Rejecting Chaos: 7 Books About Slowing Down, Managing Stress, and Savoring Life

Rejecting Chaos: 7 Books About Slowing Down, Managing Stress, and Savoring Life

Living in the modern world is a lot. The expectations, the packed schedules, the always-growing, never-ending to-do list. There always seems to be more to do, more to buy, more to become.

In a world full of modern conveniences and time-saving devices, you’d think we’d have all the time in the world for slowing down, savoring, and general human being. But instead of embracing this extra time with quality connection and sufficient rest, we cram our schedules with more work, more stuff, more events. A lot of it is good. But most of it is unnecessary.

Our schedules are stuffed with all the things we think are important in living a fulfilled life, but we often do not stop to take inventory of whether or not those things are actually promoting our dreams or hindering them. Not to mention, hindering our health, both physical and mental. We’re overworked, overstressed, and our health and relationships are paying the price. Each of these authors has a different approach in explaining and battling our fight with stress. In this blog post, I break down 7 books about rest, alleviating stress, and letting go of perfection.

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Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

In this book, author Shauna Niequist pulls readers along on a journey to explore what it looks like to choose rest over stress, being over doing, and present over perfect. When a life of pursuing success and perfection in a writing career leaves her feeling unsatisfied, Niequist dives headfirst into embracing a life of present. She describes present this way:

“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.”

Niequist learns to embrace being present, with exciting and life-altering results. She relearns to enjoy food, to relax in the company of her family, and to rest in her value as a person, with or without productivity.

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Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

One of the first on the lifestyle blogging scene, Loechner tells the story of her marriage, the wild journey of her online career, and the birth of her first daughter. Loechner’s writing style is effortless and following her in and out of chapters is easy and sweet. This book is visually lovely, full of photographs, funny lists, and snippets of advice, the stylish layout is much like that of a well-curated magazine or blog post.

Through entertaining stories and easy humor, Loechner explores what it’s like to be married to someone with an “expiration date”, being at the forefront of the blogging scene, and finding success without necessarily finding happiness. She cautions against the pursuit of perfection and even more, the pursuit of more. Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner is more memoir than self-help, so don’t expect to find a lot of actionable advice here. But this book is rousing all the same, inspiring like a subtle, quiet whisper, saying: There is so much more to life than just more.

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The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

Written from the perspective of a once exhausted and overworked pastor, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry comes at this topic from a Christian perspective. What I mean by that is: Comer explores stress, rest, and hurry through the eyes of someone completely dedicated to living like Jesus. He explains what it would look to emulate the life of Jesus in our place in the world, in our place in time. Though many of us may have a hard time imagining what it would even look like to live like Jesus in our busy, 21st century world, Comer points to the clear and adaptable principles that Jesus modeled for us. He argues that hurry and busyness were never on Jesus’ agenda.

Comer warns against busyness here:

“Corrie ten Boom once said that if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy. There’s truth in that. Both sin and busyness have the exact same effect—they cut off your connection to God, to other people, and even to your own soul.”

My favorite section is when Comer writes about observing Sabbath. This day of rest, commanded by God and practiced in both Jewish and Christian culture, is one of the most practical, important, and even vital commandments for our spiritual health. Full of practical advice, even those unfamiliar with the heart and teachings of Jesus will find this book helpful and life-giving.

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Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

We all know what it feels like to be stressed out. But did you know that everyday stressors induce something called the stress cycle and that getting stuck in the stress cycle is the reason why stress is so dangerous to us and our health? Yeah, me neither. The key is completing the stress cycle, which sends signals to your mind and your body that the stressor is no longer a threat and you are now clear to move about the cabin of your life without the stress hanging on to you in damaging ways. And how do you complete the stress cycle? Emily and Amelia Nagoski explain it all in this New York Times Bestseller.

Covering everything from sexist work environments to living in a culture obsessed with impossible beauty standards, Burnout is all about the kind of stressors that are unique to women. These writers build fictional characters based on the stories of real-life women to illustrate the struggles of women in the 21st century in a way that is relatable and effective. Burnout turned out to be my favorite read among these selections.

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Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons

Rebekah Lyons is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite writers. Her first two books, Freefall to Fly and You are Free, chronicle Lyons’ journey through anxiety and panic to a place of peace and purpose. Both are honest and beautiful, and well worth the read, but there wasn’t a lot of guidance on actionable steps to develop a practice of peace.

In comes Rhythms of Renewal. In this book, Lyons explores the four rhythms that, when practiced regularly, help to nourish a life of rest and renewal. The four rhythms (Rest, Restore, Connect, Create) can help to alleviate stress before it begins. Lyons uses personal stories to illustrate the need for each rhythm, and gives actionable examples and advice for practicing the four rhythms in your own life. Recently, Lyons released a Rhythms for Life planner/journal to help you plot and record your efforts to weave the rhythms into your life. If you’re interested in learning more about these rhythms, check out the Rhythms of Renewal podcast Rebakah does with her husband, Gabe. The couple interviews writers, pastors, and other thought leaders on their own rhythms. The episode featuring author Bob Goff is my favorite one.

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Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee

While Rhythms of Renewal is a full of solid advice, Do Nothing is more of a sociological approach to rest. Headlee introduces study after study illustrating that our ideas about work and productivity are often completely backwards. The things we think will increase our productivity (longer hours, multi-tasking, and productivity apps) are actually the things that often hold us back from real efficiency. And why is efficiency our #1 goal, anyway? Headlee dives deep into American work culture, pointing out where we’ve gone wrong in our quest for excellence in our work. The thing we often reject in the name of efficiency (rest, play, connection) are actually the things that will make our work more meaningful. Headlee advocates for more idleness as the key to a balanced life. Do Nothing is the perfect blend between personal anecdote and scientific data, backing up Headlee’s claims about work and stress while remaining relatable and applicable to an average life.

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Getting Away by Jon Staff

And finally, Getting Away by Jon Staff. Staff is the founder of the company Getaway: modern cabin rentals, about an hour or so drive outside of a larger city, meant to provide a respite to unplug from our modern world. The cabins are simple and beautiful, nestled in quiet slices of nature all over the United States. My husband and I opted for a couple of nights at one of the Getaway Posts in lieu of a family Thanksgiving this year (all of the photos in this blog post were taken at the Houston Getaway Post). It was exactly the time of rest and connection we needed. Staff is passionate about taking time to ditch technology and the busyness of everyday life to embrace time in nature, connecting with others or oneself. Getting Away is a short book, full of 75 practical suggestions for practicing daily separation from technology, work, and stress. Some of the ideas include: creating an offline morning routine, writing a letter to your future self, or volunteering in your area.

Thank you for reading my review of 7 Books About Slowing Down, Managing Stress, and Savoring Life. To stay up to date on all of the Project Emily reviews, join my email newsletter below.

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Disclosure (Let’s be honest)
This website contains posts with affiliate links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you purchase a book I’ve linked— at no extra cost to you. I’ll always be upfront with you when a post is sponsored or a book is gifted. All books I recommend are books I actually read and enjoyed.
No joke.