Managing Self Monday Morning Practice Positive Psychology Time Wellness

Monday Morning Practice – What kind of stress do you have?

Written by Allison Wolf

Reposted from January 19, 2016

One of the most important books for EVERYONE in the legal profession to read this year is Kelly McGonigal’s The Upside of Stress: Why stress is good for you and how to get good at it).

Just imagine for a second that everything about stress that we thought we knew, was in fact wrong?

What if that big bad culprit – stress – that we all believed was one of the major factors behind all kinds of health problems, anxiety, and relationship issues – did not need to be bad for us at all, and in fact could be good for us?  That it could help to make us happier, healthier, and more successful?

Yes, hello 2016, here is some good news for all of us. Stress doesn’t have to be the enemy anymore.

McGonigal, a professor at Stanford University, and a health psychologist with a background in medicine and psychology, says that for most of her career she believed that stress was bad too, until she dug into the research.

McGonigal’s Ted Talk and the research detailed in her book provides definitive proof that stress can be good for us. McGonigal clearly demonstrates that our beliefs about stress have a direct impact on how we experience stress in our bodies. And that you can quite simply change how you think about stress in order to reap the positive benefits it can bring.

McGonical discovered that there are multiple ways for stress to be experienced in the human body. The one we are all familiar with is fight/flight stress that comes up when we are facing danger and are experiencing fear. This kind of stress creates concentrated attention and potentially enhanced strength and endurance. We also have available to us a challenge stress response that “increases self-confidence, motivates action, and helps you learn from experience.” With a challenge response you feel focused not fearful.  There is also the  tend and befriend response that comes about from wanting to protect a person or person.  This response “increases courage, motivates caregiving, and strengthens your social relationships.” (Upside of Stress, p.49)

After reading her book in one speed-reading night I had the best sleep I had experienced in weeks. Re-framing my stress from something bad that might make me sick (fight/flight stress) , to being my body’s contribution towards helping me meet the challenges I am facing professionally head on (challenge stress), had a big impact on my week.  I am currently working on numerous large projects simultaneously while preparing for the launch of my new on-line course next week (Grit and Growth Accelerator) and I feel energized and excited.

Don’t take my word for it, do read her book, and try the following:

When you notice you are feeling stressed, pause for a moment and consider:

  • How am I experiencing this in my body?
  • What is that something that I care about that is triggering this stress response?
  • Then ask yourself what part of the stress response is going to be most helpful? Do you need to fight or retreat (danger)?  Or is that you want optimal focus and energy for taking on a challenge  (deadlines, projects, court appearance)? Is it about being mentally alert and energized for some engaging or communicating (presentations, meetings, difficult conversations)?  Or is about needing the courage to speak out on behalf of someone else who is being wronged?

This practice, and the many others McGonigal shares in her book will give you access to your body’s full repertoire of healthy stress responses.

Do give the book a read and implement this practice  then email me to let me know how your experience of stress transforms.

Here’s to being stressed out – in a great new way!


About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.

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