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Publisher's Summary

The author of The Willpower Instinct delivers a controversial and groundbreaking new book that overturns long-held beliefs about stress.

More than 44 percent of Americans admit to losing sleep over stress. And while most of us do everything we can to reduce it, Stanford psychologist and best-selling author Kelly McGonigal, PhD, delivers a startling message: Stress isn't bad. In The Upside of Stress, McGonigal highlights new research indicating that stress can, in fact, make us stronger, smarter, and happier - if we learn how to embrace it.

The Upside of Stress is the first audiobook to bring together cutting-edge discoveries on the correlation between resilience - the human capacity for stress-related growth - and mind-set, the power of beliefs to shape reality. As she did in The Willpower Instinct, McGonigal combines science, stories, and exercises into an engaging and practical book that is both entertaining and life-changing, showing you:

  • How to cultivate a mind-set to embrace stress
  • How stress can provide focus and energy
  • How stress can help people connect and strengthen close relationships
  • Why your brain is built to learn from stress and how to increase its ability to learn from challenging experiences

McGonigal's TED talk on the subject has already received more than seven million views. Her message resonates with people who know they can't eliminate the stress in their lives and want to learn to take advantage of it. The Upside of Stress is not a guide to getting rid of stress but a guide to getting better at stress by understanding it, embracing it, and usng it.

©2015 Kelly McGonigal (P)2015 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"In this smart, practical book, Kelly McGonigal shows that stress isn't nearly as bad as it reputation. In fact, if we change our mindsets just a bit, we can transform stress from a barrier that thwarts to a resource that propels us. The Upside of Stress is a perfect how-to guide for anyone who wants to tap into the biology of courage and the psychology of thriving under pressure." (Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human)
"A fascinating tour of cutting-edge research on how stress affects us in ways, both good and bad, that we never suspect. McGonigal brings scientific studies to life, makes her lessons tangible and provides fascinating take-aways for anyone who experiences stress - which, let's face it, is all of us, often all the time." (Charles Duhigg, MBA, author of The Power of Habit)
"A courageous, counterintuitive, and convincing case for a big idea: stress can be good for you. This enchanting, evidence-based book has already transformed how I think about stress, and I recommend it highly to anyone who lives in the 21st century." (Adam Grant, PhD, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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Mind Boggling, Life Changing

This is the first audio book that I cannot wait to continue from where I left of. After watching her Ted Talk on stress, I was hoping that she has more work on this topic. As soon as I learned that she released an audio book, I immediately got a copy, and boy I was blown away.
I was feeling like I was stuck in a rut because of fear that I couldn't handle the stresses in my life. Now that I have finished listening to this book, I can't wait to take on each day and embracing life's challenges.
Kelly brings her charming humor and insightful wisdom into this work. The fact that it is narrated by Kelly adds another dimension of authenticity to it. Throughout the book, Kelly manages to effectively tell powerful stories that moved me to tears.
Rarely have I read a book that changes my outlook and mindset of life. This is a gem of a book on the same par as other great works like Habits of Effectiveness by Covey.
Highly recommended.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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im not usually one to say a book is "life changing

...but this one is. maybe "life shifting" is a better way to see it. as she says, it's -not- about finding the "polyanna-esque" good in bad situations, it's about acknowledging the candle in the darkest or most stressful corridors of life because a candle isn't much but it makes a big difference in the dark.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Bedtime Reading for Insomniacs

Akido--according to Wikipedia--is 'the martial arts principle or tactic of blending with an attacker's movements for the purpose of controlling their actions with minimal effort'. In this case, stress is the attacker. McGonigal's 'The Upside of Stress' is your akido.

In this title, McGonigal states that viewing stress as an intrusion to what-would-be-our-otherwise-normal life kills people. How many of us have spent months/years/decades wishing for a particular stress to go away? Of those, how many of us have actually succeeded in that wish? Such wishing and resisting has been proven to age a person quickly; McGonigal presents a cogent, engaging and empirical argument that all of us need to take a different (and initially non-intuitive) approach to the stresses that bind us.

If McGonigal's TED talk doesn't speak to you, then perhaps spend your credit elsewhere (and be thankful for your well-balanced mindset). For me, this title was earth-shifting: I wish I would have read this book twenty years ago, but am glad that I didn't wait any longer. McGonigal's excellent self-narration adds a further degree of sincerity to the title. My roughly-edited pocket notes below for reference.

----- tl;dr -----

- Allow the larger forces of the world to move as they do: Those would don't believe aging is bad live longer. Those who trust others live longer.
- Strategies that backfire: showing smokers lung cancer photos. Shaming women for being overweight.
- Stress is an overused term, ranging from the trivial to the traumatic. McGonigal's definition: stress is something that arises when something you care about is at stake. Thus, stress and meaning are irrovacably linked.
- Transform your relationship with stress: rethink and embrace it. Choose to see the good in it.
- Mindset reset: how you think about something can transform it's affect on you. 'The effect you expect is the effect you get.'
- Milkshake experiment: body's chemical reaction is a function of what's on the label, not what's in the milkshake.
- Mock interview experiment: more positive chemical reactions for those subjects who were told that stress is good.
- Placebo effects are temporary. Mindset effects are permanent.
- Those who believe stress is beneficial are less depressed and more satisfied with their lives.
- View stress as a challenge, not an overwhelming problem. Find meaning in difficult circumstances.
- Mindsets do not correlate with optimism, the amount of stress in your life, mindfulness, or the ability to tolerate uncertainty.
- Those unaccepting of stress tend to be avoidant, distract themselves, turn to alcohol.
- The belief that stress is helpful is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Experiment: freshmen ivy league school one-hour intervention on belonging closed the minority GPA gap
- Three steps to stress: acknowledge it, embrace that you care about something, make use of the energy that stress gives you.
- Steps to an effective intervention: learn the new point of view, do an exercise, share the idea.
- View stress as flexible, not black and white. Choose the side you want.
- Successful stress coping: Have hope. Make a choice. Find meaning. You are not a lab rat in an uncontrolled, meaningless and unpredictable scenario.
- Stress responses: fight/flight, challenge, tend/befriend.
- The stress paradox: a meaningful life is a stressful life. Higher stress yields a less depressed society.
- Stress awakens the search for meaning.
- The mindset that stress is an intrusion is what kills.
- Understand your values, not just what is good. Create a narrative of personal adequacy.
- Avoiding stress creates more stress.
- 'Just another cold dark night on the side of Mount Everest.'
- You are most likely to become a victim of your own stress when you forget the context in which it arises.
- Experiment: Bell Telephone employees: the healthiest took action on whatever they could, and either changed the situation or changed how the situation affected them.
- Hardiness: the courage to grow and change from stress.
- Experiment: practice GREs. the students with highest stress plus mindset intervention did the best.
- Physiological anxiety is different than worry. The latter you can transform. The former will always be there. (Your palms sweat on a first date because you're close to something you want.)
- When people are instructed they can handle stress, it works.
- Experiment: videotaped speech with planted critics. Mindset intervention was better than calming intervention or distraction by video games. Experiment done with people with severe anxiety disorder.
- Those with an anxiety disorder have the same physiological reaction as others, they just believe it to be higher than others.
- Most people cannot choose the stress they have in their lives. You can choose how you deal with it. The one resource you always have is yourself.
- Stress trigger chemicals that make you social, smart and brave.
- Electing to care for others releases the same chemicals as stress.
- Experiment: helping others--even the smallest gesture--alleviated time scarcity in subjects more than awarding them more time.
- 'Greater than self goals' have a similar effect: define yoru job not by your skills, but by what larger purpose it serves. Personal goals are more likely to be achieved when greater-than-self goals are the focus.
- We tend to underestimate others' stress (re: everyone is happy on social media). Nothing is more universal in humanity than suffering.
- Make the invisible visible. Experiment: common suffering anonymous survey with a group of people.
- 'May we all know our own strength'
- Experiment: those most resistant to freezing water on the hand are those with the most past traumas.
- Those with the least amount of stress in their history tend to catastrophize.
- 'Shift and resist' - allows those with the most stress to be more healthy.
- Extreme traumas: 'It's not that X is good. I just found the good in X.' Need to acknowledge both the good and bad--don't just blow sunshine.
- Restorative journalism creates vicarious resilience in a community. Example: 9/11 widow who eventually adopted more children.
- Stress is harmful when it isolates, creates inadequacy, and feels random/meaningless.
- Create yearly stress goals that challenge and create growth, not yearly resolutions.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Wilmington, DE, USA
  • 08-09-15

awesome and fascinating and helpful

Kelly McGonigal is fantastic. I enjoyed Willpower Instinct very much. I thought the topic of stress not quite as interesting but listened to this because I like her writing. wow did the science of stress turn out to be fascinating. McGonigal as always gives a thorough treatment of the research in a personable and compelling way. This book not only helps you turn stress into a good thing but helps you lead a more meaningful life.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Compelling and inspiring

As in her other books, Kelly provides practical and insightful guidance that is based on credible research and inspires us to find meaning and purpose in our past, present and future.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A must read for just about anyone

Almost everyone had come across stress in some shape or form. As a result there is something in this book for just about anyone.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • andrea
  • Mexico, Mexico
  • 06-05-15

Mind shifting

Kelly has done an incredible work once again.
Prepare to look at stress in a whole new way and, the unthinkable: get the benefits out of it!
Her reading is a little slow, but her tone and expressions are great.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great book!

Great and interesting book- like the last one. She's incredibly almost unbelievably positive, but it's infectious.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful information and insights

It has helped me change my perception of stress and start a new and positive experience in a highly demanding life.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A rare treat - something I haven't heard before

After reading a number of books in the self-help category, they start to sound like they are all repeating the same ideas. That made this book a rare treat - something I had not heard before. It was a unique take on how to view the inevitable stress in life and use it toward the best and most meaningful purpose. It is also heavily backed by science, rather than just purely anecdotal evidence. Having the science without making the story itself too dry is an accomplishment - highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful