The Superstress Solution – Book Review

Superstress SolutionBiologically, the human species hasn’t evolved beyond “island time,” that is, teh slower pace of life on the island. And yet we’re expected to increase the pace of our activity by orders of magnitude just to keep up. We can’t do it. Not without paying a price. And that’s because the hard wiring of our brains and bodies is the same as it was in the days of our ancestors, even while change accelerates all around us. – from The Superstress Solution –

Just consider the advances in the technology we use every day. Between cell phones, handheld computers, and new communication modes like texting and Twittering, we’re “on call” and open to intrusion twenty-four hours a day. – from The Superstress Solution –

Dr. Roberta Lee has written a book which seems quite appropriate for today’s fast paced world. Due for release in January 2010, the book is a look at how high levels of stress play a role in our lives to the detriment of our health…and what to do about it.

The Superstress Solution is well organized into three parts. Part 1 is dedicated to identifying stressors and the physical toll it takes. Part of this section is dedicated to helping readers recognize their stress type (there are five), what body system tends to be most affected by their stress, and how individuals have adapted their lifestyle to deal with their stress. Part 2 outlines the tools for change available to highly stressed people, including pathways to peace, eating the right foods, rest, exercise, meditation, connecting with others, and spirituality. Part 3 is Dr. Lee’s step by step solution, using what the reader has learned in Parts 1 and 2 to overcome superstress (she breaks her solution into two levels…one a four week program, and the other a more streamlined approach based on each stress type).

The book is well researched and written in easy to understand language. Dr. Lee covers the physical and emotional toll that stress takes on our bodies and minds with references to specific, recent studies which have been done in the field. Despite the negative impact of stress, she is quick to point out that it is not irreversible – and all it takes is a positive attitude and willingness to change our lifestyle to put things back on track. I found her sections on meditation, stretching, and exercise to be very informative and easy to understand.

If I had one complaint about Dr. Lee’s solution to stress, it would be the sections on diet and herbal supplements. For someone like myself who resides in a very rural area, some of the suggested foods and herbal supplements might  be hard to find (there is one health food store in my area which might have some of these things…and it is located 45 minutes away from my home). I also found my head spinning a little with the amounts of supplements she seemed to be recommending.

Despite this minor complaint, most of what the author recommends seems to be a good, common sense approach to managing one’s stress…and many of her suggestions are ones I intend to integrate into my busy and often stressful life (even some of the simpler diet and supplement recommendations).

I found this book to be an accessible self-help book – easy to understand, simple steps to implement, well researched, and organized to make it a good reference tome.

For those readers who are finding themselves suffering from stress related maladies, or feeling overwhelmed with life, The Superstress Solution might be helpful.

4Stars

Below is an article written by Roberta Lee, MD which I received permission to post here.

Remedy SuperStress with Chocolate
By Roberta Lee M.D.,
Author of The SuperStress Solution

If you love chocolate, you’re not alone. It turns out that the average person in the United States consumes approximately 12 pounds of chocolate a year. That might sound like a lot of chocolate, but I actually recommend that my patients — especially those who are chronically stressed or what I would describe as SuperStressed — indulge in 1 ounce of high quality and high cocoa mass chocolate a day, and that actually adds up to well more than 12 pounds over the course of the year. Sure, chocolate is a calorie laden food (with most of the calories coming from the cocoa butter), but in my opinion, the benefits of this treat outweigh the caloric load as long as you keep the portions small. Here are the benefits:

  • On a gram for gram basis, chocolate has a terrifically high concentration of antioxidants known as flavonoids. More than berries and spinach, even. Flavonoids have been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
  • Chocolate is rich in magnesium and potassium, two minerals that help promote the “relaxation response,” as well as iron and zinc, which are minerals that many people don’t often get enough of during the course of the day. Chocolate also contains a good amount of selenium, which enhances immune health.
  • Chocolate contains several psychoactive compounds being studied and debated as responsible for the mood lift many of us experience when eating it. First, there’s phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural trace amine that is a stimulant that is elevated in the brain when we are in love and is low when we are depressed. Secondly, there’s theobromine, a compound that imparts energy and a sense of alertness. Finally, chocolate contains a small amount of a chemical known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine, a substance that keeps our endogenous happiness molecules — or endorphins — from breaking down. In other words, if we are happy, we just might stay happier longer with a little chocolate.

Of course, there’s also ample consumer-proven evidence that chocolate tastes good, and that eating it can provide a little respite — an oasis of pleasure and calm — from our otherwise hectic days! And to me, that’s what’s so special about this sweet treat. I find chocolate has the ability to enhance sensory recruitment in every way. It’s so inexpensive to have a piece of chocolate and it’s so pleasurable, that if that’s something you like and that’s part of what living well is about, I say: go for it. The ideal cocoa mass is 75% or more — this will be clear on the label and is most often found in dark chocolate — and the ideal portion is 1 ounce (about 1/3 of an average bar or roughly the size of the palm of a woman’s hand). Doctor’s orders!

To reduce stress, and avoid SuperStress, try this today:

Simple as it sounds; focused breathing — during which you think about your breath as you inhale and exhale — is a very effective stress-management technique. A slow, full breath triggers physical and cognitive changes that promote relaxation. Deep breathing helps release tension and anxiety and is a great energizer because the deeper the breath, the more your body is flooded with life-fueling oxygen. A full breath begins with the diaphragm pushing downward so that the stomach extends out. As your lungs fill with air, your chest expands. When you exhale, the reverse occurs — your chest settles first and then your stomach.

  • When anxiety strikes or you find yourself focusing on negative thoughts, immediately exhale through your mouth.
  • Now, open your lungs, and breathe in through your nose, drawing in a fresh, cleansing air to the count of four.
  • Exhale again slowly to the count of five.
  • Repeat four times.

Copyright © 2009 Roberta Lee M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution

Author Bio
Roberta Lee, M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution, is vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine, director of Continuing Medical Education, and co-director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel’s Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Lee attended George Washington University Medical School and is one of the four graduates in the first class from the Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona conducted by Andrew Weil, M.D.

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4 comments

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    • Lexi on November 28, 2009 at 16:37

    I may have to check this out when it’s released. I work in a very high-stress profession and my blood pressure is suffering because of it. Sounds like this book might have some helpful solutions to aid me in dealing with my day-to-day headaches!

    • Kathy on November 28, 2009 at 17:09

    Yes, an excuse to eat chocolate! I think just about everyone has to cope with stress these days so this is probably a great reference book to have around.

    • J.G. on November 29, 2009 at 06:03

    It sounds funny to say “remember to breathe” but it really helps. When meltdown threatens, I often say to myself and others, “Okay, deep breath now. In with the good air, out with the bad.”

    Chocolate also works, but not over the phone!

    • Wendy on December 9, 2009 at 13:47
      Author

    Lexi: I found the book to be helpful (not in every way, but in some ways). Hope you’ll find it the same.

    Kathy: I love that she recommends chocolate 🙂

    J.G.: LOL! Yes, breathing definitely helps (and so does chocolate).

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