In CrossFit, Videos

December 16, 2010

Video Article

In this two-part series, Andrew Bernstein, author of The Myth of Stress, presents to CrossFit athletes and coaches his process of dealing with stress.

In Part 1, Bernstein begins with a discussion of the evolution of leadership. According to Bernstein, “Leadership is changing from a model of top-down, do what I tell you to do, to a more lateral, or less hierarchical model where everyone is expected to contribute, to think creatively and to step up.”

The key to becoming that type of leader lies in reducing stress.

Bernstein gives the dictionary definition of stress as “a response to adverse external influences.” The general approaches to dealing with stress are based on that definition; however, to Bernstein the focus should be shifted from the external influence to the perception of that influence, which is actually responsible for that stress.

“Stress doesn’t come from things. Stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life, and that’s a huge change,” Bernstein says.

In Part 2, Bernstein discusses his background and how his experiences have shaped his career. He walks the group through a “workout” using his method.

“This is going to push your heads, not your bodies,” he says. According to Bernstein, the insights you discover can create different behaviors and a different outlook.

“The heart of this is taking something you think, challenging it, realizing that it may not be true, and out of that insight a change takes place,” Bernstein says.

For a worksheet for anyone working through The Myth of Stress, click here.

Part 1
11min 16sec

Part 2
14min 12sec

Additional reading: The Positive Impact of Physical Fitness on Emotional Fitness by Dr. Brooke R. Envick and Rick Martinez, published May 25, 2010.

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Part 1:
Part 2:


18 Comments on “Andrew Bernstein on Stress: Parts 1-2”


wrote …

Summary of part 1: To lower stress, ignore it. "Ignorance is bliss."

Thanks for the insight.


wrote …

Ok I can see this making sense in the scenario that was presented or even when it comes to fitness. But I let's use the money (income) thing for example. When you get to the negation step and list why you shouldn't have more, you can list things like not actively looking, not networking, not getting additional training etc. because those would be things that could possibly contribute to increasing your income. When you get to the last step, why would one feel less strongly about not having as much money? I can't see how the feeling would diminish after experiencing an insight. I for one still feel pretty strongly that I should have more especially since I live in So Cal and can't afford to buy a home. But the things you have to do to get one and keep it are very stressful themselves because you most likely end up being a workaholic. Where's the enjoyment in that? Maybe the lines that support the negation are ones like 'I like my life', 'material things and a house really don't matter', or 'even though I scrape by, I can still pay the bills as long as nothing major happens'.

Is there going to be a follow-up to this so we know what we are supposed to do with the results?


wrote …

You forgot something,

Nicole is a tiger!


wrote …

Do you think your pet dog has any concerns about home ownership, how much you make, or what your work hours are? My point is this; you may have missed his point. This stress is how you choose to react to a given situation. If you were in the road and next to you was a blind man, Who would be concerned about a truck silently racing toward you. You would, of course. You vision (perspective) would alarm you. Change your perspective about the stressful situations or the circumstances and thus change the stress.


wrote …

Very good lecture and an interesting way to break down stressors. Much more simple though is exactly what Keven Pauling wrote, a given situation is not necessarily stessful, its is how you react to the situation that causes the emotional response. The reaction comes first and creates an emotion, so the way you percieve something determines your reaction which creates the emotion. You don't HAVE to get angry when you miss your exit or spill your drink. The important part is that your perception and reaction are usually learned behaviours or beliefs programmed from a very young age by your peers who were only passing to you what they knew or believed, but you CAN chage them. If you're in to this stuff you have to READ all three of Don Miguel Ruiz books, the four agreements, the voice of knowledge, the mastery of love.
The jounal rock, I will be practicing planches and playing with my parralettes today.


wrote …

James, good question. I thought CF might post the whole workshop so you aren't left hanging. There are chapters in The Myth of Stress that explain how to work on a statement like "I should have more money." But keep in mind that in the negation we're not saying, "I should not have more money." We're saying, "In reality, I should not have more money AT THIS TIME." The proof can vary. Some possibilities might be "I spend more than I make, I don't save, I wasn't born with a trust fund, I don't work in a high-paying job, I live in an expensive country/city, I tell myself that making more money would mean becoming a workaholic instead of thinking about it less black and white and more creatively, and I don't feel great urgency to make more money because I am getting by." That's part of why, in reality, I should not have more money just at this time. It's why I haven't done things differently so far. It's what keeps me in the groove.

The paradox of having an insight is that the person who thinks he should have more money feels angry and spins his wheels in unproductive behaviors, whereas the person who realizes that, just at this time, he honestly shouldn't have more money has a clear view of where he is and what it takes to change that. The point isn't to become passive. Just the opposite, the point is to free up what had been wasted energy so you can focus more productively on getting what you say you want.

I spent a few hours with the CF trainers applying this to their challenges so they could work through the confusion and skepticism that inevitably comes up, and see how this process gets stronger the more you use it. They also all got a copy of The Myth of Stress to take home and keep "training" with. I think the video is meant as a teaser, and the book is out there for people who want to go further and turn their stress into insights.


wrote …

Thank you Dr. Bernstein, Thank you HQ, great presentation and topic, the take away is always up to the person taking it.


wrote …

James, there will be more of these videos coming out at a later date.


Andrew, is this in some way related to the idea of positive psychology? That is the comparison of glass half full vs. half empty attitude?


replied to comment from Steven Platek Platek


As I understand it, there are two main parts to Positive Psychology. One is the foundation of cognitive therapy that shifts how people think about problems. The second part is an attempt to broaden psychology to study not just mental illness but also mental health, and to create a real science of happiness.

I'd say that ActivInsight shares some common ground with Positive Psychology in that it's a cognitive process and that it aims toward happiness, but I'm interested in reaching people who aren't necessarily attracted to psychotherapy. There are millions of people who won't see a therapist, but who want to think differently about life, break through their challenges, and live with less stress.

Part of what I love about CrossFit is that it takes a fresh look at what real physical fitness is and how we get there. I see ActivInsight as attempting something similar for mental fitness. Most of us may not need a therapist. We just need a tool that works.

Of course, if someone does need a therapist, I'm totally for that, and a good cognitive therapist/Positive Psychologist can be invaluable. But for the many people with a do-it-yourself attitude who just want to experience greater mental fitness, ActivInsight and The Myth of Stress give them a way with no stigma, jargon, or clinical overtones.


wrote …

Good stuff, thanks Andrew. I would challenge your assessment of leadership though. At the end of the day, after everyone has been creative and provided their ideas the leader is the one who gathers the ideas, assesses the situation, and moves the group forward. To make music the orchestra needs to follow the conductor. I'm assuming the rest of your talk revisited the leadership intro so you may have elaborated more on this. Again, thoughtful material - thanks.


wrote …

Hey Jon,

Actually, from what I remember, I started off talking about leadership, but then we got into so many other interesting topics that I never brought it back around. :-)

But I agree with you. The leader is the one who ultimately makes the decision. Where I was going was that the old style of leader who doesn't care about input and just wants to do things his way is no longer in fashion. Leaders today are expected to be able to see multiple sides of an issue, solicit input, challenge their own assumptions as well as those of others, and then make a decision. But the tools to do this are in short supply, and the old model of command-and-control is so much more familiar.


wrote …

Thanks for clarifying Andrew, good stuff.


wrote …

Self help gurus huh whats next psychic friends?


wrote …

What's stressing you out Chris? ...Dont knock something before you try it.


wrote …

Just want to give The Myth of Stress a very postive "thumbs up". The book will make you work, 12 Exercises but the reward is worth it, "insights" not seen before. The only negative is the evoultion theory, which I do not believe. In reality Activinsight is a process of truth and how it is easy to build up and believe lies in your life. Those lies cause stress and the insights help put you in the "zone" to deal with reality. Good stuff.


wrote …

The insight that stress comes from our thoughts and feelings about a situation, and not necessarily from the situation itself, is important and helpful. Dr. Bernstein presents it in a way that makes a lot of sense, too.

I wonder, however, how much the success of this system depends on using the "should vs. should not" model. I wonder, also, how much that model really applies to the things that stress us the most.

In the traffic example, simply accepting that excessive traffic is a logical outcome of various factors does not alleviate the frustration of having to crawl through that traffic. That frustration is real, it is valid, and it won't simply vanish by saying, "Well, of course there's traffic now. It's rush hour in a congested area."

As for the kind of loss that Dr. Bernstein experienced, no amount of worksheets can dim the pain, and no amount of understanding of the causes of a loved one's death will fill the whole that their absence leaves behind. These are not necessarily "They shouldn't have died" feelings or "I shouldn't have to go through this" feelings, but are much more commonly "I wish they didn't have to die" or "I wish I didn't have to go through this" feelings. And they're not mistaken at all.

Sure, dealing with reality is necessary. But merely negating one's feelings or beliefs about that reality is not the only way -- nor, in many cases, is it the best way -- to accomplish that.

When Dr. Bernstein gets inmates to understand that their incarceration is indeed a logical result of their behavior, he solves only a minor problem and leaves the real problem unsolved. The real stressor is not "I shouldn't be here," but "I wish I didn't have to be here." That's a different animal.

Don't people have a right to feel slighted sometimes? Don't people have a right to feel a sense of longing sometimes? Don't people have a right to feel regret sometimes? Of course it's important to learn how to deal with those feelings, and to overcome them -- but Dr. Bernstein's method implies that people have no right to feel them to begin with.

Saying, "Whenever you feel stress, it's because you're wrong" just seems incredibly condescending.


replied to comment from Sam Ser

Hi Sam.

The challenge with putting up isolated clips like this is that it leaves out important context. It's hard to make up for that here via online commenting (which can raise more questions than it answers). So I think of these clips as just a teaser or taste for those who might want to learn more. In The Myth of Stress, I answer most of your questions, explaining why this isn't about accepting, negating, or overcoming, and how insight really works. My hope is that if anyone reading this is curious, maybe they'll turn to the book or when the new members site goes live, and keep exploring.

Andrew Bernstein (P.S. not a Dr.)

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