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The Upside of Stress

The Upside of Stress

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Most of us do everything we can to avoid stress. But new research has shown that if we learn to befriend stress, we will actually be happier and more effective in our lives. Dr. Kelly McGonigal is an acclaimed author, health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University. Her 2013 TED talk, “How to Make Stress Your Friend” is one of the most visited TED talks of all time, with over 19 million views. Here are some of her top tips for accepting and embracing stress.

Tend and befriend

People often feel like there are only two ways to respond to stress: You can fight or you can flee. The “tend and befriend” concept is the opposite of this. Stress isn’t always about being on the attack. Part of being good at stress means leaning into your social relationships and allowing your stress to motivate you to ask for help. If you are experiencing difficulties, look for other people who have been in the same boat. Teaming up with allies and forming a collective or a team of sorts means that you can become stronger together. Often, when a situation feels too big to handle alone, you can face it with the support of other people.

Take time to recover

Recovery is a vital part of the biology of stress. We all have powerful stress hormones that help to repair the body, enhance the immune system and aid the brain to actually learn from the experience. But the process doesn’t work if we are immediately plunged into another crisis. We need recovery time. Part of the stress recovery process happens when we sleep, and part of it happens when we make the time to reflect on our experiences. Be intentional about this. Sit down and write about it, talk to someone about it or reflect on it. That will help you recover more quickly and also help you learn from the experience so that you are stronger afterwards.


Exercise has the amazing ability to make your brain more stress resilient while also making you more comfortable with the physiological symptoms of stress, such as an increased heart rate. People who are physically active tend to be better at stress. Exercise also brings joy. And joy is one of those resources that can’t be underestimated!

We can all learn and grow from challenging life experiences if we make friends with stress. Want to learn more? Listen to the latest episode of “It’s a Good Life” to hear Brian interview Dr. Kelly McGonigal.

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