Self Help Shelf

"Some books are almost as good as therapy"

Bookshelf with self help books

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

"Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you’re good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you?" Kristin Neff

Self-Compassion book

This book is essential reading. As you ride the emotional waves of COVID-19, this book will give you the essential skills to care for anxiety, grief, helplessness, frustration, and the many losses and transitions you may be experiencing. Author Kristin Neff gives you skills that are practical and useful, like a flashlight or a phone. The book offers skills that you can use every day.

All of us go through tough moments where our feelings are hurt, or we’re embarrassed, or we are struggling with something hard. Kristin Neff teaches you how to soothe yourself when you are hurting.

If a friend came to you and told you they were struggling with an issue, you’d probably listen patiently, try to understand, and say something kind. But when you are going through something difficult and your own feelings are hurt, you may be reactive and find yourself spinning into despair. With all of the changes brought on by COVID-19, you have more feelings tugging at you.

Most of us don’t know how to give self-compassion to ourselves.

Self-compassion is a simple practice that is easy to learn from this book.

"If you’re able to comfort yourself every time something painful happens, staying centered and not running away with reactivity, you can start to trust yourself. You can more easily find inner courage when hard times hit, knowing that you can get through almost anything with the help of your own compassionate support." Kristin Neff

I love that she included a section in the book on how to use self-compassion not only with yourself, but in your close relationships. She teaches you how to share self-compassion with your child or teen, your partner, etc. If you are locked in the house with your family, everyone can learn these skills and you can practice getting through the tough moments with understanding and support for each other.

This book is easy to understand and makes self-compassion doable. Once you learn this skill, you’ll be reaching for self-compassion all the time.

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer.

This is a companion book to Kristin's Self-Compassion book.

Self-Compassion work book

I have found this book and the practices of self-compassion to be life-changing during the pandemic. This workbook is a great way to build your self-compassion skills. Each chapter is short – just a few pages. You get journal questions and things to practice. Why is self-compassion helpful now? We’ve all endured so much extra stress in the last few months. Self-compassion allows you to acknowledge yourself and give yourself extra support.

An added benefit of this workbook: if you struggle with self-esteem, developing self-compassion will help you overcome that struggle with self-worth.

Self-compassion is widely used to support mental health. It is effective for relief from so many things. When you are hurting, how you respond to yourself matters. The practices are easy and make a difference in just minutes. It works, I promise!

From helplessness and worry to healing

If I could give everyone on the planet one book right now, it would be Verbal First Aid. Verbal First Aid book This book is written for parents, but I believe every adult could benefit from the tips on how to listen and say things that are truly helpful, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. What we hear and say about COVID-19 has triggered much anxiety.

This book by Judith Simon Prager, Ph.D. and Judith Acosta, LISW, CHT shares ways to talk about the coronavirus that could be more helpful to children and to one other. The authors are experts who have trained first responders, health care professionals, and disaster teams on what to say and how to say it. They give examples of what to say and what not say and how tone and body language need to match the words.

The book is based on this formula: “What you think = How you feel = How you heal.”

We are faced with so many experiences and parents often wonder how to calm and soothe. The authors share how to tailor your words to specific age groups. Parents will find many familiar situations reviewed such as: nightmares, a broken bone, needing stitches, rushing to the hospital, bedwetting, car accidents, an ill family member, and bee stings to larger more devastating experiences, like hurricanes and bombings.

The authors make us aware of words that are missteps and how to say things that are true and helpful. These aren’t clichéd or words that we outgrow. The book teaches you how to think about your words to talk about the situation-at-hand honestly and choose words that move us from panic and helplessness to healing.

You will be able to apply the lessons in this book to the coronavirus. The words we say to children, teens and one another during this pandemic will have a lasting impact on how we cope and how we recover in the long term. This book teaches us what to say during experiences of fear, anxiety, or pain. After you learn the principles in this book, you will be using soothing words with adults too. We all need some words of comfort.

Do you have Band-Aids at home? If you think Band-Aids are useful, you’ll love this book.

If I was able to give you one book to read from the Self-Help shelf, it would be Verbal First Aid. It is filled with words we all need to hear right now.

Finding Meaning After Loss

David Kessler is considered one of the world’s leading experts on grief.
He has written several books on the subject and has served in the aftermath of disasters. His newest book, Finding Meaning, was released in 2019 and is my favorite.

Finding Meaning book

I think this book stands out from others because he writes about traumatic grief. It feels like David is in the room with you, sharing stories of traumatic grief that will touch your own experience in profound ways. He has also experienced traumatic loss in his family twice and writes honestly about living with grief.

This book is about a stage of grief – How we find meaning.

David explains the difference between finding meaning and believing everything happens for a reason. You do not have to believe everything happens for a reason to find meaning. When you lose someone you love; it helps to find meaning in the life the person lived. What was the value of their life here? No matter the length of time.

He also helps you move past focusing on the pain in the moment of death. Especially in traumatic grief, the moment of death can be particularly overwhelming. He teaches us the importance of finding other memories to replay in our heads.

“You have the power to bring attention to the memories most meaningful to you,” he writes.

David talks about the feelings that we carry when we are grieving, and it is coupled with a trauma. Self-blame often comes with trauma, and a belief that you could have prevented the death of your loved one. David shares some strategies for releasing self-blame.

During Covid-19, you may have lost a family member. The pandemic has deeply impacted how you are experiencing your grief. Though David is not writing about the pandemic, his words may be a source of comfort during this difficult time.

I think this book has valuable insight that applies to many kinds of losses. Traumatic grief can also come a divorce where there was abuse, loss of a child to addiction, etc.

Often with traumatic grief, it can take a few years before you may be able to read a book. I think this book will be helpful if your loss was years ago and even if you did have counseling to support you.

During Covid-19, other losses may be brought to the surface and you may be feeling the trauma and grief all over again. If this is your experience, this book will be very helpful.