upside of stress

upside of stress.png

by Kelly McGonigal





the researchers concluded that it wasn’t stress aloe what was killing people. it was the combo fo stress and the belief that stress is harmful..  the researchers estimated that over the eight years they conducted their study, 182, 000 americans may have died prematurely because they believed that stress was harming their health


stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake.. this defn is big enough to hold both the frustration over traffic and the grief over a loss..


stress and meaning are inextricably linked.. you don’t stress out about things you dont’ care about and you can’t create a meaningful life w/o experiencing some stress

part 1 – rethink stress

1 – how to change your mind about stress


now, instead of resisting me, i want you to imagine that you are reaching your arm toward someone or something you care about.. (alia) crum said,… she asked me to imagine when she pushed on my arm, i could channel her energy into what i was reaching toward..


single idea that motivates all her (crum) research: how you think about something can transform its effect on you


(still crum’s research – but langer too) – housekeeper study – if know that housekeeping qualified as exercise.. their bodies reflected that.. if they didn’t know.. their bodies didn’t reflect that



a belief w this kind of power goes beyond a placebo effect. this is a mindset effect. unlike a placebo, which tends to have a short lived impact on a highly specific outcome, the consequences of a mindset snowball over time, increasing in influence and long term impact..


a mindset is usually based on a theory about how the world works..


having a positive view of aging adds an avg of almost 8 yrs to one’s life..  those w mos positive views of aging had an 80% lower risk of heart attack.. beliefs about aging also influences recovery from major illnesses and accidents..  ie: ‘wise and capable’ vs ‘useless and stuck in ways’

studies consistently show that people get happier as they get older, even though younger adults find this difficult to believe..

because they feel less capable of maintaining or improving their health as they age, they invest less time and energy in their future well being.. in contrast people w a positive attitude toward growing older engage in more health promoting behaviors..


in addition to optimism, two other personality traits seem to be associated w a more positive view of stress: mindfulness and the ability to tolerate uncertainty


crum’s research points to a more likely possibility: stress mindsets are powerful because they affect not just how you think but also how you feeling stressed becomes a signal to try to escape or reduce the stress..

  • try to distract self..
  • focus on getting rid of feelings instead of addressing source
  • turn to alcohol or other substances or addition to escape
  • with draw energy and attention from what ever relationship, role, or goal is causing the stress

in contrast, people who believe stress can be helpful..

  • accept fact that stressful even has occurred and is real
  • plan a strategy for dealing w source
  • seek info/help/advice
  • take steps to overcome, remove, or change sources
  • try to make best of situation by viewing it in more positive way or as opp to grow

face head on instead of trying to avoid/deny..

take a closer look at the art of changing minds

bravery to change your mind every day ness

greg walton (stanford) is like alia crum (columbia) a mindset master.. he’s spent the past decade perfecting the art of changing minds w brief, one-dose intervention that have a major impact. his interventions – often lasting only on hour – produce improvements in everything from martial satisfaction to gpas, physical health and even will power..


one thing that gets in way of well being .. ie: notion that intelligence is fixed and can’t be developed..  the whole approach is: here’s an idea you might not have considered.. how do you think it applies to you..?

his fav mindset intervention.. ivy league school message: if you feel like you don’t belong, you aren’t alone.. most people feel that way in a new environ. overt time, this will change..

walton selected social *belonging as his focus because he knows that the sense of not belonging – at school/work/community – is widespread..  however, few people express it openly.. **most people think they are the only ones who feel like they don’t fit in

maté basic needs – *missing piece #2

**pluralistic ignorance..

but too.. the artificial (so really not belonging) ness of school.. work.. money.. measure..  et al

if we really want to get to the source.. we need to go much deeper.. ie: roots of healing .. to get us back to an undisturbed ecosystem

feeling like you don’t belong can change how you interpret everything you experience..


that’s the thing about mindset interventions: they seem too good to be true. they contradict a deeply held cultural belief about the process of change itself. we believe that all meaningful problems are deeply rooted and difficult to change..  many problems are deeply rooted, and yet one of the themes you’ll see again and again in this book is that small shifts in mindset can trigger a cascade of changes so profound that they test the limits of what seems possible..  we are used to believing that we need to change everything about our lives first, and then we will be happy/healthy/whatever.. the science of mindset says we have it backward. changing our minds can be a catalyst for all the other changes we want to make in our lives..  but first, we may need to convince ourselves that such change is possible..


it turns out.. that deception is not the active ingredient in placebos.. they work even when patients know they are taking a placebo..  asking patients to be in on the trick – by explaining how the placebo effect works – does not reduce the placebo’s effectiveness.. it may even enhance the effect..

research on mindset interventions shows that the same can be true when it comes to choosing a new mindset..


the mindset doesn’t feel like a choice that we make; it feels like an accurate assessment of how the world works..


practicing mindset mindfulness doesn’t require anything other than curiosity

let’s try this: cure ios city

2 – beyond fight-or-flight


in many way s, the stress response (cortisol et al) is your best ally during difficult moments – a resource to rely on rather than an enemy to vanquish..

stress hormones are seen as toxins to be eliminated, not as potential therapies to be explored. for the conventional pov, your body betrays you every time your hands get clammy, our heart races, or your stomach twists into knots.. to protect your health/happiness, the thinking goes, your number one priority should be to shut down the stress response..


if this is how you think about it.. it’s time for an update.. while the stress response can be harmful in some circumstances.. there is also much to appreciate..  rather than fearing it.. you can learn to harness it to support resilience..

in this chapter.. we’ll debunk the view tha your stress response is an outdated survival instinct. far from being a burden left over from our animalistic past .. the stress response helps you be fully human today

how stress got its bad reputation:

hans seyle – found out rats he was injecting.. were dying from the stress of the needle injections.. not from what was being injected.. he chose the word stress to describe what he was doing to the rats (stressing them out) and their reaction (stress response)

first heard of hans here (i think): paul rosch


selye made leap from rat experiments to human stress and hypothesized that many conditions plaguing humans, from allergies to heart attacks, were the result of the process he had observe in his rats… a theoretical leap, not experimental.. he chose to define stress in a way that went far beyond his lab methods w rats.. stress, he claimed, was the response of the body to any demand made on it… anything that requires action or adaptation..  by defining stress in this way, selye set the stage for our modern terror about stress


selye dedicated the rest of his career to spreading the world about stress.. toured the world.. became known as grandfather of stress .. nominated for nobel prize 10 x.. along the way, his work was funded by some unusual allies.. the tobacco industry paid him to write papers about the harmful effects of stress on human health. under the industry’s direction, he eve testified to the us congress that smoking wa s good way to prevent the harmful effects of stress..

but what selye really gave the world was the belief that stress is toxic..

selye eventually recognize tha tot all stressful experience sill give you ulcers. he started talking about good stress (eustress) as an antidote to bad stress (distress)…. but it was too late.. sely’s work had already instilled a general fear about stress in gen public and medical community

unwanted stress

wanted stress


the legacy of hans selye lives on in stress research, which relies heavily on lab animals rather than human subjects. to this day, much of what you hear about stress’s harmful effects comes from studies of lab rats. but the stress those rats suffer is not everyday human stress. if you are a lab rat, a stressful day might look like this: unpredictable, uncontrollable electic shocks. getting thrown into a bucket of water and forced to swim until you start to drown.. being put in solitary.. or housed in overcrowded cages w inadequate food to fight over.. this isn’t stress; this is the hunger games for rodents..

rat park ness


a 2011 review of over a hundred studies found that only sever stress, such as surviving a terrorist attack or being homeless during pregnancy , increase the risk fo preterm birth and low birth weight..  higher levels of daily stress and hassles did not.. some degree of stress during pregnancy may even benefit the baby.. ie: born w superior brain development and higher heart rate variability..  a bio measure of resilience to stress..


walter cannon.. first described the fight or flight response in 1915.. fav method for making his animals angry and scared..

dang.. a lot of abuse being talked about so far in this book


robert sapolksy in the documentary stress: portrait of a killer



beyond fight or flight study: the stronger their hearts’ response to stress, the more altruistic they became.. the reason this is possible is there are many potential stress responses..


stress give you energy to help you rise to the challenge.. body.. and brain – wakes up senses


contrary to what many people expect, top performers in these fields aren’t physiologically calm under pressure; rather, they have strong challenge responses.. to peak performance


also motivates you to connect w others..  (driven by oxytocin)

and dampens fear

stress can help you be this ‘better’ version of yourself.. oxytocin strengthens relationships help you be more (the courage to be more) responsive to others..


also – good for cardiovascular health.. your heart has special receptors for oxytocin.. which helps heart cells regenerate and repair from any micro damage..  when your stress response includes oxytocin, stress can literally strengthen your heart..


stress hormones also help you recover.. people who release higher levels of these hormones during stressful experience tend to bounce back faster.. w less lingering distress…


choose your stress response.. your life history can also influence how you respond.. ie: life threatening illness in youth.. tend to show strong oxytocin response… they learned early on to rely on others..  in contrast… abuse during childhood show smaller oxytocin.. more likely to have learned not to trust others.. as adults, they are tried to cope thru the self defense of a fight or flight response or the self reliance of a challenge resonse..


some people are born (genetic) more resilient to stress.. some more sensitive.. however.. none of these genetic differences are destiny..


whatever actions you take during stress, you teach your body and brain to do spontaneously..  there’s no better way to change your habits than to practice this new response during stress.. every moment of stress is an opp to transform your stress instincts


remember that your stress response is giving you energy and encouraging you to act..  focus on how you want to respond


we have stress responses to help us do something about it.. connect w others.. learn from mistakes..

when you understand this.. stress response no longer something to be feared.. it is something to be appreciated, harnessed, and even trusted..

3 – a meaningful life is a stressful life


when it came to overall well being, the happiest people in the poll weren’t the ones w/o stress.. they were the people who were highly stressed but not depressed.. among individuals who appeared to be most unhappy, experiencing high levels of shame and angers and low levels of joy, there was a notable lack of stress… i call this the stress paradox..


researchers conclude: ‘people w very meaningful lives worry more and have more stress than people w less meaningful lives’

when people report the biggest sources of stress in their lives, topping the list are work, parenting, personal relationships, caregiving and health..


rather than being a sign that something is wrong w your life, feeling stressed can be a barometer for how engaged you are in activities and relationships that are personally meaningful..

research also shows that a less stressful life doesn’t make people nearly as happy as they think it will.. although most people predict they would be happier if they were less busy, the opposite turns out to be true.. people are happier when they are busier, even when forced to take on more than they would choose

i think this is based on black science of people/whales

ie: i think we believe that .. because today.. when we are less busy.. no body else is..  we don’t crave the busy ness.. we crave the community


felling burdened rather than uplifted by everyday duties is more a mindset than a measure of what is going on in your life

duties..?.. i don’t know.. a lot of good things being said.. but.. seems to not be taking into account that our capitalist/consumerist society has us stressed/intoxicated from the get go.. and/or.. our increasingly inequities globally..  that statement seems a little bold.. a little entitled..

2014 survey by harvard… most commonly named sources of everyday stress included juggling schedules, running errands, commuting, social media, and household tasks such as cooking, cleaning and repairs.. these are normal and expected parts of life, but we treat them as if they are unreasonable imposition , keeping our lives from how they should really be

wow.. ok.. she went there.. they are..  unreasonable.. un natural.. not normal.. they are disturbances to an undisturbed ecosystem


when people are more connected to their values, they are more likely to believe that they can improve their situation thru effort and the support of others..

self-talk as data


unlike what many think, mindfulness isn’t about relaxation or escaping the stress of the day..  instead, it is the ability to pay attention to and accept whatever thoughts, sensations, and emotions are happening..  if you’re feeling sad, you notice what sadness feels like in our body. you don’t try to push it away and replace it w happy thoughts…


to make eye contact.. to not interrupt except to ask questions that help them understand the patient’s experiences.. open up rather than putting up a shield during stressful moments


felt curious about rather than resentful toward.. grateful rather than overwhelmed


many of the negative outcomes we associate w stress may actually be the consequence of trying o avoid it.. psychologists have found that trying or avoid stress leads to a significantly reduced sense of well being, life satisfaction and happiness. avoiding stress can also be isolating..


you are most liable to feel like a victim of the stress in your life when you forget the context the stress is unfolding in.. the most meaningful challenges in your life will come w a few dark nights..


the biggest problem w trying to avoid stress is how it changes the way we view our lives, and ourselves. anything in life tha causes stress starts to look like a problem..  if you experience stress at work… you tink there’s something wrong w your job.. stress in marriage.. something worn w relationship.. stress as parent.. something wrong w parenting..

good insight..  but work (esp not natural all by itself) and how we do relationships and parenting.. are not natural.. (relationships and parenting not natural because we’re not ourselves.. because our days are taken over by work and school.. aka: supposed to’s )..  it makes sense that they stress us.. we need to not gloss over that for the sake of their overwhelming ness..  we need that stress energy to be brave enough to decide that we need to live a nother way

when you think life should be less stressful, feeling stressed can also seem like a sign that you are inadequate.. becomes a sign of personal failure rather than evidence tha you are human..

choosing to see the connection between stress and meaning can free you from the nagging sense that there is something wrong w your life or that you are inadequate to eth challenges you face..

part 2 – transform stress


salvatore maddi (1975) named this collection of attitude and coping strategies ‘hardiness’ which he defined as the courage to grow from stress

sounds like antifragility


to be good at stress is not to avoid stress, but to play an active role in how stress transforms you

4 – engage – how anxiety helps you rise to the challenge


neither strategy (i am calm or i am excited) made the anxiety go away. both groups still had nerves before their speech.. however, the participants who had told themselves ‘i am excite’ felt better able to handle the pressure.. they were confident in their ability to give a good talk..

although most people believe that the best strategy under pressure is to relax, this chapter will reveal when and why the opposite is true..

ie’s of changed mindset of stress for higher test scores.. better business sales.. .. ugh


your primary goal is not to avoid harm, but rather to go after what you want..


if you believe you have the resources to succeed, you will have a challenge (rather than threat) response..  on resource: your own stress response


i can’t handle this.. to.. i’ve got this


sweaty palms, butterflies, tension in body, heart pounding.. breath quickening.. all ways your body is saying.. this matters.. rather than focus on making them stress away .. focus on what you are going to do w the energy stress gives you..


i didn’t have to waste energy trying not to feel this way.. i could just think about it in a diff way


the mindset intervention did not calm them down; it changed the meaning, and then the consequences, of their anxiety


the truth is that most people don’t choose the stress in their lives; they deal w it.. when asked wha tis most stressful about their lives, people typically name thing like a loved one’s health problems, money worries, academic pressure, work stress, and parenting demands

all things we’ve artificially created.. no wonder

we can’t just excise these thing from out lives to reduce stress..

well .. we could..

ie: a nother way

when people can’t control what is stressful about their lives, how does it help to tell them that the reality of their lives is unacceptable..

it doesn’t.. (ie: costello screen/service law).. but now we have the means to let go of those artificial stress causers/cancers.. we can’t not..

5 – connect – how caring creates resilience


psych research showed that stress leads to aggressions.. but that wasn’t her (laura cousin klein) experience.. .. she made the surprising discovery that 90% of the published research o stress was conducted on males..


under stress.. women show an increase in tending – caring for others..  and befriending..

in times of stress, both men and women have been shown to become more trusting, generous, and willing to risk their won well being to protect others


compassion collapse: by trying to avoid the stress we feel about their stress, we become paralyzed instead of mobilized

6 – grow – how adversity makes you stronger


the good that comes from difficult w experiences isn’t from the stressful or traumatic event itself; it comes from you – form the strengths that are awakened by adversity and from the natural human capacity to transform suffering into meaning..


when any good comes from suffering, the source of that growth resides in you.. you choose to respond… it does not belong to the trauma


us army soldiers who see benefits in their deployment.. ‘this deployment has made me more confident in amy abilities’

ugh (and keeps bringing up ie: math scores as evidences to things)

7 – final reflections


as it could be..

2 convers.. as infra

ie: hlb via 2 convers that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

the energy of 7bn alive people

undisturbed ecosystem

in the city.. as the day..

gershenfeld something else law


unwanted stress

wanted stress

Big Think (@bigthink) tweeted at 5:59 AM – 16 Aug 2018 :
Coping mechanisms: how to shift your mindset when anxiety arises (

Kelly McGonigal discusses a *three-step process to shifting your mindset when anxiety arises. 

*links to book – the upside of stresson hold at library – thank you library

  • Acknowledge stress when you experience it
  • Welcome the stress by recognizing that it’s a response to something you care about
  • Make use of the energy that stress gives you, instead of wasting that energy trying to manage your stress