Health Psychology Class

What remains the same in times of change?

Psychology Exercise from this Week’s Class

Grounding and Anchoring for Anxiety

Make a list of what remains consistent in times of rapid change and use it as a grounding technique at the start and end of each day.

  • The Sun Still Rises
  • Your Coffee Tastes Delicious
  • The Trees Greet You on Your Walk
  • Your Favourite Movie Still Delights
  • Your Bed is Comfie at the End of the Day
  • The Street You Live on Hasn’t Changed

In doing so, you anchor yourself in a sense of knowing and trust in your built-in strengths, comforts, and joy. ⚓️

Your Turn

  • What Are Your Anchors in Times of Change?
  • What Has Remained the Same Since Covid Began?
Video from Psychology Class: 
Click Here

Psychology of Body Image: Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Perception versus Reality

I was motivated to write this post and film an accompanying video after witnessing so many students overwrought by thoughts of inadequacy about how they looked.

In reality, there was no doubt that they were healthy and whole, but in their minds, they believed the opposite.

A phenomenon heightened by imaginary audience and social anxiety, which reaches its peak in adolescence.

Imaginary Audience Video: Click Here 
Body Image Video: Click Here  

Psychology Research

What are the underlying mechanisms?

These articles provide insight into why body dissatisfaction continues to be an issue, despite countless campaigns to turn the tide.

Article 1

The Image in the Mirror and the Number on the Scale

Link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3610322

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Article 2

The Effects of Social Media on Body Image and Mental Health

Link http://lifesciencesjournal.org/2020/02/the-effects-of-social-media-on-body-image-and-mental-health

Article 3

Body Weight and Self-Perception are Associated with Depression

Link Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

Psychology Homework

The First Step Towards Change is Awareness

1. Reality Testing

The 15 questions below challenge cognitive distortions and perceptions using reality itself.

This inquiry is not limited to body image and weight and thus can be applied to areas of life where you find yourself overthinking and ruminating.

Reality Testing Homework

Source: Challenging Cognitive Distortions

  1. What evidence do I have to support this thought or belief?
  2. Am I assuming the worst?
  3. Am I overgeneralizing?
  4. What would I say to a friend in this situation?
  5. How can I test my assumptions/beliefs to find out if they’re accurate?
  6. Do I have a trusted friend whom I can check out these thoughts with?
  7. Is this thought helpful?
  8. Am I making assumptions?
  9. How can I test the accuracy of this thought?
  10. Are there exceptions to these absolutes (always, never)?
  11. Is it really in my control?
  12. Can I look for “shades of gray”?
  13. Am I making this personal when it isn’t?
  14. Am I holding myself to an unreasonable standard?
  15. Are there other ways that I can think about this or myself?
Related: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

2. Community Discussion

In addition to spending time in self reflection and reality testing, it is important to open up the conversation to the community at large.

In doing so we move into collective problem-solving, empowering solutions, and public health education.

Podcast Interview

Be Yourself: Happy. Healthy. Hopeful.

Turning Self-Criticism into Self-Compassion 

In this episode, Stephani and Dr. Dinardo speak about what positive psychology is, turning your perceived flaws into strengths by moving from self-criticism to self-compassion, posttraumatic growth and how adversity can be beneficial to us, boundaries around social media use, the magic of prevention work and maintaining hope”. Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA)

Listen to Interview: Click Here
Watch Video of Post: Click Here

Anxiety Relief Technique

FEAR is an illusion

5 Why’s Technique

The 5 Why’s is a simple and effective technique for understanding the source of our fears and cognitive distortions (irrational beliefs) one why at a time.

Exploring the Unconscious Mind

An analytic (below the surface) strategy originating in the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

What’s Under the Fear?

Freud’s Iceberg Analogy : Click Here

Brief Instructions

  1. Write down on a sheet of paper something you beat yourself up for over and over again. (Related Post: Why Are We So Hard on Ourselves)
  2. State the anxiety provoking situation out loud.
  3. For example:
    • Why is it so overwhelming for me to spend time with ________ ?
    • Why do I repeatedly agree to do ___________ when I know it makes me uncomfortable?
  4. Ask Yourself Why in response to your question Five Times.
  5. Watch the psychology video below for a “live” example of this technique.

5 Why’s Technique on YouTube:

The goal is to discover the root source of what causes fear in a particular time, place, or situation.

With the ultimate intention of enhancing inner peace and understanding.

By differentiating what’s real from what’s not.

To Learn More

Watch my in-depth interview on situational anxiety with Dr. Katherin Garland: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=N7ttX6h_D8o

Failure as Feedback

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

With time, I have come to realize that failure has always been my greatest teacher. Each failure pointed me in a better direction and helped me to develop strength and authenticity, ultimately unveiling who I was and what I was destined to become

F. A. I. L. = First Attempt In Learning

• The failing grade I received on my first exam in graduate school taught me how to ask for support when I needed it most, no matter how shameful I felt or embarrassed I was.

• The end of a long-term relationship taught me how to value my time alone and make tough decisions for myself, no matter how weak I felt or lonesome I was.

• The layoff from a job I loved taught me how to let go, look forward, and trust in something so much bigger than myself, no matter how scared I was or irrelevant I felt.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

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Is it possible to see failure in a positive light?

Under the right conditions, failure strengthens us, adds to our self-knowledge, and enhances the quality of our lives

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not have met my husband John.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not be a psychology professor.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not have written three textbooks.

• If it weren’t for failure, I would not be the person I am today.

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again.”

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Read My Article in The Drive Magazine: https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/failure-as-feedback

 Your Turn:

What has failure taught you?

Watch Video of Post: Click Here

Situational Anxiety Interview

Mental Health Matters Interview

Situational Anxiety

Dr. Katherin Garland

Host of Mental Health Matters

This week, I speak with one of my dearest blogging friends, Dr. D!

We discuss all things anxiety. She explains the difference between anxiety disorder and situational anxiety.

Dr. Dinardo provides 3 strategies to help us cope with situational anxiety, especially because it may be heightened during the pandemic and times of racial unrest.

1. Video Format of Interview

Watch on YouTube.

2. Podcast Format of Interview

Available on SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts.

Reflection Questions

  1. What did you learn about situational versus clinical anxiety from our interview?
  2. Can you relate to the personal example of heightened situational anxiety shared by Dr. Garland? How so?
  3. Have you experienced increased situational anxiety since COVID-19? In what areas of your life?
  4. What techniques help you cope with unexpected stressors and challenges?
  5. Do you see failure as a positive or a negative? Why?
  6. How does fear, trepidation, and worry manifest physically in your body?
  7. What would you tell your younger self about stress and anxiety?
Watch Anxiety Video: Click Here 

IS THIS NORMAL? Temporary Emotions vs Mental Illness

The most common question people ask when they discover I’m a retired psychologist is – “Is This Normal?

This question is a significant motivator for creating this psychology blog in the first place.

Because too often people suffer because of lack of understanding versus a diagnosable medical condition.

differential diagnosis  ·  the process of differentiating between two or more conditions which share similar signs or symptoms.

Case Study

Two people present with similar symptoms (e.g., rapid heart beat, excessive worrying, difficulty concentrating) with vastly different causes.

On closer inspection

One person’s symptoms is caused by lack of sleep, excessive caffeine consumption, and a recent breakup.

While the other person’s symptoms is caused by a mental illness, as diagnosed by a registered psychologist, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

One improves with time and lifestyle changes, while the other requires more intensive psychological intervention.

Education Empowers Everyone

This is why it’s my life mission to share psychology everywhere, all the time.

In the classroom. During podcasts. On YouTubeRadioTelevision. Psychology articles, textbooks and blog posts. On the TEDx stage.  Instagram . In between sets at F45 workouts.. and at the local coffee shop.

Psychology is my favourite subject after all.

Psychology Goals

To make DAILY mental health education accessible, sustainable, and easily APPLICABLE.

To eradicate misconceptions about normal versus abnormal functioning.

To help students develop positive coping techniques in fun, interactive, and uplifting ways.

To reduce stigma about mental illness.

Therapy versus Talking to Friends: What's the difference?

Especially when it comes to transitory states, emotions, and situations.

Sadness versus clinical depression.

Neatness versus obsessive compulsive disorder.

The topic of this week’s psychology video:

Is This Normal? Temporary Emotions versus Mental Illness

For example, distressing emotions often improve with rest, perspective, and time.

While mental illness requires more ongoing medical support and therapy to see improved functioning.

My hope is that mental health education becomes paramount in both the classroom and the doctor’s office.

An ongoing conversation about what’s healthy versus what’s not.

So that people don’t automatically assume they’re mentally ill simply because they’re having a bad day.

More Resources Coming Soon!

Mental Health Matters

Host Dr. Kathy Garland

SITUATIONAL ANXIETY with Dr. Dinardo

Live Interview

Airing July 31, 2020!

Stay Tuned for Dr. Garland’s Video & Podcast!

Your Dreams Have A Message For You

Your Dreams Have A Message For You

Are You Listening ?

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One of the first things I do every morning is analyze my dreams.

What about you?

Do you remember your dreams?

Do you interpret their meaning?

Have you ever dreamt the same dream repeatedly?

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In the video below I share the dream I had last night.

Dream Symbol: Water

A “dream theme” I have at least twice a week.

Dream Discussion Forum

If you’re curious about the psychology of dreams, leave a dream in the comments and I will interpret it for you.

Sweet Dreams! Dr. D 🛌 💭

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Learn More

  1. Online Dream Symbol Dictionary: What Do Your Dreams Mean?
  2. Active Imagination“:  Jungian Recall Strategy
  3. Brain Processes that Allow You to Remember Dreams: Scientific American
  4. Mind Mapping Your Dreams:  Spatial and Visual Dream Exercise
  5. A to Z of Dream Interpretation: What Dreams Reveal About Our Lives, Loves, and Deepest Fears. (The Dream Book Pictured Above)
Dream Video: Click Here

The Space Between No Longer and Not Yet

Honour the Space

The time in between is a difficult time for all of us.

Myself included.

A super organized (type A) person like me becomes a little unhinged in the space in between.

But don’t we all?

In Between

Wondering if we still have what it takes.

Hoping we can still make a difference in the world when the pandemic ends.

Which is why I wrote this post today.

Highlighting the shared challenge we all face between the old and the new.

Change is a lifelong process.

Let yourself feel what you need to feel.

Take a breath. Enjoy some rest.

Give your monkey mind a break.

In Between Quotes

It’s ok to not be ok.

What comes also goes.

Honour the space in between.

Related Post: Divine Timing

Peer Pressure: What happened when I quit drinking?

Getting ready for my online summer courses which requires a lot of new psychology videos.

Including video discussions on health, wellness, and personal empowerment.

Similar to in person college classes, the goal is to stimulate active discussions and open communication.

For example:

Discussion Topic

What happened when I quit drinking?

Watch this short video on my own experience with peer pressure, alcohol, and behaviour change and answer the questions below.

Reflection Questions

  1. How has peer pressure influenced your life decisions?
  2. Have you experienced unexpected push back from friends and relatives when you made a significant health change? If so, how did you handle it?
  3. In what ways have your peers and community sabotaged your health and wellness choices?
  4.  In what ways have your peers and community supported your health and wellness choices?
  5. What strategies help you stay committed to positive lifestyle decisions?

empowering changeEmpowering

Conversations ⇔ Change 

I also encourage use of this video and reflection questions as an opportunity to talk openly with friends and family about the powerful impact of social influence on substance use. Open conversations empower youth to think for themselves and in turn, reduces their susceptibility to coercion.

Watch Psychology Video Click Here

The Power of Breathing Space: You are Safe

Every time we take a long deep breath, we are telling our bodies that we are safe.

Each breath connecting
our mind, body, and heart.

Bringing us back to present time.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Breathing Space

Breathing Techniques To Try

Follow Your Breath Become aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Focus on the sensations you feel as air passes through your nose and throat. When you feel your thoughts drift, gently redirect your attention back to your breath.

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Stand Up Straight Posture is especially important for breathing. Being upright enhances the rhythmic movement between the diaphragm and ribs. Hold yourself straight. Shoulders back. Feel the power of your breath.

forest

Think Reassuring Thoughts While Breathing With each breath, think soothing thoughts (“I am inhaling calm”). With each exhalation, imagine that you are expelling your fears and worries (“I am exhaling worry”).

earth

Abdominal Breathing Breathe through your stomach. Start by inflating your belly by inhaling, as if to fill it with air, then swell your chest; as you exhale, first “empty” your stomach, then your chest.

Breathing Quotes - Dr. Andrea Dinardo

Balanced Breathing At the end of each inhalation, pause briefly while slowly counting “1, 2, 3”. Hold the air in. Then slowly exhale counting “1, 2, 3”.

Source: Scientific American

Reflection Questions

What brings you peace during uncertainty?

What gives you strength?

Breathing Video → Click Here

How does a psychologist make a clinical diagnosis?

Psychology in Your Life

The intention for this post is to introduce you to one aspect of the diagnostic process — specifically: differential diagnosis.

And ultimately to help you understand that psychological assessment is a complex, worthwhile process.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo

What’s normal 🆚 clinical?

To answer that question, I would like to invite you into my clinical psychology class. 

Specifically, when I teach the concept of “Differential Diagnosis” using the STATE versus TRAIT anxiety distinction. 

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STATE 🆚 TRAIT ANXIETY

Misdiagnosis

People often believe they have generalized anxiety or panic disorder, when in fact, what they are experiencing is an acute reaction to a short-lived, stressful circumstance.

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Differential Diagnosis

For example, STATE anxiety involves temporary and situational symptoms to stress inducing events (public speaking, midterms, first dates) universal to all of us. 

In contrast, TRAIT anxiety has more lasting, debilitating, and pervasive symptoms (eg., impacts all aspects of an individual’s life) independent of external events.

Psychology on Campus

For additional insights into the diagnostic process, including how I teach this concept in the liberal arts program, check out my latest video:

Reflection Questions

1. How is understanding the state 🆚 trait distinction applicable and/or helpful in your daily life?

2. Have you ever jumped to the conclusion about yourself or someone else regarding a diagnosis, only to discover later that the condition was temporary?

3. What psychology topics and ideas would you like to learn more about?

Dr. D 📕❤️

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Positive psychology on campus

What is Positive Psychology?

“While traditional psychology focused its attention on pathology and problems, in the relatively new field of positive psychology, researchers strive to explore and understand the strengths of individuals and communities that contribute to their flourishing.” Source: Psychology Guide

Strengths first.

I am passionate about what positive psychology can do for students and educators in and out of the classroom. By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, students are motivated to move beyond, and in some cases, be transformed by their current limitations, history, and circumstances.

Link to: VIA Character Strengths Inventory
Optimism Bootcamp with Student Leaders

Balance is key.

Positive psychology is not about being happy and successful all the time. Instead, happiness is aspirational like a delicious meal at a 5 star restaurant. Wonderful but not to be expected, at every meal, all the time. (Otherwise, we set ourselves up for disappointment on the Kraft Dinner days.)

Instead, the field of positive psychology helps bring out the best in us. In a balanced way. The ebb and flow of life. Negativity is to be expected. The question is – how long do you stay there.

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Safe uplifting atmosphere.

As a professor, I believe it is paramount to create a safe and uplifting atmosphere in the classroom. A secure and consistent milieu where students know what to expect class to class, week to week, semester to semester. A place where students are encouraged to build upon their existing strengths, while feeling supported enough to share their current struggles.

Link to: Broaden & Build Theory of Positive Emotion

As I teach mostly nursing students, it is critical that I practice what I teach in and out of the classroom. Nursing students will also be responsible for creating an encouraging and safe space for their clients one day.

The yellow t-shirts are from the Yellow Umbrella Project, an Ontario wide college campaign for battling the stigma of mental illness on campus.

YellowUmbrellaProject.DrAndreaDinardo

 Positive psychology and student empowerment.

My highest goal is to work with young Canadians in a way that empowers and encourages them to become the best version of themselves. Cultivating success in a way that is unique to them. I believe that interactive lectures combined with warmth and real-life stories is the best approach for achieving this goal.

Link to: Positive Psychology Interview

The photo below is from a leadership conference for college students where I discussed the connection between optimism and student success.

Optimism Bootcamp with Student Leaders.2

Celebrating students every chance I get.

Ultimately, I hope to remind students of their gifts. While encouraging them to embrace their challenges. For we are the sum total of all that is powerful and vulnerable – within and around us. And it’s this extraordinary combination of strong and weak, good and bad, light and dark, that makes our world and our classrooms such a fascinating place to live and thrive.

Repost from July 5 2017
DrAndreaDinardo.com

Happiness: What deters it? What contributes to it?

The Happiness Class

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One of my favourite things to do as a professor is to stay after class and talk to students. They look at the world in a very unique way. Motivating me to think about psychology at a whole different level.

  • Especially when it comes to FOMO and happiness:

FOMO is an acronym for fear of missing out, which is a feeling of anxiety that manifests itself in various ways, from a brief pang of envy to more intense feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy. Source: Macmillan Dictionary

Student Insights

In the video below I share the insightful questions my psychology students asked about social comparison and happiness today. Each question underscoring the famous quote:  

Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Happiness, FOMO, and Social Comparison

FOMO and “measuring happiness” against each other’s’s lowlight reel (difficult times) and highlight reel (celebratory times) was also an active discussion on social media

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I would love your insights too!

How would you answer the questions posed by my students:

  1. What are 2 deterrents to happiness?
  2. What are 2 contributors to happiness?
  3. How is your happiness influenced by other people’s highlights and lowlights?
    • Social comparison and happiness was the crux of today’s class discussion and accompanying video.
  4. What simple changes can you make today to enhance your happiness?

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Optimism Bootcamp - Click Here

Peer Pressure and Alcohol: Stand Your Sacred Ground

The Social Side Effects of Change

Motivation to make a change is as much about you, as the people all around you. And unfortunately, not everyone agrees with our decision to grow, change, and evolve. In whatever form it may take.

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Being different isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re brave enough to be yourself“

For when we change, we unknowingly push friends and family outside their comfort zone too. And that’s ok. The important thing to understand is that not everyone is going to support our choice to change. Something I learned personally.

My story

This post was inspired by my own journey of quitting drinking in 2005, motivated by three reasons:

1. Starting a family with my husband.

2. Improving my health.

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3. Being a role model for my students

Unexpected Side Effects

What I did not expect was the pressure to keep drinking that came along with my decision to give up alcohol over a decade ago.

The pressure to remain the same.

The pressure to behave like everyone else.

A resistance to change from others that I did not foresee.

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My students’ stories

— Peer Pressure and Alcohol Use in College

Students over the age of 19 have a choice when it comes to drinking alcohol.

A decision to drink or not drink that is often overshadowed by peer pressure and the widespread culture of risky drinking on and off Canadian campuses.

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Too often students drink to “fit in, reduce stress, numb anxiety” (their words) because they know of no other way.

Excerpt from today’s class:

Class Discussion and Solutions

Which is why it’s more important than ever to open up the conversation of what it’s like to be a young person amongst the culture of alcohol use and abuse today.

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A hot topic that stimulates honest and open debate in my classroom each year. Including remedies to the pressures of college that extend far beyond alcohol.

To listen to our discussion click here.

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Your story

1. What motivates you to make a health change?

2. What de-motivates you?

3. Have you experienced pressure from others to continue unhealthy habits? To not change?

4. How do you stay true to your personal choices?

Coping with Peer Pressure 

Rather than debate or argue your case.

Be still and hold your space.

Take a deep breath, and trust your choices.

Trust that being yourself is enough. 

You get one life. Make it yours. 

Stand Your Sacred Ground.

Video of Blog Post — Click Here

Don’t give up. Great things take time.

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Don’t give up.

Great things take time.

Sometimes we have to go through the worst.

To get to the best.

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Fall down 7 times.

Stand up 8.

Today is your day.

Your time to rise up!

Trust and Believe in 2019

This blog post and classroom video above are dedicated to all the students around the world struggling to stay motivated midway through the winter semester. I am cheering you on! Encouraging you to not give up. This post is also meant for you – My Fellow Student of Life. 📕❤️

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.  📌🎥


Learn More

Reading People: Lesson #2 

Social Awareness

Psychology 101: Ask Dr. D.

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Getting to know my students is one of my favourite parts being a professor.

 Accordingly, I ask students a lot of questions.

So it’s only fair that students get to ask me questions too!

Why did you become a psychologist? 🎥

What’s most interesting about being a college professor? 🎥

I would love to hear your questions too! 💥

Shifting Positive on a Stressful Day

“Every day might not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

In psychology class this week, I teach 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.

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Shifting Negative ⇒ Positive

One of my top 10 techniques for shifting students from stress to strength 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.

Based on my experience as a school psychologist, I will never deny the stress students are under. Witnessing adversity is an essential part of moving through itHowever, I choose not to remain in the territory of “what’s wrong” for too long.

What We Focus on Expands

Once we acknowledge what’s wrong. We open our eyes to the grace that takes place throughout the day.

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“Good things are always happening. The key is to notice them.”

Students make the shift from powerless to empowered by sharing ordinary joys happening in their lives.

A radiant smile from a fellow commuter. Free coffee at McDonald’s. An unexpected A on a paper. A sweet parking spot. Spending time with an old friend. A surprise compliment from a stranger. Laughing out loud with fellow classmates. A really good night’s sleep.

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

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How do you shift positive on a stressful day?

Related Post: Put a time limit on negativity.

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

How do you prepare for work each day?

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

I value positivity and a sense of security in the classroom, above all else.

For it is only when students feel safe, supported, and uplifted are they motivated to learn.

Creating a harmonious classroom atmosphere happens long before the school bell rings.

Which is why my preparation for teaching psychology includes both energetic and intellectual preparation.

Ultimately, the more relaxed and happy I am, the more calm and content my students will be.

I am grateful for every student I teach and I want to make sure that they get the best of me.

Energetic Preparation for Teaching = Exercise

Intellectual Preparation for Teaching = Textbooks 

How do you prepare for work each day?

Reigniting Motivation.

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I wrote this on the blackboard for my nursing students today.

This is their final week of classes. Which means one final opportunity for me to encourage their success.

This is my favourite part of teaching psychology. Every time I face a challenge, I imagine how I can translate it into a motivating lesson for my students.

Reminding students why they started nursing school is energizing. Staying inspired during final exams is galvanizing. Not giving up is the ultimate test.

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Thoughts ⇔ Motivation ⇔ Action

Transforming thought patterns is critical for student motivation and success. As what happens behind our eyes is as powerful as what happens in front of our eyes.

Reframe your thoughts. Reignite your motivation.

Instead of thinking of nursing school as an obstacle to overcome. Reframe it as superhero training. Heros save lives. And so do nurses. Every single day.

Will it be easy? No   ↑   Will it be worth it? Yes!

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Related Post: Staying Motivated During a Challenge.

How do you reframe to reignite motivation?

The unexpected benefits of stress.

Most people wince every time they hear the word “stress”.

It’s as if the whole world has been conditioned to respond to stress the same way, by word alone. A habitual thought response that is often more dangerous than the stressor itself.

What you believe matters.

The latest research in psychology examines stress in an entirely new way.

Rather than viewing stress as unequivocally bad for one’s health, health psychologists pinpoint belief systems as the moderating variable between stress and biology.

Stress perception ↔ Health benefits

Embracing meaning is more important than reducing discomfort according to Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal. Stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier — if we learn how to open our minds to it.” Source: Stanford News

Which is one of many reasons why I love Dr. McGonigal’s TED Talk. She encourages us to think about stress in a whole new empowering way. With an emphasis on growth, purpose, and meaning over needless suffering.

Mindset is everything.

Using health psychology research, Dr. McGonigal reveals how perceiving stress as either positive or negative can have a “live or die” impact on individual stress response.

Change your thoughts. Change your stress response.

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  1. Believe that stress is good for you (eg., stress heightens awareness) and you live longer.
  2. Alternatively, believe that stress is bad for you (eg., stress causes heart attacks) and you die sooner.

But don’t take my word for it.

You need to experience your own “Aha Moment” firsthand.

How to make stress your friend.

In the video below, Dr. McGonigal illustrates the many upsides of stress, including help seeking behaviour, increased energy, and robust health. She also backs up her stress positive claims with census records and comprehensive health research.

Hope you enjoy these fresh, new ideas about stress as much as I do!

“Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat.  But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive.” Source: TED Talks

Helpful resources for adopting a resilience mindset:

  1. How to Turn Stress into an Asset by Amy Gallow
  2. Cognitive Reframing and Stress Management by Liz Scott
  3. Six Ways to Do Cognitive Restructuring by Dr. Alice Boyes
  4. Reducing Stress by Changing Your Thinking by Mind Tools
  5. Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer
  6. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good by Kelly McGonigal
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Related Post: Stress resilience at school.

Who motivates you?

Students, past and present, motivate me!

“The future of the world is in my classroom today.”

One of my first year BScN nursing students (Mona on the right) asked if I would sign the psychology textbook that I co-wrote and take a photo with her after class this week.

She said that an encouraging note and a picture with her professor would give her the motivation she needed to stay focused, work hard, and study throughout the semester.

Of course I said yes! It was a full circle moment. For my students are my motivation. And everything I do is with their success in mind.

Also pictured above are Sarah Ryrie (on the left) and Justin Fox (in the middle) – two St. Clair College alumni and former student representative council presidents who continue to inspire me today!

Related Post: Staying motivated in the midst of a challenge.

Your Turn: Who motivates you?

Are you left brain or right brain dominant?

Left and Right Brain

Understanding

Individual Differences

Have you ever wondered how your best friend lives so freely “moment-to-moment” while your mind is imprisoned by thoughts of past events and/or planning of future events (so neatly) written in your (overly structured) daytimer?

Brain Hemispheric Specialization provides insight into why some of us are more present focused and able to “go with the flow” (Right Brain dominant); while others are busy planning their days with the step-by-step precision of a NASA engineer (Left Brain dominant).

Left and Right Brain

Your Brain and Behaviour

Despite being identical in structure, the two halves of the brain specialize in how they process information (e.g., Past vs. Present), and how they function (e.g., Verbal vs. Nonverbal).

Time ProcessingPast vs. Present

  • Left hemisphere – processes information sequentially, one bit at a time
  • Right hemisphere – processes information globally, considering it as a whole

Brain FunctionsLinguistic vs. Spatial

  • Left hemisphere – includes verbal tasks, such as speaking, reading, thinking, and reasoning.
  • Right hemisphere – includes nonverbal areas such as the understanding of spatial relationships, recognition of patterns and drawings, music, and emotional expression,

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Neuroscience in Your Life

  1.  Complete the Left/Right Brain Dominance Test to find out which brain hemisphere currently dominates your life.
    • Personally, I obtained a score of 10 on this test – indicating that I am equally Left and Right Brained.
      • Which didn’t surprise me as I often “lay the table” with outlines, organizers, etc. (Left Brain) and the moment I feel safe, grounded, and prepared, I sit back and watch the ideas fly! (Right Brain)
    • What about you? How did you score on the Left/Right Brain Dominance Test? Was it what you expected? Were the results consistent with how you live your life? Did you learn something new about yourself?

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2. Watch the following 20 minute video to: a) learn firsthand about L-R brain specialization and b) discover how Neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor turned her real-life tragedy into an awe inspiring “Stroke of Insight“.  I am still moved to tears by her story! I hope you are too. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is resilience personified.

The more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemisphere, the more peaceful our planet will be.

TEDx Speaker Jill Bolte Taylor

Psychology Class

This post is a summary of this week’s psychology lecture and Chapter 2 of my psychology textbook.

Free Psychology Chapter

If you want to learn more, you can download a free PDF of my neuroscience and behaviour chapter by clicking on this link.

My TEDx Resilience Talk

Thriving Under Pressure

Positive psychology on campus

What is Positive Psychology?

“While traditional psychology focused its attention on pathology and problems, in the relatively new field of positive psychology, researchers strive to explore and understand the strengths of individuals and communities that contribute to their flourishing.” Source: Psychology Guide

Strengths first

I am passionate about what positive psychology can do for students and educators in and out of the classroom. By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, students are motivated to move beyond, and in some cases, be transformed by their current limitations, history, and circumstances.

Link to: VIA Character Strengths Inventory
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Balance is key

Positive psychology is not about being happy and successful all the time. Instead, happiness is aspirational like a delicious meal at a 5 star restaurant. Wonderful but not to be expected, at every meal, all the time. (Otherwise, we set ourselves up for disappointment on the Kraft Dinner days.)

Instead, the field of positive psychology helps bring out the best in us. In a balanced way. The ebb and flow of life. Negativity is to be expected. The question is – how long do you stay there.

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Safe uplifting atmosphere

As a professor, I believe it is paramount to create a safe and uplifting atmosphere in the classroom. A secure and consistent milieu where students know what to expect class to class, week to week, semester to semester. A place where students are encouraged to build upon their existing strengths, while feeling supported enough to share their current struggles.

Link to: Broaden & Build Theory of Positive Emotion

As I teach mostly nursing students, it is critical that I practice what I teach in and out of the classroom. Nursing students will also be responsible for creating an encouraging and safe space for their clients one day.

The yellow t-shirts are from the Yellow Umbrella Project, an Ontario wide college campaign for battling the stigma of mental illness on campus.

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Positive psychology and student empowerment

My highest goal is to work with young Canadians in a way that empowers and encourages them to become the best version of themselves. Cultivating success in a way that is unique to them. I believe that interactive lectures combined with warmth and real-life stories is the best approach for achieving this goal.

Link to: Optimism Bootcamp

The photo below is from a leadership conference for college students where I discussed the connection between optimism and student success.

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Celebrating students every chance I get!

Ultimately, I hope to remind students of their gifts. While encouraging them to embrace their challenges. For we are the sum total of all that is powerful and vulnerable – within and around us. And it’s this extraordinary combination of strong and weak, good and bad, light and dark, that makes our world and our classrooms such a fascinating place to live and thrive.

Would you rather be liked or respected?

Liked vs. Respected

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.”

Is Happiness a Choice?

The Happiness Question

Have you ever wondered why some people remain upbeat and positive despite the chaos that surrounds them while others are utterly miserable even in good times?  What explains the difference between these two groups of individuals?

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Are happy people just lucky people born happy? And unhappy people born miserable?  Or is happiness a choice we make day by day, moment to moment?

The answer to this question is twofold. On one hand, 50% of happiness is predetermined by biology (e.g., inborn temperament) while the remaining 50% is influenced by life circumstances and intentional activities.

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The Happiness Formula

As shown above, research indicates that approximately 40% of happiness is intentional activities (e.g., daily exercise, meditation, forgiveness), 10% is life circumstances (e.g., income), and 50% is genetic (e.g., temperament),

Though we may have little control over genetics and/or life circumstances — we do have personal agency when it comes to intentional activities. Be it a walk around the block, gardening in the backyard, or simply relaxing by the fire.

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My Personal Experience

Being an optimist (and a positive psychologist), I tend to focus on the parts of life where I have influence. For both myself, and the people around me.

Even though you might not be the happiest (or healthiest, or richest, or most zen) person in the room, you (like me) have room (potential) to grow and expand – no matter your life circumstances or genetic make up.

Watch: What Trauma Taught Me about Happiness

The Happiness Webcast

In the presentation below, I explore the happiness formula (genetics vs. environment) in more detail. Including: 1) the developmental origins of happiness, 2) how individual differences in personality affect happiness, and 3) the paradoxical relationship between traumatic life experiences and happiness (posttraumatic growth).

Happiness Talk
Click on Is Happiness a Choice  to learn more

Special note: I take medical conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety into account when discussing “Is Happiness a Choice?” in my webcast. I underscore that intentional activities such as meditation, exercise, and proper nutrition will not cure mental illness, though they will help tremendously.

For example, medical research has demonstrated that exercise (an intentional activity) improves mood in individuals with anxiety and depression. And in turn, enhances personal agency and locus of control ⇐ the number one (environmental) contributor to happiness.

The Happiness Choice

  1. Celebrate your one-of-a-kind happiness. Do not compare it to your brother or your sister, or to a neighbour or a (facebook) friend. FOMO is the “thief of joy”. For what determines your happiness is unique to you to you, and only you.
  2. Embrace your freedom to choose experiences within your control (e.g., gratitude, helping others, forgiveness ), and the power to let go of what is not (e.g., the past, the opinion of others, the weather).
  3. Need help getting started? Try any or all of these 13 simple intentional activities over the course of a month, a day, or a year. The choice is yours!
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Read: You hold the key

There will always be critics.

Use their words as motivation.

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A glimpse of my psychology lecture on student motivation and success.

The world needs your unique kind of wonderful. So don’t let the critics get you down. Focus on your dreams. Not their doubt. Use their words as fuel for your success and empowerment. The sun always rises. And so will you. ☀️

Related Post: Face it - you're strong!

The upside of stress.

Most people wince every time they hear the word “stress”.

It’s as if the whole world has been conditioned to respond to stress the same way, by the word alone. A habitual thought response that is often more dangerous than the stressor itself.

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Mindset is everything.

Which is one of many reasons why I love Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk. It encourages us to think about stress in a whole new way.

Change your thoughts. Change your response.

Using health psychology research, Dr. McGonigal reveals how perceiving stress as either positive or negative can have this “live or die” impact on your stress response.

Stress can be good (or bad) for you.

Believe that stress is good for you and you live (longer). Alternatively, believe that stress is bad for you and you die (sooner).

Powerful words. Solid research to back her statements up.

Hope you enjoy the video!

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat.  But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive.” Source: TED Talks

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Rethinking Stress – Helpful Resources

  1. How to Turn Stress into an Asset by Amy Gallow
  2. Cognitive Reframing and Stress Management by Liz Scott
  3. Six Ways to Do Cognitive Restructuring by Dr. Alice Boyes
  4. Reducing Stress by Changing Your Thinking by Mind Tools
  5. Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer
  6. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good by Kelly McGonigal
Related Post: What's your stress threshold?

Teaching Psychology with Enthusiasm

I love teaching about psychology as much as I love writing about psychology. And that’s a lot!

Psychology is my passion 

Students First Is My Philosophy

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Which is why I take every opportunity I have to support and encourage student success and development.

  1. Whether it be as a reference for college scholarships.
  2. Helping stressed out students thrive in the classroom.
  3. Writing psychology textbooks for students across Canada.
  4. Developing a blog geared to student resilience and empowerment.

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Your Turn:

  1. What are you most excited about in life right now?
  2. How do you make your passion and purpose a daily priority?

Hold the vision. Trust the process.

Create a vision for your life that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

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This “Why Vision Board” was created by my psychology students this past September.

Why Vision Boards in the classroom.

At the beginning of the semester, I ask my nursing students to share their reasons “why” they wanted to become a nurse. Why this program?

This simple question gives students insight into what motivates them. Something I consciously tap into throughout the school year.

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Students are enthusiastic about learning at the start of  the semester. New textbooks. Colourful notebooks. Dreams still fresh in their minds.

Illuminating lifelong dreams has the most impact midway through the school term.

This is when students truly need a boost in motivation (right about now). This is the time where I insert their original “Why” vision board into my PowerPoint lecture slides.

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 “Why Vision Board” created by a different group of students.

Halfway through the semester, students are surprised to see a photo of their own words, projected onto the big screen.

They are instantly drawn back into their reason “Why”.

An animated discussion ensues where students compare their initial motivations with their current state of mind and affairs.

Rekindling their dreams. Giving them a much needed reminder as to why they picked their program in the first place

What’s changed? What’s stayed the same. And why?

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Why Vision Board” in action!

Ultimately, their “why vision board” transports them to a higher place, well above the stresses of their exams, to a place where all their dreams began.

Boosting their motivation. Lifting them up. Multiplying their energy.

A simple why? question that works. Every single time.

Reminding them why their dreams matter.

Why school matters. Why they matter.

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Reignite instrinsic motivation in one simple step: Ask yourself “Why?” you do what you do. Every chance you get!

Related Post: What's your why?

Failure is the opportunity to begin again.

Ask someone how they feel about failure in the midst of it; life as they know it is over. 

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Ask someone how they feel about failure one year later; life as they know it has been transformed. 🦋 

5 Ways to Feel Strong in the Midst of Failure:

  1. Take a long deep breath. Be still. Don’t Rush.
  2. Find a safe place to challenge your fears & beliefs.
  3. Rest. Take a long walk. Eat a nourishing meal.
  4. Learn something new. Have Fun! Self-Discover.
  5. Imagine. Envision. Explore & Begin Again!

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Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

What’s your stress threshold?

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Recently, a fellow blogger asked an excellent question regarding tipping points and stress response.

They were curious to know if each of us has a tipping point when it comes to stress management.

And if so, how does it differ from person to person.

I love questions like this because they encourage me to dig deep, reflect, and imagine new ways of perceiving stress.

Stress Thresholds

Tipping points and thresholds are often used synonymously in the literature. Especially when discussing economic, historical, and ecological phenomenon.

That said, there is a clear distinction between thresholds and tipping points in psychological applications.

Thresholds are more individual (unique to each person), while tipping points are more universal (shared by the majority).

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Which is why I see each person’s stress response as more of a stress threshold than a tipping point.

  • Thresholds vary from person to person (e.g., Type A vs. Type B), situation to situation (e.g., Work vs. Personal), and are based on individual strengths, challenges, and personal history.

See diagram above to help understand how thresholds affect your individual stress response. This graphic also depicts why a certain level of stress (below threshold) can be good for you.

  • Assess when you cross the threshold from your optimal stress zone (eustress) into your overload stress zone (distress).

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Situational Stress, Anxiety, and Thresholds

We may be good at some things, but we are not great at everything.

For example, the more challenging academic work is for me (high stress threshold) the more I flourish. Mostly because this is my area of expertise.

While this is not the case with other areas of my life (low stress threshold) and thus I tend to react (too quickly) when under pressure in certain personal situations.

In addition to overall stress response patterns, thresholds differ from one situation to the next.

Situational fluctuations in thresholds reflect our strengths, challenges, and personal preferences.

I discuss the topic of situational stress and anxiety in more detail during my Mental Health Matters Interview with Dr. Garland.

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From Negative to Positive Stress

Finally, I believe that our ability to cope and thrive under pressure is a lifelong practice. Something that is never mastered – only strengthened.

And the more we learn about life and ourselves, the higher our thresholds will become. As the majority of our stress is beating ourselves up – long after the stressor is gone.

3 C’s of Thriving Under Pressure

Reflection Questions About Stress

  1. How does your stress threshold differ from others?
    • Compare your personal stress threshold to family members, friends, coworkers.
      • Are you the most high strung of your siblings?
      • Are you the most carefree teacher in the school?
  2. In what situations is your stress threshold higher vs. lower?
    • Compare your situational stress threshold across multiple settings.
      • When do you stress out at work?
        • Is it only during public presentations?
      • In contrast, when are you more relaxed relaxed and easy going?
        • Are you more relaxed during independent work?
  3. What are the benefits of stress and pressure in your life?
    • When has stress been good for you?
      • e.g., motivating and energizing
    • How has pressure helped you achieve your goals?

Summer school.

Bittersweet Ending

The end of a college semester is always bittersweet.

Summer school is no different.

The final psychology exam was just this week.

And I miss my summer students already.

Full disclosure: Psychology is my passion.

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A glimpse of my summer lecture on mindfulness, health psychology, and patient care. 

Pre-Nursing Psychology

I am grateful to have met so many wonderful St. Clair College students in the pre-nursing program this summer.

They worked hard. Followed their heart. And never gave up.

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Each student hoping to gain admission into the highly competitive four year BScN program starting in September.

(Summer school is a pre-nursing qualification program.)

New Beginning

Every ending is a new beginning.

Because of the program I teach in, I will have the opportunity to teach many of my pre-nursing students again this fall in the BScN nursing program.

Fingers crossed that they (all) get in to nursing! 🏥💉

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Just because the semester ends doesn’t mean the learning ends.  I am, and will always be, my students’ “Professor for Life“. 📚❤️

Related Post: What's your why?

Positive psychology is my passion

 Positive Psychology is My Passion

I love everything about positive psychology. The research, the content, the discoveries, the real-life stories, and most importantly, the promise of a better life.

The opportunity to write psychology textbooks for McGraw-Hill Ryerson and share my enthusiasm for psychology is a childhood dream come true!

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What’s Your Passion?

What Moves You? Motivates You? Inspires You?

How do you share your passion with the world?