Reading books about anxiety is not a new thing for me, as I seek to better understand my mental health, but normally I lean towards self-help type books on the subject, so this social commentary managed to feel like new territory.
The author covers a wide range of topics from modern living, such as fashion, parenting and gun law, and uses Maslow's hierarchy as a way of exploring how they fuel anxiety. The crucial point that she makes for me is that the things that Maslow deemed to be basic human needs are now anything but simple. Even the smallest decision has become fraught with choice; food isn't just fuel for your body, it's a statement about your beliefs (e.g. veganism) or an increased health risk for your future (e.g. the link between red meat and cancer); clothes aren't just about having something to wear, they are a status symbol and a potential source of criticism. It was a unique and very effective way for the author to demonstrate her point that modern living is incredibly complex and will inevitably be driving a mental health crisis, as we all have increased access to each others' lives for comparison thanks to social media.
The book feels very well-researched. The author shares a lot of opinions and personal anecdotes but there is always science and statistics behind to back up the point she is making. I felt informed and educated, even on a topic that I'm already familiar with, at the end of the book.
The element of this book that I struggled with the most was the writing style; it came across as indecisive and meandering throughout. The book was part memoir about the author's personal experiences with anxiety and part social commentary; both parts are valuable in their own right, but they felt a little too interchangeable for me. It made the flow seem too vague and difficult to follow at times, and detracted from the reading experience. There were many light, humorous moments to draw you back in as a reader, but nothing that was overtly funny; I'm not sure if I was right to expect that from the book, but nonetheless I did.
It was an interesting enough read but I'm not sure any of the finer detail of the author's observations will stay with me for very long. Strong concept, mediocre execution.
When did USA become shorthand for the United States of Anxiety? From the moment Americans wake up, we’re bombarded with all-new terrifying news about crime, the environment, politics, and stroke-inducing foods we’ve been enjoying for years. We’re judged by social media’s faceless masses, pressured into maintaining a Pinterest-perfect home, and expected to base our self-worth on retweets, faves, likes, and followers. Our collective FOMO, and the disparity between the ideal and reality, is leading us to spend more and feel worse. No wonder we’re getting twitchy. Save for an Independence Day–style alien invasion, how do we begin to escape from the stressors that make up our days?
Jen Lancaster is here to take a hard look at our elevating anxieties, and with self-deprecating wit and levelheaded wisdom, she charts a path out of the quagmire that keeps us frightened of the future and ashamed of our imperfectly perfect human lives. Take a deep breath, and her advice, and you just might get through a holiday dinner without wanting to disown your uncle.
You can buy the book here now. It was published by Little A.