I have revamped this book from top to bottom.
When I first sat down to work on a new edition of For the Love of Stress, I figured all I would need to do was update the scientific literature underlying the concepts I describe, add a few chapters and that would do the trick.
But I clearly underestimated how much of a perfectionist I am. When I started re-reading the first version of the book, it didn’t take long before I found an explanation that could have been better organized here, a concept that I could have described more clearly there, an issue that would be better elucidated using a figure, and sections I should add to better explain, here, there and there. You need to explain this better—that was the constant refrain.
There’s no point in writing at all, Sonia, if you don’t commit to 100% clarity was a sentence that kept popping into my head as I re-read my work. And a memory kept returning: of that time a journalist told me that my book was very good, but it was too dense. There were too many words, printed too small, and not enough paragraph separations and visuals to explain the text and streamline it.
My legs started jiggling underneath my desk. That’s usually not a good sign. . . .
As I kept reading, I also realized that in the original edition, I hadn’t really explained to you how stress is connected to the development of anxiety, depression and burnout, and what to do when you find yourself going down that dark tunnel. Come on, Sonia! That’s what people are most afraid of when you talk to them about stress! You need to work on that. You need to add a bunch of chapters on the links between stress and rumination, anxiety, depression, burnout and mental overload.
And then there are all these new data on rumination, preconceptions of stress, the positive effects of stress, and “good” ways of stressing! Since the book first appeared, a considerable amount of scientific data has emerged on the science of stress. I absolutely had to add this information to the revised edition.
Moreover, the chapters in the original edition of For the Love of Stress went on and on and on! I myself was annoyed as I re-read my work. That says a lot! When I wrote the first version of this book in 2009, Instagram and SnapChat didn’t exist yet and Facebook was still in its infancy. Since the advent of social networks, it’s become clear that although people are reading a lot, they don’t read for as long at a time. The average reader now wants a short chapter that they can read in full before going to sleep at night, rather than an endless one that they’ll have to start again from the beginning every time they go back to it. I would have to redo that aspect.
One morning, as I was just back from walking the dog, I decided to rework just one chapter (the first) and see how it would turn out. Restate your introductory idea; it’s not clear. This section here should go with the conclusion. Why are you mentioning this bit here? It should be in Chapter Two. Go over this concept again and clarify it with an example. Talk to your reader. They’ve told you about their experience of stress. Rearrange your paragraphs so they can identify with the text.
By that evening, I’d pulled Chapter One apart, the same way my son used to deconstruct his Lego creations, leisurely, piece by piece, when he was small. This chapter is way better! I told myself. So the next day, I broke the second chapter down into pieces. And the third as well. And the fourth.
And that’s how I wound up tearing down and rebuilding this entire book!
If you’ve never read the first edition of this book, no worries! I think you’ll appreciate the clarity of the concepts, the shorter chapters that you can read before bedtime, and the leaner text with explanatory figures that make it easier to grasp the scientific results that I present. And if you have read and enjoyed the original version, I sense a little stress response from you, thinking there may have been something you liked on that first reading that I misrepresented. I’m betting that’s not the case. The vast majority of the information that was in the first edition is still there. But it’s now clearer and more readable, and I’ve also added a lot more information. Two-thirds of the book comprises new data on stress that have appeared in the academic literature over the last ten years. I know you’re going to enjoy it.
Judging by the questions I hear from you at my talks, you are definitely going to find the new chapters in this new edition of For the Love of Stress interesting. There are chapters on rumination, normal and abnormal anxiety, stress-related mental health issues, ways you can get help, preconceptions of stress, stress resistance, time perspective, how to stress “well”, the positive effects of stress, an “instruction manual” for controlling a major episode of stress, and plenty more. Whew! 🙂
To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve added too many chapters to this revised edition. I spent weeks trying to see if I could eliminate some chapters and cut the book down to its original length. Then one day as I was having lunch with my daughter, Jade, who’s now 21, I asked her what she thought: “Tell me: if you’d read my first book, which was 224 pages long, and I showed you a new version with more chapters, would that bother you?” She said no, because to her more chapters would mean “more advice on how to control your stress.” Excellent point, Jade! The first time I wrote this book, I summarized 40 years of scientific research into stress. In the decade since, there have been many new findings, and I can only add to what has already been said. So I decided to make the book longer. And I intend to write an updated edition of this book every 10 years. So if it ends up being an “encyclopedia of stress,” so be it! I will have succeeded in my goal of summarizing everything I know about the subject. 🙂
People I’ve spoken to at my public talks often tell me they found the book very interesting but would have liked to have access to questionnaires that could help them better understand their thought processes regarding stress and its associated mental issues. In the first edition of the book, I didn’t think it would be wise to include that sort of information, because the questionnaires we tend to see online for measuring this or that concept (e.g., anxiety, depression) are not scientifically validated and bear no resemblance to the ones we as scientists use. In the 10 years since the publication of the first version of this book, however, some very well done websites have emerged that provide access to the same questionnaires we use in our research to evaluate various concepts. Since these scientifically validated questionnaires are now online, I’ve provided links to them when they are available. To make things easier for you, I’ve placed all the links to those questionnaires, along with links to memory and attention tests, in the Web links section of the Éditions Va Savoir website (https://www.editionsvasavoir.com/links-editions/). When you visit that section, simply click or touch the link of the test you want to do and you’ll have access to it.
In the last five years, teachers and professors have begun assigning For the Love of Stress to their students to read so that they can understand what stress is and reduce their anxiety. During my many chats with young people after my talks in schools, I’ve learned that they think the list of tips and tricks for lowering stress appeared too late in the book. One of them, Valérie L., left this comment on my Facebook page: “I think it would be useful to have a list of methods early in the book, which you could access quickly if you were experiencing a moment of high anxiety. I found that the theory section took up a lot of space before you got to the techniques, and I got bored before reaching the end of the book. But I should mention that I started the book back when I was a teenager, and I was so lost in my anxiety.” Valérie is right! I had completely neglected the fact that many of the people who buy my book do so because they’re experiencing a lot of stress at that precise point in their lives. They don’t have time to wade through page after page before learning the tools and tricks for relieving stress! With that in mind, I reworked the beginning of the book so that you now have, right from the opening pages, a list of easy techniques for calming a stress response here and now. This way, you start reading the book with lower stress hormone levels in your brain, so that you’ll understand what you’re reading and memorize it properly. You’ll see what I mean when you read the various chapters on stress and memory. 🙂
I’ve added the numbered references directly in the text so that you can access the scientific article I’m referring to if you’re interested. I should point out here that for the sake of readability, I’ve included only the most recent references on the topics discussed, and I’ve tried to confine myself to one study summary per topic covered. You should know, however, that dozens of scientific articles have been published on every fact presented in this book and sometimes the data aren’t as clear-cut as those I summarize. Consequently, I’ve clarified things to make them easier to understand but, when necessary, I’ve also emphasized the importance of having more data before a conclusion can be drawn. Science is an iterative process whereby every new discovery causes us to question our knowledge, and that’s why publishing updated editions of science popularization works is so important.
I wrote this new edition of the book in the summer of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. For a long time, I considered including a chapter on “Stress in Pandemic Times.” After thinking it through, however, I decided against it, to ensure the book wouldn’t be too tied to its era. I see For the Love of Stress as a reference work and I didn’t want it to be time-dependent in any way. So I’ve chosen to save the “Stress in Pandemic Times” theme for another work. I do, however, use examples related to COVID in the chapter on stress resistance, given the fact that this pandemic has helped highlight, remarkably, individual differences in people’s ability to resist stress.
The thing I’m most proud of about this new version of For the Love of Stress is that I’ve completely overhauled the final part of the book, which presents a method for negotiating stress. In the first edition, I included a “toolkit” that you could refer to when you need to control your stress responses. When chatting with people after my talks, though, I realized that many of you don’t know where to start when it comes to managing an episode of stress. Some of you were finding that certain methods weren’t effective—because you weren’t using them at the right time. It was as if I’d given you a toolbox containing a hammer and a wrench to fix a piece of furniture, but without explaining which to use depending on whether you needed to knock in a nail or loosen a bolt. Without that information, you might try using the hammer to loosen the bolt, which would guarantee a botched job! Over the past 10 years, I’ve understood that, without information on the precise role of each tool, providing a toolkit is only marginally effective for negotiating an episode of stress. I’ve therefore completely reworked the last part of the book so that now, I take you by the hand and explain, step by step, how to control a stress response.
Lastly, I’m very proud to be putting out this new edition of For the Love of Stress through my own publishing company. I founded Les Éditions Va Savoir in 2018 with the goal of publishing science popularization books written exclusively by researchers and clinicians. To be sure of providing you with a safe space for information about the human brain and its mysteries, I make certain that every book we publish is reviewed by researchers who verify that the authors have done a proper job of science communication. Only books that receive a positive evaluation by that committee of researchers are published by Les Éditions Va Savoir. Then, to guarantee content that is understandable and free of scientific jargon, I have every book reviewed by a committee of designated readers, who are all people with no scientific expertise. Their job is to point out any part of the book where they find it difficult to understand the concept being presented; the author then makes the required corrections. Using this model, I make sure every book released under the Éditions Va Savoir imprint is grounded in science, but written for the general public.
I’m certain that this new edition of For the Love of Stress is better than the original.
But who knows, I might be wrong.
You tell me!
Previously published under the title : ‘Well Stressed : Manage 1 Stress Before it Turns Toxic’ (Harpers Collins).
2 You know, the little spinning and spinning inside your head….
3 This one is inescapable. 🙂 Anyone who knows me even a little understands that I go out to walk my dog very often, and these trips, among other things, help me control my stress responses.
4 At the secondary-school to university levels.
5 Scientists repeat their experiments time after time to be certain of their conclusions.
6 In other words, free of fake news, ridiculous theories and too-good-to-be-true recipes for achieving happiness. 🙂