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The Stress of Life

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Considering stress, this text covers the discovery of stress; the dissection of stress; the disease of adaptation; and implications and applications. Annotated references are also included.

516 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1956

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Hans Selye

26 books41 followers

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5 stars
70 (44%)
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50 (31%)
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28 (17%)
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Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews
Profile Image for Exina.
1,183 reviews375 followers
December 27, 2022
5 stars

Hans (János) Selye was a Hungarian-Canadian scientist, founder of the stress theory, father of stress research. He introduced the concept of distress and eustress: distress has a negative affect on your body and psyche, while eustress gives you energy and motivation.

The first part (the greater part) of the book is written from a medical aspect, the ending is rather psychological.

Selye also provides the first insight into the concept of adaptation energy and general adaptation syndrome (GAS).
Apparently, there are two kinds of adaptation energy: the superficial kind, which is ready to use, and the deeper kind, which acts as a sort of frozen reserve. When superficial adaptation energy is exhausted during exertion, it can slowly be restored from a deeper store during rest. This gives a certain plasticity to our resistance. It also protects us from wasting adaptation energy too lavishly in certain foolish moments, because acute fatigue automatically stops us. It is the restoration of the superficial adaptation energy from the deep reserves that tricks us into believing that the loss has been made good. Actually, it has only been covered from reserves – and the cost of gradually depleting the latter. We might compare this feeling of having suffered no loss to the careless optimism of a spendthrift who keeps forgetting that whenever he restores the vanishing supply of dollars in his wallet by withdrawing from the invisible stocks of his bank account, the loss has not really been made good: there was merely a transfer of money from a less accessible to a more accessible form.

Life is a continuous series of adaptations to our surroundings and, as far as we know, our reserve of adaptation energy is an inherited finite amount, which cannot be regenerated.
The lesson seems to be that, as far as man can regulate his life by voluntary actions, he should seek to equalize stress throughout his being, by what we have called deviation, the frequent shifting-over of work from one part to the other. The human body – like the tires on a car, or a rug on a floor – wears longest when it wears evenly We can do ourselves a great deal of good in this respect by just yielding to our natural cravings for variety in everyday life. We must not forget that the more we vary our actions, the less any one part suffers from attrition.

A very important book.
66 reviews2 followers
December 19, 2016
It took me a while to finish this book. I am not sure why it took me this long because I actually enjoyed every single bit of it. Selye recited everything down from the very thing that started him on his 40-year stress journey to the scientific details of the journey (laid in a very professional but simplified manner for everyone to read) to the very personal implication of the concept he discovered not just on society but on himself as well. He even shared how his concept was attacked and he did not ridicule those who criticized his theory but he admitted that those people were of major positive influence to his work. It is quite rare to find such graceful attitude from a scientist towards the criticism of his colleagues and teachers.

One of the strengths of this book is that Selye mapped out the book in such a way that it is possible to skim quickly through all the scientific details (if someone is not interested very much in understanding the technical work involved) and get to what exactly the reader wants to find or extract from this book.

I could go on and on about how great this book is. but one can only discover through going this journey themselves and finding whether this book would resonate with them in any way. I do know, however, that for me, that I will be coming back to this book again and again.
33 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2017
I just thumbed through this book really, read a chapter toward the end. The philosophy chapter. I don't really have interest in continuing to read this book, its wordy, a deeper thinking book, at least the little I read. I cant really attest to anything else.
17 reviews
March 17, 2020
I really loved this book, studying stress really helps to reflect on one's stress and improve your outlook on life. Selye is the father of human stress research and this book is easy to read and understand.
Profile Image for Dan.
143 reviews2 followers
April 19, 2009
Great book that discusses the results of both emotional and physical stress.
February 10, 2019
It is very interesting for those with a background in medicine and biology. The book provides an insight in the development of medical thought, even though that was not its aim when it was written 60 years ago.

Also, Selye tries to erect an actual scientific model of the body and disease. Even though some of his findings are invalidated by newer science, it is an interesting proposal. And something that even the current state of medical science isnt able to come up with.

If one isnt well versed in the biological or medical sciences, I can imagine that this book doesn’t offer much. Still the later chapters are interesting and very non technical.
123 reviews
October 12, 2018
Amazing book, of which I thoroughly enjoyed reading & initiating thought atop of.
I found the structure of the book to be representative of a simply brilliant concept of information sharing, whereby a man whom invested his life within a topic, shares his journey of discovery, followed by his fight to articulate his findings, leading to a concluding section of how he himself has applied his ideas, leading him to present personal conviction in how & where they may be applied.
234 reviews1 follower
September 22, 2021
Gives a useful set of lenses for how to think about stress in all its forms and manifestations. The bulk of the book deals with stress in medical biology and human physiology, but there are applications beyond our bodies, to our lives, communities, even our among civilizations. A very interesting... [see the rest on my book review site.]
Profile Image for Richard.
138 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2022
A dated book, interesting only to lovers of the history of Medicine. Dr. Selye developed the concept of the body's stress response, over years of working with rats in the laboratory. Nowadays, it is hard to believe this was something that wasn't always known.
Profile Image for Simone.
100 reviews
May 17, 2020
This book changed my life the first time I read it about a decade ago. It forever changed the way I think about the interaction between the body, emotions and environment. Looking forward to reading it again! Selye is so insightful, amongst the best.
Profile Image for Kevin.
173 reviews16 followers
March 28, 2013
One of the great anti-death researchers.

2 reviews
October 15, 2017
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews

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