The Biology of Stress.

The Amygdala Hijack

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⊕ From Stress to Success ⊕

In this video clip of my keynote speech at the “You Can Do College Event” I share the biological origins of stress and anxiety with 300 high school students from Ontario, Canada.

In this segment, I also demonstrate simple strategies for dealing with high stress situations. Including deep breathing exercises, mindful awareness, and personal responsibility.

To learn more about the role of positive psychology in stress management & resilience, check out my TEDx Talk “Thriving Under Pressure” on the TED TALKS site.

Your emotions have a message for you.

Create a safe space for emotions to flow through you.

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Emotions are neither good or bad.

Only labeling makes it so.

Don’t run from challenging emotions.

Instead, lean in and ask:

“What are you trying to tell me?”

Related Post: Encouraging someone through life’s challenges.

Set a time limit on negativity.

Time is in such short supply. The sooner we appreciate its value, the better life becomes.

When I was a kid my mom set the egg timer for almost everything we did; whether it was how long we spent doing our homework, weeding the garden, watching television, or complaining about life’s challenges.

It helped us to understand that nothing lasts forever – good or bad.

This was especially important when we felt helpless over things we did not have control over, including chores we  did not want to do.

Setting time limits also taught us to respect how our words and actions impact ourselves and others.

Full disclosure: My mom is a psychologist too.

Your time. Your life.

To this day I set a timer on the stove.

A simple, yet effective way to motivate myself through tedious tasks and become more mindful of time itself.

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The timer principle can also be applied to how often we are negative vs. positive throughout the course of a day.

Negativity is the easy (automatic) route. So we need to be conscious of where our mind flows.

Venting feels good in the moment, but when it goes on too long, the costs outweigh the benefits.

Joy needs room to breathe.

Too often we complain about stressors for hours beyond the momentary challenge has passed. Leaving little time in the day for appreciation, wonder, and gratitude.

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Then one day we wake up and realize that life is too short to be all negative, all the time. Even (especially) when life gets tough.

Balance is key.

Negativity is to be expected. It’s part of the human experience.

The question is – how long will you stay there.

Share your challenges. Share your obstacles. Share your difficulties.

But also leave room for what’s good in your life.

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Joy needs room to breathe.

And so do you. ♥

▪️Reblogged from October 2016▪️

The Paradox of Strength.

Some lessons happen over a lifetime. Others happen in an instant.

Either way, the paradox of strength is that it develops though pain.

Each misfortune cultivates a renewed appreciation.

Each obstacle fosters a new level of perseverance.

Each sadness teaches a greater depth of compassion.

Each challenge harvests a new field of possibilities.

We must fall down to rise up.

Again and again and again.

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Related Post: I've never met a strong person with an easy past.

Give pain room to breathe.

How do you respond when a close friend shares a problem with you?

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Are you a fixer or a listener?

If you’re anything like me, my first instinct is to fix the problem.

To try and save loved ones from adversity.

To rescue them.

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To make them instantly feel better.

I suggest we do the opposite.

Instead of rushing in, we take a step back.

Ask them what they need.

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Give their pain room to breathe.

In doing so, we validate the person and their experience.

Helping them stay true to who they are.

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It’s ok to not be ok.

What comes – also goes.

Welcome it all.

Video of this post ⤴️

Come join my YouTube Channel too! 🎥🍿

Reading People: Lesson #1 Self Awareness

“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long, long way.”

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Intrapersonal Intelligence ⇔ Interpersonal Intelligence

The first lesson in reading people, using the principles of emotional intelligence, is to understand yourself more deeply.

What motivates you. What excites you. What angers you. What lifts you up!

As self-awareness is essential for both personal and relationship success.

If you can’t comprehend your own emotions and motivations, how will you ever understand the behaviour of others?

Understanding Yourself  ⇔ Understanding Others

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Self-awareness as a daily practice.

Notice how your emotions ebb and flow throughout the day.

One way of doing this is to schedule time at the end or beginning of your day for quiet contemplation and self-reflection.

Find your favourite place to relax and unwind. Perhaps in the garden or in a cozy chair by the window. Or on a walk by the trees. 

Alternatively, enjoy a 2 minute “Self Check In” at the top of each hour.

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Pause. Reflect. Breathe Deeply.

Journal. Meditate. Create. 

What you will find is the more consistently you pay attention to your own drives and desires, the better you will understand the emotions and motivations of others.

Simple self-awareness exercise.

In the video below, I share the simple exercise I use to enhance self-awareness in myself and others. Can you guess the EQ questions I ask students?

Your Turn:

How would you describe yourself in one word?

To hear my “one word” — check out the 1 min video above.  📌🎥


Coming Soon!

Reading People: Lesson #2 

Social Awareness

First impressions.

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I met a delightful group of people at a dinner party this past Saturday night. Which of course (like all social occasions) got my psychologist mind percolating.

Particularly when one of the guests leaned in halfway through dinner and stated “Andrea, you seem like the kind of person who never worries”. At which point my husband (laughed) chimed in and said “Oh she worries. Plenty”.

The surface of the iceberg is a glimpse of what lies below.

This conversation brings up three important points. One, how truly multifaceted we are. Two, how those closest to us know us best. And finally, how we (write) teach what we ultimately need to learn.

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I am a worrier. I’m also brave. I dream. I overwork. I ruminate. I relax. I overachieve. I doubt. I believe.

I am not one thing. And neither are you. We are all multifaceted. Equally.

Related Post: Who are you?

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I believe in you.

As a psychology professor and former school psychologist, I talk about mental health issues with students every single day.

My classroom is a safe place for students to be themselves.

Which is critical when working with youth (18-24) who represent the highest proportion of individuals with mental illness.

Education helps bridge the gap between fear and freedom.

And so does an open heart. And an open mind.

I believe in my students. In their potential. In their dreams.

I believe in their ability to overcome challenge, adversity, and self-stigma.

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Students need my support and encouragement.

And an educational community that truly cares.

Because self-stigma is real. 

And often more silencing than social stigma.

Because sharing our story is one of the scariest and most liberating things we’ll ever do.

Be it about mental illness or another vulnerable part of our lives.

Which is why the best place to open up the conversation about mental illness is to meet students where they are.

These are their words.

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 Ontario student mental health helpline ⇒ Visit Good2Talk.ca

Mindset changes everything.

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The Resilience Mindset

What we believe matters. As it’s our mindset that shapes our physiological and emotional response to stressful circumstances. Ultimately, determining our ability to bounce back after adversity.

For example, when a relationship ends, if we view it as a personal failure, from a place of blame and shame, we are less likely to try again. Afraid to risk the pain, reluctant to venture beyond our comfort zone.

“Obstacles do not block the path. They are the path.”

On the other hand, if we perceive the same breakup as an opportunity to learn. To begin again. To start over. Fresh. Renewed. We are more open to meeting someone new.

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Today I am grateful for all of my relationship failures. For if it weren’t for the loss, the heartache, and the lessons, I never would met the wonderful man that I am married to today.

Trust the Process.

It was not easy at the time. Challenge rarely is. But if we just keep our eyes to the sky, and trust that no matter what we are going through, it will all be worth it in the end.

I hope you find comfort in your discomfort. And beauty in the stars.

Related Post: Lay down your burdens.

See the light in others and treat them as if that’s all you see.

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Your strengths light my way. ✨

The field of positive psychology has been a blessing for me, both personally and professionally.

By focusing on strengths first, I buffer myself against the  vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue often associated with the practice of psychology. And in turn, my positive approach heightens the resilience and stress hardiness in others. (Boomerang effect!)

Everywhere I go, I’m on the lookout for genius. And I don’t mean genius in the general sense. I mean strengths, assets, gifts, capabilities, multiple intelligences that are unique to each person. (Einstein’s quote below captures it perfectly.)

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For not only is strengths finding essential for illuminating the abundance in others, it is essential for harnessing the bounty in ourselves.

As each time we witness the light shining brightly in another, we see their radiance reflected back in ourselves.

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Reflection Questions

Identify 2-5 strengths that you witnessed in others today. Describe how seeing the strengths in others brought out the strengths in you.

  1. Today I discovered my brother’s ___________.  This illuminated my:
  2. Today I noticed my colleague’s  ____________.  This bolstered my:
  3. Today I uncovered my neighbour’s  __________.  This reinforced my:

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Related Post: Positive Psychology on Campus.

If you need help with finding the good in others especially the challenging people in your life click on this this link to a great article in Psychology Today.