Reviewed by Dr Kathleen Huxley
Sarah Knight, the New York Times best-selling author, who is described by The Observer as ‘The anti-guru’ describes this book as ‘the friend who instead of reassuring you that ‘everything is going to be okay’, actually shows you how to make it so’. Commenting on the title of the book in her note to readers Sarah informs us that ‘this is a book about anxiety …. about problems and how to solve them’.
She lets us know that reading this book will help provide us ‘with ample calamity management tools for stressful times and clearly states that this is a layman’s approach ‘where she is ‘presenting well-intentioned, empirically proven suggestions, not medical fact’.
Together with the Introduction there are four chapters which address possible anxiety-induced behaviours and responses to them together with ‘top tips, tricks and techniques for solving the problems that are feeding your anxiety in the first place’. Advice given ‘is not intended to shame or criticize’ the reader but instead to offer motivation and encouragement.
The content of the book provides user-friendly approaches that are accessible to those of us who have no formal background in human psychology. In-keeping with the author’s nationality information is presented in a chatty American style with a littering of what might be called expletives. Short paragraphs and sections of text in capitals or bold font make the book easy and quick to read. Handy lists, charts, illustrations and presentation boxes categorise the information into bite-size chunks.
Each chapter presents us with lessons which ‘begin our education’ and are there to assist us in ‘calming the f**k down’. For example, ‘Lesson $3: To survive and thrive in these moments, you need to ACKNOWLEDGE what’s happened, ACCEPT the parts you can’t control, and ADDRESS the parts you can’. This lesson embodies the concept underlying the No Worries method recommended by the author and which she refers to as ‘mental decluttering’.
Chapter 1 advises us that we should ‘acknowledge the real problem and rein in your reaction’. Adopting a real, pragmatic and logical approach are central tenets in the guidance. Alongside anxiety, anger and sadness being considered the causes of our ‘freakouts’, meltdowns and overthinking there is also ‘avoidance (aka Ostrich mode)’. This latter reaction being more about the idea that when we are presented with a problem, we do nothing or dismiss warnings and bury our heads firmly in the sand. The ‘flipsides’ or improved responses are considered to be our ability to retain focus, prioritise, practice self-care, gain a perspective and act, these being healthier and more appropriate in problem-solving.
Chapter 4 crystallises all the advice given in the first three chapters by presenting us with a totally plausible anxiety-inducing scenario and asking us to decide how we might react and solve the potential problem using the guidance previously supplied to us. All the likely responses to the situation, on the part of the reader, are then presented and can be referenced accordingly by turning to the appropriate pages.
The epilogue presents us with an interesting situation that arose in the author’s own life ‘when a cat broke her hand’. Without the knowledge gained from writing her book, the situation could have provoked an overreaction and her actual responses are discussed and neatly explained using the techniques she has recommended earlier.
This is a self-help, self-improvement book that provides us with strategies and guiding principles for reducing anxiety and solving problems that occur in our everyday lives. Ms Knight tells us that how we approach and think about our concerns, worries and problems is key to pinpointing the solutions. A readable, light and folksy style of writing which seeks to assist us in recognising the causes of our own anxieties and puts forward proposals for dealing with them.
Imprint: Hachette Australia