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16 Best Stress Books for Slaying your Stress Monster

What are the best stress books? What books on stress give the best explanation of exactly what stress is and why we feel it? Where can you find the most effective techniques for managing stress?

Millions of people face the massive amounts of stress daily.  In an increasingly connected and hectic world stress is more relevant than ever before. Therefore many people are searching for the best books on stress to help them understand and cope with stress and its many negative physical side effects.

For this list of 16 best stress books looked through hundreds of books about stress and anxiety to find the most relevant books on the subject.  This list has some books with amazingly well detailed explanations of how stress effects both our bodies and our minds.

There are books about using mindfulness to mitigate and even avoid the effects of stress, There are books that describe using neuroscience and nueroplasticity to control stress. we have. There are books about better managing your time to reduce stress. There are books with practical tips to reducing stress.  There is even a new book saying that our understanding about stress is completely wrong and stress can be extremely positive if you approach it with the correct attitude.

In other words whatever information you want to learn about stress is on this list.

Enjoy! Relax! Read and reduce your stress!

Top 16 Stress Books of All Time

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping by Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.

Robert Sapolsky is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University. It may seem odd that a biologist and not a psychologist wrote one of the best books on the causes of stress that have ever been written.

It seems odd until you think about the fact that this biologist also studies the brain and nervous system with his studies in neurology.  In fact his twin disciples made him the perfect person to write this ground-breaking stress book.

One of Sapolsky’s major point is that stress is a holdover from our hunter-gatherer days. Back in those days you needed the fight or flight response that stress brings about to survive any encounters with predators or to help you escape dire situations.

In those days stress happened quickly and went away quickly, and stress could save your life. Now stress can be constant and is a big problem.

Being a biologist, Sapolsky goes into all the causes of stress as well as all the bad implcations on what it can do to our bodies.

One of the things that make this book great, however, is the writing. Sapolsky is a world-class scientist, but he shares his ideas in easy going personal manner.

He uses cool examples and a bit of humor and good examples drive home his points.  He is never cold and clinical and overly scientific with his approach. He writes with great compassion and a sense of humor.

There is only one negative. This books is perfect for describing everything you might want to know about stress. But the section on what to do about it leaves something to be desired. If you worry about stress, get this book for the explanation on stress and one of the another book on this list to help you cope with stress.

From Stress to Stillness: Tools for Inner Peace by Gina Lake

The previous book was superb at explaining stress, but is week on practical tips for handling stress. This book on stress is the opposite. I found that Gina’s opening sections on the causes of stress in the body were her weakest, while later sections are excellent and full of practical advice on dealing with the stress monster.

Her book cover a lot of aspects of stress, but is strongest when she discusses the methods of shutting down our negative inner critic’s and using mediation to decrease stress.

Meditation is not the only method of handling stress, of course, many other books on this list go into other methods, But Gina’s book is surely the very best at describing how to use mindfulness to quiet the stress and get to “stillness”.

This stress book covers:

  • How we create stress and how it affects the body
  • Recognizing thoughts that cause stress
  • How to disassociate from negative thinking
  • How to de-stress
  • How mindfulness meditation changes the brain
  • How to meditate and why
  • Tips for quickly moving into Stillness
  • How to change your lifestyle to reduce stress

A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl Ph.D

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a very popular method of handling stress. It has been clinically tested and is taught by clinics and in classes around the world.

The idea behind MBSR is simple at its core. Stress makes people angry, tense, overwhelmed, irritable and tired. It can burn you out, leave you feeling pain and even open your body up to sickness. MSBR has you respond to stress factors in a mindful and non-judgmental

Manner. This calmness and equanimity is able to short circuit stress before it can get a hold of your body and mind.

MBSR is effective in alleviating stress, anxiety, panic, depression, chronic pain, and a wide range of medical conditions. Taught in classes and clinics worldwide, this powerful approach shows you how to focus on the present moment in order to permanently change the way you handle stress.

This workbook is very practical and action oriented training and is based on the teachings of the 1991 book Full Catastrophe Living, and many subsequent experiments and books used to refine the techniques of MBSR.

What I enjoyed most about this book is that it is very practical. It is chock full of exercises and training to help you fully understand the concept of mindfulness and practice lessons to help you put it into effect. Highly recommended if you want to use a mindfulness approach to dealing with stress.

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn

The book that started it all! First written in 1991, this was the book that invented the technique of mindfulness and applied it mainly as a method for relieving stress and even for dealing with pain and illness.

In 1979 Dr. Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Zinn originally adapted many concepts of Buddhist teachings on mindfulness. Which makes great sense, because I cannot think of a stressed out Buddhist without laughing. It seems like an oxymoron. (Though the Buddist religious overtones were quickly completely eliminated from his training.)

This book is great at explaining the concept of Mindfulness. The training has proved to be very effect and has had quite a few clinical trials.

If you read self-help books, mindfulness is likely not a new topic to you. The copies of all the different mindfulness books, stacked end-on-end is probably higher than the Empire State Building. The things that really makes this one stand out is that it was the first. All other books are just copies of Zinn’s original ideas.

This is still a great book and definitely worth reading, although the Mindfulness Stress Workbook listed above is a more practical guide.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and It's All Small Stuff: Simple Ways To Keep The Little Things From Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson Ph.D

Chances are you have heard of (or at least seen) the super-popular “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” series of books. But you may not know what this book is really about.

Rather than having page after page detailed methods to reduce stress Carlson simply fills his books with simple advice. This advice is designed to help put your life into perspective and understand that excessive worry and stress does not help you actually accomplish your desires.

The “Don’t Sweat” advice is filled with page after page of small daily changes that anyone can make. Every positive change makes your life a little calmer, less stressful and more settled.

The format is simple. Carlson gives a single pithy line of advice. Then he spends 3-4 paragraphs explaining why this advice is important, then quickly moves into the next piece of advice.

This book includes advice like:

  • Learn to Live in the Present Moment
  • Create "Patience Practice Periods"
  • Ask Yourself the Question, "Will This Matter a Year from Now?"
  • Repeat to Yourself, "Life Isn't an Emergency"
  • Become a Better Listener
  • Tell Three People (Today) How Much You Love Them
  • Resist the Urge to Criticize
  • Understand the Statement, "Wherever You Go, There You Are"

The thing that makes these books so powerful is that all the advice truly is wonderful advice. Even if it were to not be effective on your reducing stress following most of this advice will help to make you a better  person.

Carlson wrote more books following this basic format for many of the  stress trouble spots in our lives. Work, family and love. These all follow the same pattern and contain similar on spot advice that will help anyone to improve their lives in respect to the area the book focuses on. Below are the list of other, “Don’t Sweat” books.

Don’t Sweat Small Stuff series of Books:

Work | Couples | Family | Teens | Love

The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Amit Sood MD and Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic is arguably the best hospital in the world. So when they come out with any guide to a specific malady you can assume that it gives a great overview of top notch thinking on the subject.

However, you might expect this book to be more of a clinical review of the causes of stress and scientific methods of alleviating stress. But that really is not what this book is about.

What this book actually is a book form of a course that the Mayo clinic has been offering for years for decreasing stress. This course (and the book) is a culmination of 20 years of experience in dealing with stress.

Similar to the “don’t sweat” books, this book deals with a wide variety of topics that cause stress and helps you look at these ideas in a different light.

“Stress Free Living” discusses topics like:

  • Practicing compassion, gratitude and acceptance
  • Developing your attention
  • Living a meaningful life
  • Tips for achieving your full potential
  • Cultivating positive and nurturing relationships

Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress: A Handbook for the Overworked, Overscheduled, and Overwhelmed by Rita Emmett

This book is only “sort of” a book on dealing with stress.  It could just as easily be considered to be a time management book or a productivity book. This book mixes positive psychology with time management techniques. In neither of these aspects is the author specifically groundbreaking, but the combination is a good one because she shows how a lot of stress may not be due to the workload, but due to inefficiencies in dealing with the workload.

Though the material is not groundbreaking, what makes this book  good enough to be on the best stress books list is the authors writing style. She writes in a simple style that makes you feel like she is talking right to you. She also has some great anecdotes to illustrate the major points of her book.

If you have read lots of books on time management and dealing with stress, you may want to pass on this book since most of the material will at best be just a refresher.  But if you are new to both topics it does give a nice overview on the importance of managing your life and workload properly to decrease the stress it can cause.

Undoing Perpetual Stress: The Missing Connection between Depression, Anxiety and 21st Century Illness by Richard O’Connor, Ph.D.

Using common and down-to-earth language Psychologist Richard O’Conner shows us why our modern world is producing more stress than ever before in history, and what we can do about it.

The main point of the book is that we are not “made” for all the modern stressors.

  • Long stress filled drives to work
  • Barrages of emails needing answers, “now”
  • Advances in science letting us know how many things are bad for us
  • Low nutrition meals
  • Constant interruptions from mobile devices

All these things combine to make us more susceptible to stress than any other time in history. We have more stressful inputs than ever but our reactions to stress have not evolved in the past 160,000 years since we were simple hunter/gatherers.

In those days stress was only, “fight or flight” and needed to survive. But we now live in a “Perpetual State of Stress” where our stressors affect us from the time we wake up until AFTER we go to sleep.

What O’Conner advocates is basically a mindfulness approach to life.

He argues that this stress often puts us in a mindless state where we are "reacting without thought; always in a rush; always in a state of tension that action can't alleviate, irritable, preoccupied, anxious, depressed. Not being fully aware of the present, always preoccupied by the next thing on our list...Mindlessness is a vicious circle, because acting mindlessly never can resolve the distress that fuels it."

Far better, according to Carlson is to be mindful. "becoming more alert, thoughtful, deliberate; not reacting automatically to emotions; more curious, more ready to look beneath the surface, more ready to withhold judgment; kinder, more patient, more tolerant. These are difficult qualities to achieve when we're always running around putting out fires; but if we can't achieve them that is our destiny, one fire after another."

The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques by Margaret Wehrenberg, Ph.D.

Wherenberg’s book on managing stress and anxiety is based on a simple concept. If you want to fix a problem in your brain, you need to understand your brain. She gives good scientific explanations of the causes of anxiety and then 10 brain science techniques that actually work, without needing to resort to medication.

The chapters that deal with the specific physical and cognitive and behavioral tools for handling anxiety are excellent.  They get right to the point and can have a big impact, specifically for those who do not currently see a psychologist (who may recommend similar techniques). Full of practical tips that you can immediately put to use in combating anxiety, this workbook can be very helpful to those dealing with generalized anxiety, social anxiety or even panic.

The 10 chapters of this book are easy to read and full of simple and practical advice for dealing with stress and anxiety. Sections include things like cognitive control, breathing techniques, and using positive self-talk.

Stress Management for Dummies by Alan Elkin Ph.D

Who doesn’t like the “Dummy Books” and have a few around the house. They are never groundbreaking. They are not going to discuss cutting edge techniques. That is not what we buy them for.

Dummy books are always laid out in an easy style to help you learn the basics quickly and easily. They are always written by subject matter experts and then reformatted for their unique style. SO you know the material presented in them will be the stuff you need to know have a comprehensive understanding of the subject.

This is as true in Stress Management for Dummies book as it is in all other stress books.

This book contains:

  • simple tests to help determine your stress triggers
  • step-by-step guidance on locating and eliminating your stressors
  • hassle-free techniques for avoiding stress
  • self-evaluation quizzes
  • methods of dealing with stress using stretching, massages, breathing and more..
  • cleaning the stressful clutter from your life
  • managing your time by setting priorities and delegating
  • how procrastination stresses us out, and how to stop it
  • fitness and stress connection
  • sleeping right
  • dealing with interpersonal stressors
  • general relaxation techniques
  • and more…

As with most Dummies books, if you know little or nothing about dealing with stress this should be the first book you read and should be kept as a reference for many aspects of related to managing your stress.

Is Stress Your Silent Killer?: How to deal with stress and achieve permanent stress relief by Janet Matthews

You have probably heard that stress is the silent killer. This is true. Many Americans die from the side effects of stress over time. Heart attacks.  Brain embolisms. The negative effects of stress on many other conditions. [source] This quick and short book gets right to the point on how to deal with stress.

To be honest this book is more of a pamphlet than a real book. This is both its strength and weakness. It is more of a “cliff notes” version of dealing with stress. It gets right to the point and wastes no time.  If you are stressed about having too many books about stress, that can be a godsend.

However if you DO read a lot of other stress books, the material will be short and repetitive. So this book really only works if as your first introduction of the concept of dealing with stress, or as a overview of basic techniques.

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal

If you are reading this list of books on stress, there is a good chance you want to get rid of your stress.  You are probably looking for methods to reduce stress, or gain a mindset that avoids stress completely. However according to a new book by famed Stanford Psychologist this might be a really bad idea.

McGonigal is the author of one of my favorite books. The Willpower Instinct. A book that discusses how self control can be harnessed to improve productivity, health and happiness is likely one of the best book ever on willpower. (Along with Baumister’s  classic Willpower)

In the Upside of Stress, McGonigal turns the common perceptions of stress on its head. The key message of this book is that stress can be good for you. It is not stress itself that is bad, but people’s reaction to stress that is bad. Those that approach stress positively can use it as a tool for growth and those that constantly worry about stress make themselves worse because of this worry, not from stress itself.

The important takeaways from the Upside of Stress are:

  • Being positive about stress helps people live longer.
  • Holding hands will decrease any negative impact from stressful situations.
  • Retirees are more prone to depression due to the fact they are no longer challenged by stress.
  • An extremely stressful situation raises the bar on stress. “If I can handle THAT then THIS is nothing”
  • Mostly happy lives are often filled with stress; while people who are struggling to survive don’t have time to be “stressed”.

If you are looking for stress relief, this book may run counter to what you want to read.  McGonigal, however, lays out a very compelling argument. You would be doing yourself a disservice if you did not take her points into consideration when thinking about how to handle your stress. It might not be the problem you think it is.

So rather than letting stress eat you alive, why not try using it to achieve greater success. It all comes down to your reaction to stress.  Why not see the upside of stress?

The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness by James and Claudia Altucher

One common theme of many people who are stressed and overwhelmed is that they are people pleasers who do not want to disappoint. They will take on more and more tasks until they break under the strain of stress overload.

James and Claudia show us how to connect with our true selves by saying NO to the things that may cause harm.

This another case where this book is only “sort of” a book on dealing with stress.  It gives us a view of how to live our life’s in a more wholesome way and not let the opinions of others force us into bad decisions. It is about more than saying, “no” it is about the taking the power back in our lives and taking full control of our lives.

When you have this type of control of your mind and your life there is little room left to be stressed.

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life : The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems by Dr. Daniel G. Amen 

This is “just” a book about stress.  It deals with many forms of emotional problems: anger, lack of focus, anxiety, memory issues, obsession and even depression. This book take an  academic slant. Yet it still remains quite practical.

Change your Brain, Change your Life delves into the relationship between our brain patterns and the problem behavior. Understanding this relationship can help us find cures for a lot of mental problems.

One of the major differences between this book and others is the stance on using prescription drugs.  Many books take a stance against these drugs or at least offer alternatives without drugs, while this book lays out many strong arguments for drugs in some situations and lets the readers know when they should be used and when avoided. I am strongly casual use of over the counter medication. Too many people are too ready to quickly turn to drugs as a solution to all their mental problems.  However, there are many times when using some medicine may be the right thing to do I appreciate the fact that this book does not sugar coat that and flat out says when medication may be the best answer. I appreciate this balanced approach to the subject of mental issues and medication. 

The material in this book was originally written over 25 years ago and with a few minor rewrites stays as true (and powerful) today as it was over 25 years ago.

This book focuses on an energizing approach to stress that was developed by Dr. Bensen and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School. The called the therapeutic technique the “Relaxation Response” and administered it in the laboratories and teaching hospitals of Harvard for many years. The massive success of the program at Harvard led Bensen to write the book detailing the program to the public.  It has since helped millions of people to deal with their stress effectively.

Without needing to visit a guru or take over-the-counter or prescription drugs patients can decrease their levels of stress.

The basic procedure is easy to learn. By skim reading you could probably get the “gist” in as little as 10 minutes.  After that it simply takes dedicating 10-20 minutes every day to put it into effect.

The primary point of this book was to show the mind-body connection and how stress could exacerbate or even cause body issues like hypertension.  Nowadays this mind-body connection is pretty much taken for granted by most people.  But it was groundbreaking news when it was released.

Furthermore Bensen advocates regular use of relaxation techniques. Using these techniques can reduce symptoms of cardiovascular disease(specifically hypertension) and help the body heal itself.

End of Stress: Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain by Dr. Don Joseph Goewey

This book starts with a detailed description of the physical effects of stress on the body. He also mapped and outlined what the brain is doing while this stress is going on. In fact, I think it was a bit detailed.  I did not need him to go into all the detail, but it was certainly interesting.

One of the major tenets of this book is about living in the moment when dealing with stress and its effect. Too much worry about stress will only cause more stress after all.

This book has  a simple four-step strategy that will decrease stress, eliminate anxiety and may even increase your brainpower. Goewey’s created the theories in this book from extensive study and practice of the latest and greatest techniques of neuroscience and neuroplasticity being implemented to combat stress.

But these theories are not all theory without application too! There was extensive testing done in high stress environments and has proven effective for engineers, managers, blue-collar workers and even high powered CEOs.

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Are there stress books missing from this list? Are there books on stress that shouldn't be here? Do you find this list useful? Do you have any favorites? Make sure to let me know in the comments on the the main page of the 175+ Best Habit Books List

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