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As one who is prone to worry (I come from a long line of expert worriers), the idea of a book that offered to give me serenity, not hysteria, under stress was almost unbelievable. I had pretty much given myself over to the fact that stress and anxiety, and how I dealt with them, were genetic – there wasn’t much hope of change. Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool by Taylor Clark sets out to help relieve society’s stress over stress and teach us how to be afraid.

In part one of Nerve, Clark takes the science and research of “the nervous trinity” – fear, stress and anxiety and, using understandable language, shows us how and why our minds and bodies respond the way they do in pressure-packed situations.  In part two, entitled the elements of cool, Clark deals with thinking under pressure, performance anxiety and stage fright, athletes that excel or choke and why, and how to survive when our lives are on the line.

At first, I found the examples given in the chapters on stage fright and athletes a bit much. I will never be a top level musician or athlete, so using these peoples’ stories seemed inapplicable to my life. However, upon reflection, I realized that the methods these people used to overcome performance anxiety– the likes of which I will never know– will certainly be helpful to me if I ever find myself in a “performance” situation.

Nerve is full of insight and humour that makes it an easy read. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions and appreciated Clark’s straightforward approach to the subject. While not a textbook on fear, anxiety and stress, Nerve is an excellent first step on the journey toward embracing fear and using it as a tool for success. I have learned that my motto: “panic first, think rationally later,” is perfectly normal and can be used to my advantage, and with what I have gleaned from Clark and his research, I am no longer destined to a life of worry!

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

I received this book free from Hachette Book Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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