The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems—and What to Do About It
By Rob Cross and Karen Dillon
Harvard Business Review Press, 256 pp., $30
There's no need to ask whether you're finding it difficult to juggle a hectic professional or personal life. We all are. But help is on the way.
In this book, Cross and Dillon bring a fresh perspective to navigating the small pressures of the day—"the relentless accumulation of unnoticed small stresses in passing moments" that they call microstress. Its insidious nature affects our thoughts and focus and drains our energy.
The authors structure the book into eight chapters, with an extensive analysis in the first four chapters of how microstresses drain our ability to manage work and life, deplete our emotional reserves, and ultimately challenge our identities. Their analysis is grounded in research, which examined hundreds of successful professionals with a focus on those "ten percenters"—the one out of 10 interviewees who successfully navigated their microstresses while maintaining satisfying personal and professional lives through resilience, a healthy lifestyle, and purpose.
In the last four chapters, the authors offer simple, practical solutions and tips anyone can implement. They emphasize the importance of surrounding yourself with diverse connections that keep you balanced and help you find resilience in moments of micro-stress. The authors build a strong argument around focusing on physical health by building a diverse network of supporters. The authors' take on finding your identity and purpose beyond a career, job title, or work responsibilities is thought-provoking.
A few aspects set this book apart. First is its simplicity; none of the strategies are mind-blowing. However, instead of grandiose plans and approaches to deal with microstress, the authors refer to what they call micromoments that ground our lives: our own identities and emotions, authentic touchpoints with lost friends, reignited lost interests and activities, as well as rediscovered purpose.
In addition, each chapter contains helpful "coaching breaks" with practical ways to address various factors that microstress can affect. The book is filled with self-reflection questions that enable you to pause and contemplate.
Cross and Dillon live what they preach and share how they successfully adopt the strategies in their personal and professional lives. This book empowers you to take back control of your life by eliminating microstresses and replacing them with micromoments of meaningful connections with others that will give you a rich, multidimensional life.