Book Review: Under Pressure by Lisa Damour, Ph.D #Nonfiction

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Publish Date: February 12, 2019

Much of what our girls learn about how to manage stress comes from observing how we manage it as parents.” — Under Pressure

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Though anxiety has risen among young people overall, studies confirm that it has skyrocketed in girls. Research finds that the number of girls who said that they often felt nervous, worried, or fearful jumped 55 percent from 2009 to 2014, while the comparable number for adolescent boys has remained unchanged. As a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with girls, Lisa Damour, Ph.D., has witnessed this rising tide of stress and anxiety in her own research, in private practice, and in the all-girls’ school where she consults. She knew this had to be the topic of her new book.

In the engaging, anecdotal style and reassuring tone that won over thousands of readers of her first book, Untangled, Damour starts by addressing the facts about psychological pressure. She explains the surprising and underappreciated value of stress and anxiety: that stress can helpfully stretch us beyond our comfort zones, and anxiety can play a key role in keeping girls safe. When we emphasize the benefits of stress and anxiety, we can help our daughters take them in stride.

But no parents want their daughter to suffer from emotional overload, so Damour then turns to the many facets of girls’ lives where tension takes hold: their interactions at home, pressures at school, social anxiety among other girls and among boys, and their lives online. As readers move through the layers of girls’ lives, they’ll learn about the critical steps that adults can take to shield their daughters from the toxic pressures to which our culture—including we, as parents—subjects girls.

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I absolutely love-love-love Dr. Damour’s first book, Untangled, which reveals seven distinct—and absolutely normal—developmental transitions that turn girls into grown-ups. Untangled provides realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage teen daughters in smart, constructive ways. That book is a LIFE CHANGER for me.

This second book by Dr. Laura Damour, Under Pressure, focuses on how to deal with the stress and anxiety that plague our daughters today. Dr. Damour brings her signature writing style into this book, too, using a warm friendly tone, anecdotes, humor, relatable examples, and suggestions on how parents can respond to teen daughters in ways that are respectful and kind.

It is not surprising that our daughters are stressed. The concern of getting into a good college begins in middle school and extends into most of the high school years. Not only are our daughters expected to get perfect grades, they must take classes that are harder and more competitive than when we were in school. Today’s standards are higher than they ever have been, and they are dealing with the pressures of school, sports, extracurriculars, and peers; not to mention the time-sucking activity of managing multiple social media accounts in their spare time!

Here are some great quotes from the book:

“Adolescence can no longer be characterized as an exuberant time of life, full of carefree experimentation…. today’s teens now, for the first time, feel more stressed than their parents do. They also experience the emotional and physical symptoms of chronic tension, such as edginess and fatigue, at levels that we used to see only in adults.”

“How we respond to a girl’s worries and fears matters a lot.”

“Scientific research tells us that the stress of operating beyond our comfort zones helps us grow.”

“Anxiety is a gift, handed down by evolution, to keep humans safe. Every one of us comes equipped with a sophisticated alarm system programmed deep inside our brains. When we sense a threat, that alarm system triggers anxiety.”

“If you are parenting a normally developing girl, she will sometimes have meltdowns. There is nothing that you can do to prevent this. The good news is that her emotional eruptions, in and of themselves, say very little about her overall psychological health.”

I love how Dr. Damour highlights the benefits of stress and anxiety, and explains the differences between healthy stress/anxiety and unhealthy stress/anxiety. She reminds us that anxiety acts as a warning and teens should pay attention to these feelings and what causes it. Anxiety can help keep teens safe in potentially dangerous situations. Dr. Damour also describes the triggers and warning signs of unhealthy stress and what to do when we encounter these situations.

This book has many useful, practical, real life insights and discussion points. This is the second best parenting book about teen girls that I’ve read (Untangled is my #1). I love the friendly and reassuring tone, the respect that she has for teen girls, and how she supports both parents and daughters. Though it can be read as standalone book, Under Pressure is a wonderful compliment to Untangled. I recommend that parents of teen daughters reference both books together and often.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 4 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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