It is a truth universally acknowledged that the reviewer of a book is duty bound to come up with a commentary that is pithier and more insightful than the book itself. When the author is not just THE Ruby Wax but a Ruby Wax who has sneaked off and done a Masters in mindfullness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) at Oxford, that is a pretty big ask. So my apologies for not being able to sum up this book in a single, clever sentence.
In ‘Frazzled’ Wax uses her not inconsiderable wit and outspokenness to share her thoughts on mindfulness, which she grounds not in the realms of ‘vegetarian cushions’, but in her own newly gathered academic expertise on the human brain. She makes a compelling argument that stress is bad for us and MBCT is a powerful technique to combat it. She even goes so far as to have her own brain scanned before and after a week’s mindfulness retreat to prove it. That’s going a bit far in my view, but the book is an enjoyable read nevertheless, full of highly amusing anecdotes and some deeply resonant observations, such as:
“People who haven’t got a single open three-minute slot in their day because they’re dashing from meetings to lunches to workouts to appointment to cocktails are thought of in our society as great achievers, as role models, but in my opinion … they should be burnt at the stake for making many of us feel inadequate.”
The issue in a pressurised business such as marketing (ok, I admit – no-one dies and it’s not like being a coal miner) is that the pressure impacts on all of us, even if we think we are coping.
As she puts it:
“Our brains are not computers. They don’t need charging. They need rest. And there is no rest. It ’s become a dirty word. Every Tweet, Facebook entry and text is sucking out your energy. That’s why you always forget where you parked your car.”
Wax’s book is very full of her own amusing stories (as you might expect) but you forgive her for the self-centredness (I meant that factually, not as an insult) because she has flown closer to the sun than most people and has suffered severe depression. So I’m more than prepared to listen to what she might have to say and how it might help me, or people I’m close to, cope with the jobs and lives we all have.
Whether you get the time, inclination or need to undertake the full 6 week mindfulness course at the centre of her book is up to you. But along the way there are enough useful tips for dealing with your own stress, in and out of the office, as well as that of your family and children (both small and large) to make it a worthwhile read. And, as she argues, this stuff matters.
There is a strong correlation in research between mindfulness and resistance to disease, a decrease in fertility problems and increased longevity.
So if that isn’t a powerful call to action to read this book, I don’t know what is.