Matt Haig's bestselling Reasons to Stay Alive has helped innumerable people understand and navigate their own mental health. In Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt delves once again into his own personal experiences and extends a helping hand to everyone feeling overwhelmed by modern life. We've an extract from the book below.
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The world is having a panic attack
Panic is a kind of overload.
That is how my panic attacks used to feel. An excess of thought and fear. An overloaded mind reaches a breaking point and the panic floods in. Because that overload makes you feel trapped. Psychologically boxed in. That is why panic attacks often happen in over-stimulating environments. Supermarkets and nightclubs and theatres and overcrowded trains.
But what happens when overload becomes a central characteristic of modern life? Consumer overload. Work overload. Environmental overload. News overload. Information overload.
The challenge today, then, is not that life is necessarily worse than it once was. In many ways, human lives have the potential to be better and healthier and even happier than in eras past. The trouble is our lives are also cluttered. The challenge is to find who we are amid the crowd of ourselves.
Places I have had panic attacks
The windowless basement floor of a department store.
A packed music festival.
At a nightclub.
On an aeroplane.
On the London underground.
In a tapas bar in Seville.
In the BBC News green room.
On a train from London to York (it lasted most of the journey).
In a cinema.
In a theatre.
At a corner shop.
On a stage, feeling unnatural, with a thousand faces staring at me.
Walking through Covent Garden.
Watching the TV.
At home, very late at night, after a busy day, with a streetlight glowing an ominous orange through the curtains.
In a bank.
In front of a computer screen.
Matt Haig is the number one bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and six highly acclaimed novels for adults, including How to Stop Time, The Humans and The Radleys. He has also written books for children and has won the Blue Peter Award, the Smarties Book Prize and has been shortlisted three times for the Carnegie Medal. He has sold more than a million books in the UK and his work has been translated into over forty languages.
Photo credit: Kan Lailey