In Own It: Make Your Anxiety Work For You, Caroline Foran aims to help you change your relationship with anxiety so that rather than trying to avoid it you can own it.
The book isn’t preachy at all, and feels like a chat with a good friend. The author takes a no-bullshit tone, and assures readers that if she tells you things will get better it’s “because it’s true, and not because it sounds like something contrived that you’ll find on Pinterest with a swirly font.”
The book begins with the Assess section, “or as I like to call it, the What-the-f*ck-is-going-on? part of the book”. It then moves on to Address, “or, the What-the-f*ck-am-I-going-to-do-about-it? part of the book”. Interspersed throughout are nuggets of information from clinical psychologist Dr. Malie Coyne and other subject matter experts. At the end of each chapter there are concise chapter summaries as well as practical exercises to complete.
I enjoyed the definition of anxiety as a “a sh*t, scary feeling where – how do I put this? – you feel as though you’re quite literally coming out of your own skin.” I also liked the chapter on “bullsh*t-free breathing”, a refreshingly realistic take on the topic.
The simple, straightforward theme continues throughout the book. There are some useful metaphors to describe technical concepts, such as likening a hyperactive amygdala (the brain’s fear centre) to an ill-fitted burglar alarm that gets tripped too easily. There are also clear instructions on things like how to assemble an anxiety survival kit, and how to handle a panic attack.
The author explains that when her anxiety began, from the outside her life looked pretty darn good. She felt guilty in a sense that she would be anxious when things should be good. I think this is a really important point, as too often people mistakenly assume that anxiety has to be “about” something.
Foran identifies positives that have come from her anxiety, like pushing herself to achieve more, having a strong work ethic, recognizing her patterns, being more in tune with her body, and having the chance to make a difference for others by speaking up about her own experience.
She writes about the importance of acceptance, which allows for a reframing of symptoms that can end up actually changing how you experience your symptoms. She points readers in the direction of Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk “How to make stress your friend”. She also mentions Brene Brown’s work on embracing vulnerability.
There is a chapter titled “why cognitive behavioural therapy is everything”. Foran goes through common mind traps (cognitive distortions) and ways to get out of them, and describes our natural tendency to be biased towards the negative.
Other chapters touch on various other strategies, including acupuncture and medication. For her, medication played a helpful role, and she explains that often it will take a combination of approaches to be most effective.
She also writes that we should prioritize spending more time doing what makes us happy and less time doing what makes us unhappy, like negatively comparing ourselves to others on social media.
Overall, I think the word that best describes this book for me is refreshing. I liked the focus on accepting and managing anxiety rather than fighting it, and the chatty, no-BS tone made it a fun read.
I received a reviewer copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley.
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