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Short Books That Quickly Reduce Stress

As everyone knows, stress is a huge problem in the workplace. Stress reduces productivity, increases health care costs, and turns work that ought to be fun into an overhyped yet dreary chore.

Fortunately, it needn’t be that way. Here are seven quick reads that will reduce your stress level from the moment you begin to read them.

Subtitle: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way

Author: Rick Carson

How it reduces stress: Stress is always the result of how you’re interpreting the events in your life. Stress affects you only insofar as you believe that that interpretation represents reality. This book (which you can read in about two hours) shows you that it’s not just possible but extremely easy to ignore that part of your brain that’s constantly interpreting things, thereby eliminating the source of your stress.

Best quote: “Your gremlin is the narrator in your head. He has influenced you since you came into this world, and he accompanies you throughout your entire existence. He’s with you when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night. He tells you who and how you are, and he defines and interprets your every experience. He wants you to accept his interpretations as reality, and his goal, from moment to moment, day to day, is to squelch the natural vibrant you within…”

Subtitle: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things From Taking Over Your Life

Author: Richard Carlson

How it reduces stress: While the previous book relieves stress by creating an awareness of (and an ability to ignore) the inner voice that’s making you miserable, this book subverts the “gremlin” head-on by providing a new and much-less-stressful perspective on the events in our lives that we use to create stress. Hint: Read the whole book and then get a “stress-relieving boost” by reading specific chapters when you encounter those specific situations.

Best quote: “There is another way to relate to life–a softer, more graceful path that makes life seem easier and the people in it more compatible. This ‘other way’ of living involves replacing old habits of ‘reaction’ with new habits of perspective. These new habits enable us to have richer, more satisfying lives.”

Author: Lao Tzu

How it reduces stress: While reading the classic Holy Books can relieve stress, the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran are lengthy and complex books and can take a lifetime to understand. By contrast, the Tao Te Ching is a one-hour read, isn’t connected to any (organized) religion, and helps you understand that stress and the busywork it generates are things that you’re doing to yourself and can be easily avoided.


Best quote: “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

Author: Jack Handey

How it reduces stress: Laughter is a well-known stress reliever but while there are hundreds of great comedians and countless funny movies, there are few books that can summon more than an occasional chuckle. Jack Handey (some might remember him from the “Deep Thoughts” segments on Saturday Night Live) somehow manages to be ROFL funny with nearly every paragraph. Read any chapter at random (they’re all really short) and chances are you’ll immediately interrupt whatever stressful thoughts were giving you grief. (Note: The titular chapter is simply the funniest thing I ever read.)

Best quote: “I remember when we were kids, one of our favorite games was to play ‘pirate.’ We’d dress up like pirates. Then we’d go find an adult walking down the street and we’d go up to him and pull out our butcher knives, which we called ‘swords,’ and say, ‘We’re pirates! Give us your money!’ A lot of adults would pretend to be scared and give us their money. Others would suddenly run away, yelling for help. We played pirate until we were twenty or so.”

Author: Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

How it reduces stress: For a thousand years of European history, this was the go-to book for achieving life wisdom. While it’s not the easiest read (it’s a dialog between the writer and the goddess of philosophy), The Consolation is short and to the point and it deals with the “big issues” that create huge stress, like why bad things happen to good people. Ironically, it was written while the author was in prison and he was executed soon after completing it.

Best quote: “You think that the goddess Fortune has abandoned you, but it is only in change that She shows consistency. That was true when She caressed you and seduced you with false happiness. Consider yourself lucky to have discovered Her true character. If you love Her gifts, take Her as She is and stop complaining! If you don’t, then renounce Her and Her delusions. The events that bring you grief today will bring you tranquility once you realized you’ve been forsaken by the blind goddess who eventually forsakes everyone.”

Author: Brian Weiss

How it reduces stress: There are hundreds of how-to books about stress reduction. Many of them, though, offer advice that simply adds to already too-full to-do list, like “exercise for an hour every day.” (Like that’s going to happen.) This book is different. It contains easily followed scripts (also on an accompanying CD) that guide you from being stressed to being calm. When it comes to stress, this book is the closest thing to a “magic bullet” that you’re likely to find.

Best quote: “When stressors are as frequent and as pervasive as they seem to be in our modern world, our bodies do not have enough time to reverse the harmful physiological effects. We are bathed in stress hormones, and we pay a huge physical and mental price. For these reasons, learning to rapidly reduce stress levels, both mentally and physically, is vitally important.”