Reading for stress relief
Reading can be a lot of things: fun, educational, suspenseful, but reading is also known to help lower stress.
Unfortunately, we are currently living through an incredibly stressful time with school closures, business closures, events being canceled or postponed, and social distancing until the Covid-19 pandemic situation improves. One of the best ways to relieve stress during this time is by reading because not only is it great, but it can be done from home.
If you find yourself lacking materials to read the Medicine Hat Public Library has begun a limited service so you can still get physical books which you can find here. Additionally the library has many e-resources that give you access to eBooks and eAudiobooks. If you’d like more information on these resources or how to access them you can look at our blog post entitled PSA: Reading Not Cancelled. I’ve also curated a booklist of some recommended adult eBooks and eAudiobooks, young adult eBooks and eAudiobooks, and lastly a list of eReading materials for tweens.
In general, stress is not a bad thing. It increases alertness, resiliency, and adaptability, helping us to get tasks done and accept change. However, when stress becomes a constant state of being or you experience excessive stress in your life because of a situation, it can become exhausting and all-encompassing. So, here are some ways that reading helps to relieve stress and improve your overall mental wellbeing.
Reading as an escape
Through books, readers are able to escape stressors in their everyday life by focusing on a world and situations outside of their own. The World Literacy Agency quoted a 2009 study at the University of Sussex that found reading lowered heart rate, relaxed muscles, decreased blood pressure and eased tension which contributed to lowering stress levels by 68% (Can Reading Reduce Stress?, 2019). Additionally, reading can continue to affect your brain for days afterward, so even reading for a short amount of time can be a benefit to your mental health long term. (Clark, 2013) The best part of this is that you can read any book as long as you are enjoying it, (Reading for Stress Relief, 2016). For myself that means reading a fantasy novel instead of reading the news or social media. So please feel free to pick up your favorite Stephen King novel or a thriller or even a cookbook if that’s what you enjoy, because what you enjoy reading will help you reduce stress the most.
Reading helps you sleep better
Many of us stare at our phones before we go to sleep, and then we find ourselves lying awake at night with our minds unable to turn off. This is because the blue screen from our phones prevents melatonin from working in our brains which is the hormone that helps us fall asleep, (Schocker, Laura, 2011) A lack of sleep contributes to stress because we feel tired and sluggish which makes it difficult to handle problems or tasks throughout our day. However, reading a book before bed can help you fall asleep quicker and improve the quality of sleep you are getting because you are not staring at a screen. A good night’s sleep will help reduce your stress and prepare you to take on the next day. I know it might be difficult right now to avoid reading on your phone because the library is closed and therefore you can’t access our physical collection, but we do have a variety of eAudiobooks you should take a look at because those can be just as calming as a physical book. Alternatively, you can stop by our little free library outside our building to grab some physical books for free that don’t need to be returned. (Note: the little free library will be full only as long as we have staff to do so.)
Reading makes you more compassionate to others and yourself
Reading allows you to experience stories and ideas outside your own thought process. By reading the thoughts of characters you get to see a fresh, new perspective on the world and this can make you more empathetic and understanding of those around you, (Kaplan, 2016). However, reading also lets you be more compassionate to yourself because it can allow you to see your personal experiences from a new perspective. During stressful, difficult times, being compassionate and patient with others and with yourself will always help to reduce stress.
I hope this helps you some during this time.
Clark, C (2013) A novel look at how stories may change the brain. Retrieved from http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html
Can Reading Reduce Stress? (2019, August 28). Retrieved from https://worldliteracyfoundation.org/reading-reduces-stress/
Kaplan, S. (2016, July 22). Does reading fiction make you a better person? Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/07/22/does-reading-fiction-make-you-a-better-person/
Reading for Stress Relief. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/reading-stress-relief
Schocker, Laura. (2011, May 25). My Economic Guess. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/health-benefits-reading_n_408125