Cat Williams’ self-help book Stay Calm and Content No Matter What Life Throws at You makes a great first impression. The cover mimics the iconic British WWII “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters, and the advice inside addresses a variety of potential problems with a dose of stiff upper lip tempered with compassion. The combination succeeds.
Williams is a “relationship counselor” (or couples therapist) who has plied her trade in multiple locales thanks to the constant moves entailed by being a British Army wife. She has fictionalized a series of personal accounts here, each of which walks readers through a problem and shows a change in perspective leading to a solution.
If tackling 25 problems ranging from bullying to “Christmas” in such a short volume seems ambitious, it’s that much more impressive that Williams packs actionable advice, realistic examples and inspirational quotes in as well. Those holidays weighted with family and high expectations? Williams points out that your worrying about flower arrangements can cut into others’ enjoyment of the day; better to go in with realistic expectations and a commitment to prioritize, “accepting and valuing people as they are, including ourselves.” She doesn’t go so far as to advise a strong cup of tea, but if you’ve got self-acceptance down you likely won’t need one.
When it comes to bullying, self-esteem is the key to standing up for oneself, but Williams also advises cultivating some sympathy for those who choose cruelty to build themselves up. “The responsibility to change is theirs alone, but we can see bullies as people with emotional weaknesses and needs, rather than as monsters we cannot understand and from whom we cannot escape.”
Stay Calm and Content is impressively well written and stylishly presented. It is an unconventional clearinghouse approach to self-help topics that has the potential to help readers navigate a variety of issues more confidently. It deserves a wide audience.
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