I try to be fairly open about my mental health, and I’ve written posts on here before about certain books that have helped me. While reading Bellevue Square I cried in public quite a bit, and then sobbed uncontrollably when my book club discussed it. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine also tore my heart into pieces because I related to the main character so much. I even have a bookish tattoo that helps me stay grounded during panic attacks.
So when I had the opportunity to read and review a copy of Matt Haig’s Notes on a Nervous Planet, I was both excited and nervous. I knew that this author had written on mental health before, and was looking forward to a fresh, new perspective, but was also worried about what exactly this book would say.
Luckily, Matt isn’t here to lecture anyone. Instead, he’s here to share his ideas on how our world got so nervous, and offer up some ideas regarding how we can all continue to live on this fast-paced planet. He explicitly states that the point of his book is to help answer the question of “how can we live in a mad world without ourselves going mad?” (pg. 9).
I’m usually not one for reading introductions (I want to get to the bulk of it all!) but one line in particular really stuck with me, and set the tone for the entire book:
This book seeks to recognise that what we feel is just as important as what we have. That mental wellbeing counts as much as physical wellbeing—indeed, that it is part of physical wellbeing. (pg. 13)
How we feel affects everything we do. If you’re having a bad day, it can show in your work, your communication with others, and even manifest itself in a “I’m not getting off my couch” mentality, which I am guilty of more than I would like to admit.
Reading about these feelings offered a breath of fresh air for me; it’s always reassuring to know you’re not the only one experiencing bouts of anxiety.
So why does the author think everyone is so nervous all the time? He boils it down to a few main points: too much technology, over-connectedness, and a fast-paced society that never sleeps. Think about it: how attached are you to your phone? How many times do you put on Netflix, but then end up scrolling through Instagram or Twitter? We’re all guilty of it.
However, it’s this sense of “we always need to know what’s happening and be engaged” that leads to so much tension and anxiety. You need to read that article, respond to that comment, and see the latest trends before anyone else does. It’s exhausting, and causes you to worry rather than appreciate whatever is happening right in front of you.
Matt addresses these issues, and more, in short chapters. They jump between subjects, and range from reflections to lists, personal anecdotes, and more. His writing is raw and honest, and everyone—regardless of whether or not you deal with anxiety and/or depression—will find something that they can relate to.
I’d recommend this book to almost anyone. For people dealing with bouts of anxiety and/or depression, it offers a fresh perspective on how to deal with things. Plus, reading about someone else’s experiences (the author does not shy away here), could be helpful. For people who don’t experience mental health issues as much, it still offers insight into what others may be experiencing, and how you can help them.
Notes on a Nervous Planet is a self-help book, but not in the traditional sense. It’s honest and unapologetic, mixes humor with serious topics, and will leave you thinking about what really matters most in our world.
Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Note on a Nervous Planet was published on January 8, 2019, and is available wherever books are sold.