform and educate at grassroots level.

Not alone has he done this through his writings and books, but through video, audio, public speaking and advocacy. A quick google of his name will bring you gems of video and information for managing and improving your mental health.

In his book Dr Barry investigates how the mood system in the brain works and how problems (including stress) in this system can lead to mental health issues. He reveals a pioneering system to help readers visualise the illness and its symptoms: the FLAG method.

Dr Harry Barry on stress.

“The key to fighting stress is identifying its cause. This will be different for each person. For most people, work, commuting, family problems, relationships and financial difficulties are common sources of stress.

Another important cause of stress in our lives is unrealistic self expectations. Many of us do not accept ourselves as been genuinely human – that is ‘warts and all’.

Note: Dr Harry Barry is also the author of numerous books addressing various aspects of mental health including “Toxic Stress – A step-by-step guide to managing stress”.

Dr Sabina Brennan – “100 Days To A Younger Brain – Maximise your memory, boost your brain health and defy dementia”.

Dr Sabina Brennan is a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin. She is a research psychologist and award winning science communicator.

In her ground breaking book, Sabina provides a life changing programme that will maximise your memory, boost your brain health and defy dementia. And in my humble opinion, it’s a game changer. I believe Sabina is building bridges between neuroscience and the general public. Her book turns neuroscience into a relatable and learnable format for brain health, and thus makes brain health available to all.

She has gleaned the essentials from medicine and science to provide transformative education. And this, (in my opinion), is the missing piece in the jigsaw.

For decades now the trojan work and discoveries of neuroscience have not filtered down in a tangible format to street level. But Sabina Brennan is changing that.

Sabina’s book provides an excellent chapter on stress (Manage Stress) giving a brilliant overview on the understanding and management of stress. In it, she offers some novel tips on managing stress such as: Be excited, Be practical, Be interested and Be connected.

Sabina provides an operational framework for brain health. And my hope that brain training will someday become a public education programme – has received a massive boost. Thanks to Sabina Brennan’s new book.

Dr Sabina Brennan on Stress

“A little bit of stress can go a long way, motivating you to attain your goals, but poorly managed chronic stress can inhibit learning and impair memory function, impacting negatively on the size, structure and function of your brain”.

Dr Eddie Murphy – “Becoming Your Real Self – A practical toolkit for managing life’s challenges”

Dr Eddie murphy is a clinical psychologist, author and mental health advocate. But more importantly, he is another expert who has championed at grassroots level for positive mental health. His TV work and public speaking has seen him at the forefront of mental health education in Ireland for many years.

His book shares his methods for building up and maintaining mental fitness and a positive outlook. Eddie explains simple ways we can cope with the many demands on our time and energy and turn stress into relaxation, and anger into calm.

His simplified writing on the topic of stress is a breath of fresh air, and his book is as close as you will get to a personal life coach.

Dr Eddie Murphy On stress

“You might be surprised to learn that we all need a bit of stress to get out of bed in the morning. It helps us to perform under pressure and motivates us to do our best. We need stress for creativity, learning and our very survival.

However, throw some high-stress events – such as relationship difficulties, illness, bereavement, unemployment – into life’s mix and we can end up with seriously unbalanced amounts of it. It’s a bit like being in your car with your foot fully down on the accelerator without being in gear.”

Professor Jim Lucey – “the life well lived – the therapeutic journey to recovery and wellbeing”

Professor Jim Lucey is Medical Director at St. Patrick`s Mental Health Services and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College & University of Dublin.

He lectures and conducts talks and seminars throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe. In fact, I have great memories of attending one of his talks, when he had the audience river dancing (including me).

In all my research on mental health, his following quote had the most impact on me:

“Without mental health there is no health”.

His book “the life well lived” is a seminal piece of work in the areas of recovery to wellbeing. In it he offers hope, and a way forward to those suffering or recovering from mental illnesses. Professor Jim Lucey focuses on a range of contemporary therapies that can provide pathways to recovery, and is a must read for anyone interested in these areas, including: family, friends, loved ones, or those in the caring & health professions.

Professor Jim Lucey On Stress

“There is a relationship between our wellness and the stress in our life, but this relationship is a two way street. To live well is to experience both good and bad things at the same time and yet to continue living, even though we experience them throughout our life. Not all stress is bad for us, but we are all shaped by it for better or for worse.”

Dr Paul Gilligan – “Raising Emotionally Healthy Children”

Dr Paul Gilligan is CEO at St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services. A human/children’s rights advocate and Adj Ass Professor at TCD. He is a clinical psychologist and one of Irelands foremost activists for parental and child education on mental health.

His book, offers parents a constructive and straight forward guide to promoting positive mental health in both their children and themselves. And although the book is mainly focused on emotional health (and not stress), it is the best I have seen for age appropriate advise and practices for the wellbeing of children and young people.

In fact, his writings and worksheets are so precise, that they provide excellent guidelines for any educational setting and for parents in the home.

Dr Paul Gilligan On Stress

“Children cope better with stress and sadness if they have good emotional supports. Emotional support means giving space and confidence to our child to allow them to speak about and discuss their problems and negative feelings. They need to be able to do this in the knowledge their feelings will be taken seriously and their views will be the most important factor in deciding how difficulties are interpreted and managed.”

Dr Keith Gaynor – “Protecting Mental Health”

Dr Keith Gaynor is a senior clinical psychologist at St John of God Hospital Stillorgan, specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy treatments for anxiety and depression

His book is for anyone interested in nurturing psychological health – as they would their physical health. In doing so, they will be better equipped to overcome problems, and live each day with a sense of confidence and joy. The book also examines the relationship between better mental health and a ‘happier’ society.

Keith champions personal potential – in other words, the power of oneself to overcome challenges and stressors.

He also advocates biology over psychology when dealing with stress and other negative emotions. He says “We often rush to psychology and miss basic biology. Get the body right, as it will respond directly to good food, exercise and care.”

His book for me was the most enjoyable read of all on the topic of mental health. I don’t know why – but maybe it’s because if I had his medical background and writing ability, it’s a book I would be proud to write.

Dr Keith Gaynor On Stress:

“We all have important decisions and stressful situations to overcome in our lives; the ones that are daily occurrences and unavoidable. They can make us feel anxious and distressed, but this is not strange – it’s a normal reaction to stressful situations.

These problems can be solved by talking about them, reading books about them, listening to lectures about them, putting in some positive behavioural structures to sort them out and, if needs be, seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist to talk about them”

Dr Maureen Gaffney – “FLOURISHING  – How to achieve a deeper sense of well-being, meaning and purpose – even when facing adversity”

Dr Maureen Gaffney is a psychologist, columnist, broadcaster and author. She combines work in academia with a busy international consultancy business and is a much sought after speaker around the globe.

I first read Maureen’s book over five years ago and I still refer to it today.

It is jam packed with nuggets of information, advise and practices for coping, achieving and flourishing in life. The book is one of the most comprehensive I have read touching on many of the essential mind and emotional skills needed to cope and thrive in today’s world.

It will show you how to:

Achieve a deeper sense of wellbeing, meaning and purpose

Use adversity as a positive turning point in your life

Train your mind to pay attention

Master your emotions and focus on your goals

Dr Maureen Gaffney On Stress:

“There is good stress and bad stress. Good stress revs up our physical, mental and emotional energy to get the job done. Bad stress is when we feel the demands on us are to many and our resources to limited to deal with them.

But it turns out that it’s not the events themselves that determines the level of stress, but how people cope with them – and how you think and feel about yourself, and the resources which are available to you”

And finally – Maureen has this to say:

“Everyone can increase their resilience to stress – it just takes discipline and practice”

Book Hub Publishing – Mental Health For Millennials – Multiple Authors

The Mental Health For Millennials series is published by Book Hub Publishing – one of the largest and most compassionate publishers in Ireland.

It’s a fascinating series that will have 5 books when finished – and is written by a compilation of authors who combine academia, science and lived experiences, to bring an innovative approach to mental health publications.

The series is driven by Dr Nialll MacGiollaBhui at book hub publishing, and edited by himself and Dr Phil Noone.

It is largely a passion project, with some trojan work going into its development. And I must say, I was taken aback by the depth and breadth of contributions from experts, academia and those with lived experiences.

Mental Health For Millennials On Stress (Volume 2)

Volume 2 in the Mental Health For Millennials series has some esteemed and notable contributors including: Dr Phil Noone, series co-editor and lecturer at NUIG – Megan Scully, author & wellness advocate – and Jocelyn Cunningham, psychotherapist & educator.

Dr Phil Noone writes brilliantly on stress and perfectionism, with emphasis on educational context (a topic close to my heart). She is an innovator in this field and is developing her own model called the ‘B-P-C’ model (‘Be-Present-Connect’). Dr Phil is a big advocate for meditation-mindfullness and shares many tips on coping with stress including: self awareness, energy, focus, care, concern, empathy and understanding.

Jocelyn Cunningham writes on one of the most important topics in stress management, the  stress response (in the context of panic attacks) and provides some tips for managing it including grounding exercises and bringing yourself back to the present.

Mental Health for millennials is an admirable body of work, and If you are looking for lived experiences, diversity in writing, experts, tips, practices and academia – then Mental Health For Millennials is well worth checking out.