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The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It Paperback – May 10, 2016
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From the Publisher
“In this smart, practical book, Kelly McGonigal shows that stress isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation. In fact, if we change our mindsets just a bit, we can transform stress from a barrier that thwarts to a resource that propels us. The Upside of Stress is a perfect how-to guide for anyone who wants to tap into the biology of courage and the psychology of thriving under pressure.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human
“A fascinating tour of cutting-edge research on how stress affects us in ways, both good and bad, that we never suspect. McGonigal brings scientific studies to life, makes her lessons tangible and provides fascinating take-aways for anyone who experiences stress -- which, let's face it, is all of us, often all the time.”
—Charles Duhigg, MBA, author of The Power of Habit
“A courageous, counterintuitive, and convincing case for a big idea: stress can be good for you. This enchanting, evidence-based book has already transformed how I think about stress, and I recommend it highly to anyone who lives in the 21st century.”
—Adam Grant, Ph.D., Wharton professor and author of Give and Take
“Through stories and science, McGonigal reveals how to change your mindset and tap into your resources for handling stress.”
—Amy Cuddy, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Harvard Business School and author of Presence
“The Upside of Stress turns our common misunderstanding of what we often believe is the necessary toxicity of a pressured life completely upside down. Kelly McGonigal powerfully teaches us how to transform the suffering of misguided stress into a meaningful and thriving life. Read this book even if you think you are too stressed to take the time--It has the potential to change your life forever.”
—Daniel J Siegel, M.D., author of Mindsight and Brainstorm
"Often we regard stress as a regrettable but necessary evil -- the heavy price we pay for achievement in a fast-forward, competitive, “always on” world. In this important and engaging book, Kelly McGonigal challenges us to discard that familiar, fear-based mindset and embrace stress as a path to realizing our most creative potential."
—Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes
“Kelly McGongial debunks decades of myths that have persisted around stress. The book is research based, immensely practical, compelling and insightful from the first page. This book will be a game changer for countless people.”
—Jim Loehr, EdD, Co-Founder of the Human Performance Institute and author of The New Toughness Training for Sports
“The Upside of Stress delivers an important truth: it is better to chase meaning than try to avoid discomfort. Through the insights of this book, you'll find your courage to pursue what matters most and trust yourself to handle any stress that follows.”
—Nilofer Merchant, CEO, Silicon Valley strategist, and author of The New How
“Kelly McGonigal has pulled back the curtain to reveal what allows exceptional people and organizations like my Navy SEAL brotherhood to thrive through adversity. True excellence is only achieved under great adversity, and by embracing those challenges with a positive mindset.”
—Scott Brauer, Co-Founder of Acumen Performance Group, and former Navy SEAL and U.S. Naval Officer
"The upside of Kelly McGonigal is that she not only shows how what we thought we knew about stress was backwards, but that getting it right will change your life for the better. This book provides an accessible user’s guide to leveraging the most cutting edge research in psychology and neuroscience to enhance your health and well-being."
—Matthew D. Lieberman, PhD, Chair of Social Psychology at University of California Los Angeles
For those individuals and teams that discover that stress is life's secret ingredient, they will be rewarded with expanded self confidence and rapidly growing organizations.
—Robert Daugherty, chairman of Knowledge Investment Partners, LLC
If you’ve ever complained of being stressed out, you need to read this perceptive, thought-provoking book. Kelly McGonigal reveals the surprising truth about why we should embrace the many unsung benefits of stress. The Upside of Stress will change the way you think—and it will change your experience of your life.
—Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before and The Happiness Project
The message that stress can actually convey health benefits is important and needs to be heard. This thoughtful analysis on the role of mindset will prompt you to re-think your relationship with stress, and help you realize its benefits.
—Andrew Weil, MD, author of Spontaneous Happiness
Praise for Kelly McGonigal and The Willpower Instinct:
"Tired of the endless debate about whether man possesses free will or is predestined to lounge about gobbling Krispy Kreme donuts while watching TV? If you want action, not theory, The Willpower Instinct is the solution for the chronically slothful."
— USA Today
“A fun and readable survey of the field, bringing willpower wisdom out of the labs.”
— TIME magazine
About the Author
McGonigal has taught for a wide range of programs at Stanford University, including the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Business, and Stanford Continuing Studies, where her popular public courses include "The Science of Willpower" and "How to Think Like a Psychologist." She has received Stanford's highest teaching honor, the Walter J. Gores award, for her undergraduate psychology teaching. Through her work with the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, she studies methods for training mindfulness, empathy, and compassion. Her research has appeared in such journals as Motivation and Emotion, the Journal of Happiness Studies, and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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The best part is this is no gimmick: McGonigal grounds all of her claims in extensive research, using statistics and anecdotes to tell a compelling story that is at the same time informative and entertaining. I frequently found myself bookmarking pages to come back to, wanting to repeat exercises in my own life to help with issues I've faced or know I will be facing in my future. Throughout the book, she includes about a dozen or so reflection exercises to facilitate reframing our stress mindset. On my first reading, I wanted to gain a broad overview, so I rushed through these exercises and made notes to come back to them as grad school and my busy work schedule allow; regardless, understanding the science behind stress and having a toolbox of ways I can interrupt debilitating anxious thoughts has certainly proven helpful almost every day in reclaiming my life from unbearable anxiety: rather than feeling defeated by anxiety, I'm becoming able to control it and direct this energy into enhancing my life. As I take time to return to the reflection exercises she provides, I am certain this impact will grow.
The only complaint I have about this book is that the sources are not cited in the text (they are, however, included in an exhaustive bibliography at the end of the book, but there is no easy way to match the text with the sources this way). Especially for a Kindle book, I appreciate being able to easily find the sources that are referenced, since as a research-minded reader, I like being able to see how recent studies are, where they were published, or any author's notes that may accompany them. I hope future editions of this book will correct this shortcoming.
Overall, if you have ever suffered from undue stress or anxiety, this book will help you tame that beast and make it work for you.
I have mistakenly believed that Stress was my biggest enemy. With each passing decade the stress in my life became greater. After reading this book I now view Stress as my friend. We understand each other now and fully appreciate that we are on the same side. Just like a true friend, Stress makes me stronger.
'if you are willing to rethink your stress response, it may help you recognize your strength and access your courage.' I found these words from Kelly to be true for me. I have had two stress occasions since I finished this book. They seemed much more straight forward and very different to deal with. So far, so good.
I am surprised by some of the negative or dismissive reviews of this book. I can only assume that these readers were unwilling to genuinely deconstruct and reconstruct their relationship with stress. I found myself reading this book at different speeds and with varying intensity but every now and again some words like the following -
'People who cope with adversity by shifting and persisting seem immune to the toxicity of a difficult or disadvantaged childhood.'
would stop me dead in my tracks and I would go over the same words, again and again and again.
My old stress tools of denial, distraction and escape have melted under the spotlight of examination that this book provided. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who wants to change their response to stress.
This is a valuable aid to positive living that will help you discover meaning in stress and how to shift your personal reactions to gain positive life experience, as well as increased peace and health, instead of falling victim to the "stress kills" phenom.
The book provides a fuller understanding of stress that reflects new research and includes many personal stories that tie concepts into real life scenarios. I found the Introduction and beginning to be a little off-putting, but am extremely glad that I stuck with the reading. Perhaps halfway into chapter 1, I realized the gold-mine of value this book would yield. Long-assumed truisms about stress are shown to be qualified: "Stress is harmful, except when it's not. [. . .] Stress increases the risk of health problems, except when people regularly give back to their communities. Stress increases the risk of dying except when people have a sense of purpose. Stress increases the risk of depression, except when people see a benefit in their struggles. Stress is paralyzing, except when people perceive themselves as capable. Stress is debilitating, except when it helps you perform. Stress makes people selfish, except when it makes them altruistic. For every harmful outcome you can think of, there's an exception that erases the expected association between stress and something bad - and often replaces it with an unexpected benefit." (Final Reflections)
McGonigal does an excellent job in a very readable fashion of explaining each of these concluding claims in both biological and psychological processes. She also gives you the means to achieve a positive change in your own response so that you can build a much better life despite stress and trauma. It is not based on an idealized glossing of traumatic experiences, but rather a balanced look at positive benefit that can be found alongside the pain we feel.
Top international reviews
My curiosity to know about the strategies to tame stress, made me read, “ THE UPSIDE OF STRESS- Why stress is good for you ( How to get good at it) by Kelly Mcgonigal.
According to Kelly Mcgonigal, stress is not bad. She defines Stress as the response of your body when something you care about is at stake. The body mounts the response and it is upto us to make a meaning out of it. She simply states that stress is harmful to the person who thinks it is harmful. So in other words, nothing is good or bad and our thinking makes it so. To prove her point she presents studies and recounts real life stories.
Kelly says that every stress response is not a classical stress response. It comes in number of varieties. These varieties are, a challenge response, tend and befriend response, excite and delight response etc. The classical fight and flight response is a threat response and it differs in its quality by a simple ratio called as growth index. During stress, two types of hormones are released, the classical villain Cortisol which converts all fats into energy and raises blood glucose as extra energy is needed and Dehydroandrosterone ( DHEA) , which helps in nerve growth. Growth index is the ratio of cortisol to DHEA. Higher the ratio, better in quality is the threat response.
So during stress, each of us whether genetically predisposed or not, have a choice. The choice is to think positively or negatively about our stress. The challenge response comes into play when singers and artists perform in front of a gathering, surgeons operating, before exams, taking some challenging projects and it is essential to take this stress response positively instead of suppressing it because it helps you concentrate and perform better. Infact trying to supress it and spending extra energy is exhausting. One exercise that she suggests is finding out the value that matters during a particular stress and writing about that value to get a clear focus. She even gives an exhaustive list of values in the chapter. Of course, the quality of stress response also depends upon our evaluation of our resources to deal with the stressor. If we have evaluated it negatively, it backfires. So the author advises us to think more of the resources and effortfully think about them positively, so that the threat response changes to challenge response.
When the tend and befriend response is activated in face of some stressor a hormone called as oxytocin is released, which helps us develop social connections and ask for help. It makes us help others in stress and makes us altruistic too. Many times, the stress response of tend and befriend is activated after we undergo some tragedy ourselves. It has been seen that there is a rise in altruism after any natural disaster strikes. Those who isolate themselves and withdraw are showing a defeat response as per Kelly and that is a typical response occurring in depression and it is an extreme kind of response.
Lastly, Kelly defends the maxim,” What doesn't kill you makes you stronger”. She presents a study where participants are asked about 36 natural stressors of severe degree like going through a serious illness or injury, accident, natural disasters, divorce, death in the family etc and the frequency of debilitating illnesses like heart disease, depression and other illnesses. It shows a U shaped curve proving that moderate stressors in life are actually helpful in keeping you strong.
In short, Kelly McGonigal states that Stress is a helpful response of our body to any type of challenge and needs to be harnessed. Our evolution has bestowed it on us and now it is up to us to evolve further using it as a ladder or sink down and perish under its weight.
In fact whatever the author states is all so full of common sense that I was surprised why we do not think about it without being told. A book that takes away all your stress about stress...an inspiring, uplifting and a lucid read.
Je regrette que ce livre ne soit pas traduit en français. Néanmoins, l'anglais utilisé est plutôt simple à comprendre et je le recommande comme cadeau aux personnes de votre entourage qui se sentent particulièrement stressées.