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Breaking the Stress Cycle

7 Steps to Greater Resilience, Happiness, and Peace of Mind, No Matter What Arises

“A wonderful, accessible how-to manual for regular people wanting to feel better” (Kathleen DesMaisons, PhD, author of Potatoes Not Prozac), The Myth of Stress is the revolutionary guide to effectively and naturally reduce stress in all areas of life.

Where does stress come from? Financial worries? Looming deadlines? Conflicts at work or at home? For more than half a century, we’ve been told that stress is caused by these pressures, and that the best we can do is to breathe, try to relax, and accept that life is hard. But, according to Andrew Bernstein, all of this is wrong.

Spurred by the death of several family members, Bernstein began a quest to understand the real dynamics of stress and resilience, and discovered that stress doesn’t come from your circumstances—it comes from your thoughts about your circumstances. The antidote to stress is not exercise or physical relaxation, but uncovering these stress-producing thoughts and dismantling them. Bernstein created a simple process that helps you—and the people you care about—defuse stress on your own in just seven steps and a matter of minutes, often yielding life-changing breakthroughs.

With compassion, intelligence, and humor, Breaking the Stress Cycle offers a complete reeducation in the nature of stress, permanently changing the way you relate to challenges—at school, at work, and at home—in order to live a happier and healthier life.

INTRODUCTION TO PART TWO

In part 2, we’re going to work together on twelve commonly stressful issues, including money, success, interpersonal conflict, weight loss, and more. As we go forward, it’s helpful if you think of ActivInsight as a kind of exercise program. Instead of losing physical weight, though, you’ll be losing mental weight. And instead of building physical flexibility, you’re going to build your mental flexibility and resilience.

In a physical exercise program, you don’t do every exercise at once. The same applies here. The best way to get value from part 2 is to do one chapter at a time, pausing to integrate and reflect on each exercise. Try to do at least three chapters a week (though if you feel able to move faster, go ahead). We’ll start with fairly easy topics and build to harder ones as we go along. It’s important that you not skip ahead. The topics are arranged in order so that by the time we get to the harder topics, you’re ready for them.

Some people have breakthroughs from the very first worksheet, but for others the initial attempts can sometimes lead to a disappointing sense that what we’re doing is just playing with words in our heads and justifying people’s behaviors. This is not the case. Continuing with the sports analogy, think of the first time you tried to ride a bike and fell, or the first time you swung at a golf ball and missed completely. ActivInsight is a skill, and like any skill, some people take to it right away, but most need a little more time to feel that they’re truly getting it. If you keep practicing and sincerely work through each topic in the pages ahead, the steps of ActivInsight will make more and more sense, you’ll get better at them, and you’ll soon notice profound changes taking place in your thought process and, even more important, in your life.

We’re going to prove that all the saber-toothed tigers or stressors in your life were never really out there. They were in here, in your head. But they don’t look like tigers. Here is what they really look like for the typical stressed-out person:

Stress is a by-product of contracted thoughts. You can’t see these thoughts, but you can certainly feel them in your mind and in your body. They may seem to disappear when you exercise, have a drink, get a massage, or think positively, but they remain in place deeper in the mind. Like weeds cut just at the surface, their roots remain intact, so they soon reemerge. With ActivInsight, we go for the roots.

In the chapters that follow, we’re going to explore all the topics in that head above, using the same seven steps for each topic. If this seems repetitive, that’s because it is. Every time you experience stress, your mind is doing the same thing—it’s contracting away from reality in the same way. Consequently, every time you do ActivInsight, you reconnect your mind to reality in the same way. ActivInsight is repetitive by design. Give yourself time between worksheets so that you can refresh your energy and remind yourself of your goal—less stress, greater insight, and a happier life.

For our first topic, we’ll tackle something that isn’t too threatening but is still stressful for millions of people around the world. Print out a worksheet, get a pen, and buckle your seat belt. We’re heading into traffic.

© 2010 Andrew J. Bernstein
Photograph © Laura Rose

Andrew Bernstein is the founder of ActivInsight, a process that is rapidly changing the way individuals and organizations around the world understand stress and resilience. His clients include MTV Networks, Google, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and more. Bernstein teaches in the Executive Education division at the Wharton School. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University, and lives in New York City. More information is available at AndyBernstein.com.

"Bernstein's volume is an outstanding guide to understanding the nature of stress and how to handle it. The book provides numerous insights and techniques for anyone experiencing stress—and who doesn't?"
—Aaron T. Beck, M.D., founder of Cognitive Therapy

"The Myth of Stress is a compelling, compassionate book about our suffering when we fight reality and the transformation that is possible when we don't. I loved it."
—Geneen Roth, author of When Food Is Love and Women, Food, and God

"Andrew Bernstein has brought some much needed common sense to the subject of stress and that alone makes this book a winner." —Caroline Myss, author of Defy Gravity and Invisible Acts of Power

"We often think we have to avoid or reduce stress. The Myth of Stress teaches you not to “manage stress” but to root out the very causes of stress, the tangled thinking that keeps you stuck in the belief the world has to change for you to be happy. Andrew Bernstein guides us through a way to untangle those thoughts and be free. Read this book and it will change your life and you will find your happiness will depend on only one thing – YOU." —Mark Hyman, MD, New York Times best-selling author of The UltraMind Solution

"Bernstein has created a wonderful, accessible how-to manual for regular people wanting to feel better."
—Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D., author of Potatoes Not Prozac

"An easy-to-learn method for addressing issues underlying stress." —Library Journal

"Look out Anthony Robbins, move over Deepak Chopra, there’s a quiet storm moving up through this state and beyond. His name is Andrew Bernstein...He’s an intelligent, calm, and soft-spoken person who uses reason and logic to quiet the mind." —Vision Magazine