Kelly McGonigal: Getting Good at Stress

With so much of the country facing the stress of natural disasters, we see communities coming together and neighbors helping neighbors. However, in the face of tragedy there is also the other side of humanity. Stress brings out both the best and the worst in all of us.

For years, health professionals have been telling us that “stress kills.” Everyone began to reduce the stress in their life. Stress became the enemy, and there was nothing that we could do but get rid of it. (See cat picture above.) Yet, we know there are stresses that we cannot get rid of! Life happens. Natural disasters happen. The message that “stress is always bad” has dis-empowered us to believe that there was nothing we can do in the face of stress.

Stress Resilience

Kelly McGonigal presents groundbreaking research on stress resilience—the human capacity for stress-related growth. Research now tells us that it is the belief that stress kills that actually kills us. Those that are under stress, but believe that they can meet the challenge, have greater stress resilience. Those that believe that “stress kills” are the ones that suffer the negative health impact. This clearly supports the mind-body connection, and the fact that mindset has an important impact on physical health.

Stress is not always bad. In one of the early biosphere experiments, a self-contained Earth environment was created. Scientists were studying how to replicate an Earth biosphere on another planet or in a space station in order to support human life. In the early experiments, the trees grew unruly branches and just fell apart. What did scientists discover? Trees depend on the stress of wind in order to grow. Trees grow in response to the wind. Weaker branches get blown off and remaining branches become more resilient. Future biosphere models incorporated weather patterns like wind.

In The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal asks us to change our attitude about stress and learn to embrace it. By improving our stress resilience, research indicates that stress can make us stronger, smarter, and happier.

Supported by science, stories, and exercises, the The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It is both practical and entertaining.

  • Learn to get better at stress!
  • Cultivate a mind-set to embrace stress.
  • Use stress to provide more focus and energy.
  • Stress can help us connect to others and strengthen our close relationships.
  • Increase your brain’s ability to learn from challenging experiences.

Go after what creates meaning in your life

“One thing we know for certain is that chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. And so I would say that’s really the best way to make decisions, is go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.”

When faced with life’s decisions, research tells us that chasing meaning is more important than reducing stress. Life is about balance. Find the right balance for you.

“How to Make Stress Your Friend”

Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk has already received more than 14 million views.

Dr. Joel Ying, MD

Physician, Educator, Storyteller. He hosts this website for "Living the Present Moment" as a conscious journey of Body, Mind & Spirit. Holistic and integrative, his practice includes Tai Chi and Yoga, Craniosacral Therapy, Healing From the Core, Meditation. Always exploring his edges, he shares them in the blog, newsletter, courses, and online study group.

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