Friday, March 6, 2015

Cancer, Serenity and Changing Your Story

Amanda Enayati was diagnosed with stage four cancer. She had a big job and she had witnessed the New York City 9/11 tragedies, a terrible depression followed.  And then cancer. So she thought she knew all about stress.

Then when her CNN editor asked her to begin a new column about stress Enayati did what came naturally—she started researching stress—thinking there might be a few new facts but that certainly most of what she’d offer readers would be a sharper summary of how to cope with our 21st century plague.

What was unexpected was discovering how stress was “invented” and to what surprising cultural –and economic ends.

This led to her surprising new book, “Seeking Serenity: The 10 New Rules for Health and Happiness in the Age of Anxiety.”

If you have cancer or if you are a caregiver then you know stress. It’s part of your vocabulary and it’s part of your story—and story is the key word in Enayati’s book about serenity and stress.

As Enayati explains in her new book it’s not really stress that is stressing you out, it is the story of stress that you’ve been told, and that you tell yourself. But can be yours by simply changing your mind—and the stories that you tell yourself.

What she has done differently from every other writer with advice on stress—Enayati went looking for the back-story on stress, and in making sense of the history of stress she has created a map to help us find our way out.

What she lays out for us in “Seeking Serenity” is that while we act like, and react like, stress is a tangible thing that we have to manage and defeat, stress is actually a cultural construct, a social construct, and frighteningly—stress is a marketing construct. 

You’ll either laugh or cry when you read Enayati’s revelations on the role Big Tobacco played in creating the concept of stress so they could market their best-known stress-relievers. (Yep, cigarettes) But the damage was bigger than lung cancer—it was also a kind of cultural cancer. Marketers of tobacco, alcohol, certain foods, and now even treatments, had to –in order to sell us their solutions—first sell us on the belief in stress.

Enayati shows us that stress is a belief system. Think about that: If we believe in stress, and that we are stressed, then we will be perfectly pre-set to buy all manner of stress relief and stress remedies.

Amanda Enayati
This is really a very smart book, and a very new way of looking at stress and personal belief and the simple choices we can make—without the huge life changes that we always think we’ll have to make. And of course contemplating huge life changes simply stresses us even more. 

Could it be that diabolical? Enayati makes a great case for how stress has been marketed to us. Could serenity be that simple? What it that is true? It’s definitely worth reading this book to learn more.

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