How Reading Can Help You Cope With Anxiety

The feeling of anxiety is something people deal with in our daily lives. Others have to manage it every day. But regardless of how often it bothers you, we can all agree that it isn’t easy to deal with.

There are many ways to combat that anxious feeling. Altering your diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep are some of these ways. But did you know that reading can help as well?

Beth Esposito, MS, LPCC-S, LSW said “If you’re the person that is having someone come to you often who’s anxious, that can get overwhelming.”

A Study On Novels

A study on this was conducted back in 2013 at Emory University in the United States of America. Results found that reading novels were good for the brain. It enhanced brain connectivity and improved overall brain function.


The study also had another interesting finding. Brain activity associated with physical movements and sensations suggested that reading novels could transport the reader into the body of the main character. These feelings persisted long after the reader finished it.

Reading a great story can help us experience the hero or heroine’s journey. That’s a given. But who knew it could also improve our neural networks?

There’s a term used to describe this phenomenon. It was first coined in 1916 by a Presbyterian Minister named Samuel M. Crothers. He called the therapeutic effect brought about by books bibliotherapy. “Biblio” in Greek is “book.”

The Benefits Of Reading

Novels and the stories they weave bring about a lot of benefits. These benefits help in reducing anxiety and can also better the overall state of your mental health. So, why should you read regularly? Here are five reasons.

“When we are anxious our bodies and brains can enter ‘fight or flight’ mode, leaving us to feel on edge with a small frustration-tolerance window.” –  Christina Furnival, LPCC

  • It helps in reducing your stress levels.


Stress is a good thing. It gives people a sense of urgency that convinces them to do their work. But too much of it is a bad thing. One way to manage your stress levels is to read.

Research has suggested that reading for a minimum of six minutes can reduce one’s stress by up to sixty percent. It eases both the physical and mental tensions that you feel.


  • It’s a healthy form of escapism.


The term “escapism” has a negative connotation. It makes it sound as if people are ignoring their problems and focusing on useless fantasies. Contrary to popular belief, it helps people a lot if practiced in moderation.

Reading books, especially novels, is one form of healthy escapism. Are you feeling overwhelmed by all your work or academic requirements? Why not pick up a book and be transported to another world for a while?


By doing this, you momentarily forget all of your current problems and get lost in a story. After that, you’ll be able to tackle what you need to do with a refreshed mind.

“Even though feeling disconnected from yourself is uncomfortable, frustrating and disorienting, the good news is that there are many ways to reconnect.” – Marni Goldberg, LMFT, LPCC 

  • It gives you some perspective.

Characters in books go through a lot throughout the story. Many of them have beliefs and personal philosophies that could be different from ours. Reading through their journey and understanding their mental processes can be interesting. They can give you insights that you’d never get anywhere else. Acknowledging that there are many perspectives apart from your own is humbling.

Who knows? Maybe the solution to whatever problem you’re facing is in the book you’re reading. Shifting your way of thinking by adopting a new mindset can help you solve a problem in a way you never thought to before. It may also improve the quality of your life.

  • It can make you more compassionate to other people as well as to yourself.

Anxiety brings about a lot of other adverse side effects. It includes self-deprecation, feelings of inadequacy, and even shame. Getting rid of these feelings is not at all easy, but reading can help you work towards that.

Research suggests that reading can increase your level of empathy. It’s a skill that helps you understand what people are feeling. It gives you a solid grasp of the spectrum of emotions that humans experience. Empathy does not only apply to other people. It also applies to yourself. It can help you understand the emotions you’re feeling. By doing that, you’ll be able to go easier on yourself.

  • It physically relaxes you.

Anxiety as a mental disorder has physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure and heart rate. These symptoms tend to worsen the state of your mental health. Luckily, reading can help in alleviating these symptoms. Studies show that reading can lower one’s heart rate and ease muscle tensions. By relieving the physical symptoms of anxiety, reading helps you think more clearly.


And that’s five benefits brought about by reading. Who knew that a stack of bound paper on the table could bring about so much good?