Saturday, June 8, 2019

Can Stress Be Good For Us

A book recommendation this time “The Upside Of Stress” by psychologist and award-winning teacher Kelly McGonigal, PhD.

We hear it all the time: stress causes heart disease; stress causes insomnia; stress is bad for us. But can changing how we think about and deal with stress make us happier, healthier, and better able to reach our goals? Combining exciting new research on resilience —the human capacity for stress-related growth and mindset - the power of beliefs to shape reality, Kelly McGonigal shows that undergoing stress is not bad for us; it is undergoing stress while believing that stress is bad for us that makes it harmful. In fact, stress has benefits, from giving us greater focus and energy, to strengthening our personal relationships.


We cannot avoid Stress. We can certainly get better at managing it. Can we use the anxiety of facing a stressful situation into energy that can propel us ahead? These are not placebo effect but structural changes – there are enough scientific studies mentioned in the book to back up the solutions on offer.

In one experiment the housekeeping staff at hotels were told that their daily work qualified as exercise and they will see the benefits of the same. After 4 weeks the staff reported much better health readings and satisfaction with their jobs without making any other meaningful changes in their lifestyle.

In another experiment, after overnight fasting people were given the same milkshake with different labels – one said the drink is high calorie indulgence and the other label said it is low calorie diet drink. On testing their blood for the hunger hormone (Ghrelin) the set of people showed very different results in spite of having the same drink – just based on the false label of the drink. 

In another experiment students from first generation college attendees were told that it is OK to feel out of place in college and if they keep at it they will do well. These students did much better than the larger batch of students which came from similar backgrounds.

These studies show that when our perception changes our body’s response to stress also changes – Intervention helps. We all have seen sportsmen who perform at their best in stressful situations. We also know of leaders who excel under stress. Can we learn from them?

Not to suggest that all stress is good and that we should actively seek out stressful situations. Loss of a loved one or facing a serious disease are stressful situations that have no simple solution – the book does give us insights on dealing with these as well.

This book transformed my relationship with stress and hope it does the same to you as well.
Happy reading and enjoy your weekend 

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