Stress: Choose Your Response

Turn Stress into Good Stress by Choosing Your Response

Life is a parade of stress-inducing situations ever looming on the horizon. Which helps explain why, the more you resist stress, resist the inevitable, the more painful it becomes. For instance, say that your stress was an egg. And imagine squeezing and squeezing that egg. It’d finally crack under the pressure, right? What a mess! But if you gently hold the egg, you can easily handle it.

Stress can Make us Stronger, Smarter and Happier

In a Stanford News article by Clifton B. Parker, the author interviewed Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal who talked about her research indicating that “stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier – if we learn how to open our minds to it.”

McGonigal states that “The three most protective beliefs about stress are: 

1) to view your body’s stress response as helpful, not debilitating – for example, to view stress as energy you can use; 

2) to view yourself as able to handle, and even learn and grow from, the stress in your life; and 

3) to view stress as something that everyone deals with, and not something that proves how uniquely screwed up you or your life is.”

... a cascade of health-promoting physical responses

Studies have shown that when we embrace stress, our bodies release a cascade of health-promoting physical responses. A life-saving “biology of courage” that helps you endure and thrive even under the most daunting, stressful conditions.

A mindset reset

In a Q&A with the Rotman School of Business, McGonigal responded to one of the questions with the following: “The profound ‘mindset reset’ that I’m encouraging involves embracing stress because you understand that there is no way to live a stress-free life, and that the presence of stress in our lives is important to being human. We need stress in order to experience the things we want most in life — whether it’s health, happiness, love or growth. I am convinced that when you choose to see the upside of stress, you increase your resilience, add meaning to your life and make more personal connections.”

A story from real life

In 2008, my husband, Stan, of 8 years was diagnosed with Stage IV gastric cancer. “Sorry, the horse is out of the barn” is what we were told over and over. Sorry, too late for surgery, the horse is out of the barn. Sorry, too late for radiation, the horse is out of the barn. “Maybe oncology can help.”  

In no time at all, here we were, our world suddenly turned absolutely upside down. It felt surreal and almost like we were watching ourselves in a movie. Alas, an oncologist who embraced Stan’s situation and wasn’t about to allow the horse to keep running until Stan ran out of breath. Instead, he told us that “Sometimes aggressive cancers respond to aggressive treatment.” Okay then – let’s get started, we responded. Keep in  mind, he continued “you have less than a 5% chance of living 5 years.”

That was a defining moment and one filled with immense stress – the life or death kind…literally. At that moment, we had a choice, we could feel defeated, go the chemo course and hope for the best.

Instead, we chose our stress response. For Stan, it was an attitude of I’m not ready to leave my wife and my family – I still have so much to live for. Stan also looked at the odds and chose to respond by taking on the perspective that somebody is in that 5% that makes it so it’s going to be him.

The stress response I chose was one of combating this evil force. I could see it, it had a shape, it had a colour and it was voracious. Well guess what, I could be voracious back – “no I’m not going to let you win” I thought. 

Our stress responses were a choice and with choice comes power. There is so much more about this journey but today I just want to focus on just one of the techniques for mastering stress – choosing your stress response.

That choice is what kept me going as the caregiver, researcher, on-demand cook, chauffeur, part-time coach, communications head and wife. My choice gave me the courage that I needed to continue although inside I was filled with fear, particularly in the early days.

Later that year...

Months later, as my husband continued to make phenomenal progress and defy the odds, the oncologist shared that when he first saw Stan, he didn’t expect him to live 6  weeks! In fact, he said that the majority of people that don’t choose a positive stress response don’t make it.

There were so many life lessons learned in that time and yes, Stan continues to be super healthy and almost impossible to keep up with as we approach the 12.5 year mark as I write.

Where to start

How can you shift your perspective to choose new ways of responding to stress so that you turn stress into good stress?

This week’s worksheet for my e-zine Brain Food Friday readers guides the reader through a brief exercise of choice.. If you want to receive access to my worksheets, sign up to receive my monthly blog in your inbox by clicking on the round green “click here” button. You’ll start receiving Brain Food Friday in your inbox the first Friday of each month along with a link to a corresponding worksheet.

Resilience is…

Resilience is …

You don’t need to be reminded that we’re now into our 14th month of a world-wide pandemic. We’re all experiencing it differently but the one thing that we all likely have in common is that we are tired of being on this Covid wheel of life without any real opportunity for renewal. I’m not a marathon runner by any means; but it seems to me that it’s like being on a marathon with a moving finish line. That in itself is an exhausting thought.

Leadership in challenging times

According to authors Bruce J. AvolioT, William L. Gardner in a paper entitled Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership:

“Leadership has always been more difficult in challenging times, but the unique stressors facing organizations throughout the world today call for a renewed focus on what constitutes genuine leadership. Public, private, and even volunteer organizations are addressing challenges that run the gamut from ethical meltdowns to terrorism and SARS. What constitutes the normal range of functioning in these conditions is constantly shifting upwards as new challenges, technologies, market demands, and competition emerge. We suggest that such challenges have precipitated a renewed focus on restoring confidence, hope, and optimism; being able to rapidly bounce back from catastrophic events and display resiliency; helping people in their search for meaning and connection by fostering a new self-awareness; and genuinely relating to all stakeholders (associates, customers, suppliers, owners, and communities).”

Calm and Confident

This idea of bouncing back or as the authors state “rapidly bounce back” is part of the formula of resilience but the other important component is personal growth. According to the American Psychological Association, “As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”

Back in another life, I used to ask myself “how much broader do my shoulders really need to be?” every time I encountered a tough time. What I didn’t realize is that I was making the connection between resilience and personal growth.

Very often, the difference between success and failure is resilience. The more resilient we are, the easier it is to navigate challenges confidently and emerge successfully on the other side.

More and more, resilience is a quality we will ALL need to cultivate. The world is changing quickly, and we are faced with more challenges than ever. If we can stay calm, confident, and flexible during tough times, we are more likely to thrive.

Reflection Questions:

What are some difficulties you are facing in your life right now?

How are you responding to these challenges?

How might you alter your response to be more calm, confident and resilient?



Work at Home or Live at Work

I’ll be brief in my remarks today but wanted to draw your attention to the great work that the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Business at Ryerson University (and their partners) is doing. Their latest report is entitled “Work at Home or Live at Work: The complexities of new working arrangements.”

This report focuses on the experience of working from home and workers who have had to continue going in to their place of employment. The report also focuses on the future or work now that alternative options have opened up. I encourage you to read through the report and would be interested to hear from you about your take away from the report. 

Before you go off to read the report, don’t forget that we are still offering our highly-validated “Working from Home” personalized assessment.

You will be redirected to the appropriate page on the Diversity Institute’s website.

The Working from Home Personalized Assessmenting

Get customized tips for Working from Home based on your unique behavioural style. 

This micro report is brief at 7 pages but very relevant to today’s working environment. 

The report will provide insight into:

  • Your primary communication style
  • Your remote working tips
  • How to best communicate with people whose primary communication styles fall into one of 8 categories.
It only takes 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire and your personalized report will arrive in your inbox instantly (so make sure you enter your correct email address when you sign on).

One more thing! Please share this link with your colleagues and friends. There is no obligation – this is our COVID gift to all.

Resilience: Top 10 Tips

Resilience: Top 10 Tips

Resilience continues to be a key strength and advantage particularly throughout the pandemic. Thanks to the Institute of Coaching’s Masterclass, I am happy to sharie these resilience tips with you.

Top 10 Resilience Tips

  1. Be compassionate with yourself
  2. Ground yourself in the idea that courage is not the absence of fear
  3. Be proactive in spotting the positive in the negative with realistic optimism
  4. Never stop cultivating confidence
  5. Take care of your body and your health
  6. Work on being calm, to enable you to make the right decisions in the moment
  7. Rely on support systems you have in place – we are not in this alone
  8. Be purposeful and engage in productive and meaningful activities
  9. Engage in nourishing habits like mindfulness, food and sleep, and social interactions
  10. Keep your eyes open for signs of stress including non-verbals in yourself and others

Which tip will you use first?

Strong Life Purpose and Values

Strong Life Purpose and Values

According to the Institute of Coaching, McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School Affiliate, “Research shows that having a strong purpose improves physical health and engagement in healthy behaviors.”

“Having a strong sense of purpose is defined by the authors as “having a set of goals based on one’s core values.””

Did you know that people who have values-based goals and a purpose are:

  • more likely to exercise more, take their medications and demonstrate healthy behaviours.
  • More open to hearing about the benefits of exercise.
  • May be more open to negative responses to health well-being messages.

Interested, read the full research article by clicking here.


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Limiting Beliefs Holding You Back?

According to the Institute of Coaching, “We each carry a set of beliefs that we live by. Certain beliefs you hold consciously, while others are mainly unconscious. Beliefs develop out of past experiences and our interpretations of those experiences. Growing up, we also develop beliefs when we internalize the messages we receive from social conditioning. Since many beliefs are based on past experiences, they may limit us in the present. For example, a pertinent belief at age ten will most likely be limiting to you at age thirty. Some of the conscious and unconscious beliefs that you develop limit your ability to grow and move forward in your life.”

One example might be to make a certain income which would be a sign of success. Yet, it doesn’t happen and you’re not sure why. Upon reflection and perhaps some skillful coaching, you might uncover that you have a limiting belief around making more money.  The IOC continues in saying, “Until you begin to alter your beliefs about money, it will be difficult for you to listen to your inner voice and its messages to you about financial abundance.”  

This is only one example of a limiting belief. There are many more. 

So why would you want to challenge yourself and your limiting beliefs? Because, it’s what will shatter that glass or concrete ceiling that is holding you back. As the IOC states, “Releasing a belief that limits you puts you back in the driver’s seat of your life. You, rather than an old belief, make the choices that are right for you and allow you to fulfill your potential.”

Want to explore more about limiting beliefs? Then join me on Monday, March 8th at noon (EST) for my International Women’s Day 30-min Brown Bag Lunch n’ Learn  “Up Your Game: Choose to Challenge Yourself” webinar in honour of this year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge. There is no charge for the event and it’s open to everyone, not just those that identify as women. It’s time to up your game and challenge yourself! 

To learn more about this complimentary event, click on the button below to be redirected to our IWD 2021 #ChooseToChallenge event page.