De-stress for success

By Matt Williamson
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Audio books on CD and books on tape are a valuable tool in your stress-reduction toolkit.
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Self-help audio books and books on tape

When she appears on television, Emmy Award-winning actress Linda Dano, best known for her role as Felicia Gallant on the NBC daytime drama "Another World," consistently appears upbeat and self-possessed—the epitome of grace under pressure. But like 19 million fellow Americans, Dano has harbored a painful secret: She suffered from clinical depression.

Dano went public in March to share her personal struggles with this debilitating medical condition. She now serves as spokesperson for Support Partners, a national campaign that encourages a "buddy system" approach to overcoming depression.

"When I started battling depression, it was so much more than being sad all the time," Dano says. "I didn't feel like me anymore. I had no joy in doing things I used to love, like working and spending time with friends. I had trouble sleeping and had mysterious pains in my back that didn't go away."

Dano is, perhaps, one of the lucky ones. Many cases of depression, which can be triggered by external stressors in our lives, go undiagnosed and untreated—and women are twice as likely than men to develop symptoms.

Frighteningly, more than half of all U.S. deaths can be attributed to behavioral and social factors, according to Dr. Oakley Ray, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Stress hurts both body and brain at the cellular and molecular levels, he notes, overwhelming a person's ability to cope and even increasing the risk for contracting an infection.

Developing physical and emotional resiliency is the key to combating stress and depression, experts agree. Your state of mind affects your ability to cope with daily stresses (a flat tire on the freeway), as well as bounce back from traumatic events (a job loss or divorce). In fact, one study of breast cancer patients demonstrated that women who believed they were "going to beat it" had a higher survival rate than those who were paralyzed by fears of recurrence or death.

Audio books on CD and books on tape are a valuable tool in your stress-reduction toolkit. Whether you're plagued with run-of-the-mill, my-kids-are-driving-me-crazy stress or a life-changing event that catapults you into a major depression, audio books on CD are an effective way to develop positive-thinking skills and make behavioral changes that elevate your mood. (Note: If you suffer from clinical depression, be sure to see your physician or a trained mental health professional. You will require proper evaluation and treatment, and your health-care provider can help you choose CDs that can be added to your therapeutic regimen.)

"Audiobooks represent a great way to learn useful techniques, such as stress-reduction tools," says Dr. Rachna D. Jain, a licensed psychologist and professional coach based in Maryland. "You can learn about concepts that you can apply in your own life to create happier relationships and greater life success. Self-help audio is an effective, focused way to break through your limitations and create the relationship and life you truly desire—and deserve!"

They're also an economic "best bet." By joining one of the major audio book and books on tape rental sites on the Internet, such as, you can enjoy unlimited monthly access to your top picks for less than the cost of purchasing a single audio books CD. And with so many self-help audio books on the market, experts recommend renting the abridged version of a book to save time and help you determine whether you want to rent the unabridged version.

Make sure the audiobook's author has the appropriate credentials and a solid background in the topic covered, advises Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, a New York-based psychologist.

"When you choose a self-help book or program, get some recommendations from others who have actually used it," she says. "Along with the qualifications of the author and recommendations from individuals, look carefully at those who are endorsing this book. See if these endorsements come from individuals who are widely respected in their field. Know that you can get some good ideas and processes—and perhaps an overview of a subject. But if there is a serious, recurring problem, it's always best to get professional help."

Pinpoint Your Stressors

Audiobooks can help you deal with the different issues that contribute to your stress level:

Dollar Daze Money is a major concern in today's volatile economy. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 73% of Americans cite money as a major stressor in their lives, with 33% stating it's a "very significant factor contributing to stress."

"Stress related to money worries can have a real impact on people's psychological health," says Dr. Russ Newman, the APA's executive director for professional practice. "And with tax filing deadlines upon us, many people may be experiencing additional stress. But people can learn to manage financial stressors and other life challenges by taking steps to build and enhance their resilience."

One of the best audiobooks for managing financial stress is "7 Money Mantras for a Richer Life," by Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary. This mother of three faces the same budgetary burdens as the rest of us, and she covers stress-free, family-friendly money management in an easy-to-understand format.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not… Even successful relationships go through periods of tremendous stress—especially if you begin to feel "the thrill is gone."

"The distinction between sex and intimacy is an important one to make," says Soraya Khalili, a master certified relationship coach at the Relationship Coaching Institute Silicon Valley, located in San Jose, California. "Having sex can be an intimate experience—but it can also just be sex. Intimacy involves more than just the bodily act and can be defined in various ways. For many, it consists of a strong emot

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