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Does Reading Help You Cope With Stress?

Recently, I had a stretch of a couple of stressful days.

Nothing life-changing or devastating, but enough to keep my mind occupied for most of the day. I had problems focusing on my job.

Everything worked out okay. But, for a day or two, I was a ball of stress—and, as a result, my reading suffered.

In fact, I didn’t read at all for about two or three days. At first, I didn’t even notice because I was busy taking care of life things.

Then, a few days later when I picked A Passage To India back up, it took me a while to even remember what was happening in the novel the last time I read it.

That got me to thinking about how we, as readers, respond to stress in our personal lives.

Do you find that personal stress negatively impacts your reading? Or when life sucks, do you run straight to a book, as a sort of escape?

I’m sure there’s variations in between those two extremes. But, for me, I absolutely have a difficult time focusing on reading when something stressful is going on in my life.

So how do you respond to stress? Does it make you read more or read less?

(Image: Alan Cleaver/Creative Commons)

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59 Comments Post a comment
  1. I usually stop reading for awhile, then dive in for the comfort value.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  2. I read more . . try to find the words that help me.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  3. Gwen Stephens #

    Reading is an escape! Definitely read more when times are stressful.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  4. I agree with all the above. I like to lose myself in books and it generally helps. But it’s true that sometimes you can’t quite achieve that peace of mind because your thoughts are spiraling out of control and then I find myself reading the same sentence over and over. That’s the worst kind of stress, when you can’t even read.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
    • Kim #

      I do the same thing- read to escape, but know I’m really stressed when I can’t even read.

      Like

      August 16, 2013
    • I think that’s my number one problem with reading when I’m stressed and distracted. My reading comprehension sucks. I read the same thing over and over and it still doesn’t click.

      Like

      August 16, 2013
  5. I love reading when life gets a bit much, I usually go for a chic lit or an Austen novel to cheer me up, I read heavier stuff when I am having a reading day, although I haven’t had a day like that for two years…

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  6. Books was my one escape from stress when I was little. Interestingly, though, as a teen and adult whenever I was stressed (and for me there was a fine line between stress and depression) I just couldn’t read. So despite the fact that I love books I have this huge gap in my life where I didn’t read, and now I’m working hard to catch up. I still can’t read when I’m really stressed though. My mind just gets too occupied and I can’t focus.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  7. Like you, I’ve a hard time concentrating when I’m stressed so reading is not much help. But strangely, if I can break through the initial resistance and can find the time; writing can take me away. The trick is to have a triggering subject and I usually found that in the tons of photos I took. Put a story to an image and create my own story and I forget everything. Works for me… 🙂

    Like

    August 16, 2013
    • That’s great. I agree with you. Writing is much more effective for me than reading when I’m stressed.

      Like

      August 16, 2013
  8. Lucille #

    I usually read fairly serious books that take concentration and thought,but when times get tough I can only read something light, escapist. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer and going through the worst days, Nancy Mitford’s witty The Pursuit of Love.took me to another time and place while he slept. Faulkner or Zola just wouldn’t do.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  9. Rosie Baillie #

    Reading definitely helps me cope with stress. Writing / ranting about it also helps with stress and occasionally when you put it into words you realise it’s not quite a big a deal as you thought which helps.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
    • Great point. When I’m stressed, writing actually helps! It’s almost like I’m releasing that energy whereas when I read I feel like it all stays internalized.

      Like

      August 16, 2013
      • Rosie Baillie #

        It does, once you’ve done it, even if you delete it straight away it feels like a weight has been lifted.

        Like

        August 16, 2013
  10. Stacy Porter #

    It depends for me. If there is a stressful situation where I am actively involved then I don’t have time to read but, if I am just stressed I am more likely to throw myself into a book to get away from that stress lol

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  11. Louise Allan #

    Yep, I read when I’m stressed/depressed. It’s easier than writing; it is escape. Hey, it’s better than doing drugs! I agree with Elizabeth, though, that sometimes you’re so troubled, you can’t concentrate on what you’re reading, and find yourself re-reading the same paragraph, four, five, six times. That happens. Still I say, it’s better than doing drugs. And, the stress/depression passes and you can emerge from your book-bed and return to the living, breathing, functioning world … again.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
    • Well, you’ll get no argument from me on the drugs part! I need to move around and “go” when I’m stressed, though, and reading keeps me too still.

      Like

      August 16, 2013
  12. It depends on how a person experiences reading.. To me, it is an attention demanding activity where my brain is free to from visual impressions and making associations with life and/or other literature. Its a very active process requiring a lot of energy. When my mind is filled with stress or rage or worries, this faculty just shuts down and if I try reading then, I almost always form a bad impression of the book. I just watch sci-fi movies because they are mindless, engaging all senses and they give the best distraction as you cannot relate to it.
    To me, trying to read while I’m stressed is like trying to meditate(well…when I’m stressed)..
    Need more peace for accomplishing that.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  13. Writing is more of an escape for me, but when I’m depressed, I will absolutely sink into a book and escape my own horrid thoughts for awhile. But when there’s a lot going on, then no, I don’t always read. It’s totally situation dependent, I think.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  14. I have a very hard time reading when stressed. I can’t even read my Bible at those times. It’s hard to quiet my loud stressful thought life enough to read for enjoyment

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  15. When I’m stressed I love doing anything to distract me away from the problem before I think about how to solve it. For me, reading is the best escapism because I attach myself to the story. My mum, friends and siblings hate it when I’m reading as I’ll turn all my other senses off to focus better. Like you said, it’s different for everybody.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  16. A good book is a lifeline when I’m stressed. Last year there was a period of time – most of the year actually – when my mother was very seriously ill and for a while, things were pretty bleak. As her caregiver, a lot of stress landed on my shoulders. And I read as much as I could. I remember that I read the Hunger Games series for the first time around that time. It was great escapism and that is what I need when life gets stressful. Good books and good music!

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  17. I do use fiction as a way to de-stress, which is odd, since writing fiction is what I do for a living! You’d think it wouldn’t work that way, but I enjoy getting lost in a great story for a while.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  18. I also can’t read when I’m stressed out. I can’t concentrate on a book at all if I have other (stressful) things going on.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  19. When I am stressed out, I find a book that is quick and light to read, a means of escape. When I am not stressed, I pick up books of adventure, or something that has a bit of drama or sci-fi…basically, I read books either way, all the time. I make time to read, I have to. It’s like a way of life for me.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  20. I can read if I am stressed. A great book that takes me to a different world helps. However, if I am depressed I cannot read.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  21. BookAddict #

    I read to escape so if I am stressed out I do read more.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  22. I definitely use reading as a relaxation tool and I find if I haven’t read in a day I’m much more tense than I usually am.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  23. I need to read when I’m stressed. I’ll read something informational to help me figure out a solution (action reduces stress) or I’ll read to take my mind off of things (this is when I usually turn to Winnie-the-Pooh or chick lit.

    But when I’m too stressed to read, I’ll just lay there, annoyed at myself and the situation because the stress is robbing me of my reading time. I hate that level of stress. That’s when I know I’ve hit the wall.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  24. I read more when I’m stressed (which explains the 30 books I’ve read in the last two months), and find that I can handle stress better if I’ve had my daily reading time. If I have to skip a few days, for whatever reason, I feel the pressure cooker of stress inside and I’m more prone to freaking out or being unable to handle whatever else is thrown at me.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  25. It depends on the book. The books on your list would probably add to my stress. In such times, I tend to drift towards light reads or rereads.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  26. Your Post inspired me to write on the topic as well. I mentioned your blog. http://reviewbooksandmore.com/2013/08/16/reading-mood-and-why/

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  27. When I’m stressed I always want to read more but usually end up reading less as I figure I can then spend more time finishing whatever it is that is stressing me out, classics make it worse though strangely, even if I enjoy them when I’m not stressed. So yeah, reading is definitely an escape, just one which I don’t feel you can use when stressed as it takes too much time and I get way too addicted to stories.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  28. Up to a certain level of stress I can escape in a book. I did a lot as a kid to escape from a bad family life. Now as an adult, I have to focus myself not to escape into books. Adults have stress and instead I just push myself now to read textbooks, otherwise I’d always be in a great book.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  29. Stress makes me realize how much reading is a an expression of relaxation for me. If I’m stressed, I can’t read. I can’t, like, at all. If I’m reading then I know I’m in a good mood. It’s the only way it works for me.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  30. Gracias, Robert.Un abrazo.Teresa

    Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2013 12:31:28 +0000 To: teresac831@hotmail.com

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  31. roxxxxy44 #

    Reblogged this on ROXXXXYBABEEEE.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  32. Maybe because I am a die-hard romantic at heart I find peace of mind in romantic novels, as they allow me to escape from the reality and thus the stress. Though at times I have even gone back to Enid Blyton and fairy tales to get me out of stress and in the reading mood.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  33. Reblogged this on Swati Nitin Gupta.

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  34. I actually don’t find I read more or less, but what I do find is that after I’ve read, I feel much better.

    Like

    August 17, 2013
  35. queenofthefanfictionsequels #

    I usually stop for a day or two, then dive back in for the comfort of the words!

    Like

    August 17, 2013
  36. No matter what, reading always helps me escape! That and taking long naps!

    Like

    August 17, 2013
  37. I started college last year, and during my first midterm, I would read a chapter out of a pleasure read (Everything is Illuminated) for every chapter I finished inside of my textbook. I don’t know if I was de-stressing, or if I was procrastinating quite honestly. However, I do feel as if my pleasure reading helped me distance myself from the stress so I would not get suck into an anxiety tornado.

    Like

    August 18, 2013
  38. I like the way the post is written. It attract many words that are close to my world.

    Like

    August 18, 2013
  39. I find that when I’m stressed it’s generally because I’m busy, so I don’t have the time to read. But writing articles helps me de-stress a lot. Just like talking, writing can be therapeutic too!

    Like

    August 18, 2013
  40. I agree with the”reading as an escape philosophy.” Sometimes it’s nice to escape personal stress by diving into a good book! I find it a great distraction!

    Like

    August 18, 2013
  41. maddy0290 #

    Reading becomes distant dream when I am stressed due to emotional problems, but when its work related stress, I can still read even if it’s less, I feel relaxed by reading something that takes me into different world and sleep just follows… 🙂

    Like

    August 18, 2013
  42. Reading is an escape. I too have a hard time trying to concentrate on my reading while stressed but I don’t let that stop me and keep on reading. Eventually my mind calms down, I refocus and reading helps me destress.

    Like

    August 18, 2013
  43. I definitely dive into a novel when I’m stressed. Often, I’ll pick up a good mystery to keep me engaged.

    Like

    August 19, 2013
  44. Hong #

    I stop reading for a while. I am struggling for job searching… I have to face the reality although I love reading.

    Like

    August 19, 2013
  45. Reblogged this on Adithya Entertainment.

    Like

    August 19, 2013
  46. It depends, more often than not, on the type of stress. If it’s a too-much-work type of stress, reading falls to the wayside to let my mind rest. But should it be an emotional problem or stress in my personal life, reading offers words I then find meaning or reason in. It helps me to sort things through and perhaps inspire some writing that then assuages the problems.

    Like

    August 19, 2013
  47. Reading definitely causes you to be in a state of relaxation. It’s an escape from reality for a bit. Until duty calls….

    Like

    August 20, 2013
  48. I read to relax. I find that if you have had ‘one of those days’ there is nothing better. Others would disagree I know and many people would say that when they have had a stressful day they turn on the TV and watch meaningless programmes to distance themselves from reality.

    Like

    August 21, 2013
  49. When stress hits I usually resort to writing. I try to harness whatever emotions I’m feeling and unpack them in a short story or poem, or character sketch. I find that even when I don’t have the patience and calm to read, I always have the itch to write.

    Like

    August 21, 2013
  50. Joy #

    When stress hits me, I tend to avoid books because I’m not actually reading when I’m stressed. I skim, which is not good. But once the stress has subsided I throw myself back to reading and I appreciate my books so much then.

    Like

    August 22, 2013
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