books for burnout stress and overwhelm
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7 Essential Books for Anyone Struggling with Burnout & Overwhelm

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As a self-confessed bibliophile, my relationship with books is deep and enduring—truly a love affair that knows no bounds. Books occupy every corner of my living space, with at least 20 titles currently jostling for room on my nightstand alone. I’m a regular at my local library, always eager to discover new titles and hidden gems.

So, it’s natural that whenever I encounter a personal challenge, my first instinct is to turn to books. Whether it’s a relatable memoir from someone who’s been there or a non-fiction guide offering new insights into my troubles, books have always been my go-to resource. As I navigate the complexities of my burnout and stress and explore what it means to live a more meaningful life, I often find answers and inspiration on their pages. And when all else fails, I can just escape into some excellent fiction.

Reviewing books is a passion of mine, and though there are many reviews to come at Morning Human, I feel compelled to share a curated list of essential reads that have helped me in managing my stress and burnout. These are more than just books for burnout; they are tools for healing, understanding, and growth. So, without further ado, let’s dive into these transformative works that can help guide us through trying times.

1. Rest to Reset: The Busy Person’s Guide to Pausing With Purpose by Suzy Reading

books for burnout stress and overwhelm

When you’re completely fried, the idea of picking up a hefty tome can feel even more overwhelming, so we’re starting off with an easy one. This beautifully designed book is easy to ready in short bursts and it’s full of practical advice.

Each chapter is structured to not only underline the scientific underpinnings of rest and its benefits but also to provide practical strategies that can be seamlessly integrated into the busiest of schedules. From mindfulness exercises to establishing restorative routines, this guide empowers readers to reclaim their time, refresh their minds, and revitalize their bodies.

2. Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee

books for burnout stress and overwhelm

This book is a real eye-opener that challenges our obsession with constant busyness and the endless hustle. Headlee argues that we’ve got it all wrong thinking that non-stop work and chasing achievements are the way to live fully. She shares personal stories, digs into some history, and throws in some solid research to show how this go-go-go mentality is actually messing with our well-being, happiness, and relationships. (Ya don’t say?)

Headlee makes a strong case for why we should embrace downtime and leisure as essential, not just luxury extras. She offers up some super practical tips to help us shake off that hustle mindset and find more peace in just being, not always doing.

3. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

books for burnout stress and overwhelm

 If you’ve read the Morning, Human review, you know I absolutely swear by this book. It’s made for those of us with endless to-do lists and crushing guilt over not getting it all done. Burkeman brings a fresh take on the whole time management scene. Rather than offering tips on how to do more in less time, he flips the script and asks us to think about our limited time differently.

Burkeman points out that, on average, we have about four thousand weeks in a lifetime. That’s not a lot when you think about it, and it’s his way of saying maybe we shouldn’t stress about cramming everything in. The book is packed with thoughtful insights and philosophical reflections on embracing our time limitations instead of fighting them.

He doesn’t just leave you with these big ideas; he also gives practical advice on how to make peace with your to-do list and find fulfillment in what you can manage to do, rather than stressing over what you can’t. If you’re tired of the same old productivity hacks and want a book that helps you slow down and find meaning in your everyday life, ‘Four Thousand Weeks’ is for you.

4. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

books for burnout stress and overwhelm

If you’ve ever felt like you’re just a cog in the machine of constant productivity and engagement (ahem, raises hand), Jenny Odell’s first book might just be the antidote you need. This book is a powerful call to step back from our social media feeds and the barrage of push notifications to reclaim our time, attention, and, ultimately, our lives.

Odell doesn’t suggest we throw our tech away but rather encourages us to rethink how we engage with it. She delves into the idea of doing ‘nothing’ not as a form of laziness, but as an act of political resistance and self-preservation. By choosing where we place our attention, we can find a more fulfilling way of living that isn’t dictated by algorithms and likes. The book mixes personal anecdotes with historical and philosophical insights, making it a thought-provoking read that’s perfect for anyone looking to break away from the demands of the attention economy.

5. Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski

books for burnout stress and overwhelm

This selection offers a little bit more science for those of us who want authors to show their work, tackling the real root of stress and effective strategies for dealing with it. Emily Nagoski and her sister, Amelia, dive deep into the science of stress and explain why simply resolving stressors isn’t enough; we also need to complete the stress cycle. They describe practical methods for achieving this, like physical activity, breathing techniques, and social connection, emphasizing that managing stress is within our control.

Though this is a pretty straightforward read, it’s still packed with relatable scenarios and compassionate advice, making complex psychological concepts accessible.

6. Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout by Cal Newport

Doing nothing is an important skill to cultivate, but it’s not likely a full-time endeavor. So when you have to do something, or a lot of somethings, this book can help.  Newport challenges the fast-paced, ‘do more’ culture and reintroduces us to the almost forgotten art of accomplishing more by doing less, but doing it better.

In this book, Newport argues for a ‘slow productivity’ approach, suggesting that we focus on the quality and significance of our work rather than sheer quantity. He provides practical advice on how to structure our work life so that we can be productive without falling into the burnout trap. This includes setting boundaries, prioritizing deep work, and eliminating the culture of constant busyness.

This read is for anyone looking to find sustainable productivity methods that emphasize well-being and long-term success. Newport’s insights help us understand that sometimes, the best way to achieve more is by slowing down and giving each task the attention it deserves.

7. Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond Productivity Culture by Jenny Odell

I love the way Odell’s writing always triggers a major perspective shift, so it’s no surprise she appears twice on this list. Building off the themes in ‘How to Do Nothing‘, ‘Saving Time‘ is a captivating exploration of how we can live richer, more meaningful lives by stepping away from the relentless pursuit of efficiency. Odell invites us to pause and consider the ways our obsession with being productive has shaped not only how we work but how we live, love, and interact with our environment.

Here Odell urges readers to find value in ‘unproductive’ activities that nurture our souls and connect us to our communities and the natural world. She challenges the mainstream narrative that every second must be optimized for maximum output and instead offers ways to reclaim our time as a space for creativity, reflection, and genuine rest.

‘Saving Time’ is on the list of books for burnout because it provides insightful guidance on how to slow down and create a life filled with purposeful engagements rather than just accomplishments. This book is a must-read for anyone looking to escape the productivity trap and embrace a more intentional and fulfilling way of being.”

BONUS: The Nap Ministry’s Rest Deck: 50 Practices to Resist Grind Culture by Tricia Hersey

This one is not a book (though to be fair it is based off a book which is a must-read, imho), but this is an excellent option to get bite-sized burnout relief without doing a lot of reading. This 50-card deck is a creative and inspiring tool that is designed to inject moments of pause and peace in your daily life.

Each card in the deck offers a specific practice or contemplation aimed at encouraging rest and recovery, challenging the societal norms that equate busyness with worth. From guided meditations and mindful breathing exercises to prompts for journaling and self-reflection, these cards are crafted to help you slow down and prioritize your well-being.

This deck is not just about napping; it’s about cultivating a radical form of self-care that empowers you to declare your right to rest. It’s perfect for anyone who is seeking tangible ways to incorporate more downtime into their life. Just draw a card to carve out a few moments of tranquility and resist the grind culture that so often leads to burnout.

And there you have it! My seven essential books for burnout, stress, and overwhelm. I hope you find something on the list that can bring you a little bit of perspective and peace.

If you know of a book that I should add to this list, let me know in the comments below!

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