The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz

Recently, a friend mentioned she was reading The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz.  Whether through grief, marital breakdown, family, health, financial or career crises,  everyone experiences difficulties in life. And, at times, it is difficult to know what to do for the best. We can’t always discuss problems with family or friends.

Striking a chord

Grosz is a psychoanalyst so his thoughts and insights are interesting. The Examined Life is a series of  short stories based on cases he encountered during his years in practice. The individual stories are quite different but aspects of them will strike a chord for many people — either with their personal experience or experiences of friends or family.

At times, I found his observations surprising. And at times, the problems don’t seem significant enough to warrant so much therapy time. I was  frustrated that the problems didn’t always have clear solutions or resolutions. However, despite these reservations, I liked this book.  The individual stories are short but I took my time reading them because I wanted to think about each problem and solution before moving on to the next. If you’re interested in what makes people tick, I think The Examined Life is worth a read. I bought the Kindle edition.

Overcoming anxiety | a readable guide by Gill Hasson

Overcoming anxiety is a challenge for many people. Just this week, I heard a guest on a radio show describe how he had repeatedly checked that his phone was turned off on the way to the studio because of his anxiety that it might ring while he was on air.

Whether it’s at home, work or in social situations, most people experience similar anxieties. Did we plug out the hair straighteners? Lock the front door? Will we know what to say if we’re asked a question in an interview? Will we forget our lines on stage? Will our knees knock when we make that speech? Whatever the situation,  we generally survive the moment and forget it once the stressful moment has passed.

But for some people, at least some of the time, anxiety can be overwhelming. They become paralysed by worry and their fear manifests in unpleasant physical symptoms and can even change their behaviour. Their anxiety may adversely affect family or work relationships or prevent them from engaging in social activities. It can even make some people avoid situations entirely out of fear that they will not be able to manage.

Personal development author Gill Hasson’s latest book, Overcoming Anxiety : Reassuring ways to break free from stress and worry and lead a calmer life, aims to help readers understand why they get anxious and learn techniques to better manage their thoughts and behaviours.

Hasson encourages her readers to focus on what they can change, rather than what is outside of their control. She shows how to reframe negative thoughts and  move forward in a more positive way. She also discusses the importance of reaching out for support and connecting with others.

At just under 200 words, Overcoming Anxiety is fast read with practical tips, techniques and examples that are easy to relate to. Worth a look if you’re anxious or a worrier. If nothing else it may reassure you that you’re fears are normal!

Overcoming Anxiety by Gill Hasson is published by Capstone. [Disclosure: An ARC was provided by the publisher].



The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer

I was a late arrival at the Five Two fasting diet party. It was only when I stumbled across an article in a newspaper that I took the time to find out a bit more and quickly realised that this could be a regime that would work for me. For those who don’t know, the 5:2 involves fasting for two days each week and eating normally on the other days. The fast days are not entirely without food since women are allowed 500 calories on those two days while men have 600 calories to play with. The book suggests that the calories be split between breakfast and dinner and that there should be a break between the two fasting days.

What I like about the 5/2 diet is that it seems easy to incorporate into a busy lifestyle. It appealed to me because I instantly realised that reducing my calorie intake to 500 on two days of every week would result in weight loss without having to think about food too much.

I had already been following the general idea of the fast diet for three weeks before I purchased the book so I was curious to see  what I might have been missing. I bought the Kindle edition which cost under $4 so it didn’t set me back much more than a magazine would have done. It is a fairly short book and did not add a great deal to what I already knew. The concept of the diet is simple and doesn’t need much explanation. In the first part of the book, Michael Mosley explains the thinking behind the diet and suggests that intermittent fasters experience not just a reduction in weight and bad cholesterol but an increase in energy and a heightened sense of emotional well being. Then Mimi Spencer provides some recipe suggestions for meals that you an enjoy on your 500/600 calorie days. The last section is calorie table for common foods.

The book does give a couple of practical tips of which the two that resonate most strongly with me are:

  • Tell people that you are doing the 5:2 diet — it motivates you to stick with it
  • Prepare your meals in advance for the fasting days so that you will not be tempted to exceed the allocated calories

What I like most about the Fast Diet idea is that it is not so much a diet as a way of life. It is flexible enough to be easily adjusted because you can shift your fast day on a day if something crops up like a family occasion or a work dinner that you have to attend. And because you can get back on track within a day or two it’s easy to stay with the strategy. Also, eating normally on your non-fasting days means you don’t feel like you are constantly counting calories and being deprived of the foods you love.

It is a long time since I have felt motivated about a diet and for that alone, I am grateful to Mosley and Spencer.

The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer is published by Atria Books. ISBN-10: 1476734941; ISBN-13: 978-1476734941.