Book Review: The Upside of Stress

The first time I heard of Kelly McGonigal was her TedTalk on how to make stress your friend published in 2013 and then around September of last year, I was recommended her 2015 publication, the Upside of Stress. Where McGonigal reveals an important truth based on science:

True excellence is only achieved under great adversity.

Kelly McGonigal

These adverisites are our failures, hardships, and challenges. These discomforting experiences make us stronger but only if we see these stresses with a growth mindset and positive outlook which allows us to develop the courage to pursue what matters most! In turn, we convert that stress and responsibility into meaning and we are then able to live a more meaningful life. The book highlights powerful stories from real people with scientific-based evidence to develop your understanding of stress. Here’s a sneak peak…

The Three Types of Stress Responses

  1. The fight-or-flight response is a natural physical and protective instinct that has little use in our modern world except when a person’s body is anticipating physical harm (pp. 46-47). The body’s reaction during this response is to constrict blood vessels to minimize the loss of blood and mobilize immune cells for inflammation support. This reaction creates emotions such as fear, anger, self-doubt, or shame (pp. 110-111).
  2. The challenge response prepares the body for action when it is in a situation that requires performing under pressure. This response allows the body to feel safer and respond by maximizing blood flow and strengthening the heartbeat to produce more energy. A challenge response creates emotions such as excitement, enthusiasm, and confidence (pp. 110-111).
  3. The tend-and-befriend response motivates the body to connect with others and reach out to their support system. This response is influenced by the hormone oxytocin that builds and strengthens social connections, dampens the fear response, and generates courage (pp. 52-53).

Stress hormones increase brain activity after a stress response to support learning and memory. This allows the brain to reflect on stressful experiences so that past experiences can condition and prepare the brain and body for how to react to future stress.

Kelly McGonigal, p. 54 -55

If you are interested in developing your mindset from one that “avoids anxiety at all costs” to a belief that “embraces stress as a normal part of life”, then the Upside of Stress is worth picking up to help you respond to stress in better and more healthier ways! Check it out on Goodreads!