Published July 2020 on Spotfiy

374: Kelly McGonigal | The Upside of Stress

1. Introduction

Kelly explains how stress can be beneficial for our health and how to manage it effectively. She discusses the science behind stress and how it can be used as a tool to help us achieve our goals.

2. Rethinking Stress

Fear of Stress:Kelly explains a study that tracked 30,000 adults in the US for almost a decade, which found that having a very stressful life increased the risk of dying by 43 percent, but only among people who also perceived stress as being harmful for their health. Those who had a really stressful life but did not strongly believe that their stress was harmful for their health were actually the most likely to be alive at the end of the study.
Rethinking Stress:Kelly shares a study that suggests stress may not be as harmful as we think and that our mindset towards stress may actually be more detrimental to our health. The discussion dives into the stress mindset effect and how we can take control of our thoughts to better manage stress.

3. Positive Change

Positive Change:Kelly explains how shaming people for their coping mechanisms can lead to an increase in addictive behavior, and how supporting positive change through autonomy and motivation is a better approach.
Beliefs and Stress:Kelly shares how beliefs can set up a self-fulfilling prophecy and how some beliefs can lead to negative outcomes. She also talks about stress mindset effect and how we experience stress all the time because stress is what arises in our brain and body.

4. Stress Mindset

Stress Mindset:Kelly explains how our beliefs about stress can affect our physical stress responses and coping strategies. Those who view stress as always harmful are more likely to have unhealthy responses and engage in self-destructive coping strategies. Positive beliefs about stress and aging can have positive health effects.
Reframing Stress:Kelly explains how reframing stress can help us have healthier and more skillful responses to it. She emphasizes the importance of tolerating initial discomfort and using it as a signal to engage in coping strategies, such as reaching out to our support network or spending time in pleasant activities with loved ones.

5. Stress Strengths and Mindset

Stress Strengths:Kelly explains that stress strengths come in different forms, such as harnessing stress energy, looking at stress as an opportunity to learn and grow, reaching out to others, and slowing down. She mentions that temperament and early life experiences shape our stress response, and some people may have genetic influences on how they respond to stress.
Stress Mindset:Kelly and Jordan discuss the stress mindset measure, which assesses whether an individual believes stress is debilitating or enhancing. Kelly emphasizes the importance of broadening one's repertoire of coping strategies and not getting stuck in unhelpful responses, such as the freeze response. She also highlights the idea that stress can bring out what is good in individuals and communities.

6. Embracing Stress

The Nuanced Mindset:Kelly explains that having a nuanced view of stress is more effective than simply labeling it as good or bad. By choosing to focus on the positive aspects of stress, such as personal growth and reaching out to others, individuals can develop a more productive mindset towards stress.
Embracing Stress:Kelly and Jordan discuss the mindset of embracing stress and how our mindset can blind us to the fact that stress is a result of our choices. They emphasize the importance of giving ourselves permission to have stressful lives and finding ways to avoid harmful consequences.
Overcoming Anxiety:Kelly shares insights on how to view anxiety as a normal response and an opportunity to harness it, rather than something to be feared or avoided. By experimenting with different ways of thinking about stress, we can choose a mindset that supports us and helps us handle anxiety.

7. Sponsors

Jordan Harbinger talks about the sponsor of the episode, Manscaped, and jokes about the usual conversation that follows.

8. Manscaped's Luxury Nail Kit

Jordan and Peter discuss Manscaped's new Shears 2.0 Nail Kit, a luxury four-piece nail kit featuring tempered stainless steel tools with slashed tip tweezers.

9. Sponsors

Jordan and Peter discuss the importance of nail care and offer a discount code for Manscaped. Later, they talk about the mental health benefits of seeking professional help and offer a discount code for Better Help.

10. Benefits of Stress

The Benefits of Stress:Kelly explains that not all stress is bad for babies and children. Extreme deprivation, poverty, and abuse are linked to the worst outcomes, while normal, everyday levels of stress can actually increase stress resilience. It's important to understand the nuances of stress and focus on changing harmful circumstances rather than changing people's mindsets about it.
Responses to Stress:Jordan and Kelly discuss the different responses to stress, including fight or flight, tend and befriend, and the challenge response. Jordan shares his personal experience of going through these responses and how he ultimately learned and grew from the experience.

11. Overcoming Stress

Overcoming Stress:Kelly and Jordan discuss the different types of stress responses and how to overcome them. They emphasize the importance of having resources and support networks to shift from a freeze or paralysis response to a challenge response, and ultimately to a growth and learning response.
The Positive Side of Stress:Jordan and Kelly discuss how stress can actually have positive effects on our lives, and how we can learn to recognize and harness our natural stress response instincts to help us grow and learn from difficult experiences. They challenge listeners to reframe their mindset around stress and recognize the positive responses they may have had in the past.

12. Understanding Stress

Understanding Stress:Kelly explains how stress is not just a negative emotion, but rather a response that shows we care about something. She also discusses how finding meaning in life can help us cope with stress. Jordan and Kelly touch on the genetic aspect of stress responses and how some people may be more sensitive to stress than others.
Understanding Stress:Kelly explains that stress is a biological mechanism for learning from experience and that people differ in their sensitivity to stress. While some people may seek thrills to feel alive, others may be more sensitive to stress and have positive outcomes in the long term. It's important to embrace sensitivity rather than trying to become less sensitive.

13. Adapting to Stress

Adapting to Stress:Kelly explains that strong reactions to stressful situations are not a sign of weakness, but rather an indication of sensitivity and capacity to change. She also highlights the importance of having a growth mindset and being open to adapting in any direction that is useful for us.
Stress and Fulfillment:Kelly shares complex data from a World Gallup poll that shows people with higher stress scores also report more joy, love, and fulfillment in their lives. She also discusses how becoming a parent increases sensitivity to stress and bravery simultaneously.

14. Embracing Stress

Embracing Stress:Kelly and Jordan discuss the paradox of stress, how sensitivity can give you courage, and the importance of embracing stress to reap its benefits instead of avoiding it and ending up with bad coping mechanisms.
Stress Generation:Kelly explains the stress generation hypothesis, which states that if you have the goal to avoid stress, you will make choices that prevent you from engaging with opportunities that strengthen your relationships or help you reach your goals. She also discusses how suppressing emotions can actually amplify the physical stress response.
Embracing Anxiety:Kelly explains that accepting anxiety can actually allow you to engage in more skillful ways, and this mindset is especially helpful for those with anxiety disorders. She emphasizes that the benefits of this approach are amplified for people who are really suffering, even in difficult situations like depression, grief, trauma, homelessness, or addiction.

15. Sponsors

Jordan talks about Current, a mobile bank with a Visa debit card that allows you to get paid up to two days faster and provides $100 in overdraft protection.

16. Financial Time Travel

Peter and Jordan discuss the benefits of using the Current app for personal finance, including getting paid two days faster and access to 55,000 free ATMs. They also joke about the convenience of having an ATM in your garage.

17. Sponsors

Jordan and Peter discuss the importance of having a personal website for networking events and offer a discount for HostGator. They also promote Wondery's new podcast, Guru, which explores the downfall of a self-help guru who ended up killing people in a sweat lodge.

18. Rise to the Challenge

Rise to the Challenge:Kelly shares insights on how to increase our resources to handle challenges. One way is to think back to a time when we overcame adversity. Another is to remember people who care about and support us. These resources can help us have a challenge response and rise to the occasion.
Overcoming Stress:Kelly shares different ways to cope with stress such as listening to music or engaging in physical activity. She also emphasizes the importance of reciprocity and allowing others to support us during times of stress. Jordan and Kelly discuss the idea of the tend and befriend stress response and how it relates to strengthening relationships.
The Power of Community:Kelly shares a powerful metaphor of the Tough Mudder obstacle race to explain the importance of community and support in dealing with stress. By asking for help when needed and offering help when possible, we can create a stress mindset that protects us from negative outcomes and strengthens our social networks.

19. Social Stress Test

Surviving Social Stress:Kelly explains the social stress test, a study designed to stress people out by hitting them where they're most vulnerable. The most stressful thing about this test is not the speech, but the lack of reciprocity that anything you do to try to connect with the evaluators, you are going to get the absolute absence of reinforcement and warmth.
Zoom Social Stress:Kelly and Jordan discuss how Zoom is breaking our natural response systems and causing social stress. People are finding it harder to mimic and emote appropriately, leading to a sense of unease and disconnection. Additionally, the lack of social pressure on Zoom allows people to multitask and not fully engage in the conversation.

20. Trauma and Growth

Growth through Trauma:Kelly McGonigal discusses the concept of posttraumatic growth and how we can grow as a result of making it through hard times. She also talks about the importance of helping others and witnessing others' acts of kindness during traumatic experiences, as it increases the chances of experiencing posttraumatic growth.
Vicarious Growth:Kelly and Jordan discuss how witnessing growth and good in others reinforces the mindset that other people are good and increases our own capacity for growth. It changes the assumption we have about human nature and helps us see the good in others.

21. Surviving with Singing

Surviving with Singing:Kelly shares a story of a couple who survived nine days in the wilderness without food and water by singing. This inspiring story shows the power of hope and how music can be a source of support in difficult times.
Coping with Stress:Kelly McGonigal shares how making meaning out of stress can reframe it from something that happens to you and downgrades you to something that is part of your natural coping mechanism so that you can crush barriers. She also talks about how music can empower us and shares insights on how to find your power song.

22. Overcoming Stress

Jordan shares practical tips on how to reframe stress responses and build strength. He emphasizes the importance of reminding those around us that they can handle tough situations. Jordan also discusses the dangers of compassion collapse and defeat response, and how helping others can activate our stress management response to process stress in a healthy way.

23. Outro

The Joy of Movement:Kelly McGonigal discusses how movement can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. She shares insights from her book, The Joy of Movement, and encourages listeners to incorporate movement into their daily lives. Jordan Harbinger also mentions his free Six-Minute Networking course for building relationships.
The Harmonic Wealth Weekend:Ginny attends a two-day seminar with her daughter Kirby, led by James Ray, a self-help guru. Later that year, Kirby attends a five-day retreat with James Ray called Spiritual Warrior and tragically loses her life.