QUINCY — When Bobbe White began writing a book about stress three years ago, she had no idea its 2021 release would coincide with the off-the-charts normal stress levels of today’s uncharted pandemic Facebook world.
“There’s the COVID thing, the political thing, a sense of disarray,” White said. “People are on their last nerves. There is not a lot of tolerance.”
A nationally known speaker and writer, White has been helping diverse audiences lighten up for more than two decades. She wanted to develop a resource that would help people get a grip.
“Stress No Evil: Twelve Tips to Keep from Going Bananas” does just that.
Her 162-page book is much more than an engaging read complete with compelling anecdotes, insights from three professional therapists, introspective questions, inviting graphics, enticing quotes and even a set of reinforcing coloring pages at the back.
“Stress No Evil” is a toolkit for everyone with normal, run-rate stress looking for a better way to cope with whatever is sucking the joy out of everyday life.
Reframing a Life
Like the best self-help books, “Stress No Evil” draws from the real-life experiences of its author.
White recently retired after a 40-year career at State Street Bank & Trust Co., and began developing her professional speaking and writing business as an away-from-her-day-job passion around the year 2000. Her life-enrichment business was seeded when she realized she could choose how to respond to stressful situations.
During a recent interview, White recalls years ago she used to become especially irritated on days at the bank when her busy work schedule was disrupted by a task that she found particularly odious: making deliveries to the bank’s branches. Already over-taxed as a wife and mom juggling a full-time job with too many other demands, she saw these deliveries as increasingly unwelcome and stressful intrusions.
Her husband, Jeff, helped her break the downward spiral of negativity.
“He suggested I think of the deliveries differently, as breaks from work — down time in the car when I could be alone, with coffee, listening to music,” White recalls. “I began to look forward to them.”
At around the same time, White heard about an exciting new scientific field offering quantifiable health benefits to its partakers — laughter. She decided to learn something about it.
Laughter, a Serious Remedy
The science behind laughter as serious medicine began to be understood in 1995 when Madan Kataria, a physician in Mumbai, India, recognized laughing has similar breathing patterns to pranayama yoga. Through research, Dr. Kataria also found laughter and yoga also have similar therapeutic and disease-prevention benefits. Like yoga, laughter can reduce stress, increase productivity, improve emotional balance, calm the body and mind, and promote positivity.
In a business or group setting, laughter also can improve teamwork.
Dr. Kataria discovered the human body can’t tell the difference between “genuine” and “pretend” laughter. Both types have the same positive impact.
Intrigued by the concept, Bobbe began studying laughter. In 2001, she became one of the world’s first 70 Certified Laughter Leader Experts. (Today, she says, there are thousands of CLLEs, laughter therapists and yoga masters who incorporate laughter into their sessions.)
Hitting the Road
Karyn Buxman of Hannibal, a former pediatric nurse who has become a speaker and writer of note in the field of neuro-humor, encouraged White to take what she was learning to a broader audience. White joined the National Speakers’ Association and booked speaking engagements. She quickly garnered national attention.
Shortly after White began offering workshops and keynotes on the importance of laughter, The New York Times sent a photographer to a presentation she was giving to bankers.
“They must have found the idea of bankers laughing an oxymoron,” she said.
Using laughter exercises as an icebreaker for her presentations, White quickly became known as “the laughter lady.”
“It became a new persona for me — one of positivity,” she says.
White’s persona of positivity and her approach to stress have been making a difference in the United States and beyond. In addition to The New York Times, her work has been recognized in Newsweek Japan, Rediff-India, and Family Circle.
The Wisdom of Reframing + Laughter
“Stress No Evil” combines the release of laughter and levity with the wisdom of reframing.
Each of the book’s 12 main chapters (one for each letter of Stress No Evil’s 12-letter title) shares constructive ways to reverse downward spirals of negativity which, left unchecked, will shatter relationships and erode wellbeing.
The book covers many topics. Some chapters deal with familiar, cringe-worthy stressors — for example, saying NO (even after you’ve already said yes), recognizing and avoiding toxic people and situations, constructively venting stress, and even buying a cup of coffee for the driver right behind you when you’ve accidentally cut in line at the drive-through (and been summarily cussed out for it). Other chapters make a case for life habits that can help keep stress in check — for example, learning to understand when you need sound and when you need silence, exercising your options and your body, and remembering how to play and how to rest.
All the tips are useful for people dealing with normal stress. However, White cautions, not all stress is normal. Throughout her book, she emphasizes the urgency of seeking the help of a licensed professional or calling local emergency services if you — or someone close to you — is out of control or in a dangerous situation.
Ideal for a Throne Room
Although this primer on stress is enticing enough to binge-read, White suggests a different approach. “Stress No Evil” is a book to be savored, considered and remembered. She suggests reading little bits at a time, thoughtfully, in the bathtub or even “on the throne.” The idea is to let the tips resonate so you can draw on what you need, when you need it.
“This truly is self-help,” Bobbe says. “If it helps one person just one time break through their stress, it is worth it.”
How to Buy the Book
“Stress No Evil” is available on Amazon.com. Check it out. Who knows? It could even help take the stress out of holiday shopping this year.