Reading to Alleviate Stress

DSC_0803Only a short post today because I am still recovering from a stomach bug that I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy.  Being confined to the house for several days has, however, meant that I have had plenty of time to complete the first week of an online course that I think many of you would enjoy.  On the FutureLearn platform, the University of Warwick are offering a module entitled Literature and Mental Health.  The idea is to explore the way in which literature can be used to understand and help alleviate times of emotional stress and mental illness.  During the past week we have looked at poems such as Yeats’ Lake Isle of Innisfree, Edward Thomas’ Adlestrop and Arnold’s Dover Beach. The highlight, however, was a half hour discussion between Jonathan Bate and Stephen Fry about the way in which poetry works and how that is important in respect of stress relief.  It was far more informative than many a university lecture I’ve sat through.

The course is going on to consider heartbreak, bereavement, trauma, depression and bipolar disorder, and ageing and dementia.  Although it has already started you are usually able to join late and the material is there online for you to catch up in your own time. This is something that I think a lot of my blogging friends would really enjoy and it would be worth people’s while to check it out even if you didn’t go through with it as it costs nothing to sign up to.  My only reservation is that there isn’t a section on poetry to alleviate stomach bugs.  My own thought on the subject is that whatever else they need to be short!

24 thoughts on “Reading to Alleviate Stress

  1. I find Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a welcome respite when I have a tummy bug. Or else The Funny Side, an anthology of humorous poetry edited by Wendy Cope.

  2. Reading’s always been the best kind of therapy for me, and definitely my coping mechanism – I get really ratty if I can’t read….

  3. There seems to be a little trend in exploring the way that reading can tie into mental health – the Reading Agency’s ‘reading well’ initiative, Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin’s bibliotherapy practice and now this. It all makes perfect sense, of course! I hope your own physical health improves soon, Alex. It sound like a very nasty bug.

    1. Thanks Susan. The trouble is that every time it appears to have calmed down it comes back for another bout. Most annoying. I’m becoming very interested in the bibliotherapy movement. I would love to have a session with Berthoud and Elderkin but would find it difficult to get down to London.

  4. Reading is excellent therapy for anxiety, but I’m not sure anything helps nausea. 😦
    I’m so envious of the Jonathan Bate and Stephen Fry discussion!

  5. Books as therapy, yes please. The online course sounds interesting. I will check it out. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been much of a poetry reader. Maybe this will help. Hope you are feeling better soon! Hopefully The Bears are making you chicken soup and keeping your book pile full.

    1. I seem to be on the mend, thanks, Harriet. The trouble is last time I said that it came back with a vengeance, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

  6. Hope you feel much better soon. Fascinating subject. I know that a lot of crime fiction I read is a response to stress/anxiety – the plot driven novel can take you out of yourself. A more serious novel, if it is the right one, can send you into yourself. Its the better way but the novel has to be the right one. Poetry is even better although I don’t believe that literature’s value is primarily therapeutic.

    1. Up to now the course has been focused on poetry, Ian, but later this week we are moving on to ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and I am interested to see how the tutors will deal with a novel. And I agree, literature is not primarily written for therapeutic purposes but it is definitely a bonus when it can help that way as well.

  7. Poor you! Stomach bugs are the worst. I hope the Bears took good care of you and you are right as rain again soon. The course sounds really interesting. If only I had the time!

    1. You can sign up for it, Stefanie and then take it whenever you want. Once you’ve put your name to the course the videos are there for you for as long as it takes.

  8. I suppose reading alleviates our stress because we are all literary types, but if you are into, cycling/running/crafts say you could argue the case for that alleviating stress just as well. Interesting course, though.

    1. I think doing something physical probably helps to relieve the chemical side of stress but the argument that is being ut forward in the course is that literature can help you to understand the sources of that stress as well. I was sceptical at first but I am beginning to see where they are coming from.

    1. One of the good things is that you can catch up at your own pace and take as long as you like. There are four courses going at the moment that I want to follow but no way i could do them together so I’ve just signed up for the other three and will do them when this one is over.

  9. I’ve been alleviating my stress over a child in the hospital by reading murder mysteries. They work for me because they take me out of the place I’m in. Stomach trouble reading is trickier, but if you’re looking for short, funny poems it’s hard to beat Edward Lear.

    1. I’ve just been reading about your daughter, Jeanne. I’m glad she’s on the mend but it must have been worrying for you, especially when she was so far away. I seem to be mending but it has come back twice so far so I am not boasting too loudly. I do love Lear and I find I am reading more poetry at the moment. I’m sure I have some in anthologies somewhere. I must look him out.

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