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The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  4,999 ratings  ·  493 reviews
The author of The Willpower Instinct delivers a controversial and groundbreaking new book that overturns long-held beliefs about stress.
More than forty-four percent of Americans admit to losing sleep over stress. And while most of us do everything we can to reduce it, Stanford psychologist and bestselling author Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., delivers a startling message: Stres
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Avery (first published March 19th 2012)
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Barbara You don't have to work with this book.
Read the first 50 pages. If you don't get what she's saying read the rest of the book --- that is if you can't s…more
You don't have to work with this book.
Read the first 50 pages. If you don't get what she's saying read the rest of the book --- that is if you can't stop laughing.(less)

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Morgan Blackledge
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you don't want to read this epic review. I will give you the condensed version.

Stress isn't bad for you. It's good for you. But only if you get your head out of your keister. Get this book to learn how to do that.

Now for that epic review I promised you.

The Upside of Stress:
The other day I bumped into my neighbor and he was covered in mud and all scraped up. I said "what in the hell happened to you"?

He replied that he had just run an extreme obstacle course race replete with electric fence
Wil Reynolds
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
LOved this book, here are my crib notes, mostly for myself, but overall should give you a gist of the book and my takeaways.

Top 5 takeaways:
1 - Stress doesn't kill you, it stress combined with the belief that stress harms your health.
2 - The happiest people in the polls were the people who were highly stress but NOT depressed, they were most likely to be at the ideal crossroads of understanding stress is part of growth, but they didn't let that stress put them into depression.
3 - Happy lives are
Dec 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
The book makes the negative health role of stress sounding as a direct product of a matter of beliefs. It's a very dangerous idea. Anyone who has encountered real issues with stress and who also has experienced significant eustress knows the distinction between distress and eustress to be a key in this story. It's not some stressors which are bad, but some experiences of stress are significatively different and it's not all made up in your head. If physiologically your HPA axis is messed up, the ...more
Mario Tomic
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Turns out that we got it all wrong when it comes to stress. I first found about the book through her TED talk titled "How To Make Stress Your Friend". Also you might have heard of Kelly before through her first book "The Willpower Instinct" which changed the way we think about willpower. I can safely say that The Upside of Stress is as groundbreaking as The Willpower Instinct. For me the most interesting part of this book was the research with professional athletes where they realized that these ...more
Divya Shanmugam
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
five stars topic-wise, three stars book-wise. topic-wise: took a belief i've had trouble with ("stress is bad") and made a good argument against it. book-wise: i ended up skimming more as i read and found it tough to pay attention to the millionth study showing stress is (spoiler!!) not bad

* the first scientific claims on stress come from experiments on rats in which they were pretty much abused -- aka foundational takes on stress do not abstract well to daily stress (unless you are re
Diddy Lusth
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
The idea this book conveys (through a survey of studies and stories) is not bad and could be considered even surprising: stress is not bad by itself, but our (bad) perception of it is. However, I do not see why 304 pages are needed to transmit the idea. In addition, I do not think it engages the reader in any way.
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: waiting
Very similar to **Mindset** by Carol Dweck, with one main point that stayed with me:

Only when you expect stress to kill you, or at least harm you, it will. Otherwise, there is no significant impact of stress.
Jason Pettus
(I read this as part of my personal life, not as a professional critic, which is why this review does not appear at the website of my arts center, CCLaP.)

I randomly stumbled across this book at my neighborhood library a couple of weeks ago, not knowing anything about it or about McGonigal herself; I end up reading a lot of psychology books this way, to tell you the truth, and have a sort of hit-or-miss experience with them because of it. This one turned out to be really smart, but only if you ca
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first 2/3 was super insightful and will change the way I cope with situations. I will definitely listen to this again.
May Ling
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: health-welness
Summary: A solidly written argument with a good mix of science and anecdotal details on the topic. Easy prose. Lots of examples.

The view on stress is killing all of us. I wish I'd read this earlier. It would have reiterated why mindset is so important and how it feels to have the wrong one. Here are my notes:

p. 9 She describes the science that suggests that high levels of stress increased risk of dying by 43%, but what the study fails to point out is that those with high stress, but a belief tha
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. As a PhD student working on a highly inductive and unsure project, I have a lot of stress. The recommendations, as well as the science and stories made this a giving book. I am, however, a sociologist, and I found myself endlessly frustrated with the invisible variables and weak consideration of class—specifically poverty. As an academic, yes, a stressful life is a giving life. As a single parent working multiple hours for minimum wage, that's a harder argument to make.

Bartosz Majewski
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
Since I remember I have been struggling to figure out how to connect three seemingly contradictory beliefs of mine:

1. The amount of stress you have in your life is directly correlated with the amount of achievement.
2. Long term effects of stress are detrimental to your health.
3. People who say "what doesn't kill you is going to make you stronger" long enough will end up in wheelchairs.

This book aligned those three beliefs in a coherent way. It's rare to read a good book on social sciences in ou
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am so glad to have met this book at a time when my stress level probably was the highest in my life. The ways of thinking that I want to incorporate in my mindset have hopefully sunken into my unconsciousness by now, which would definitely help me become more resilient than before the stressful event had occurred.

I intend to go back to the book once in a while to strengthen myself even more and put the precious exercise tips into practice, so that eventually, I would be able to tell myself tha
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If I could, I would have given this book 6 stars or more. It's been really eye opening to learn how our attitude (mindset) can have an impact on how our body behaves. As a bonus, it certainly changed my view of stress. ...more
Deepak Imandi
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If I were to summarize this book into a single sentence, it would be this: "Change your perception of viewing stress as detrimental to your life and health. Rather, be aware of the energy it creates & use it to your advantage, reflect on the way it can transform your life every single time"

A very neatly put book with very relevant exercises to use stress to your advantage.

A big thanks to Mr. @Roni Matar for suggesting me this book. It so happened that this guy saw one of my grave comments on an
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a game changer for anybody who suffers from anxiety.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very good book explaining stress. It is often perceived as a negative factor where people strive to reduce the stress in their lives, but it can and often is a positive factor. If stress reduction were the sole motivating factor then no one would ever risk having children, fortunately this isn't the case. One of the studies sited was the influence of the "tend and befriend" concept. This is where the stress levels of people were examined who were performing altruistic behavior. it woul ...more
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was a such a mind blowing mindset shift. I honestly feel that everyone should read it, well, anyone that is who constantly thinks they are stressed. Unlike many self-help stress books, this book is not focused on reducing your stress, but rather changing the way you think about stress. EVERYONE is stressed, and this books teaches you how to channel that stress into something that won't shed years off your life or cause you to have high blood pressure. While reading through, I noticed s ...more
Samuel J
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nf-psychology
One of the most helpful book I've read. ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I first became aware of this book when I listened to the key take away points from it on Blinkist. What the author was saying blew me away and I just had to get hold of the book to find out more.

We're all told that stress is bad for us but there's a lot more to it than that. McGonigal opens up the book with this large scale study that showed that it wasn't stress per se that caused illness and in some cases death, but the beliefs about stress. Those who saw stress as bad were more likely to hav
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
Original review at The Fictional Reader


When I saw this book on Edelweiss, I requested it immediately. I had watched Kelly McGonigal’s Ted Talk before and found it to be incredibly interesting. However, Ted Talks are always quite short and I wanted to hear so much more on this topic. I have to say that this book did not disappoint.

In this day and age, I’m pretty sure that every single person can benefit from reading this book. We all have quite busy lives trying to fit so much in 24 hours.
May 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: z-2015
Well, I was predisposed to like this book as I really liked the author's previous book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. What I didn't realize until I started reading it is that she brings together a variety of studies that support something I've believed for many years--that suffering is good for the human race. Only she calls it stress. It was interesting for me to read the ways that not only do we grow and develop as a resu ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-book, 2015
Granted, this is a time in my life where I am looking for more strategies and suggestions for being a better person in stressful situations, but I think that even if I wasn't in this particular place in my life, I would still have really enjoyed this book. I listened to the audio book (which was read by the author) and it had a nice rhythm to it and was very much like a good podcast.

The book starts out with an admission that the author used to advise people about stress in the typical way then
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Well, it's important because it challenges how majority of us think about ourselves & the world. It's a book about how stress is good for you if you believe it is.

Most of what Kelly has to say resonates well with me. I think I gained this attitude because I happened to spend 4 years of my college with guys who were really good at dealing with stress. Since forever I have loved exams, competitions, woah! the adrenaline rush, maybe because I'm old enough to realise that whenever I've failed, it h
Rosemary Ward
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rosemary by: education, liberty, science, faith, health,
Well, this book made me feel better about my own stress, so I've only good things to say about it. The Upside of Stress summarizes the studies done on how we interpret our stress and then how this interpretation gives the stress a positive or negative expression in our lives. Whether you have been through a traumatic event, are emerging from a loss of employment, or have an iPhone malfunction .... what should you think about your misery and how might these thoughts mitigate your sadness or your ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
I started this book thinking that I’d end up rating it 5 stars. The first few chapters were amazing, and it really began to resonate with me. I spent time thinking about how I could use this at work to help others. And then, it went absolutely nowhere. It became an endless series of stories about people rethinking stress. And endless study after study proving her point. If you’re interested in the subject, watch her TED talk. Or just read the first few chapters. Honestly, this book became agoniz ...more
Helene M
May 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: self-help
Thought I would really like this book.
But unfortunately it just didn't "click".

Wasn't horrible Written in a very clinical research textbook style . Not what I was looking or hoping for .
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love it when a book surprises me in a good way and this one definitely did. I listened to this book club selection, and probably would not have picked it up on my own. I drove my kids crazy quoting the book and making them listen with me in the car, but I hope they will thank me for the next time they have a math test and could possibly increase their scores by 33% by embracing stress instead of trying to calm down.

Sometimes I feel like reading a reader's digest format would have the same imp
4.5 stars. I found this book very interesting and empowering. We all know stress if bad for our mental and physical health, but Kelly McGonigal gives us a closer look on the research into stress and shows that the negative results are more closely linked to our mindset. I love the idea that how we view situations affects the positive or negative impact it has on our body. What a powerful concept. This book discusses how to change a stressful situation from feeling like a threat and a draining re ...more
Rich Yavorsky
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 man
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Kelly McGonigal, PhD, is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, an award-winning science journalist, and a leading expert on the mind-body relationship. Her teaching and writing focus on the applications of psychological science to personal health and happiness, as well as public policy and social change.

She is the author of The Upside of Stress (Penguin Random House/Avery 201

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