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Great Books About Stress Management

Updated on July 12, 2016
By bottled_void, CC-BY, via flickr
By bottled_void, CC-BY, via flickr | Source

What is Stress all about?

With every passing decade, the pace of life has become faster. The advent of the internet, the always-on devices, the ability to be reached at all times has compounded this problem.

  • Job Strain is linked to 23% increased risk of heart attack : BBC article on a Lancet study
  • Lifestyle related diseases are killing 36 million people a year : BBC article on a WHO study

Stress Management is about learning to recognize the triggers and making lifestyle changes. The final element in the puzzle is to acknowledge that it is often your response that determines how you are affected by stress. The Serenity Prayer covers this idea in a nutshell.

This hub covers conventional and non-conventional books on various areas that overlap with Stress Management.

Stress Relief

If you ask anyone around you, there is a universal acceptance of being under stress. As a subject, stress starts off with the brain - our reactions to situations, the nervous system and the chemicals that flow in the body.

The Little Book of Stress Relief is written as small chapters of 2-3 pages. It includes subjects like Expectation Setting, Sleep, Work Life Perspective and working with deadlines. If you want to pick up one book that covers it all and is easy to read, this would be the one book.

The Unofficial Guide to beating stress gives a good overview of the various areas around Stress Management. This includes Physiology, Causes, Workplace Stress, Time Management, Nutrition, Relaxation and Exercise.


Time Management

Time is a great leveller. Everyone gets the same 24 hours to spend in a day. Often we start the day with some objectives and tasks to be completed. As the day progresses, we get interrupted with various assignments, meetings and distractions. If you end the day feeling as if you did not achieve any of your planned items, then you need to look at the broad literature available on the subject.

As with any habit, bringing in a change takes time. Any new habit needs to be followed for a good 4-8 weeks to start becoming a part of your life. As a subject, time management has a large set of tools available. The most important is to decide on your objectives and priorities. Once done, you need to say no to activities that do not fall into these buckets.

Often we tend to underestimate the time taken for tasks. So we fill our calendars with more things than can get completed. Our to-do lists are not about the essentials but about the nice-to-do items which we have been procrastinating for weeks. If you see any item which has been getting nudged along every week and still you have not got it started, you need to step back and see if it needs to be done at all.


Health and Nutrition

We are what we eat. The food we eat plays a big role in how our bodies behave.

Michael Pollan has written a range of books covering food and nutrition. In Food Rules, he has tried simplifying the eating decisions around what should reach your table. In a nutshell - Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

Lissa Rankin has a good book - Mind over Medicine - that details how the human body has an innate ability to self-repair.

There are a lot of diet books around carbs, proteins, fruits and vegetables. However, most diets are not sustainable. Rujuta's book - Don't Lose your mind, lose your weight - is a more practical approach. It does not involve crash dieting, carb deprivation or stopping cravings.

Simplify your life

Key concepts in this area would be around Organizing, Simplifying your life and evaluating Minimalism.

Minimalism is not about living with less than 100 things. Minimalism is a step away from consumerism. It questions the real need behind all the physical items that fill up our life and our homes. A good way to start would be to read some of the blogs on the topic.

Do not take any of the messages at face value - see what looks logical and can be applied in your life. Take it a step at a time.


All it takes is 10 mindful minutes

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being aware of what is going on, living in the present. It is to acknowledge that the mind cannot be controlled directly - and the first step in understanding the mind is to observe. Reducing distractions and focusing on one thing at a time is a very powerful way of calming the mind.

Andy Puddicombe has a very good summary in his TED Talk. In his book - Get some Headspace, he shares inputs from his personal experience as he tried out various meditation techniques. He also covers areas where a user would get stuck when starting with meditation.

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is a Buddhist Monk from Srilanka. His book - Mindfulness in Plain English - is one of the most recommended books on the subject. The book covers meditation techniques in detail and also explains the philosophy behind the subject.



Eastern Philosophy

Undoing is a book about Vedanta. The author, Rudite Emir, spent time with Chinmaya Mission and has been a student of Vedanta. She has written a simple treatise on a complex subject. To someone not familiar with Eastern Philosophy, the book is a good primer. Highlight key passages, reflect on the same and then revisit it over a period of time. The book is available from various publication houses.

Silence is a very powerful tool to introspect and observe life. Take 10 minutes a day to sit back and do nothing. Just observe the world around you. It is said that all solutions are to be found within yourself - you just have to let the universe try and help you.

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning extension of breath. Pranayama is the fourth part of Ashtanga Yoga (the eight-fold path). At its essence, the breath is viewed as a life-force. For the practitioner, it is recommended that the first three parts - Yama, Niyama and Asana are to be done first and only then should you get to pranayama. Yama and Niyama are about right living and right actions. Asana covers the physical exercises under Yoga that help your body to get more flexible.


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Summary Notes

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Stress. As distinct individuals living under different environmental circumstances, each of us have diverse lives.

I am not a medical practitioner. Nor am I trained in psychology. I have an active work life and can correlate to Stress. In the past few years, I have read through most of the books listed above. I have tried implementing some of the suggestions and I can affirm that they work. It is not easy and it has to be done in steps. Revisiting the books and examining the week-that-went-by are good tools to make this more effective.

Add in your observations on what works for you (and what does not). Life is a journey and we can steer the path. Together, let's make it more interesting.

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