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BOOK REVIEW: The Anxiety Journal by Corinne Sweet, illustrated by Marcia Mihotich

BOOK REVIEW: The Anxiety Journal by Corinne Sweet, illustrated by Marcia Mihotich

Pan Macmillan
April 2017
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction/Family & Health/Coping with Anxiety & Phobias

7/10

The Anxiety Journal is a handsome little book that offers readers: “Exercises to soothe stress and eliminate anxiety wherever you are.” The book is written by psychologist and psychotherapist Corinne Sweet and is beautifully-illustrated by Marcia Mihotich, who has previously illustrated guides for The School of Life. It is a positive and encouraging book for people who are finding that their anxiety is becoming detrimental to their health and life.

Anxiety and stress are things that everyone experiences. Stress can be good insofar as the right amount of energy can help you to get things done and make you a productive being. But for some people bad forms of stress can occur. This can leave people feeling overwhelmed, especially when facing conflicting demands which can leave them feeling as though they are being torn in multiple directions at once. The symptoms of stress and anxiety can often look alike and the journal says you might experience feelings like: being jittery, dizzy, panicky, shaky, numb, irritable, cold or shivery, hypervigilant, and as though you want to hurt or even kill yourself. A lot of what this book is about is identifying these symptoms and either nipping these things in the bud or reframing them in a more positive light.

This little book will help you to identify symptoms of anxiety and will also provide you with tools and techniques to enable you to cope with them effectively… Following the advice in this book will help you to keep your anxiety at a healthy, manageable level.

When our bodies feel anxious this is nature’s way of telling us to look out for a perceived threat. The key word here is “perceived” because in some cases it is not an actual, physical threat but one that our brain has made us believe is there. This book says that when you identify anxiety symptoms you should: notice and listen to them, check if the threat is real or not and ultimately take positive action.

Sweet offers up some suggestions that are bound to help. These exercises are built on methods commonly found in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and in mindfulness methods. Sweet has previously published a mindfulness journal and there is likely to be some cross-over here. The Anxiety Journal includes simple calming and breathing exercises, where readers under stress are advised to take their time sitting quietly to identify where tension exists in the body and to ultimately stretch and imagine it melting away. There are other tips like stopping and simply holding your hands together to feel the strength that can be felt from this very act. The book also offers some great ways to conquer panic.

1. Familiarise yourself, if you can, with your usual symptoms that signal an attack
2. Understand that you are safe!
3. Breathe. Concentrate on your breathing. Blow out slowly.
4. Stamp your feet on the ground. Feel how solid it is.
5. Hold something, like the arm of a chair, a banister, even your own hand.
6. Tell yourself, “I can do this, I can get through this, this will pass”.
7. Count slowly from one to ten, and then from ten to one.
8. Slow down… Don’t rush, but get yourself some space.
9. If the feelings continue, try singing (especially in a private place).
10. Take a walk.
11. Continue breathing.

The Anxiety Journal describes Generalised Anxiety Disorder in some depth. This is a condition where a person feels anxious about a range of situations and issues rather than one specific thing. Some other forms of anxiety disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder and specific phobias are dealt with in a broader context rather than using the medical language to describe them in greater detail. This could be a missed opportunity to be comprehensive, however the book is not a scientific text book. It is one that is pitched at readers interested in learning more about anxiety, not health care professionals.

The prose in this book is accessible and the experiences can be quite practical and useful. This can be a good starting point for people wanting to learn a little more about their condition but it still may be advisable to discuss this in more depth with a healthcare professional. This guide also contains some positive quotes by famous people in order to keep the mood inspiring and optimistic.

“Your anxiety and fears are not you and…they do not have to rule your life.” John Kabat-Zinn

The Anxiety Journal is a nice little gift book which will help readers learn some more about anxiety and consider their own experiences with it. This book is by no means exhaustive, but it does contain a number of practical and handy exercises that people can implement into their daily life. This is the kind of guide that promises to be like a little book of calm because it ultimately wants to help you journey to a more peaceful mind and these tips and exercises will certainly help some people achieve this.

BOOK REVIEW: The Anxiety Journal by Corinne Sweet, illustrated by Marcia Mihotich

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