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The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It Hardcover – May 5, 2015
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Advance Praise for The Upside of Stress:
“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
Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, as well as a fitness instructor and meditation teacher. Her work has been included in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, TIME, Psychology Today, Reader’s Digest, and O, The Oprah Magazine, as well as on NPR and MSNBC. Her research has appeared in journals such as Motivation and Emotion, the Journal of Happiness Studies, and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. McGonigal lives in Palo Alto and New York City.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Part 1, Rethink Stress
- Chap 1: McGonigal works to show that you can change an established mindset, and that changing said mindset leads to positive outcomes (in relation to stress). She backs this stuff up with lots of research, which is a big plus in my view and made the chapter interesting to read. Lastly, she defines what a “changed mindset” looks like in relation to stress. She's telling us that our view shouldn't be that stress is all-good or that stress is all-bad, but that stress is a little of both. Overall, solid chapter.
- Chap 2: Reframing stress. Why stress is actually not bad for you, and why stress can be harnessed and translated into good. Research cited: young monkeys separated from their mothers actually had bigger prefrontal cortexes (making them more resilient). More surprising research: Men who are stressed out (contestants on a game show) had unusually high rates of trust and cooperation - around 75%. "Stress made the men prosocial. The stronger their hearts' response to stress, the more altruistic they became." Surprising and informative.
- Chap 3: A meaningful life is a stressful life. That's the title and, frankly, a good summary of this chapter. This is the point at which the book started to get a bit more choppy for me. Chapter three felt like chapter 2, continued. I underlined this sentence: "The most meaningful challenges in your life will come with a few dark nights." That rings absolutely true. However, is it really materially different from saying that stress can be good for us? I don't think this section needed to be a standalone chapter.
Moving to Part 2 of the book, titled Transform Stress
- Chap 4: Reframing stress, part… 3. Encourages you to take your body’s reaction (sweat, shaking, surge of adrenaline, anxiety) as a positive, not a negative. Think: my body, and all of its bristling, pent-up energy, can give me the courage to act in times of challenge. To me this chapter falls in with reframing stress (covered in part 1). I liked that Chapter 4 was a little more action-oriented than Chapter 3 since it is asking you to analyze your body's reaction to stress and view it as a positive, not a negative. There is an exercise in this chapter titled "Transform Stress: Turn Nerves into Excitement" that closes with, "When you need to take a leap and want to do well, don't worry about forcing yourself to relax. Instead, embrace the nerves, tell yourself you're excited, and know that your heart is in it." As I said, a bit more action-oriented, but still fundamentally in the camp of reframing how the audience thinks about stress.
- Chapter 5: Strong chapter. She tells you to deal with stress by getting outside of your own head. How? Focus on helping others. Be generous. Don't wait until you feel great about life to give to others, as being generous actually generates satisfaction. Next tidbit: people who feel alone with their stress - that no one else has issues like theirs - fall into avoidant/isolating behavior, with negative results. Resilient folks - who deal with stress well - understand that suffering is a part of everyone’s life, not just their own. This was a very valuable chapter: I really liked how prescriptive this chapter is. However, it also happens to clock in at 50 pages, and I did lose steam about mid-way through. There are a LOT of stories in this one.
- Chapter 6: Titled "How adversity makes you stronger." This piece talks about cultivating a growth versus fixed mentality. This topic has been hashed out already, so I'm a bit sad that this chapter was the closer for the "meat" of the book.
Lastly, turning to the final reflections chapter (the conclusion) - it's three pages total. A few snippets: “When you put away this book, you likely won’t have a clear sense of how its ideas will take root in your life. That’s part of the magic of mindset interventions.” “Would you struggle to remember any details at all? I can live with that. [Paraphrase: The parts that matter, I hope, will land in the heart].” Half of the last chapter is a story about how she now sets “stress goals” each year, defining how she will grow from stress.
Overall, like most books, The Upside of Stress falls into the camp of valuable, but could have been summarized in about 3 chapters. 3-4 stars.