Reading to relax, learn or escape

Hi everyone – Rachel from the bereavement team here. I originally wrote a short blog piece for World Book Day at the start of March. But a lot has happened since and it feels all the more relevant now with increasing isolation and all the changes to our daily life. Some people may find ways to navigate the disruption and anxiety between the covers of a book. It may be the opportunity to finally get around to finishing a classic novel or to seek a more light-hearted read for escapism.

I love books and am always reading when I can – a good crime novel or psychological thriller are my usual favourites. Whether to relax, learn, a form of escapism, self-care or a break from our increasing focus on phones and screens it can be a great joy.

New research published by Oxford University Press suggests that reading could be hugely beneficial for our mental health. Whether you are feeling stressed, have lost someone close to you or are dealing with a difficult personal situation, you may find comfort, solace and help in the pages of a book. Some may choose fiction or poetry for escapism, or to seek out their own experiences reflected on the page.

Here are some of the books that helped me after my own bereavement by suicide and other personal losses. There can be something comforting and cathartic about well chosen words and language. In addition reading recovery narratives can increase connectedness, validate our own experiences and help to reduce stigma.

Studies have also indicated that reading works of fiction can increase reader empathy, reduce stress and strengthen your brain as well as prevent memory loss. Enough reasons then to pick up a book regularly – as well as providing enjoyment it may be helping your body and mind too.


What’s your self-care activity? Part 2 – A message from Sofia.

Spa weekend with mum Feb; Go ape start of March; Concert end of March; comedian show May….. Tonight – Hot pot night with my two best friends.

It doesn’t have to be anything big, it could be a sleepover with your friends, going for a massage, a long walk with your dog or getting your nails done. The point is that self-care is important and having things to look forward to is a form of my self-care. I like to plan things in advance so that I can have something coming up that I know I’m going to enjoy. It also gives me time to prepare for the day so I can re-charge my batteries if needed, maybe by having a long shower the night before or an early night.

I’ve found planning things in advance to look forward to has really helped me, maybe it’s something you would take satisfaction from too, maybe not, but finding/recognising your form of self care is something that you can benefit from by making sure to prioritise whatever it is. Maybe that seems a little selfish if we already have hectic lives, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a little selfish when it come to putting our mental health first.


Suicide Bereavement Support Officer