The Amygdala Hijack
⊕ From Stress to Success ⊕
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What motivates you. What excites you. What angers you. What lifts you up!
If you can’t comprehend your own emotions and motivations, how will you ever understand the behaviour of others?
One way of doing this is to schedule time at the end or beginning of your day for quiet contemplation and self-reflection.
Alternatively, enjoy a 2 minute “Self Check In” at the top of each hour.
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.
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?
To hear my “one word” — check out the 1 min video above. 📌🎥
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”.
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.
I am not one thing. And neither are you. We are all multifaceted. Equally.
Related Post: Who are 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.
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.
Ontario student mental health helpline ⇒ Visit Good2Talk.ca
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Identify 2-5 strengths that you witnessed in others today. Describe how seeing the strengths in others brought out the strengths in you.
Related Post: Taming Your Monkey Mind.
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.
Related Post: I've never met a strong person with an easy past.
This question came to mind last week when I took over a college class halfway through the semester.
I know how tough it is for students to have 2 professors over the course of a 12 week semester. 2 sets of rules. 2 sets of expectations.
So it’s more important than ever that I play my “first impression” card right.
Students are more likely to “test the limits with the “new teacher”. Accordingly, I use a more strict than usual demeanour at the start of summer semester.
It usually works well. As my tough love approach becomes more on the love side, and less on the tough side as the weeks roll by.
However, this time I knew my first class authoritarian approach was not going to work.
Suddenly I had my hands full right off the bat. One of my students was not impressed in any way.
After laying down the law, the student looked up at me and said: “I’m not going to like you very much.”
And I said: “Good, because I’m not here to be liked, I’m here to teach you something.”
The student loudly responded: “Good, because I just learned something!”
To this day I am grateful for how much this student underscored my purpose in the classroom.
I am not here to be liked. I am here to teach psychology.
A life lesson in self-worth that applies to us all.
“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”