How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal talks #stress

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others


3 thoughts on “How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal talks #stress

  1. Have a few thought on this video, while it is quite informative and funny it lacks some insights in stress response
    1) there is more to stress than heartrate going up, sweath outbreaks and oxytocin… Adrenalin and glucocortocoids are key actors
    2) believing stress is not dangerous is 1, my question is, how do you convince people of that that don’t realise they are in stress… How do you change something you’re not aware of?
    3) the stress system functions quite well in humans and is designed to be activated short times, to perform, to avoid danger, to hit someone in the face or run away, to perform a task and meeet the deadline…
    4) but what about the continuous little stressors in life, we might or might not feel consiously (traffic jams, kids getting on time in school, sportsclubs, music school)
    5) what about longlasting stressors like divorce, childabuse….

    Thinking and believing that stress isn’t all that unhealthy will make everything go away?

    Its an oversimplification of a complex
    The interconnectedness with other brain areas limbic system, sensory, motor, memory and changes in those areas…..

  2. This woman has a compelling pitch – based on flawed inferences. Statistics 101 – ‘corelation is not causality’. In fact the use of the ‘research’ (Based on questionnaires of peoples beliefs, which is about as subjective and woolly as one could get) is so flawed as to be dangerous.

    In fact the conventional wisdom IS correct –
    1. Stress is not a single ‘thing’ but nuanced in terms of cause and severity.
    2. Some stress is good for you – performance enhancing – but chronic (long term) and severe stress is damaging.
    3. Stress RESPONSE is different for each individual (which is why some people can become presidents, while others are afraid to leave their house). So the same event /activity elicits DIFFERENT intensities of stress response in each of us.
    4. First world 21st century urban lifestyles are disastrous in many ways in terms of wellbeing, and in particular cause massive levels of stress with limited options for amelioration.
    5. Much stress is characterised foremost by a lack of control, (such as at work when your boss dictates your unreasonable workload, you lose your job, you get cancer, your mother dies, etc etc).

    Whether you believe stress is good/bad is the same as any other ‘belief’ – your mind is powerful and you can help yourself to a certain degree through self-awareness. But people who believe THEIR stress is harming them are probably right – their beliefs are based on detailed knowledge of their lifestyle and how THEY respond to stress. Hence the causality in this ‘research’ is not the belief itself, but one or more of the 1000 lifestyle factors that were not screened. In fact this research proves the OPPOSITE of Mcgonigals assertion – that people who feel they are at risk from THEIR stress levels are RIGHT (and by doing nothing about it were effectively committing suicide).

    Stress is a physiological response to your mental map of the world – in effect it IS your feelings/beliefs. It is preparing you for ‘fight or flight’ – if you do not (or cannot) act on those impulses, you are damaging yourself. (In the same way you snatch your hand from a fire when you feel the heat). In the modern world it is too easy to ignore subtle signs of distress you are feeling, and that being frazzled is just the way things are.

    People who are comfortable with their SUBJECTIVE levels of stress (their ‘belief’ as to the impact on them) are by DEFINITION resilient, and hence this research appears to be like much similar pseudo-science – badly designed and ‘states the obvious’. What Mcgonigal appears to do is add another layer of assumption and arrive at 100% wrong conclusions.

    Mcgonigal plays to a TED audience, who I would suggest are not single mothers holding down 2 jobs below the minimum wage, or teenagers struggling with grades, or old folks wondering how they will keep warm in the winter, fire-fighters mourning the loss of a team-member or even middle-aged accountants wondering why their kids hate them. Nor would they likely be phobic people on the lower half of the introvert/extravert spectrum who find being in an elevator uncomfortable… in short, she knows nothing about stress, and neither does the TED audience.

    No doubt Dr Mcgonigal (PHD!) will be plugging a book on this subject. If you want to reduce your chances of dying or suffering mild to severe illness caused by stress I would suggest:
    1. Don’t reward this self-publicist with your hard-earned money.
    2. Ignore everything she says.
    3. Visit your doctor to discuss ways of avoiding, reducing and ameliorating your stress.

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