Review: Unwind: 7 Principles for a Stress Free Life by Dr. Michael Olpin & Sam Bracken

Lately it seems like all I’m doing is checking in with clients about what their stress management strategy is. There is still all of the mental health issues we used to have but these days the world is just … a lot. So I went looking for a stress management book to review and this one was on my list to read.

This book has two parts, the first part defining stress, and the concept that between stimulus and response there is a gap where we can choose our response. The authors explain mindfulness and how it can help us choose a helpful response in that gap. Then they discuss “paradigm” shifts and how helpful they can be. Their main thrust is that stress is good when we need to move our body out of physical danger, but most of the things that stress us in the modern world are not dangerous at all – just interpreted by us as something to be stressed about. They then spend the 2nd half of the book discussing paradigm shifts that can help with stress management.

The 7 paradigm shifts that these authors discuss align with Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – so honestly you could just read that book, or read it in companion with this one. For example, the first paradigm “From Reactive to Proactive” goes along with Covey’s first habit, “Be Proactive”. The other paradigm shifts are: From Unmotivated to Inspired; From Pressures to Priorities; From Hassle to Harmony; From Anxiety to Empathy; From Defensive to Diverse; From Tense to Tranquil.

I agree that if you followed the principles in this book, you’d have a LOT less stress, and it is different than Covey’s book in that it is specifically designed to discuss stress. But I guess personally, I would just re-read Covey’s book and apply the habits in order to relieve stress. This is a small, concise, easy-to-read book, though, so if you have a client who might not get through Covey’s larger, denser book, this might be a good choice.

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Review: Atomic Habits by James Clear

I seem to have had several clients lately really struggling to find motivation. One day, looking for resources, I came across James Clear’s blog and website and found some really great info ( I’ve seen this book but hadn’t read it, so I decided it was time. This book kind of reminded me of the book “Mini Habits” by Steven Guise, which I love. But, it did have some different info, so I guess I would say I recommend them both!

First Clear makes his case that “atomic” habits, or very small habits, can add up to big changes (same point Guise makes). He breaks down habits into 4 discernable steps – first there is some kind of cue, which gives us a craving. We respond, and then there is a reward. For example, I see a bag of chips and want to eat them. I do eat them, and it tastes good. Next Clear gives us his “Four Laws” of creating good habits and breaking bad ones.

The first Law, make it obvious, is about making the new habit you want to engage in as obvious as possible. First you need awareness, so you write down all of your current habits and all of the things that happen to you on a regular, daily basis. Next, get really specific about your plan to create a new habit. Don’t just say “I’m going to get organized”, but say something like “Everytime I get up from my desk, I’m going to put one thing away”. You can also use what he calls “habit stacking” – which is to link something you’re already doing regularly with something you want to start doing, like “before every meal, I’m going to drink a glass of water”. Also, it helps if you work on your environment, making the things you want to do obvious and front-and-center, and the things you don’t want to do more hidden.

The second Law, make it attractive, is about trying to make your new habit more desirable. You already do a lot of things you want to do, so pair a new habit next to something enjoyable. Find ways to motivate yourself by doing something you enjoy right before you do something you want to start doing. Here, it also helps if you surround yourself with people who are also doing this new habit, or living like you want to live.

The third Law, make it easy, is about making your new habit as easy as possible to up the likelihood that you’ll do it. Make the initial habit pretty small, so it’s easy to do. Automate it if possible. Decrease the number of steps between you and the good habit, or increase the amount of steps you need to do to engage in the bad habit.

The fourth Law, make it satisfying, is about trying to make this new habit tasty. Try finding something that reinforces the habit or rewards you immediately. Use habit trackers or accountability partners. You can even write up a contract and have consequences if you don’t follow through.

These ideas can be found on a printable cheatsheet at Overall, I think this book has a lot of GREAT ideas for forming new habits and decreasing bad habits. Of course there is not magical solution but this book could benefit everyone. I definitely want it on my office shelves so I can reference it quickly when I need this information!

Disclaimer: The link above is an Amazon affiliate link, for which I receive a small compensation for purchases. Summaries are NOT intended to replace purchase of the book, but simply to save you time reading.