The power of beliefs.

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Belief plays a pivotal role in resilience.

Believing that you have what it takes.

Believing that you can try again.

Believing in something greater than yourself.

Believing you are never alone.

Believing your power is greater than your pain.

Believing that things are going to get easier.

This 1 minute video encapsulates it all.

What beliefs help you overcome challenges?

Thanks Mom for always believing in me.

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.

1000 views on the official TEDx site!

I am so excited to share that my TEDx video hit 1000 views today! 🎥

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A BIG thank you for watching and sharing my TEDx talk with your friends and family. We are stronger than our stress. This I know for sure. Together we will thrive under pressure. 💥

Click on TEDx Video → Thriving Under Pressure

The stories we tell ourselves.

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Flooded with helplessness.

A friend of mine recently returned home from vacation to find his newly constructed house flooded.

The feelings of helplessness that followed were magnified by the story he was telling himself on repeat. That he was an idiot. Naive. A loser. Stupid for not knowing better.

 Loss of control.

This was something completely beyond his control. Yet there he was battling Mother Nature head on.

Making himself entirely responsible for the deluge of rain. All powerful. Yet completely powerless. Imprisoned by his thoughts alone.

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He and his wife had only lived in their new home for 18 months. A dream house built for retirement.

Every aspect of the design painstakingly conceived. Which only amplified his despair.

Infinite Rumination.

But in that moment, the story in his mind was filled with self-accusation and punishment. Second guessing on repeat.

The loop in his head based on the assumption that he was all-mighty. At the epicentre of the universe. Fully in charge of Mother Nature and her actions.

This is what happens when we lose control of external circumstances. We attempt to control it internally.

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Overcome by emotion.

Logically, he knew that it was not the end of the world. That there were far worse things that could have happened and have happened in his life.

But in times of panic, our emotional brain (the amygdala) hijacks our thinking brain and we can no longer think rationally.

And that’s ok. Because in order to heal, we must first bear witness to our pain. Only then can we move on and beyond.

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Breathing space.

It has been four days since the flood and thank goodness the overwhelming feelings of helplessness have subsided for my friend.

Time heals. And so does a wife’s love. The support of neighbours. And a mom’s embrace.

It happened. He is strengthened. He will thrive.

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Change the story.

Now when he passes the construction zone in his house, instead of chastising himself, he thinks of how lucky he is to have a basement renovation just 18 months after moving in. Same basement. Different narrative.

This story makes him smile. 

Face it – You’re Strong!

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Everything you’re afraid of – you’ve already experienced.

Afraid of commitment?

(You’ve been dumped.)

Afraid of failure?

(You’ve failed.)

been there done that

Afraid of rejection?

(You’ve been rejected.)

Afraid of being broke?

(You’ve been without money.)

Fill in the blanks for me..

Afraid of being _________?

(You’ve been _________.)

And then vow to erase that fear in your life.

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By facing your fears head on.

Remember – you have been here before.

You have more knowledge and experience than you recognize.

You are braver than you realize.

You have faced this fear before.

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 You have survived this fear before.

And you have thrived because of it.

(You may not realize it – but you have.)

Face it – you’re strong!

And you have the power to kick this fear right to the curb.

Once and for all!

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Your final challenge is to embrace your power.

Full on!

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.

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.