Cover image for Notes on a nervous planet
Title:
Notes on a nervous planet
ISBN:
9780143133421
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Penguin Books, 2019.

©2018
Physical Description:
288 pages ; 18 cm
Contents:
A stressed-out mind in a stressed-out world -- The big picture -- A feeling is not your face -- Notes on time -- Life overload -- Internet anxieties -- Shock of the news -- A small section on sleep -- Priorities -- Phone fears -- The detective of despair -- The thinking body -- The end of reality -- Wanting -- Two lists about work -- Shaping the future -- The song of you -- Everything you are is enough.
Summary:
"A follow-up to Matt Haig's internationally bestselling memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive, a broader look at how modern life feeds our anxiety, and how to live a better life. The societies we live in are increasingly making our minds ill, making it feel as though the way we live is engineered to make us unhappy. When Matt Haig developed panic disorder, anxiety, and depression as an adult, it took him a long time to work out the ways the external world could impact his mental health in both positive and negative ways. Notes on a Nervous Planet collects his observations, taking a look at how the various social, commercial and technological 'advancements' that have created the world we now live in can actually hinder our happiness. Haig examines everything from broader phenomena like inequality, social media, and the news; to things closer to our daily lives, like how we sleep, how we exercise, and even the distinction we draw between our minds and our bodies"-- Provided by publisher.
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Material Type
Call Number
Status
Searching...
Book 155.904 Haig
Searching...
Searching...
Book 155.904 Haig
Searching...
Searching...
Book 155.904 Haig
Searching...
Searching...
Book 155.904 Haig
Searching...
Searching...
Book 155.904 Haig
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

A follow-up to Matt Haig's internationally bestselling memoir, Reasons to Stay Alive , a broader look at how modern life feeds our anxiety, and how to live a better life.

The societies we live in are increasingly making our minds ill, making it feel as though the way we live is engineered to make us unhappy. When Matt Haig developed panic disorder, anxiety, and depression as an adult, it took him a long time to work out the ways the external world could impact his mental health in both positive and negative ways. Notes on a Nervous Planet collects his observations, taking a look at how the various social, commercial and technological "advancements" that have created the world we now live in can actually hinder our happiness. Haig examines everything from broader phenomena like inequality, social media, and the news; to things closer to our daily lives, like how we sleep, how we exercise, and even the distinction we draw between our minds and our bodies.


Author Notes

Matt Haig was born on July 3, 1975 in Sheffield. He attended the University of Hull where he studied English and History. He has since become a British novelist and journalist. He has authored both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. His non-fiction title "Reasns to Stay Alive" became a Sunday Times bestseller. His bestselling children's novel, A Boy Called Christrmas is now being adapted for film. His other works include: The Last Family in England, The Dead Fathers Club, Shadow Forest, The Possession of Mr. Cave, How to Stop Time and Runaway Troll.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Novelist and memoirist Haig (Reasons to Stay Alive) relates his experiences suffering from panic attacks and anxiety in this astute mix of selfhelp and memoir. Haig divides the book into small chapters (many less than a page) that delve into a single idea, like paying attention to the basics of good nutrition and sleep, or trying to understand the mind/body connection. Throughout, he asks the reader to consider the bigger picture: "Of course, in the cosmic perspective, the whole of human history has been fast." Wry and selfdeprecating, Haig charms with his lighthearted tone: "We are mysterious. We don't know why we are here. We have to craft our own meaning. The mystery is tantalizing." While the work reads more like a collection of blog posts than a fully fleshedout book, readers will appreciate Haig's approach to living in a playful yet thoughtful way. Switching seamlessly between light and serious, colloquial and formal, Haig's prose reflects his topic, whether it is 24hour news and social media, or weightier topics such as inequality, addiction, and faith, with chapter titles such as "Places I have had panic attacks" and "How to own a smartphone and still be a functioning human being." By challenging readers to rethink their role in the modern world, Haig's book will embolden them to keep learning and pursuing their passions in order to ease anxiety. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

He was having a panic attack in the middle of a mall. At 24 years old, Haig had first had an attack the previous month, filled with pain and terror. And now he was crying in the middle of a shopping center, with his girlfriend, Andrea, trying to talk him through it. Years later, Andrea, now Haig's wife, would try to help him again, this time preventing him from getting caught up in a fight on the internet. And soon he would have another bout with anxiety. But as he disconnected from technology to try to recover, Haig began thinking about writing a book to address how to handle the constant demands of modern life. Notes on a Nervous Planet contains lists, imagined conversations, essays, and personal stories that critique the damage that worry about the environment, politics, the news, and everything else that demands our attention on a daily basis wreaks on our ability to live a full life. Haig artfully, powerfully counters these challenges with battle-tested advice from his own hard-won experience.--Bridget Thoreson Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

How did i know my anxiety had gotten the better of me? When I found myself taking meticulous notes on a forthcoming book by Erica Feldmann called hausmagick: Transform Your Home With Witchcraft (HarperOne, $25.99, available in March). The year 2018 hadn't been so great, what with the death of a husband and, possibly, a republic. Maybe 2019 would be better if 1 bought certain purifying elements for my home. The right crystals, sage sticks and - salt? Apparently, you can sprinkle salt around the house after a person with "toxic energy" visits. Attention future dates: If you see me reaching for the shaker as you're leaving, you know things haven't gone well. If my nerves are frayed, 1 take cold comfort in knowing I'm not alone. Whether it's our political situation, the jangling distractions of everyday life or the not-irrational sense that mankind's need to find another planet isn't just a sci-fi plotline, we seem to be in the midst of one massive freakout. Kierkegaard argued that anxiety stemmed from the "dizziness of freedom," the paralysis that comes from infinite choice and possibility. That was in 1844. Imagine what he would have thought about today. But here's some good news: If we're all a little tense, well, there's a book for that. Many books, actually. Several of the ones 1 consulted were so wrongheaded or incomprehensible they made me more nervous. ("Motivation is a Unicom Fart" almost made me hurl in a glittery rainbow arc.) Here are three that worked. Recently a friend told me that he had reached what he calls his vidpoint: the moment you realize you have more movie hours stored on your DVR than you have hours left to live. 1 thought about that friend while reading Matt Haig's notes on a nervous planet (Penguin, paper, $16), a follow-up to his previous book "Reasons to Stay Alive," which chronicled his struggles with anxiety and depression. The core of first-world malaise, he argues, can be summed up by something T S. Eliot observed in "Four Quartets": We are "distracted from distraction by distraction." Here, in clever chapterettes and listicles (he seems to assume we're all too jumpy to read more than a few pages at a time), Haig muses about our anxieties: our fears of aging, of not being rich, of not being beautiful or successful enough. All while being massive consumers of everything. What really sells, he says, is not so much sex as fear. Every day, every minute, we're deluged with images of people who are prettier, richer and having more fun than we are. And then there's the bombardment of news, which is presented in a way to provide "more food for our nightmares." Which is why we must take time to simply turn it all off and go outside. (I'm going to do this just as soon as the Mueller report is delivered.) This isn't exactly a novel concept, and Haig mentions but doesn't explore the science of, say, why staring at the sky or simply being out in nature helps our mental health. But he does have some memorable ways of telling us about it. ("Hello. 1 am the beach_1 have been around for millions of years. 1 was around at the dawn of life itself. And 1 have to tell you something... .1 am entirely indifferent to your body mass index.... 1 am oblivious.") And he has one terrific piece of advice that I'm thinking of sewing on a pillow sampler and giving to my teenage sons: "Never be cool. Never try to be cool. Never worry what the cool people think. Head for the warm people. Life is warmth. You'll be cool when you're dead." I can't help noting, however, that the last time 1 checked Haig's Twitter feed he had posted seven times in two hours. Maybe he's still trying. "Anxiety" is a mild term for what can be a severe mental illness. In fact, anxiety disorders of various degrees are among the most common mental illnesses in America, affecting more than one in five adults. In how not to fall APART: Lessons Learned on the Road From Self-Harm to Self-Care (TarcherPerigee, paper, $16), Maggy Van Eijk starts with a hopeful message: You can have any number of mental health issues and still learn to cope. Van Eijk, who's now the BBC's social media editor, has a history of severe anxiety as well as borderline personality disorder; her arms are scarred from years of cutting. She's also really funny. Here's a partial list of what one of her bad anxiety days can look like: "Waking up in the middle of the night to remember that thing 1 said five years ago was a bit rude. Time to linger on that memory until sunrise! ... Having a bath to try to relax but then remembering the bath is basically an open coffin filled with my own liquid filth.... Seeing a pile of clothes in the dark and thinking it looks like a massive panther, then thinking ... 'What if it is a panther?' " Van Eijk's book is organized around life challenges, and what to remember if they happen to You, Person With Mental Illness. Her explanation of self-harm is particularly touching and helped me to understand why a person might do it. Among the reasons she hasn't done it, she writes, is that "I've been listening to My Chemical Romance all day." Rather, it's about the anger that "refuses to leave my body" if she's upset or about the feeling that "my voice isn't being heard and it has nowhere to go." This is a woman who, after a breakup, had to go to a burn unit after repeatedly putting out a cigarette on her arm, so one tends to listen to her about the distraction/substitution methods she uses to stop hurting herself. And her reasons for doing things as mundane as making lists turn out not to be mundane at all. "Lists," she reminds us, "are a direct link to the future." And if you're someone who has thoughts about having no future, she says, they can at least temporarily steer you away from a terrible decision. If I had a self-destructive young adult in my life, someone in real pain, this is probably the book I'd get her. Like many who have experienced recent loss, 1 tend to bolt upright at 3 in the morning, heart pounding, with one overarching thought: "What now?" Which is why 1 found Claire Bidwell Smith's ANXIETY: The Missing Stage of Grief (Lifelong/Da Capo, $26) both soothing and informative. Smith was 14 and an only child when both of her parents got cancer. If that's not enough of a breeding ground for a lifetime of anxiety attacks, 1 don't know what is. The experience of both parents dying when she was young propelled Smith into hospice work and grief therapy. "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear," C. S. Lewis wrote in "A Grief Observed," and Smith understands this observation on the deepest personal level. She goes over techniques for dealing with anxiety, whatever its source. Maybe it's about the guilt you feel when recalling the decisions you've made for a dying loved one; maybe it's about your loneliness; or maybe, as is often the case in full-blown panic attacks, it's because you're convinced that you're next. Smith's words are particularly useful for panic attack sufferers. Once you know that you're not, indeed, dying, she shows you how you can normalize your panic, and how you can look at these episodes with curiosity, not terror, ft's also useful to be reminded that American society isn't one that honors grief. In many other cultures, she explains, quoting a colleague, you have "six or 12 months of a grieving period where the world doesn't expect much of you." Someone give me that one-year-free pass, please. Certainly reading a book or three may not be the answer, and none of these books emphasize, or even discuss, medication as a possible aid. My own thoughts about dealing with severe anxiety? Start with your doctor. And then, for life's more modest challenges, there's always my new goto: A DRINKABLE FEAST: A Cocktail Companion to 1920s Paris (TarcherPerigee, $18), by Philip Greene. 1 have yet to try a Monkey Gland or a Scoff-Law cocktail, but am infinitely calmer after three glasses of vin blanc cassis - and pleased to know it was a Henry Miller favorite. Four ounces of chilled dry white wine, one ounce of chilled creme de cassis, red fruit for garnish. Now breathe. You're welcome. Judith newman is the author, most recently, of "To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son and the Kindness of Machines."


Excerpts

Excerpts

A STRESSED-OUT MIND IN A STRESSED-OUT WORLD A conversation, about a year ago I was stressed out. I was walking around in circles, trying to win an argument on the internet. And Andrea was looking at me. Or I think Andrea was looking at me. It was hard to tell, as I was looking at my phone. "Matt? Matt?" "Uh. Yeah?" "What's up?" she asked, in the kind of despairing voice that develops with marriage. Or marriage to me. "Nothing." "You haven't looked up from your phone in over an hour. You're just walking around, banging into furniture." My heart was racing. There was a tightness in my chest. Fight or flight. I felt cornered and threatened by someone on the internet who lived over 8,000 miles away from me and who I would never meet, but who was still managing to ruin my weekend. "I'm just getting back to something." "Matt, get off there." "I just-" The thing with mental turmoil is that so many things that make you feel better in the short term make you feel worse in the long term. You distract yourself, when what you really need is to know yourself. "Matt!" An hour later, in the car, Andrea glanced at me in the passenger seat. I wasn't on my phone, but I had a tight hold of it, for security, like a nun clutching her rosary. "Matt, are you okay?" "Yeah. Why?" "You look lost. You look like you used to look, when . . ." She stopped herself saying "when you had depression" but I knew what she meant. And besides, I could feel anxiety and depression around me. Not actually there but close. The memory of it something I could almost touch in the stifling air of the car. "I'm fine," I lied. "I'm fine, I'm fine . . ." Within a week I was lying on my sofa, falling into my eleventh bout of anxiety. A life edit I was scared. I couldn't not be. Being scared is what anxiety is all about. The bouts were becoming closer and closer. I was worried where I was heading. It seemed there was no upper limit to despair. I tried to distract myself out of it. However, I knew from past experience alcohol was off limits. So I did the things that had helped before to climb out of a hole. The things I forget to do in day-to-day life. I was careful about what I ate. I did yoga. I tried to meditate. I lay on the floor and placed my hand on my stomach and inhaled deeply-in, out, in, out-and noticed the stuttery rhythm of my breath. But everything was difficult. Even choosing what to wear in the morning could make me cry. It didn't matter that I had felt like this before. A sore throat doesn't become less sore simply because you've felt it before. I tried to read, but found it hard to concentrate. I listened to podcasts. I watched new Netflix shows. I went on social media. I tried to get on top of my work by replying to all my emails. I woke up and clasped my phone, and prayed that whatever I could find there could take me out of myself. But-spoiler alert-it didn't work. I began to feel worse. And many of the "distractions" were doing nothing but driving me further to distraction. In T. S. Eliot's phrase from his Four Quartets, I was "distracted from distraction by distraction." I would stare at an unanswered email, with a feeling of dread, and not be able to answer it. Then, on Twitter, my go-to digital distraction of choice, I noticed my anxiety intensify. Even just passively scrolling my timeline felt like an exposure of a wound. I read news websites-another distraction-and my mind couldn't take it. The knowledge of so much suffering in the world didn't help put my pain in perspective. It just made me feel powerless. And pathetic that my invisible woes were so paralyzing when there were so many visible woes in the world. My despair intensified. So I decided to do something. I disconnected. I chose not to look at social media for a few days. I put an auto-response on my emails, too. I stopped watching or reading the news. I didn't watch TV. I didn't watch any music videos. Even magazines I avoided. (During my initial breakdown, years before, the bright imagery of magazines always used to linger and clog my mind with feverish racing images as I tried to sleep.) I left my phone downstairs when I went to bed. I tried to get outside more. My bedside table was cluttered with a chaos of wires and technology and books I wasn't really reading. So I tidied up and took them away, too. In the house, I tried to lie in darkness as much as possible, the way you might deal with a migraine. I had always, since I was first suicidally ill in my twenties, understood that getting better involved a kind of life edit. A taking away. As the minimalism advocate Fumio Sasaki puts it: "there's a happiness in having less." In the early days of my first experience of panic the only things I had taken away were booze and cigarettes and strong coffees. Now, though, years later, I realized that a more general overload was the problem. A life overload. And certainly a technology overload. The only real technology I interacted with during this present recovery-aside from the car and the cooker-were yoga videos on YouTube, which I watched with the brightness turned low. The anxiety didn't miraculously disappear. Of course not. Unlike my smartphone, there is no "slide to power off" function for anxiety. But I stopped feeling worse. I plateaued. And after a few days, things began to calm. The familiar path of recovery arrived sooner rather than later. And abstaining from stimulants-not just alcohol and caffeine, but these other things-was part of the process. I began, in short, to feel free again. How this book came about Most people know the modern world can have physical effects. That, despite advances, aspects of modern life are dangerous for our bodies. Car accidents, smoking, air pollution, a sofa-dwelling lifestyle, takeout pizza, radiation, that fourth glass of Merlot. Even being at a laptop can pose physical dangers. Sitting down all day, getting an RSI. Once I was even told by an optician that my eye infection and blocked tear ducts were caused by staring at a screen. We blink less, apparently, when working on a computer. So, as physical health and mental health are intertwined, couldn't the same be said about the modern world and our mental states? Couldn't aspects of how we live in the modern world be responsible for how we feel in the modern world? Not just in terms of the stuff of modern life, but its values, too. The values that cause us to want more than we have. To worship work above play. To compare the worst bits of ourselves with the best bits of other people. To feel like we always lack something. And as I grew better, by the day, I began to have an idea about a book-this book right here. I had already written about my mental health in Reasons to Stay Alive. But the question now was not: why should I stay alive? The question this time was a broader one: how can we live in a mad world without ourselves going mad? News from a nervous planet As I began researching I quickly found some attention- grabbing headlines for an attention-grabbing age. Of course, news is almost designed to stress us out. If it was designed to keep us calm it wouldn't be news. It would be yoga. Or a puppy. So there is an irony about news companies reporting on anxiety while also making us anxious. Anyway, here are some of those headlines: stress and social media fuel mental health crisis among girls (The Guardian) chronic loneliness is a modern-day epidemic (Forbes) facebook "may make you miserable," says facebook (Sky News) "steep rise" in self-harm among teenagers (BBC) workplace stress affects 73 percent of employees (The Australian) stark rise in eating disorders blamed on overexposure to celebrities' bodies (The Guardian) suicide on campus and the pressure of perfection (The New York Times) workplace stress rising sharply (Radio New Zealand) will robots take our children's jobs? (The New York Times) stress, hostility rising in american high schools in trump era (The Washington Post) children in hong kong are raised to excel, not to be happy (South China Morning Post) high anxiety: more and more people are today turning to drugs to deal with stress (El Pa's) army of therapists to be sent into schools to tackle anxiety epidemic (The Telegraph) is the internet giving us all adhd? (The Washington Post) "our minds can be hijacked": the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia (The Guardian) teenagers are growing more anxious and depressed (The Economist) instagram worst social media app for young people's mental health (CNN) why are rates of suicide soaring across the planet? (Alternet) As I said, it is ironic that reading the news about how things are making us anxious and depressed actually can make us anxious, and that tells us as much as the headlines themselves. The aim in this book isn't to say that everything is a disaster and we're all screwed, because we already have Twitter for that. No. The aim isn't even to say that the modern world has uniformly worse problems than before. In some specific ways it is getting measurably better. In figures from the World Bank, the number of people worldwide living in severe economic hardship is falling radically, with over one billion people moving out of extreme poverty in the last thirty years. And think of all the millions of children's lives around the globe saved by vaccinations. As Nicholas Kristof pointed out in a 2017 New York Times article, "if just about the worst thing that can happen is for a parent to lose a child, that's about half as likely as it was in 1990." So for all the ongoing violence and intolerance and economic injustice prevalent in our species, there are-on the most global of scales-also reasons for pride and hope. The problem is that each age poses a unique and complex set of challenges. And while many things have improved, not all things have. Inequalities still remain. And some new problems have arisen. People often live in fear, or feel inadequate, or even suicidal, when they have- materially-more than ever. And I am keenly aware that the oft-used approach of pointing out a list of advantages of modern life, such as health and education and average income, does not help. It is like a wagging finger telling a depressed person to count her blessings because no one has died. This book seeks to recognize that what we feel is just as important as what we have. That mental well-being counts as much as physical well-being-indeed, that it is part of physical well-being. And that, on these terms, something is going wrong. If the modern world is making us feel bad, then it doesn't matter what else we have going for us, because feeling bad sucks. And feeling bad when we are told there is no reason to, well, that sucks even more. I want this book to put these stressed-out headlines in context, and to look at how to protect ourselves in a world of potential panic. Because, whatever else we have going for ourselves, our minds are still vulnerable. Many mental health problems are quantifiably rising, and-if we believe our mental well-being is important-we need, quite desperately, to look at what might be behind these changes. Mental health problems are not: A bandwagon. Fashionable. A fad. A celebrity trend. A result of a growing awareness of mental health problems. Always easy to talk about. The same as they always were. Yin to the yang So, it is a tale of two realities. Many of us, it is true, have a lot to be grateful for in the developed world. The rise in life expectancy, the decline in infant mortality, the availability of food and shelter, the absence of major all-encompassing world wars. We have addressed many of our basic physical needs. So many of us live in relative day-to-day safety, with roofs over our heads and food on the table. But after solving some problems, are we left with others? Have some social advances brought new problems? Of course. It sometimes feels as if we have temporarily solved the problem of scarcity and replaced it with the problem of excess. Everywhere we look, people are seeking ways to change their lifestyles, by taking things away. Diets are the obvious example of this passion for restriction, but think also of the trend for dedicating whole months in the calendar to veganism or sobriety, and the growing desire for "digital detoxes." The growth in mindfulness, meditation and minimal living is a visible response to an overloaded culture. A yin to the frantic yang of 21st-century life. Excerpted from Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.