Retired psychiatrist Douglas Kong prescribes advice for those experiencing the psychological and physical symptoms of stress. His slim but comprehensive handbook aims to help readers identify and understand stress, and features a holistic, “psycho-social-biological” approach with tools and techniques for living a healthy, rewarding, optimal life.
Kong shares patients’ stories to illustrate the stressors of work, interpersonal relationships, family dynamics, financial difficulties, and significant life events. For example, he mentions Swee Leng, a woman who despaired so much about a work presentation that she caught the flu; her boss assigned the project to a colleague while she recuperated, but as soon as she returned to work, so did the stress—and the flu.
The author recommends using “buffers,” like social support, good health, and positive thoughts, as parts of a stress-regulation plan, while offering an overview of neuroscience to explain why stress literally makes us sick.
He also addresses how to reduce stress with mindfulness, meditation, progressive relaxation, breathing exercises, cardiovascular fitness, and medication (when required). Social support is also key: humans are wired for relationships, and a network of friends and family offers a sense of belonging, increased self-worth, and practical help.
Kong’s prose could use an editor to streamline sentences such as, “This account here is therefore a much-simplified account based mostly on ideas that are mostly known if you are well read.” And despite the subtitle, the author scarcely discusses how combatting stress can be fun. (When addressing the topic, he offers mostly platitudes: “You can make yourself having [sic] fun or being happy by maintaining a positive attitude … If you are happy or having fun, the psychological stress is less…”)
Still, useful charts, bulleted lists, and diagrams offer practical, if well-worn, recommendations on reducing stress; his book is encouraging, with an upbeat tone and just enough science to back it up.
For those who don’t know much about stress but are affected by it, this could be a useful resource.
Also available as an ebook.