Being Human by Natalie Read

Publisher: IAS Publishing Publication Date: 2019

In a world where just looking at the news can create anxiety and a sense of hopelessness it is important to take time out and look after yourself. Things can very quickly become overwhelming and it leads to a sense of feeling isolated, not knowing where to go to for help. On reading Natalie Read’s text ‘Being Human’ it felt as though it was a direct response to these feelings. It is a text that sets out to be a foundation stone in a system of support for everyone at any point.

Working as a mental health counsellor for over twelve years, Read’s motivation for writing the text was the ‘increasing trend of young people experiencing mental health issues and, given that resources are stretched…it can be difficult to get help quickly.’ This situation seems to have been exacerbated by the pandemic and looks to be a situation that cannot be easily resolved. Systems and institutions are stretched, and we may feel we are inconveniencing others if we ask for help with our mental health particularly when our NHS is carrying such a heavy load.

The book itself is organised into clear, demarcated sections and although I set out reading in a chronological order, I found myself following paths and recommendations that are suggested throughout the chapters. There are exercises at the end of each chapter to help not only consolidate understanding but allow the reader a period of self-reflection that can be elusive in a world that is forever moving and changing. This was compounded by the free guided meditations led by the author which all work together to stress the necessity and importance of looking after yourself, that you are worth making the time for.

Repeated advice struck me throughout the text. Things that we may take for granted or deny ourselves due to the busyness of everyday. Drinking water, not eating too many processed foods, seeking solace and comfort in nature and having outlets for our emotions are all imperative. Read is keen to impress that mental health is a ‘continuum-one we all go up and down at various points in our lives’ it is not something that we do once and then move on but rather it is something that we need to be mindful of and ensure we consistently check in with ourselves. The title of the book ‘Being Human’ exemplifies this idea, it is something that we all must contend with and so universal in that respect. As Read writes, ‘Being human means we all have opportunities to learn and grow. We all make mistakes. We all say or do the wrong thing.’ Reminding ourselves of this is helpful and allows us to not apportion self-blame so keenly.

I particularly enjoyed the recommended reading and TED talks suggestions that pepper the text. For example, Brene Brown’s talk on vulnerability was illuminating as was the reference to Susan Jeffers. These moments led to exploration elsewhere and so enabled me to pursue areas that I felt were relevant to me. This was a strength of the text, it feels like a starting point and a companion that you could keep with you. It is not something to file away after a single reading but rather a reference guide that can keep you on ‘the path to self-acceptance, resilience and happiness.’

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