Saturday, September 5, 2015

"The Upside of Stress" can help you handle inevitable stress better

Awhile back I recommended "The Willpower Instinct" as a book well worth reading.  Once again Kelly McGonigal appeared on "The Agenda" hosted by Steve Paikin and she had a new book out that is worthy of another recommendation.

You are all familiar with stress, often times with a raised heart beat, heavier breathing and feelings of anxiety.  We have been taught, including by Kelly that stress is bad and should be avoided as much as possible.  Once that idea is examined Kelly has found stress can be very useful.

Kelly had some colleagues that pointed to statistics that indicated many people actually responded to stress in a positive manner and had positive outcomes.  She then explored many different studies and became a convert.  It turns out when the body is stressed certain chemicals that can be measured are released to help you cope with the situation.

It is impossible to totally avoid stress; in fact a meaningful life is stressful and a happy life is not stress free.  Stress can be helpful.  Avoiding stress has a cost:  missed opportunities  Stress response is more than fight or flight

Nietsche paraphrased--what doesn't kill you will make you stronger.  The author is not suggesting you seek very risky stress situations, but take a positive view of the ones that confront you.

A key to maximizing stress is the mindset you start with. You can retain the mindset that stress is bad or you can adopt the mindset that stress helps you to improve.  Do you see situations as threats or as challenges.

For some when confronted with a stressful situation retreat into themselves to cope with it.  A different approach labeled "tend and befriend" seems to produce better results.  When you can focus your attention on others it helps you cope better.  Caring for others triggers the biology of courage and hope

People who believe stress can be helpful are more apt: to accept stressful events as real; to plan a strategy to deal with it; seek information, help or advice; to try to make the best of the situation.

Everyone sometimes feels they are the only one suffering, but in fact others often put on  a face.  Realize you are not the only one and seek help.

Kelly is not concerned that her readers remember every example, but hopes they will feel differently about stress.

You can watch a You Tube version of her TED talk that altogether has been seen by over 10 million people.  Not as detailed as the book, but graphic

Kelly also had some interesting views on willpower and you can read my review of her book at

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