Genella Macintyre, author of 5 Steps to Reducing Stress: Recognizing What Works, has devoted her career to helping people develop strategies for reducing stress, which plagues almost everyone. With her business partner, Lynda McPhail-Poole, she founded Partners in Discovery Ltd., a consultancy that offers workshops and resources for increasing productivity and reducing stress. Much of her day-to-day work takes place in corporate environments, helping companies and teams attain greater levels of productivity, profit, and happiness through creating better work environments, but in her new book she’s brought her insights and experience to bear to help individuals live less stressful lives.
Macintyre traces the development of her effective stress-reduction method to her personal struggle of overcome stress: “I wanted to accomplish many things in life. I battled fear and anxiety at almost every turn. This held me back. My business partner came up with a very creative approach to work through these states. She knew I needed something practical, as well as something that would actually work! She wrote her ideas down, and we worked out their application together.” These ideas, as well as Macintyre’s years of experience helping organizations develop happier, more productive workplaces, form the backbone of 5 Steps to Reducing Stress, a practical guide, complete with exercises, stories, and entertaining cartoons, to living a less stressful life.
Of course, working with companies actually means working with individuals. “Since the 5 Steps model was originally created for an individual, it is first and foremost applicable to individuals,” Macintyre says. “Because stressors and the symptoms of distress are unique to each person, even training corporate teams results in individual action plans.”
Macintyre says the five steps arose out of practical questions about stress:
Step 1—Understand Stress: What is stress, anyway? How is it affecting what I do?
Step 2—Take Stock: What is causing this reaction? What do I find threatening and why? How does stress manifest in my physical, mental, and emotional health?
Step 3—Manage the External: What can be done to build a supportive environment?
Step 4—Manage the Internal: How do I build resilience and inner strength?
Step 5—Take Action: What is the first thing I should do that will give me the greatest benefit?
In 5 Steps to Reducing Stress, Macintyre describes how to apply these strategies in easy-to-execute and friendly ways. Cartoons and illustrations by Randy Glasbergen punctuate the text. Macintyre says that “many books emphasize managing stress, whereas I encourage people to use microstrategies to trigger a relaxation response.” She encourages a proactive approach, identifying one’s own triggers and then combating them with relaxation strategies that are unique to each person.
For instance, many stress experts advocate exercise to combat stress. Macintyre, however, recognizes that not everyone has the same stress-management style. “If you ask me to go for a run or workout to offset stress, those activities will, indeed, trigger reactions that are conducive to reducing stress. The problem for me, however, is that the thought of running or working out is stressful in itself.” Macintyre says that, for her, watching an inspiring movie or YouTube clip does the trick. In 5 Steps to Reducing Stress, she helps readers identify their own stress-management style and find coping strategies that work for them.
Macintyre calls herself the Queen of Convenience and lives up to the name by offering practical solutions to stress management. Simple things like taking your allotted breaks throughout the workday can have a huge impact on stress. “We charge up our electronics when they run out of juice,” she says. “We should do no less for ourselves.” She also advocates taking “a two-minute vacation” when stress is high: “Find two minutes in the day (go to the bathroom if necessary) and visualize yourself in a location that you find relaxing and regenerating. The difference between imagining and visualizing is that when you visualize, you use your five senses to bring into focus and feel that which you are imagining.”
5 Steps to Reducing Stress is packed with tips like these, as well as thorough explanations of what causes and helps stress. As effective for companies as for individuals, Macintyre’s new book is a powerful resource and an innovative entry in the field of self-help books.
Macintyre, who lives in Brandon, Manitoba, is also the author of two children’s books based on her dog, Tucker.