My friend Caitrin (of podcast fame) sent me an article from Refinery 29 and after checking it out I knew I needed to read this book. I reached out to the publisher, Perigee Books (Publisher’s site), and they generously provided a copy of the book in return for my honest opinion. In addition to the book, there is an amazing free resource at theanxietytoolkit.com!
Last year I had a panic attack which resulted in a hospital visit when the lingering effects didn’t go away. I was already in therapy for stress, so I was convinced I was having a heart attack, but I wasn’t. That experience resulted in my researching more about anxiety and ways to deal with it. Between therapy last year, I “graduated” 😀 last month, and reading this book I’ve come to realize I’ve always experienced a lot of anxiety but I’ve developed really good coping mechanisms throughout the years. Now on to the book!
To begin with, this was an excellent book and future resource! I discovered new things about myself, I’m apparently a highly sensitive person, and I was reminded of things I definitely need to improve on like ruminating and meditating. I’m sure when I re-read it I’ll find other things to focus on, but with this first read that was plenty.
“If you take nothing else away from this book, understand that there’s nothing wrong with having a predisposition for anxiety. It’s fine to be someone who likes to mull things over and consider things that could go wrong. If you’re not spontaneous or happy-go-lucky by nature, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either.” (8)
From the start, Boyes talks to you like you’re a person and not some neurotic weirdo which helps out a lot. The conversational tone of the book was a bit off-putting at first, but once I’d adapted I realized it made the book easier to relate to and I was truly appreciated it by her concluding letter. Aside from her tone, she made sure to steer clear of medical jargon whenever she could. She used words like “nerdtastic” and “New Agey,” both of which made me laugh, and relieved some of the tension of reading about problems I face.
In addition to her tone and language throughout the book I appreciated that she made a point to say, at least once a chapter, something along the lines of “don’t take this to heart, these are COMMON pitfalls,” or “focus on only one-to-two of these.” It showed how well she knew her audience! This knowledge of the readers comes across even more specifically when she talks about how the book itself may be causing anxiety (and it was for me) and the options you had for dealing with it right then. She even took the opposite side of the hyper-specific person to the person who doesn’t exactly see themselves in any of the specific examples or feels split between confidence and anxiety, like me:
“Noticing the grayness and fuzziness involved in defining yourself in any one particular way will help your ongoing development of flexible thinking. The purpose of seeing the grayness of your nature is to not label yourself too rigidly.” (197)
And last, but not least one of her greatest strengths was her use of excellent concrete explanations of the psychological concepts she did discuss. One in particular about willpower was perfect. I read The Power of Habit last year and nowhere did Duhigg describe the reservoir of willpower as Boyes does:
“I like to think of willpower as being like computer RAM. RAM is the type of memory that your computer uses to store your photos and documents. When you’re running too many programs or apps at the same time, your system hangs and freezes. You need to make sure you always have a reserve of willpower available for on-the-fly decision making and controlling your reactions. If you run your willpower tank too low, you’ll end up making poor choices or exploding at people.” (114)
This doesn’t even get into the step-by-step instructions and experiments she provides, but suffice to say that those she gives for changing your mindset or for coping with your triggers are easy and adaptable which is incredibly important and useful.
There were a few things that bothered me, but after reading a quite a few self-help books over the past two years I think it’s just a byproduct of the genre. Boyes provides quizzes at the beginning of every chapter and gives the same instructions at every chapter. The quizzes are really useful, but the instructions are worded the same way every time.I know they’re there for if someone uses it as a resource to dip in and out of, but I couldn’t help but think “noooooooooooooooooo not again,” every time I read them. 😀
Recommendation: I want to buy copies of this book for so many people as birthday and Christmas presents! Seriously, I know I’ll hold on to this copy for a long time and check back in with it periodically, specifically those chapters rumination and avoidance. I can’t wait to spend a more time on the website and discover what other resources she recommends. I’ve already written down two additional books she mentioned!
Opening Line: “Does any of this sound familiar?”
Closing Line: “As your self-confidence, self knowledge, and self acceptance bloom, you’ll find it easier and easier to take action, even when those actions provoke a sense of anxiety and vulnerability.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)