Shifting Positive on a Stressful Day.


Psychology Class 101

In psychology class this week, I taught one of my favourite subjects – Stress, Coping, and Health Psychology Chapter 11 in my psychology textbook.

I purposely teach this topic during the height of midterms. Raising awareness about the healthy (and not so healthy) ways students manage stress is critical for building resilience.

Shifting Negative -> Positive

One of my top 10 techniques for shifting students (and myself) from stress to peace is to share what’s going right even (especially) when things are going wrong. Small uplifts in the course of the day change everything. Fleeting. Unexpected. Goodness.

As a college professor (and former school psychologist), I would never deny the stress students (or you) are under. Witnessing stress is an essential part of moving through it. This is a key part of my stress lecture. However, I choose not to remain in the territory of “what’s wrong” for too long.

What We Focus on Expands

Once we observe what’s wrong. (This list can be mighty long.) We must move on to what’s right. We must shift our focus and raise our awareness to the uplifting moments that take place in the course of any given day.


We make the shift from powerless to empowered in the second half of class by sharing all the (unexpected) goodness (big and small) happening in students’ lives. For example:

A radiant smile from a fellow commuter. Free coffee at McDonald’s. An unexpected A on a paper. A sweet parking spot. A neighbour helping you shovel your driveway. Surprise compliment from a stranger. A really good night’s sleep.

And I’m the fortunate professor who gets to read all these uplifts at the end of a long, wintery day. One more reason why I love working with students.

How do you shift positive in the midst of a stressful day?

14 thoughts on “Shifting Positive on a Stressful Day.

  1. Though now retired, when working I had a stressful job in a technology company responsible for solving customer problems with our products. An effective way I dealt with a stressful day was this: On the drive home after work I reflected on what went right that day and what I learned that day (from what didn’t go right). By the time I got home (30 minutes or less) I was free of stress and ready to enjoy my family.

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  2. My pleasure! We all need reminders of what’s going right in our lives. Especially when things are stressful. Big uplifts or small uplifts. Every little bit matters. The key is to take notice. And soak it all in.. (Just like you taking the time to read my post & comment lifted my spirits. Thank you for the positive shift!)✨

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  3. I love your enthusiasm for life. The positive approach you take will definitely reach many. One of the things that I tell myself when stress tries to come is: “Don’t pull tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine.” That really helps to center me and put me in the frame of mind that I need. Continue to do the great work that you’re doing. It seems that this is what you enjoy and what you were sent on this planet to do. Kudos!!!

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  4. Thanks Dr. D! I just breathe in and out now. Yoga has helped me to realize when I’m feeling stressed because I begin to shallow breathe. I’ve learned shallow breathing is no bueno lol Thanks for a great and helpful read.

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    1. It’s funny how just reading your words “breath in & out now” compels us to take a long, deep breath. Similar to when someone sneezes.. we all sneeze! Deeper relaxation is a chain reaction we could all use more of. Thanks for the positive shift! Dr. D💫

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  5. Doc, I count my blessings naming them one by one…and the stress pales in comparison. Yesterday for eg, I carelessly lost a 10.000 frs note (say 20 or so $) and I began to fume. Then I started counting my blessings and only that morning I had received a 105$ pair of shoes as a gift. I then quickly told the universe I was sorry for releasing negative energy and being ungrateful. Thanks for your post

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      1. Aha Doc, Gratitude as a bridge, hmm I’ll cross that anytime. Literally grew up with a phobia for bridges and heights but gradually exposed myself to those and didn’t fall off. Now I’ll always remember each bridge I cross (be it on foot or driving), is a gratitude bridge. Wow, this is why I so love reading and writing to my core.

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