May 08

Effects of Stress Not Always Bad

Two different nonfiction books that acknowledge the effects of stress while also recognizing that not all stress is bad for you: The 5 Resets: Rewire Your Brain and Body for Less Stress and More Resilience and The Upside of Stress.

I. The 5 Resets: Rewire Your Brain and Body for Less Stress and More Resilience by Dr. Aditi Nerurkar (2024)

From the book description: “For Dr. Nerurkar, the common misperception of stress as ‘bad’ needs reframing.”

A quote from her interview with PopSugar.com: “Not all stress is created equal — there’s good stress and bad stress. Everything in your life was created because of a little bit of healthy stress, the good kind. It’s what helped you graduate, make your best friend, move into your new home, get promoted. A life with zero stress is biologically impossible because you need a little bit of stress to get up out of bed in the morning and get on with your day. When stress gets out of hand, it becomes unhealthy stress. This is the kind that gives you anxiety and keeps you up at night. It makes you feel irritable, anxious, and hypervigilant.”

Nerurkar, a Harvard researcher on this subject, prescribes five “resets”:

  • The First Reset: Get Clear on What Matters Most
  • The Second Reset: Find Quiet in a Noisy World
  • The Third Reset: Sync Your Brain and Your Body
  • The Fourth Reset: Come Up for Air
  • The Fifth Reset: Bring Your Best Self Forward

The 5 Resets is all about managing stress with these tools. But, as NPR points out, Nerurkar has specific ideas about developing resilience. Her Resilience Rule of Two: Pick no more than two small changes at a time. “Anything more and our system gets overloaded,” she states (ThriveGlobal.com).

II. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal (2015)

Selected quotes from The Upside of Stress:

Stress happens when something you care about is at stake. It’s not a sign to run away – it’s a sign to step forward.

Mindset 1: Stress Is Harmful. Experiencing stress depletes my health and vitality. Experiencing stress debilitates my performance and productivity. Experiencing stress inhibits my learning and growth. The effects of stress are negative and should be avoided. Mindset 2: Stress Is Enhancing. Experiencing stress enhances my performance and productivity. Experiencing stress improves my health and vitality. Experiencing stress facilitates my learning and growth. The effects of stress are positive and should be utilized.

Stress and meaning are inextricably linked. You don’t stress out about things you don’t care about, and you can’t create a meaningful life without experiencing some stress.

Erin Enders, Bustle, lists the seven ways “embracing stress can make you happier and healthier,” per McGonigal. (Click on the link for details.)

  1. You’ll find the strength to pursue your goals.
  2. You’ll grow as a person.
  3. You’ll learn how to thrive in difficult situations.
  4. You’ll be able to transform a threat into a challenge.
  5. You’ll have more emotional support.
  6. You’ll be a stronger person.
  7. …And eventually you’ll view stress as a resource.

McGonigal spoke with Brigid Schulte, Washington Postabout shifting her own mindset: “For instance, last night, I got this email. It made me really sad and disappointed. It took me a few moments, but then I realized the disappointment and sadness were signs of how much I cared. And once you recognize that, it’s important to stay engaged, and to think about what action you can take that’s consistent with your goals and values.”

Examples of specific suggestions that can enable the needed shift:

    • Write or reflect on the connection between a specific stressor and something meaningful.
    • Take a “Bigger than Self”  perspective—find ways to recognize how common and/or human one’s situation is.