Brene Brown

10 Books to Inspire You During COVID-19

06-kansas-city-merit-2005-awardsMany of us walked into the COVID-19 pandemic with great intentions of reading, learning, and being productive in some inspired way. The reality for most of us involved  spending time doing everying but accomplishing our lofty goals (like sitting around doing nothing). Please give yourself a “hall pass” for not being productive during this time. Non-productivity was a very important thing you were doing, and served as a healthy coping tool.

As we shift into a different stage of our pandemic, you might be getting some energy to read, think, grow, and might still have lots of down time to do new things. Although our worlds appears to be opening back up, this will look different for all of us, and you might be retreating back home to regoup. Please check out this list of inspirational books. I am saving you the time of combing through the hundreds of books out there that claim to be helpful. The books below are by authors who really, really know what they are writing about, and will leave you feeling changed in some postive way. Please check out this list below for some inspiration (in no particular order):

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Artist’s Way isn’t just a book, but a twelve week process to explore creative growth and change. If you “do” this book (one chapter a week), it will change your life. Really! I have led several of these twelve week groups and observed participants radically change their lives. The change didn’t happen overnight, but offered a space for people to contemplate change, quiet down the negative noise in their head, and then take creative risks. This book has a bit of a cult following due to its success rate (The New Yorker een gave it a great review).  You might want to find a pal or a group to “do” the Artist’s Way group for the additional support. Please look around your community or online for a group to join.

12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

I only learned about Jordan Peterson through clients who came to therapy sessions completely blown away by his books and podcasts. I observed people really changing, growing, and becoming emotionally intelligent as they abosrbed the ideas proposed in this book. Dr. Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and suddenly trending everywhere online in TED talks, podcasts, quotes, etc. This guy is the real deal.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

If you are late to the Brene Brown party, my apologies. Her books have been trending for the past few years. She became famous following a viral TEDx talk, and many podcasts, attention from Oprah, etc. Her research on shame and vulnerability enlightens readers to challenge everything they previously thought about being, vulnerable. It turns out, that vulnerability is the key to strength, power, creativity, success and growth. This shift in thinking is expressed in a funny, snarky, and easy-breezy way in her writing style.  Braving the Wilderness is just one of many of her amazing books. I recommend them all (along with her podcasts, TED talks, classes, interviews, etc).

The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger

This book will change your life. Dr, Eger is an octogenerian psychotherapist who specializes in PTSD due to combat trauma. This book weaves together her clinical experience and her personal story of surviving horrific experiences during the Holocaust. This powerful book is a game changer, and will shift your perspective on life, attitude, empathy, joy, love and emotional intelligence. This is NOT a light read, but you should rise to the occasion if you are in the mood, and READ THIS BOOK! Dr. Eger sees her work as a 21st century companion to Man’s Search for Meaning (see below).

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

You might have come across this book at some point in your life. Perhaps you read in in high school? The Library of Congress ranks it as one of the ten most influential books in America. The essence of Man’s Search for Meaning is that free will can be narrowed down to one thing- attitude.  As our world shifted around in the past few moths due to COVID-19, this book can serve as a great guide for exceptional living in times of uncertainty.  Yes- there are two slightly graphic, intense books about the Holocaust on this short list, but they actually inform one another. Dr. Viktor Frankl had a deep friendship with Dr. Eger (author of The Choice) who is listed in the previous recommendation. Read them both.

Unf*ckology by Amy Alkon


There are plenty of irreverant, snarky books out there inviting you to change, grow and become a new and improved person. What sets this hilarious book apart is that Alkon’s banter is backed up with references, resources, and real research. If you are looking for a pick-me-up to grow your self esteem pronto, this book is really in a league of it’s own. It will change your attitude, help you stifle the negative self talk, and you will wonder why you didn’t jump on the “confident person” band wagon a long time ago.

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

Can one person make a difference in the world? As you learn more about the  work of Dr. Paul Farmer, you will be amazed, and inspired. Dr. Farmer’s founded Partner’s in Health, and has worken in Haiti for the past several decades, opening hospitals to some of the most impoverished people in the world.  It is easy to be cynical these days, and the antidote to the toxic stuff we see all around us is to  fill our heads with real information about real people doing profoundly good work in the world.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi

What makes life worth living? Neurosurgeon, Dr. Paul Kalanithi explores this topic in an intimate book written by him while navigating through treatment of stage IV lung cancer. This book was a best seller a few years ago, and also was Pulitzer prize finalist. If you missed it, now is a great time to read it. It will make you cry, but also make inspire you to live everyday more inspired.

 

You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler

There are TONS of drawing books out there.  I searched high and low for THE ONE drawing book that really teaches people how to draw. I was looking for one that was simple, clearly written, offered a place for immediate gratification, had some humor, didn’t make me feel bad about myself, or make me give up on trying to draw. Mark Kistler’s You Can Draw in 30 Days is THE ONE. Trust me.

Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory

The irony of living through a pandemic is we really found out that the “I have no time” excuse we had been using all these years was a bit bogus. The extra time we actually got in quarantine didn’t always lead us into a place of being more creative. Enter- Art Before Breakfast. This books offeres loads of  gentle invitations to make art in five and ten minute exercises. The real secret of why this book is an awesome companion to have during our COVID-19 pandemic is that  little tiny accomplishments can mitigate the stress of not having an actual end to things.   The warped feeling that comes from uncertainty of near future things is making all of us CRAZY. That is the truth. What can we do about it? Finding  very short, very non-intimidating activities that have actual endings are great tasks to make us feel normal. A quick five minute drawing this the perfect tool for navigating thourgh our current season of crazy.

 

PS- The Image at the top of this post is of the Downtown Kansas City Library’s parking garage. Kansas City is AWESOME.

PPS-I am exploring the world of becoming an Amazon Affiliate, so the links above will take you directly to Amazon.

Create an Emotional Safety Plan During COVID-19

img_0722The Covid-19 pandemic has brought much of the human race to a standstill. Many of us cannot leave our homes except to get basic necessities. The short term goal in this process is to stop the transmission of a rapidly spreading virus, but the long term outcome might just be how it impacted our mental health. Grief, anxiety, and depression are very real things happening as our species engages in a very non-human activity of self isolation. Finding ways to mitigate this emotional roller coaster can be essential for the here and now.

If you are feeling out of sorts today as you sit in your home, this is actually a sign of mental health. This paradox might sound odd, but it’s true.  Let’s start this chat by acknowledging that what you are feeling is REAL, OK, and NORMAL. How are you actually feeling? Please tell your loved one or someone exactly how you feel today ( or send a response in here to this blog). Acknowledging your emotions can be hugely helpful in reducing your distress levels. Please complete this sentence: Today I am feeling _______________________. If you are having a hard time filling in the blank, please use this list of possible answers: overwhelmed, scared, anxious, calm, terrified, confused, numb, spacey, angry, nervous, loved, sad, uncertain, bored, curious, content, grief stricken, relieved, etc.

When people experience trauma, they often feel a wide range of emotions,  including emotions that don’t seem to match up with the current experience. This is all a normal part of trauma.  NAMING our emotions or the thing that is happening can actually help us get a hold of the experience, and while we are still in the thick of it with this COVID-19 journey, acknowledging it in real time can reduce some of the emotional distress. We don’t want to fall down an emotional rabbit hole here, so let’s add one more tool to incorporate along with naming our emotions…. a handy, dandy emotional safety plan.

An emotional safety plan is a tool to use when your experience is so intense, it shuts down the thinking part of your brain (your pre-frontal cortex). Writing an emotional safety plan in advance of an incident can remind you to do something to pull yourself back, and bring that thinking part back online.  I worked in an inpatient psychiatric facility for many years we found so much value in this tool, that all employees (ranging from the CEO to the janitorial staff) attached our emotional safety plan onto the back of our name tag. If we got triggered, overwhelmed, or were trying to not get sucked into extremely stressful moments, we were encouraged to look at our safety plan, and use it to help us get regain a sense of equilibrium.

What would your emotional safety plan look like this week? There is no “perfect” way to make a plan, but the idea is to make a list when you are calm that you can use when you are not calm. Feel free to use a few of these prompts:

MY EMOTIONAL SAFETY PLAN

NAME IT (the feeling or thing I am experiencing):

SOMEONE I CAN REACH OUT TO SPEAK WITH: 

SOMETHING I CAN DO FOR SELF CARE:

SOMETHING I CAN TELL MYSELF TO GET THROUGH A REALLY HARD MINUTE,  HOUR, DAY (we are all having a LOT of these in our current pandemic/self isolation, maybe a little mantra here might be helpful):

An emotional safety plan is simply a list  to give you perspective on the here and now, and provide some emotional regulation. This is not designed to move you away from your emotions (remember we decided a few paragraphs ago that feeling our feelings is profoundly important. This is just an extra tool in case your emotions overpower you. If your distress is overwhelming, or if you are in  emotional or physical danger, please see the hotline numbers at the bottom of this link.

1-800-799-SAFE -Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-273-8255 – Suicide Hotline

If you find this whole conversation a bit out of your comfort zone, please watch this excellent interview with Dr. Brene Brown on the profoundly important act of being real and expressing emotions during this really challenging time. She was interviewed this week on 60 minutes: https://www.cbsnews.com/video/brene-brown-cope-coronavirus-pandemic-covid-19-60-minutes-2020-03-29/