Booklovers – “First, we make the beast beautiful: a new story of anxiety”

“First, we make the beast beautiful”
– a new story of anxiety
by Sarah Wilson

I have to admit when I picked up this book, I read the first page (she writes about meeting the Dalai Lama on page one) and then put it back on the shelf, my ego telling me “Karen what do you need to know about anxiety, forget it!”
Oh gosh the ego loves to deny weak spots.
I loved this book. If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed I’ve been sharing little gems of wisdom from it’s pages. Because it hit a personal spot and made so much sense in a real, tangible way.
Yes, I, myself am an “anxious type”. Years ago I discovered that Yoga was an amazing, powerful practice for me to work with my experience of anxiety. Let’s just say I became pretty addicted to all things Yoga.
By practicing Yoga each morning I was able to help myself in the dissolving of anxiety. I say ‘dissolving’ because it’s not something I try to fully eliminate, even if that were possible.
If you do experience anxiety, take a read of this beautiful book; it’s like having a conversation with Sarah (who by the way was diagnosed with anxiety and insomnia at age 12, later OCD and bipolar disorder, which she describes as all anxiety, just different flavours.) She has so much wisdom to share from her personal experience and you will understand from her perspective also why anxiety is not a curse to try to get rid of. As well as plenty of ways to work with it. Yep, she recommends Yoga too!

I do believe (as Sarah also mentions) that anxiety tends to happen to those more sensitive and/or creative people, and being sensitive (eg. senses are more alive, colours brighter, air fresher, clarity, awake-ness)…. is  a gift, when you realise it is.

Sarah writes:
“…like me you might have wondered if there’s another way. I’d like to say this upfront. I write these very words because I’ve come to believe that you can be fretty and chattery in the head and awake at 4am and trying really hard at everything. AND you can get on with having a great life. Hey, the Dalai Lama told me so. Actually, I’ll go a bit further. I’ve come to believe that the fretting ITSELF can be the very thing that plonks you on the path to a great life.”

Sarah refers to “anxious types” and “life naturals”…She mentions that the book is really for “anxious types” but also helpful for “life naturals” to understand us anxious types. She also explains how anxious types often gravitate to life-naturals as partners or friends for that amazing stability and ease they have;  a rock of support.  However life-naturals often don’t understand what anxious types experience and here’s where Sarah has quite a few pages you can highlight or just casually leave around for your “life-natural” to read, to give them some handy hints and tips.

For example:
“Another simple thing you can do, dear-loved-one-of-someone-with-anxiety, is to just be there, patiently, when we wobble. Just stay. And be entirely certain and solid about doing so, even in the very convincing face of pushback and the frantic wobbliness from us. Your patience and calmness with exist in such stark contrast to our funk that we’ll start to feel silly and return to Earth. Our anxiety does pass.”

And I TOTALLY agree with Sarah’s advice to get out into nature! It’s one of my fav things to do either by myself or with my children and husband. Sarah describes herself as a ‘mad hiker’. She explains that “multiple studies show that folk who live in green spaces have lower rates of mental health issues. It’s been suggested that getting away from city freneticness allows the prefrontal cortex to take a break. Accordingly, stress hormones, heart rate and other markers back off…..Hiking connects us to ourselves. A university study found that because our senses evolved in nature, by getting back to it we connect more honestly with our sensory reactions. Which connects us with our true selves, and enhances a feeling of ‘oneness’….”

Here’s a ‘little trick’ she shares when needing to deal with an ‘anxious surge’ (from Eckhart Tolle! Love him!):
“It helped me get all that ‘be in the present’ stuff that my anxiety had previously stopped me from even being able to conceptualise, let alone FEEL…..try it, right now. Not in the future! – ‘Ask yourself what PROBLEM you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. What is wrong with this moment?’
“He asks you to try it right now with a problem. Try it with a bit of your particular brand of anxious buzz as you read this. Feel into the problem NOW; not in sixty seconds, not in two seconds. Now! Your head might jump fifteen minutes ahead. No. Now. Is the problem still there?
“Nope. It’s gone, right?
“As Tolle tells it, worries don’t exist in the now. Worries about the future or the past don’t exist either – they’re just narratives we create in the present. Practice asking yourself ‘what’s the problem’ often. See if you don’t start to feel the anxious cycle back away. See if those startled birds at sunset don’t begin to settle, softly, gently, at dusk. See if this gentleness is where you want to be.”

I also love how Sarah reminds me that thoughts are exactly that – ‘thoughts’. We do tend to get tangled up in stories that may or may not even happen. Sarah writes:

“Real disasters are a cinch compared to the shit we make up in our head. Actually they’re a relief. When the future does arrive, we’re always okay…”

You can visit Sarah’s website at
You can find the book almost anywhere right now…eg.BigW

If you are in need of support:
Life Line: or call 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: or call 1300 22 4636
Or speak to your GP who can refer you to a specialist