There’s no typo in that title, friends… stress really does have an upside! In today’s episode of Body Kindness we’re diving into our Book Club selection The Upside Of Stress by Kelly McGonigal.
We share how you can use stress to your advantage to grow stronger.
Listen to Episode 9 below…
Here’s what we talked about…
- We briefly touched on the aftermath of the Biggest Loser Study. Bernie’s feeling empowered to take care of himself with Body Kindness and to share his real story and experiences.
- I gently reminded our listeners that all bodies can be healthy bodies – health is a separate thing from appearance. We need more empathy, understanding, and compassion. That’s accessible to everyone, no matter what you weigh!
- I started our chat about The Upside of Stress by asking Bernie about his experience of stress. He says he’s sometimes stressed by everyday responsibilities like work, family and finances, and this can lead to not-so-kind habits.
- I said that before reading the book I believed all stress was bad. It had also been a big trigger for self-sabotaging behaviors like emotional eating. Reading the book gave me life-changing insights and now I’m reframing stress both in my own life and for my clients.
- McGonigal states that stress is energy and it’s a sign that something that matters to you is at stake. So if you weren’t worried about things like your job and loved ones – that would be a worry!
- She also writes “the effect you expect is the effect you get”. She cites a study where two identical shakes were labeled “Sensishake” and “Indulgence”. The participants not only perceived a taste difference, their body chemistry responded differently.
- McGonigal writes that people who have a “I can’t handle it” response to stress don’t secrete as much DHEA (growth hormone) compared to those who believe they can cope. DHEA helps your brain grow and strengthen, so in this sense being exposed to stress can make us stronger.
- Most people bounce back after stress and trauma. A small percentage experience post-traumatic growth. Not that the trauma was good – but that in some way your life has more meaning than before.
- A small percentage of people have the opposite experience, in which they don’t bounce back and suffer from variations of anxiety, depression and PTSD.
- Bernie found the “Tend and Befriend” approach powerful. He says he often isolates himself when feeling stress and overwhelm. He wants to practice reaching out when needed not only to get help, but to also get outside of himself and help others.
- We discussed how experiencing stress can build resilience. The book mentioned an experiment where people had to put their hand into ice water – those who had experienced more stressful events could tolerate the water for longer.
- In case you’re listening and thinking, “Yeah, but…” we talked about how to find the upside of stress in a common scenario – the learned habit of emotional eating as an unhelpful coping mechanism.
- When a stressful event happens sometimes we can overreact. We don’t feel in control, so out of habit we look for an escape to avoid feeling discomfort. Like cake or cookies.
- How can we shift our mindset and reframe stress? The first step is to PAUSE. Think about exactly where you are. Describe exactly what’s happening and what you’re telling yourself. For example – your co-worker is giving you hell and you want to reach for ice cream.
- This raises your awareness, which is helpful because we can’t fix things we’re not aware of.
- What are the benefits from this behavior? If the trigger is feeling threatened and/or I don’t think I can handle this – you instinctively do whatever is “life saving” in that minute. The automatic pattern of emotional eating feels helpful in the moment.
- But when the emotional intensity has reduced and you can think more clearly, that is when you think and realize that is not what you really wanted. That is often when the guilt and shame roll in, and your motivation to be kind to yourself is diminished.
- Changing this starts with awareness and learning the triggers that set off this automatic behaviors, to acknowledge they’re unhelpful and not in line with the person you want to be. Then decide on how to plan to do it differently the next time.
- We concluded that it’s not the stress, but how you respond to stress. There is no such thing as a stress-free life, so how can you respond differently to it? Can you find the upside? How can it help you grow? What is it telling you about what you need? You can start practicing right now.
- Kelly concludes that stress is most likely to be harmful when:
- you isolate yourself
- if you feel inadequate to handle it
- if it feels meaningless and against your will – can you shift your mindset on this?
- And she summaries that the attainable benefits of stress are:
- it makes you stronger
- yourself self doubt is replaced by confidence (going from I can’t handle it to I can)
- fear becomes courage.
- I shared some Body Kindness tips for embracing the Upside of Stress:
- Build your support circle – at least one person you can be real with!
- Affirm your strength – find examples of resilience in your life to prove that you can do hard things
- Find meaning in your crappy situation – you don’t have to fake it! But there is a meaning there you can put into action and help you learn and grow.
- We introduced the next Body Kindness challenge: How To Improve Your Health In 8 Hours. The secret is… sleep! Use the hashtag #sleep8 to join in.
- Our next book club selection is Arianna Huffington’s Sleep Revolution. Grab a copy and join us, we’ll be talking about it on the podcast soon.
Links mentioned in the show
- Kelly McGonigal on how to make friends with stress.
- You can also watch Kelly’s TED Talk and check out her online courses.
- The Sensi shake study: How your thoughts fool your stomach
- About the “tend and befriend” stress response and how it’s not just for the ladies.
- Bonus read: Monica from Run Eat Repeat learns that Stress Eating Is Not Intuitive Eating
- Bernie shared this excellent quote from the late Muhammad Ali:
“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”
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Nothing in this podcast is meant to provide medical diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Individuals should consult a qualified healthcare provider for medical advice and answers to personal health questions.