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.

Watch my TEDx Talk

🧠 TEDX Thriving Under Pressure

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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. Jill Bolte Taylor

Psychology Class ↔ Psychology Blog

This post is a summary of this week’s psychology lecture and Chapter 2 of my psychology textbook. If you want to learn more, you can download a free PDF of my neuroscience and behaviour chapter by clicking on this link.

What side of the brain do you live on?

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?

Students First.

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

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Psychology is my passion.

Students are my purpose.

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

At the end of the day, I have one priority:

Students First.

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Your Turn:

1. What are you most excited about in your life right now?

2. How do you make your passion and purpose a daily priority?

Psychology is my passion.

 What’s Your Passion?

Psychology is my passion. I love everything about 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 Moves You? Motivates You? Inspires You?

How do you share your passion with the world?

What’s your why?

Shifting from Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation

We live in a world that rewards frivolous behaviour with fame and fortune, so it is no wonder that some students expect their motivation to come from the outside, in the same way that reality show contestants expect to win a million dollars, simply by “showing up”.

How can we change this? What impact can we have on millennial, tech savvy students expecting instant gratification in our classrooms?

We start by reminding students (and ourselves) that motivation begins on the inside. We show students why external motivators will never sustain them. The overjustification effect is just one example of this fact.

Better yet, we tap into students’ own life experiences to ignite long-term commitment and motivation. Students often forget the feelings of joy and anticipation they felt when they first opened their acceptance letters to school.

In the midst of going to class, applying for OSAP, juggling family, work, and school demands, and paying bills, students often forget why they applied to their programs in the first place.

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. William Barclay

Sometimes, igniting motivation is as simple as asking students “Why?” they are at college in the first place. Why?” exercises help students get to the heart of what motivates them, guides them, keeps them going. From early morning classes to late night study sessions to unexpected academic costs to making it through final exams.

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 How I incorporate “Why?” exercises into lectures:

  1. I ask students to relax, sit back, close their eyes, and take a deep breath.
  2. Next, I ask them to visualize the day they applied to college and ultimately received their acceptance letters.
  3. Finally, students are asked “Why?” they wanted to go to college in the first place – what’s their ultimate mission and motivation for getting a diploma in their chosen field.

Student answers to this simple, yet complex question of “Why?” is so varied, so unique to each student. Yet, each answer is united by the same ideal, the same belief: Hope

Students are searching for something better, to change for the better, to make the world better. They want to save lives as nurses, to design hybrid cars as engineering technologists, to help children who are abused as child & youth care workers, to inspire their own children by being college educated, to be independent and self-sufficient, to do what they love, and most of all, students yearn to make a difference in this world.

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Sustaining Motivation and Commitment

Once written down, I encourage students to carry their answers (in one word, if possible) in their wallets, post them on the bathroom mirror, on their phones, in their cars, and look to their “Why?” every time they need inspiration.

Their answers remind them “Why?” they choose to study for midterms, “Why?” they choose to write research papers, “Why?” they choose to attend class rather than do something that brings instant gratification.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. Nietzsche

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I believe so strongly in using “Why?” exercises that I incorporated them into my psychology textbook.

Intrinsic motivation can be taught in so many ways. During “Why?” Exercises, students teach me. They teach me that hope is enough to sustain us through the hard times. Hope is enough to push us through life’s challenges. And the most important lesson of all is that hope mixed with drive, self-determination, and hard work changes lives for the better.

Students are my reason why.

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“Why?” do you do what you do?