BOOK REVIEW: Dolores Whelan: Your Breaking Point

Attic Press, 1993 (Pbk £7.99)

This book looks at effective-steps to reduce and cope with stress. It considers its many aspects, who is most likely to suffer from it, what its effects are, how it can be spotted and how it can be reduced.

In her introduction the author reminds us that many diseases are stress-related and have their origin in the non-physical. Yet modern medicine tends to deal almost exclusively with symptoms rather than to probe for root causes. Evidence is now showing that body and mind are inextricably linked and influence the health and well-being of each other.

Stress, she says, is medically defined as the body’s response to any change – good or bad. It is a necessary part of our lives and we need a certain amount of tension in order to perform the tasks of daily life. Responding to changes, internal and external, and finding new place of balance is a key aspect in the art of living successfully. Positive stress is often called “eustress” while negative stress is called “distress”. Both require certain levels of tension and both need to be balanced by periods of relaxation.

Useful charts are provided to indicate our response to stress and how we can reduce it – by deep breathing, for example. In the author’s opinion, any person who suffers from stress, emotional or cognitive, which is continuous and is not tempered with periods of relaxation, coupled with personal support, will end up burnt-out and sick. Since there are observable signs pointing to the beginning of this process, there is a stress development profile and also a detailed analysis of personality types, of which there are three.

There are self-assessment questionnaires to be filled out in order to find what is the stressor for each of the personality types, spot checks for what drains energy and what revitalises it and a table outlining stress response. It includes instructions on relaxation, diet, the relationship between food and diet, and exercise.

All of this is in the first half of the book. The second half is much more interesting and I did rather feel that if it had come first, and if the reader was really prepared to look at himself or herself deeply and honestly, then perhaps there might be no need for the “How to” section at all. It focusses on looking inwards, getting in touch with our inner selves. Many people experi­ence frustration, rage, anger in situations which they feel they are unable to control but which they continue to endure while they grow ever more stressed. By examining the past, looking at patterns of behaviour which might have led to a person’s current stressful state and testing the possi­bilities for change and growth, much can be achieved. It examines the poor relationship which many of us have with ourselves and, perhaps most importantly of all, it looks at how to make the move from victim to empowered person. A useful book, and one to be recommended.

Mavis Arnold