Cover


Title Page


Copyright

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

INTRODUCTION

1: ALL ABOUT STRESS AND ANXIETY

2: TAKE ACTION—ONE STEP AT A TIME

3: HOW TO REDUCE YOUR STRESS BUCKET

4: THE TRICKS AND TRAPS OF STRESS AND ANXIETY

5: AVOIDING AVOIDANCE

6: STRUGGLE LESS AND SIT WITH YOUR FEELINGS

7: STORIES THAT HELP

8: RELATIONSHIPS, ACCEPTENCE AND COMPASSION

9: BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

10: THE END OF THIS JOURNEY, BUT NOT THE END OF THE STORY

FURTHER RESOURCES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

END NOTES

BACK COVER MATERIAL

INDEX

INTRODUCTION

Happiness is not a state to arrive at, rather, a manner of travelling.
—Samuel Johnson (1709–84)

This book is about stress and anxiety and what helps to manage them. This is not another complicated textbook—it has been written to meet the need for a readable, understandable and enjoyable book on stress and anxiety. It is based on our 50+combined years of experience working with people with stress or anxiety in individual, group therapy and teaching situations. Our experience combines medical and psychological knowledge as well as a holistic approach to health. Consequently, we believe this book will be invaluable to individuals experiencing stress or anxiety, their friends and families, and a range of health or other students and professionals.

Stress and anxiety are common. Almost one-fifth of individuals will experience significant anxiety in their lifetime. Release Your Worries was written to give you hope that things can be different and so you don’t have to feel that stress and anxiety are running your life. You are definitely not alone—in fact, you may be surprised to know that many successful people throughout history, including Winston Churchill and Oprah Winfrey, have experienced anxiety and panic. This book contains stories based on real situations, to help highlight ideas that we have found useful.

This book will provide a range of reliable and up-to-date strategies to put you back in the driver’s seat of your life. It will be useful at any stage of your journey with stress or anxiety—especially at the beginning of the journey when information is crucial to help you understand what is happening and what you can do about it, during the journey to help guide you as to what approaches suit you as an individual and also at the end, to look back on, and celebrate, your progress.

We use a ‘multimodal’ approach to the management of stress and anxiety, drawing on many different models of therapy, because we believe one size does not fit all. Please don’t worry if you find some of the ideas do not suit you; we aim to present a wide range of strategies, so that some of them will fit you and your life.

We also believe that each person is a unique individual. Your knowledge of yourself will guide you to choose the strategies that are going to be most helpful to your particular needs, and we encourage you to use your expert knowledge on what will be helpful to you. Our thinking is that the strategies in this book will help you to identify the strengths and resources you already have and help you build on them.

In this book, we will challenge many taken-for-granted ways of being and thinking that may be blocking you from being the person you want to be or may be pushing you to act in ways that are uncharacteristic. We will guide you towards ideas and strategies that will enable you to reach your potential in health and enjoyment of life. The great news is that these strategies and skills will be yours to use long after the original problem of stress or anxiety has gone. Hence, you will have the confidence of knowing you have a range of experience and skills that you can use to face future challenges in life.

This guide will help you:

identify the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety
manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety
develop a range of strategies and skills to help prevent and manage possible future challenges in your life
gain an understanding or world-view that may help you enjoy your life more fully.

About this journey

This book has been developed to enable you to change the parts of your life that need to be changed, in order to facilitate your own journey towards managing stress and anxiety. We believe it will also assist you in gaining a greater sense of compassion towards yourself and your wellbeing. We have chosen the metaphor of a journey to convey the information we wish to share, because we have found this a useful way for people to visualise, understand and contemplate making changes in their lives. We have addressed different issues in each chapter of this book as a way of providing a potential ‘map’ of your own journey to managing the stress and anxiety that has been pushing you around.

You may feel that stress or anxiety is blocking you from living the kind of life you would prefer. You may even believe that the thought of addressing the stress or anxiety is as daunting as climbing Mount Everest—you may feel ill-equipped and fearful of what lies ahead. In the past you may have tried different strategies to address the anxiety but they did not work. Perhaps you embarked on your climb up your personal stress or anxiety mountain with bare feet, no water and having not exercised in years! In other words, you set yourself up for failure. However, if you had been provided with a ‘travel kit’ of things to make your journey easier, had engaged in some training or practice to increase stamina and confidence, and had also become aware of your own personal resources, the journey would have had a much greater chance of success. This book will provide you with the travel kit for your own successful personal journey.

We will introduce concepts, and return to them when relevant later in the book. Sometimes we repeat ideas because they are important, or we might want to expand on them later on. At the end of each chapter there will be a summary of important points called ‘Travel reminders’. They can be photocopied and placed in your purse or wallet, or magnetised to put on the fridge or placed anywhere you feel will be the most helpful to your progress. There are also ‘Travel diary’ pages at the end of each chapter, to enable you to jot down points from the chapter which you find particularly helpful, to record your progress or to write down questions to ask your doctor or therapist. We hope you find this book respectful, useful, ‘down to earth’ and enjoyable.

Your journey may take many different forms. At times it may feel like a mountain climb, a bus ride, a car trip or perhaps a leisurely stroll in the park. Dr Russ Harris, in his book The Happiness Trap, has suggested that working through a book can be like a journey into a foreign country where much seems strange and new. At times the new country can be exciting and exhilarating, but at the same time a bit frightening or challenging. Sometimes you will think that the new country is better than the old country. However, when you are tired it may feel easier to stay in the old country, because it is familiar and takes less effort to manage.[1]

We are in no sense experts on your own particular journey. It is as if we are travel guides who have had the privilege of travelling many different journeys with many different people. All of these journeys were unique, but because we have experienced so many we have been able to draw out some similarities or signposts to the journeys that were most helpful in relieving stress and anxiety. It is in no way that we are better, less anxious, smarter, or stronger than you. It is just a matter of distance and perspective.

In fact, even though we have gained a lot of specialist knowledge through years of formal study, our most precious lessons and insights have come from fellow travellers with whom we have had the honour of working over the years. This is another reason we emphasise the importance of your expert knowledge about your own journey. Although this book may open up many different directions for you, ultimately you are responsible for choosing your own way and putting in the effort it will take to complete that journey.

The good news is that there is hope and help for your journey. Your brain is both complex and amazing, and through knowledge, strategies and practice, it can learn new ways of being. This guide will provide some of the knowledge and strategies, and encourage you to put them into practice. So, let’s get started on the journey.

CAUTION

We think it is very important to put a ‘warning’ label on this book, as we have seen some clients who have felt worse after reading a ‘self-help’ book! This might have been because they believed that the book would ‘fix’ the problem, or that they did not ‘measure up’ in relation to the messages in the book. The aim of our book is to assist and encourage you. You will find we express a number of times in the book that we believe you are the expert on you. As a result, we urge you to choose the ideas that suit you from the book, and to ignore the others that do not fit with your expert knowledge of yourself.

What we are really saying is that we would be mortified if this book was used as a means of ‘self-destruction’. We would not want your mind to ‘whip’ you for ‘not reading the book’, ‘not following the book’, ‘not measuring up to what the book says’. If this is difficult for you to do, you may like to work through the book with a therapist or see a therapist alongside working through the book yourself. Our care instructions for you (not the book!) are quite clear: this book is to be read with self-compassion and self-kindness ever present and with the express goal of guiding you towards things that make your life better for you, not worse.