Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It:
Good balance of scientific information and real life examples are thoughtful and help the reader think about the kinds of stressors in his/her life. The main thrust of the book seems to be: Stress is not always bad, stress can be a motivator, stress can actually help you reach your goals and fulfill your life’s purpose. At the very least, this book will get you thinking about stress and learning to recognize it and deal with it in better ways in your own life.
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In this book Dr McGonigal attempts to convince us that “stress” is what our brains need to achieve. The provocative title dissolves away when you realize that what she is talking about is challenge or the drive to meet high expectations; these are of course good things and do help us to achieve. Chronically high cortisol levels, sleep deprivation, etc, have no upside, but the book elides over the distinction between “stress” and “stress.” The book would be better had it spent more effort clarifying that distinction–and made similar distinctions about the research cited throughout. There is a good idea here, something perhaps along the lines of what Theodore Roosevelt had in mind when he said that “far away the best chance life offers is to work hard at work worth doing,” but the oversimplifications throughout this book hold it back.
In The Upside of Stress, psychologist Kelly McGonigal presents a review of the literature from psychology and medicine suggesting that the popular notion of stress as universally harmful is false. Instead, McGonigal presents the thesis that is is not how much stress there is in your life that matters, but how you think about that stress and respond to it that determines the effects on your health and well-being.
The book is interesting, well-written, and engaging. It is occasionally a little simplistic in its descriptions of the research that it covers, but overall I think that it provides a helpful introduction to the science of stress, and some specific tips and interventions for changing your own personal attitudes and shifting towards more positive ways of dealing with the situations in your life that you perceive as stressful. A good read to help those that feel overwhelmed get into a better head space.
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