Written by Angela Hill.
Kelly McGonigal nearly succumbed to the stress of grad school, had she not begun to dance with it instead.
The tango, actually.
It was 2000, and she’d just finished her first grueling year at Stanford. She’d aced her courses but felt overwhelmed and socially isolated. She was alarmed at the rate her fellow first-years were dropping out and was freaking out about the rough road ahead. In short, she was majorly stressed out.
Then something happened on her way to her Ph.D. She took a mindfulness course that presented different relationships one can have with stress. Things like fighting it, pushing it away, letting it roll over you — or even figuratively dancing with it.
“(The instructor) was demonstrating these ideas in the class,” McGonigal says in a recent phone interview while in New York promoting her latest book, “The Upside of Stress,” the fourth in her field of health psychology. “So he grabbed me in a sort of tango hold and started dancing with me. (The symbolism) was that you can work with stress, use it to your advantage. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”
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