Study Tip: Stay Focused

This post was inspired by the one question students ask year after year:

Why Can’t I Remember Anything?

More often than not, it’s a focusing and attention issue, not a memory problem.

An important distinction between attention and memory described in the video below:

Stay Focused

You Can’t Do Big Things If You’re Distracted By Small Things

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.

Make room for destiny

Are you ready to move on but are reluctant to let something go?

Letting go is not giving up.

Letting go is not giving in.

When you let go you make space for something better.

When you let go you generate energy needed for moving forward.

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Close your eyes. Clear your heart.

Breathe.

Let go of what no longer serves you.

Let go of what weighs you down.

Release.

In doing so, you make room for destiny.

Your highest purpose.  Your greatest calling.

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Your ultimate joy!

We were made to thrive.

Unless someone is going through a major life tragedy, I rarely, if ever, lean in and listen to someone’s day-to-day hassles.

Instead, I choose to give energy to their strengths not their struggles. To their light not their shadows. To their purpose not their pain.

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Because I know deep down in my heart that each challenge makes us stronger, each failure makes us wiser, and each daily stressor reminds us that we are alive!

Related Post: I believe in you.

Thriving Under Pressure

How can two people experience the same stressful event and react in incredibly different ways?  What explains the difference between stress thrivers and non-thrivers?

Research shows that some individuals possess a set of resilience skills and traits that allows them to flourish in response to stress.

“Resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress. They understand that setbacks happen and sometimes life is hard and painful. They still experience the emotional pain, grief, and sense of loss that comes after a tragedy, but their mental outlook allows them to work through such feelings and recover.” Source: Living Well

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Building Stress Resilience

Stress hardiness is a pathway to resilience – the ability to remain healthy and strong during stressful and challenging times.

Hardy individuals transform stressful circumstances into growth opportunities by reframing adversity and taking direct action in response to stress.

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Bouncing Back from Adversity

In the video below, I describe the 3 key components of stress hardiness:

1. Control

– Focusing on the things you can change and letting go of the things you can’t.

E.g., “You hold the key.”

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2. Challenge

– Reframing stressful challenges as opportunities for growth.

E.g., “Strength Training.

3. Commitment

– Envisioning a higher purpose above and beyond the immediate stressor.

E.g., “Ask yourself why you started.

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Each component a critical factor in cultivating the ability to bounce back and thrive under pressure.

Can Stress Hardiness be Learned?

Yes! Research demonstrates that not only can stress hardiness be learned, it has wide-ranging applications in health and wellness, including:

1. Lowering test anxiety in high school students.

2. Reducing perceived stress in college students.

3. Protecting against war-related stress in Army Reserve forces.

4. Improving resilience and coping skills in stressed out professionals.

Watch this live event where I teach “teachers” how to help students become more resilient in stressful times.

Video of Post: https://youtu.be/NUh9qqA0x3Y

The Paradox of Strength

Some lessons happen over a lifetime.

Others happen in an instant.

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

Each misfortune cultivates a renewed appreciation.

Each obstacle fosters a new level of perseverance.

Each sadness teaches a greater depth of compassion.

Each challenge harvests a new field of possibilities.

We must fall down to rise up.

Again and again and again.

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

Teaching Stress Resilience at School

How can educators help foster stress resilience in their students?

We all have stress. It’s a universal human experience. The key is to not let stress become our identity.

Instead, with and open mindset and the right set of resilience skills we have the opportunity to reach a whole new level of purpose and well-being.

Stress Resilience for Success

At the start of my stress presentation  at the guidance counsellors forum, I discuss how resilience begins with a strength mindset. And equally that openness to challenge is essential for success.

Too much time in our comfort zone stalls growth.

Feeling safe is important. But we shouldn’t consider it a resting place. More of a launching pad!

Reframe openness as a verb and challenge your students to try something new today.

Learn More:

TEDx Talk Thriving Under Pressure

Every smile counts.

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Smile like you’re changing the world. Because you are. 🌸

We often think of changing of the world as some great big, grand gesture. Performed on stage with millions of people watching. When in fact it’s just you and me (and 7 billion others). Smiling, connecting, caring, and loving. Every moment. Every encounter. We are the dominos.

Related Post: What if our only life purpose was to be kind?

You were born to thrive.

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Do not fear challenge or adversity.

Run towards it. Not away from it.

Use it consciously. As a stepping stone.

To ascend. To soar.

To propel yourself forward.

To begin again. 

For strength is ultimately built from challenge, from difficulty, from overcoming.

You were born to thrive!

Watch my video for helpful strategies on how to thrive.

Happiness is a conscious process.

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When you notice the blessings in your life (big or small), happiness happens. One conscious thought. One mindful emotion. One insightful gesture. One moment of wonder.. at a time.☀️

Inspiration: 21 positive thoughts for your morning. 

Letting life flow.

Stressful Times.

The one word I hear repeatedly from students this time of year is drowning.

Drowning in bills. Drowning in midterms. Drowning in research.

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Not a pleasant thought. And definitely not energizing.

A sinking feeling that takes student motivation from 100 to 0 in an instant.

By thought alone.

Empowering Lessons.

How can we help students to feel more empowered in the midst of winter weather, too many midterms, and not enough time.

Transforming Stressors.

We meet students where they’re at. By embracing that stressful, drowning thought and transforming it into a peaceful, floating feeling. By helping students feel safe and supported. In and out of the classroom.

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Trusting the Flow.

We remind students of their resilience. We show them how far they’ve come. We encourage them to flow with the moment instead of fighting against the current. Then and only then can the focused learning begin.

Video from today's psychology class. 🌊

What helps you go with the flow?

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?

Your strengths light my way.

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

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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 sister’s ___________.  This illuminated my:
  2. Today I noticed my manager’s  ____________.  This bolstered my:
  3. Today I uncovered my student’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.

To change your life, change your habits.

 What’s the one habit you have been vowing to change for good?

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What are you waiting for?

The right time?

The right place?

The right person?

Today I challenge you to wait no more.

For now is the right time.

For here is the right place.

And YOU are the right person. 

Helpful Video: How to Embrace Change

10 Tips to Help you Focus Better.

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“How can I focus better when I study?”

Preparation is half the victory.

1. REIGNITE your motivation.

  • Revisit why you are studying in the first place.
  • To one day save someone’s life as a nurse.
  • To protect vulnerable children from abuse.
  • To create a business that will employ displaced workers.
  • Your future self will thank you for the sacrifices you make today.

2. BORE yourself silly before you study.

  • Studying pales in comparison to relaxing on a comfortable couch watching your favourite tv show on Netflix.
  • Which is one more reason to do nothing (no television, no internet) long enough that hanging out with textbooks sounds like a party!
  • For example: Stare at a blank wall until you are so bored that all you want to do is study. No kidding!
  • The quieter your mind becomes, the better your focus will be.

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3. Create a SACRED SPACE for studying.

  • The physical act of preparing a space can be very calming for students.
  • Clear all visual clutter. Clean your room. Organize your desk.
  • Make your space a welcoming, energizing, inspirational place to be.
  • Add in vibrant colours, fresh notebooks, lightly scented candles, bright overhead lights.
  • Your studying deserves this level of respect.

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4. Prepare yourself PHYSICALLY before you study.

5. Clear out MENTAL CLUTTER.

  • Empty your mind of your to do lists, worries, and what ifs before you study.
  • Write them down and put them in a worry box to be tended to once exams are complete.
  • Repetitive thoughts running through your head could be your biggest distraction.

6. Remove ALL distractions.

  • Shut off your phone. Hide it away. Just looking at it takes up mental space.
  • And if you can’t trust yourself – lock your phone in the trunk of your car and give a trusted friend the key until you are done studying. No kidding!
  • You’ll miss it for the first 20 minutes of your study session, then you’ll forget all about it.
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time.

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7. Be an ACTIVE studier.

  • Do not passively read the textbook – you will fall asleep, I guarantee it!
  • Instead, engage with the material.
  • Get active. Make the chapter come alive!
  • Do practice tests. Read the textbook chapters out loud.
  • Have a classmate or friend quiz you.
  • Teach the subject to someone, anyone!

8. Be slightly UNCOMFORTABLE while you study.

  • Do not sit or lie on your bed when you study.
  • Sit up straight in an office chair.
  • Keep the temperature cool.
  • Be slightly uncomfortable.
  • This will help keep you alert and awake.

img_00209. Take frequent MOVEMENT breaks.

  • Study breaks are optimal at 5-15 minutes in length.
  • Study sessions should not be longer than 45 minutes at a time.
  • And when you take your breaks aim to burn off your restless energy.
  • Move!  Sing a song. Draw a picture. Clap out loud!
  • Open a window. Smell fresh air. Go outside. Hug a tree!

10. REWARD yourself… eventually!

  • Use the Premack Principle to reward yourself.
  • Delayed gratification can be an excellent tool for sustaining attention and motivation.
  • Make a list of all the things that are distracting you from studying and use them as rewards once all your studying is done.
  • Go to Starbucks as a reward for studying, not as your location to study. (Too many distractions!)
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time and you’ll have a special treat to look forward to when all your hard work is done.
  • Your success is worth the wait!

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