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The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious & What You Can Do to Change It

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Reviewed by Lucero Smith

In the Second Edition of her book, Dr. Margaret Wehrenberg revisits her 10 techniques for dealing with anxiety. She also revisits the companion workbook that provides activities to guide implementation of the techniques. These books are very accessible, even with the dispersed neuroscience throughout; they also have the advantage of catering to a wide audience including, but not limited to, those who are participating in psychotherapy. Her 10 techniques offer various ways to manage three arenas in which anxiety manifests itself: the body, the mind, and behavior. The workbook offers several, different ways to make the managing of anxiety actionable and consistent. By taking this two-pronged approach, Dr. Wehrenberg captures a large swath of information and applies it thus making her books a potential one-stop-shop for anxiety management.

To fully appreciate the workbook, one must first read the technique book that serves to explain, in depth, what they are, why they work, and how to use them. Utilizing developments in neuroscience, Dr. Wehrenberg updates her 10 techniques by refining those at the forefront, providing new research-based evidence for them, and clarifying how they should be used (I).

The book is divided into four parts. Part I serves as an introduction and includes “Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious” where Dr. Wehrenberg explains the inextricable link between the brain and the body. Part I also includes Dr. Wehrenberg’s explanation of the inextricable link between the brain and the body and some relevant neuroscience. She maintains her somewhat casual and relaxed tone throughout, making the reader feel at ease and not overstimulated. Chapter 2 proceeds to propose reasons for using medication to manage anxiety and explains how specific medications affect the brain in distinct, neurological ways. From here, the book transitions into its main content.

Part II, “Managing Your Anxious Body”, dives into the techniques. She outlines the first four in Chapters 3-6. These body-centric techniques aim to regulate one’s physical responses to anxiety and control their negative impacts. Technique #1, “Change Your Intake”, for example, discusses the benefits of reducing consumption of foods and substances that, in excess, are often detrimental to the body. Next, Part III, “Managing Your Anxious Mind”, explores the best methods for keeping the mind from facilitating anxiety (see Chapters 7-9). Again, Dr. Wehrenberg’s approaches highlight reduction and/or elimination, with a focus on thought patterns. This chapter is descriptive and useful as it hits many points in a succinct manner. Finally, Part IV, “Managing Your Anxious Behavior”, Chapters 9-12, offers specific, directed techniques for altering behavior to reduce and even eliminate one’s anxiety. More action-based, these methods, #10-12, are thus broken up into various bulleted lists, numbered steps, and visual graphs and charts.

Organization plays a large role in each part of this book. Parts and Chapters are broken up into smaller, user-friendly sections. Furthermore, any information that is somewhat difficult to grasp is presented in multiple, comprehensive forms including visual using graphs and charts. Dr. Wehrenberg increases the lucidity of her proposed techniques by weaving in her experiences with clients; her work as a psychotherapist makes her highly informed about anxiety.
The workbook, too, is easily utilized and integratable into the 10 techniques. The organization is similar to the main book, following the same introduction, Part and Chapter format. Within each chapter, the workbook provides detailed visual instructions and action plans that can be used to alongside the techniques. There are various blank-templates for plans lists and charts that the reader is meant to fill in, with guiding instructions as to who would benefit from them most and how to implement them.

One plan recurs throughout the book and that is the S.I.M.P.L.E. plan. It first appears in “Technique #1 Change Your Intake” and is supposed to be used to help the reader manage their intake of certain stimulating foods and substances. Each letter prompts a respective response and is meant to assess a certain behavior or thought pattern and assist the reader through altering it. This plan, and others throughout, asks questions of the reader to get them to consider their exact circumstances regarding anxiety and how to improve them. An advantage of the workbook is that it provides blank and filled in examples of most action plans, allowing the reader to understand better exactly what is being asked of them.

This pair of books is valuable in that it can be not just read, but also comprehended by a wide audience. These 10 techniques are not limited in who can benefit from them. The accompaniment of the workbook takes the techniques a step further by providing the means necessary for a complete recovery from anxiety. Dr. Wehrenberg keeps her tone professional yet casual while also including relevant, helpful content. These books are organized in a logical fashion and present information and arguments in a variety of ways, increasing the user-friendliness. It was somewhat disappointing, however, that the conclusions of the both the technique book and the workbook were so brief. Limited to one paragraph, they felt rushed and didn’t do the rest of the book justice. Though they are encouraging and positive, I would have appreciated more reflection from Dr. Wehrenberg herself on her techniques and activities. This is a fairly minor critique and it does not detract from the rest of the books in a very significant way. Overall, both are informative, enjoyable books that provide well-proven solutions to the widespread problem that is anxiety.

 

Lucero Smith is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing a B.A. in History with a minor in Urban Education. She has done extensive community engagement work in West Philadelphia schools. She also has experience conducting archival research at the Library Company of Philadelphia and research in problem solving learning. In addition to working for IJP, she also writes reviews for Somatic Psychotherapy Today.

 

 

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