April 15, 2015

Email This Page

I get funny looks when people discover that, before heading to work in the morning, I drive forty-five minutes out of my way for my favourite coffee.

Some find this idea stressful; I find driving one of the most relaxing mechanisms for alleviating anxiety.

Going over Mount Royal while listening to an intelligent, thought-provoking podcast helps to focus my often-distracted mind before entering the classroom.

Throughout my teenage years, I wasn’t comfortable with voicing the manifestations of my anxiety – I kept its enigmatic workings to myself: maintaining a cheerful and sunny exterior while posing as the poster child for relaxed cool became second nature.

With growing up comes the knowledge that all of us are engaged, to some extent or other, in a strange dance with which we try and out-run ourselves so as not to deal with unpleasant thoughts or feelings.

And this is precisely the problem: if we always run around, grasping onto the more pleasant experiences (this ranges from driving to shopping to travelling to intellectual pursuits to social engagements and, in more nefarious circumstances, from alcohol to drugs to sex) – if we’re always looking for the next plans to make, the less capable we are of simply sitting with ourselves.

It might sound hokey but it’s true.

Unfortunately, sitting still with our thoughts – as painful, as boring, as frustrating as the concept is, remains one of the foolproof coping mechanisms for confronting our anxieties.

To learn to untangle emotion from thinking, to create proverbial space between the T-shirt and the body – is infinitely longer lasting than booking the next distraction. And infinitely more difficult.

Like everything that produces results, it takes work. And that’s annoying.

Below is a list of books that will hopefully introduce you to some tools for coping when anxiety creeps in.

Most of the authors are straight shooters: they write with depth, clarity and little to no bullshit.

Because deep down we know that we can’t out-run, out-dance, out-think or out-drive any of our unpleasant thoughts for time eternal. There’s no podcast for that. Yet.

Waking Up by Sam Harris

Waking Up_Book Cover

As a well-known atheist, Sam Harris devotes much of his time writing about the ills of religion and the veil of illusion that doctrines cast over us. In this book on the benefits of meditation, Harris separates Eastern philosophies from religion, offering a solid guide to contemplative activity and the benefits of meditation from a psychological perspective.

Perfect for:
• Intellectual non-fiction readers interested in an atheist approach to spirituality.
• Those interested in the benefits of meditation.
• Anyone curious as to why Sam Harris causes so much controversy.

Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Where you Go_Book Cover

If you’re open to meditation (without needing any New Age mumbo-jumbo), meet Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the leading experts on mindfulness. As a founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in Boston, Kabat-Zinn uses accessible practices and examples to introduce you to the simplest (and most complex) way of dealing with anxiety, illness, stress and mental discomfort.

Perfect for:

  • Those interested in an accessible introduction to meditation.
  • Anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Readers interested in discovering a more manageable way to realize what’s going on in your own life.


The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander & Rosamund Stone Zander

Zander and his wife co-wrote this beautiful book that contains nuggets on how we get in our own way: ranging from how to deal with difficult situations to creative ways of adopting a new perspective, Possibility is a must-read for anyone looking to develop practical skills for appreciating the moment.

Perfect for:

  • Anyone experiencing difficulty who doesn’t want to spend hundreds on therapy.
  • Those interested in creative ways of adopting new perspectives.
  • A fresh, honest take on how to cope with obstacles.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning_Book Cover

Viktor E. Frankl’s generous memoir offers readers a chance to read about his experience as an Auschwitz-survivor, and how he learnt to cope with life’s horrific tragedies with an always-inspiring change-of-perspective.

Perfect for:

  • Anyone going through an existential crisis.
  • Those looking to connect with life on a more meaningful level.
  • Readers interested in psychology and the power of perspective.

Tiny, Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny, Beautiful Things

In her generous collection of advice, taken from her feverishly followed Dear Sugar column on, Cheryl Strayed (author of the popular memoir, Wild), offers her poetic bursts of inspiration and empathy pertaining to the pain, joy, suffering and redemption that accompany us along humankind’s journey.

Perfect for: 

  • Anyone experiencing a difficult time.
  • Those in need of a new perspective.
  • Readers who enjoy challenging pieces of advice regarding how to navigate impossible-seeming terrain.









Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *