By Elizabeth Anne Scott W. W. Norton, 2013 Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Sep 10th 2013
As a clinical psychologist, I am often skeptical of self-help books that purport to hold the "key" to coping with a particular emotional issue. At the same time, finding a helpful resource that I can utilize with my college student clients is always valuable. I am pleased to be able to put 8 Keys to Stress Management (part of the 8 Keys to Mental Health Series) into this category.
Author Elizabeth Anne Scott is a master's level professional who works as a wellness coach. In her Introduction, she provides an overview of stress that goes beyond the usual obvious definitions. Scott details different types of stress, basic symptoms of stress, and impediments to change (using the now-standard Prochaska model). She also accommodates readers by suggesting various ways to use the book, from skipping around to focusing in on change exercises.
With her eight "keys," Scott effectively covers some of the most useful techniques for coping with stress. She begins with identifying all causes of stress, from external (e.g., life events) to internal (including negative and distorted thinking). She then introduces ways to reverse the effects of stress, including managing symptoms and taking care of one's body. To address more internally-generated stress, Scott looks more specifically at the effects of different types of negative thinking patterns and presents cognitive strategies to assist with changing one's thinking. The final chapters address healthy relationships, positive psychology (which includes engaging in pleasurable activities, experiencing gratification, and expressing gratitude), and life-long resilience habits.
Each chapter of the book includes specific sections on "How to Manage" and "Activities to Try." The How to Manage sections concentrate on immediate changes that readers can make. These are practical suggestions that readers can put into action. Activities to Try tend to be more specific, offering step-by-step strategies such as practicing breathing exercises, setting boundaries with others, and starting an emotion-focused journal.
In 8 Keys to Stress Management, Elizabeth Anne Scott has produced a useful, practical guide to approaching stress. She concludes the book with tips on creating one's own personal action plan. There is also a section on additional resources, which includes a reading list for each individual chapter as well as the online reference 8keystostressmanagement.com (offering audio downloads, a digital newsletter, Facebook/Twitter links, and more). At less than two hundred pages, this book is short enough to be a quick read, yet substantial enough to be a worthwhile one.