Being Your Own Guide – honest reviews of self-help resources: First, We Make The Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson

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I thought I’d snuggle into autumn with a new book. When life throws you a global pandemic and the world is more unpredictable than ever, why not soothe that anxiety by diving into a wholesome self-help book? Though I dislike the idea of a directive self-help book that tells you the right and wrong ways of dealing with your mental health, this gorgeous book by Sarah Wilson caught my attention with its real, lived experience of another human being.

Sarah writes a fantastic book on anxiety and her journey through the “Flow of Life”.  This isn’t an autobiography as such, but she documents a lot of her experience through anxiety, OCD and bipolar disorder.  She shares where she has gone wrong in the past as well as some amazing tips to help others.  I found her writing style to be really easy to read; not full of jargon or academic speak, but chatty and friendly.  She is funny and sarcastic, which lightens what could be a tough read and somehow makes the self-help experience truly enjoyable. 

Sarah does a great job of pulling many different ideas and techniques from lots of different fields.  I felt that this really showed that she was sharing what worked for her and also helped the reader to believe that they can have their own theories and coping mechanisms.  There are full sections in which she discusses ideas of how you can practice certain techniques and these are peppered throughout her writing so that you can understand the reasoning behind why each technique is important.  Each chapter is also broken down in numbered segments which makes it nice and easy to digest and come back to if you need a refresher.

What I understood as the main take away from the book is what she calls the “Flow of Life”, which is the idea that life is in control and we are simply riding with the flow of the river.  We can either choose to fight it and struggle to remain in the same place, or we can let life take control and see what happens.  I guess that she didn’t mean that we should do nothing and wait for life to ruin us, but I interpreted this as letting go of the tremendous worry about the future and having faith that if we are doing our best then life will take care of the rest.  I really liked this idea as we have so little control over the future, why not stop fighting and just let time do its thing.

She is a believer in meditation and does well to keep this grounded and away from the more “out there” styles of meditation that some people don’t trust.  She also talks about sitting with her anxiety to develop some tolerance and acceptance of it which I felt was really important for some people to hear.  I know that a lot of people hate the idea of being anxious and try their hardest to get out of it, either with distraction or mood altering techniques, however it’s also really important that we sometimes sit with, understand and come to accept that anxiety is just another emotion that ebbs and flows in our mind.

But what I really loved about Sarah’s perspective is that she not only accepts that she has anxiety, but that her anxiety has made her a wiser, more grateful and more resilient person.  Towards the end of the book, she really pushes her gratitude of having experienced this as if she had been “well” she would not have this beautiful understanding of life.  Though the idea of acceptance of a mental health condition is fairly common, sometimes it feels like you are giving in or submitting to the daily struggle of it all.  However Sarah really helps you to feel empowered by your anxiety and that you can use it to improve your life – more like a superpower than a weakness.

And though I found the book to be quite long, that the more I read, the more I appreciated the experience of life and all its ups and downs.  I would certainly recommend this book to anyone that suffers with anxiety and encourage them to ask their partners or family to read particular sections as there are some fantastic metaphors and explanations of how anxiety feels and what it can be like to experience it.

ps. Can we also take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the cover? I could stare at this octopus for days.

Being Your Own Guide - honest reviews of self-help resources: First, We Make The Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson 1
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