“The Myth of Stress” Summary


“The Myth of Stress” Summary

It’s been a few years since I read the book “The Myth of Stress” by Andrew Bernstein, but I will try and provide a summary as I do believe there is some benefit to the author’s arguments. Bernstein did a lecture for google many years ago where he describes the main ideas he discusses in the book that you can find here.

Bernstein suggests is that stress is generally the product of the discrepancy between the way we think things should be and the way things actually are (reality).

For example we tell ourselves we should have more money, but in reality we don’t. Bernstein argues our language plays a big roll in this problem. He suggests the word ‘should’ doesn’t exist in many languages and for us to deal with stress we can use that knowledge. Bernstein uses a process he calls “activinsight” in which he suggests to find what you believe is causing the stress. He provides a worksheet that will help you follow the process.

I will use the money example I gave above to outline the concept.

“I should have more money”

How do I feel about that? It stresses me out. It makes me nervous especially since as you all know the gym has been forced to close due to COVID-19. How do I act when I’m feeling that way? I shut down, I get a short temper, I get angry when I should be more patient with people I love.

Now here is where the author’s concept comes into play. You negate the statement that is making you stressed.

So “I should have more money” becomes “In reality I shouldn’t have more money” because I don’t actually have more money. That is the truth.

Finally, why is that the truth? What is the evidence for things actually being the way they are? Well for me it’s because I decided to open a business. I decided having more money wasn’t a significant motivator for me. I wanted to pursue my passion which was helping people live healthier and happier lives by teaching them the importance of physical activity even though I knew it would be a financial challenge.

Bernstein believes focusing on the evidence for why things ‘are’ instead of focusing on the way things should be helps us deal with our stress.

I would take this a step further and ask if “I want things to be different than they are is there anything I can do to make that happen?” If there is nothing I can do about it, then why be stressed over it? If there is something I can do about the problem, am I doing it?

You can apply this ‘activinsight’ concept to any problem. Hopefully it helps!