Book Review: The Stress Management Handbook
Sometimes people don’t realize how stressed they are until a minor thing triggers a bout of anger that does not match the circumstance. In The Stress Management Handbook: A Practical Guide to Staying Calm, Keeping Cool, and Avoiding Blow-Ups, Eva Selhub talks about how people can stay calm in tough situations.
Selhub has the credentials to cover this topic, with experience as a physician, author, speaker, scientist, and health consultant, incorporating spirituality with mental health practices. But beyond her credentials, she shared a personal experience of how she was triggered by a seemingly minor circumstance and realized that her anger did not make sense for the perceived offense. That led her to examine why she reacted the way she did, and to search for a better way to respond.
Each chapter talks about some form of stress and how people respond, with exercises for readers to get in touch with how they react to circumstances. Activities include exercising during the week, keeping a relationship assessment, or an activity and mood log. The book has a cognitive behavioral therapy feel with the suggestions to monitor thoughts and behavior.
Stress is part of life. We cannot always avoid stress, nor should we, because it can enhance performance. Because we cannot avoid it, Selhub suggests we redirect it. She pulls from Buddhist philosophies and new age practices talking about our chakras and how we can shift our energy. She also includes exercises that are more physical and familiar to those who practice yoga or meditation. I did not completely understand the connection to chakras and it is not a philosophy I subscribe to, so it may be more meaningful to someone who shares her worldview.
I appreciated her chapter on using laughter, something most of us probably do not have enough of. Exercises in this section are interesting, but may not appeal to those who are a bit more reserved – like me. For example, one exercise directs people to curse like a foreigner while standing with their legs shoulder-width apart and a finger pointed to the sky. This pose is accompanied by cursing with a foreign accent. It is not something that works for my personality but others who are more expressive may enjoy these types of activities.
Another exercise she offers on laughter is comedic writing. In this practice, she asks that readers take a situation that made them angry and turn it into a humorous story. Because there are multiple types of exercises, there is plenty to appeal to different segments of readers. There is no need to do every single exercise, and there are plenty of principles to learn without them.
One of her final chapters, which is on forgiveness, should be the first chapter. When I had my private practice, many clients had underlying issues around grudge holding and being unforgiving. No matter how much people try to repress it, when there is bitterness and resentment it is eventually going to come out somehow – likely with anger. Selhub offers exercises around forgiveness, encouraging readers to find some compassion for people who make them angry.
The working title of the advanced review copy was Blow Up or Bliss Out: An Interactive Guide to Managing Stress before it Manages You. The current title for next year’s January 2019 release is The Stress Management Handbook which was a good change because the content is applicable for anyone who doesn’t manage stress well, not just those with anger problems.
The Stress Management Handbook is a light-hearted guide for people who are looking for new ways to get unstuck. It is potentially also a good source for people who want to try some a few things outside of the box.
The Stress Management Handbook: A Practical Guide to Staying Calm, Keeping Cool, and Avoiding Blow-Ups
Eva Selhub, MD
Hardcover, 216 pages