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Hans Selye - Psychology and StressHans Selye - Psychology and Stress


Hans Selye (1907-82)


Austrian-born Canadian medical professor (pictured right).

The first person to use the term stress and study it.


His most famous book is…

Stress without Distress (1974).


What did he say about stress?

 Hans Selye - Psychology and Stress

1. Stress is unavoidable

You can’t live without stress because, says Selye, it is a “response of the body to any demand made on it”.

Its effects can be positive or negative (see points 2 and 3).


2. Stress means success

To be successful you must push yourself to achieve challenging and worthwhile aims (see point 4).

This is when stress is temporary and positive.

 Hans Selye - Psychology and Stress

3. Stress means strain

If stress is more permanent, you will experience unpleasant effects like:

  • heart attacks. 
  • irritability, anxiety and insomnia. 
  • inability to cope with life.

Selye calls this “distress”, and to avoid it you must:

  • avoid perfectionism.
  • have an enjoyable job.
  • enjoy your leisure (but total inactivity is damaging -see point 4).

 Hans Selye - Psychology and Stress

4. Do something worthwhile

To be happy:

  • satisfy your selfish desires (accepting that people are born for survival).
  • be creative 

  • make the most of your talent and potential.Hans Selye - Psychology and Stress

  • earn your neighbour’s love by giving to others (“altruistic egoism”).

Giving makes you feel good from:

  • gratitude you receive.
  • friends you make.


5. Attack anxiety

Reduce the amount of worry in your life by:Hans Selye - Psychology and Stress


a) simplifying your lifestyle

(by reducing your spending).


b) concentrating on pleasant thoughts and actionsHans Selye - Psychology and Stress


c) confronting and removing painful problems

Decide upon:

  • the problems you can live with.
  • those you will fight.

 Hans Selye - Psychology and Stress

d) thinking positively

Concentrate on what you can do.


Key quotes on stress

Stress is the spice of life.

It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.


Key quote on health

If you want to live a long life, focus on making contributions.


Key quote on objectives

Fight for your highest attainable aim.

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