Book Review: ‘Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness’

Life is full of stress, but Full Catastrophe Living is an excellent resource to keep it at bay through meditation and other mindfulness techniques.

When you picture meditation, you might imagine cross-legged yogis chanting in a temple, but it’s actually something anyone can use. Author Jon Kabat-Zinn makes it accessible to the average person, along with other tactics like yoga that offer a holistic approach to stress management. You use both your mind and body in his balanced method.

An Experienced Author

Kabat-Zinn is no stranger to teaching mindfulness to the average person. He also wrote Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment – And Your Life, a similar book about getting yourself into a zen-like state to offset worldly stresses, along with several other books on related topics. He’s a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and also regularly teaches in-person classes on mindfulness.

This book takes a simple approach that explains what to do and what not to do very clearly. It actually lets you make a plan to implement mindfulness in your life via regular meditation and other practices, like gentle Hatha Yoga. It’s broad enough to cover virtually any stressful situation, yet specific enough to guide you into action almost immediately.

Techniques to Use at Any Time

While you learn to take time out in your day for mindfulness, Kabat-Zinn’s book also stresses the importance of maintaining calm throughout the day. If you work its principles, you’ll eventually find that you’re using mindfulness at just about any time you might need it, dealing with real-work stressors.

The main aim in Full Catastrophe Living is to teach you about meditation, but if you’re at all familiar with psychology, you’ll recognize some cognitive therapy principles. You’ll learn to look at things in your life with a new perspective and to understand when you can’t change something and how to keep it in its proper place. Not only do you increase your awareness, but you also gain an understanding of what to do with your thoughts.

Long But Informative

The book is a little long, and it sometimes seems repetitive as Kabat-Zinn reiterates certain points. However, this isn’t enough of a problem to offset the useful information. The style is easy enough to let just about anyone get through it, and virtually every reader will find something to apply. It doesn’t offer the typical “cure you in eight to 10 weeks” workbook style, so be prepared to work a little more independently than you would with a more structured self-help book.

However, there is a structure to the information presented, as the book is based on the author’s stress management classes. You can also purchase his meditation CDs if you’d like a supplement to help you through the process. It also works fine alone if you don’t want to add supplementary material.

Helpful for Just About Anyone

If you have an issue like anxiety or depression, or if you just have a typically stressful life, you’ll find something useful in Full Catastrophe Living. It’s hard to take time-outs during the day to calm down and center yourself, but this book shows why that’s so important. It also tells you exactly how to use meditation in your life, so if you carve out the time do it, you’ll soon notice the positive results.