“The Upside of Stress”: It’s Actually Not All Bad All the Time

You may have already seen her 2013 TED talk on this subject, but now Kelly McGonigal‘s book The Upside of Stress is out.

The TED Talk:

A few selected quotes from the Talk:

[If the research is true] that would make believing stress is bad for you the 15th largest cause of death in the United States last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS and homicide.

So my goal as a health psychologist has changed. I no longer want to get rid of your stress. I want to make you better at stress.

Now I wouldn’t necessarily ask for more stressful experiences in my life, but this science has given me a whole new appreciation for stress. Stress gives us access to our hearts. The compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and yes, your pounding physical heart, working so hard to give you strength and energy. And when you choose to view stress in this way, you’re not just getting better at stress, you’re actually making a pretty profound statement. You’re saying that you can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges. And you’re remembering that you don’t have to face them alone.

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 talks to Brigid Schulte, Washington Postabout shifting one’s “stress mindset”:

…People who are more stressed out, who worry more, surveys show, are also more likely to say their lives are meaningful.

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 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.

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