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Full Catastrophe Living Book Review

Overview of Full Catastrophe Living

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Updated March 05, 2010

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Full Catastrophe Living Book Review

Meditating Woman

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Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, was written to help people cope with the stress caused by serious illness, pain, and physical crisis. It presents the program of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Pros of Full Catastrophe Living

The book details the concept called mindfulness -- the practice of being "fully present" every moment in your life. In other words, you don't fret about the past or fret about the future. Instead, you learn to tap into the calm of being in the here and now. That means no mobile calling and driving, texting and walking, or instant messaging and eating, for example.

Pros of Full Catastrophe Living

You may be thinking, "I have cancer, why would I want to 'be present' in every moment...this sucks!" But the point of this book is to help you face and manage this and other overwhelming emotional and physical sensations that can come with a cancer diagnosis.

This may seem a little too "woo-woo" or far-out for some people. However, in our current culture, which encourages multi-tasking and efficiency above all else, it may help to learn how to better relax and truly live every moment to the fullest.

This approach is supported by decades of research, too. People who practice mindfulness, through meditation and other stress-relieving techniques, appear to cope better with crisis. As well, they show fewer side effects of extreme stress, such as high blood pressure and anxiety.

The book guides readers through approaches such as deep breathing, visualization, and other types of meditation. These techniques can be used to improve coping and emotional well-being.

Topics covered in Full Catastrophe Living include:

  • Foundations of mindfulness (attitudes and commitment)
  • Meditation techniques, such as "body scan", sitting meditation, walking meditation, and meditation in everyday life
  • How to respond to stress in a healthy way, rather than react to it
  • Working with symptoms and pain
  • Working with fear, panic, and anxiety

The book states, "your suffering is not you." The practice of mindfulness can be a useful way of realizing this and reclaiming a sense of control and calm when faced with cancer. If this sounds appealing to you, you likely will love Full Catastrophe Living.

Cons of Full Catastrophe Living

If these ideas seem a little too far-out, this book may not be a good fit. However, you should know that there are many, many ways to cope with cancer.

Some people turn to family and friends for support. Others pray and attend religious services that are meaningful to them. Some people try art therapy or journaling. The point is that there are many options.

Mindfulness meditation may not be for you, and that’s OK.

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