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The Myth of Stress

Where Stress Really Comes From and How to Live a Happier and Healthier Life

“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.

With seismic shifts in the global economy and a world health crisis affecting how we work, travel, and live, stress has become a common aspect of everyday life. Yet, nearly every available stress-reduction plan is based on a misconception—that stress is triggered by our circumstances.

Research has shown that outside stressors do not actually trigger the physical and emotional reactions related to stress. In other words, stress comes from your thoughts about your circumstances. More specifically, stress is created by a particular kind of thinking that humans happen to excel at. Using a program developed by Andrew Bernstein called ActivInsight you will discover how to change these patterns of thinking. Effectively used by major corporations, The Myth of Stress reveals a simple seven step guide that can help you through some of the most challenging experiences of modern life in a matter of minutes.

“A compelling, compassionate book” (Geneen Roth, author of Women Food and God), The Myth of Stress will permanently alter 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.