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.

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.

Resilience_LinkedIN

When the Going Gets Tough: Coping

“No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength – if we have the virtue of resilience.”

— Eric Greitens, Resilience: Hard-won wisdom for living a better life

Resilience_LinkedIN

According to apa.org ,“Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.”

Those two words, “adapting well” in that definition make all the difference as to how resilient you actually are. They continue on by saying “With the right tools and supports in place, one thing is sure: You will not only make it through the challenges of your river adventure.You will also merge a more confident and courageous rafter.”

Adapting Well

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine white water rafting – not sure that I am ready to develop that type of resilience but I have made it through some tough challenges and I know that I am more resilient as a result.” I used to say, how much broader do my shoulders need to be…well, as it turns out that developing our resilience is an ongoing exercise. Each instance strengthens our coping muscles so that we come out stronger and better prepared for future challenges.

No matter what challenges we experience, one thing we can control is how we respond to them. Some coping strategies are negative or even destructive, while others are positive and life-affirming. Some people try to avoid the situation, others resort to alcohol to numb the pain, but some manage to tap into resources of inner strength that they never knew they had.

Your Story

Think Back to a Time...

Think about challenges you’ve experienced in the past, and take some time to reflect and list some of them.

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • How did I cope at the time? 
  • How would I cope now in that same situation?
  • Has anything changed?
  • Which of my coping strategies are positive, and which ones are negative?

Share your Story

Would you like to share your story of a situation from your past? If so, we would love to hear about it. Tell us what the situation was. How you coped then. How you might cope differently today? How you have grown as a result of the challenge and increased your resilience. 

If you would like to share your story with me, please do so in confidence through my Google Forms link by clicking here. The link will take you to a Google Form with the questions above. If your story is chosen as one that would be great to share, we will only do so with your express written permission.

Burnout_LinkedIN

Burnout from Introversion and Extroversion Perspectives

All of the resources in the world can’t prevent an inevitable amount of stress. No matter how well informed or prepared you are, you’re going to feel the effects of stress, especially in such a long-term stressful situation like a pandemic. This stress can often lead to burnout, which is dangerous for mental and physical health.



Burnout_LinkedIN

What is Burnout?

Brain burnout isn’t the same thing as being overly stressed. It can be caused by prolonged periods of being stressed; however, the symptoms must be different. “Burnout is most commonly seen in people who are overworked or are having difficulty separating their home and work life,” says Dr. Ron Bonnstetter, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at TTI Success Insights. “Unlike general stress, brain burnout manifests as emotional damage, suppression, detachment, and depression.”

"Burnout is most commonly seen in people who are overworked or are having difficulty separating their home and work life."

Since so many people have been working remotely and are struggling to adjust, burnout is on the rise. It’s not something to take lightly.

What’s the Difference Between Extroversion and Introversion?

Extroversion

Are energized from other people and the world around them. They enjoy expressing themselves, communicating with others, making connections, talking through problems, and are relatively optimistic, according to Healthline. Extroverts might be Direct, Outgoing, Dynamic, and Pioneering, or some combination of those traits.

Introversion

Are energized from their own presence. They prefer time alone, careful consideration, avoiding conflict, and lots of ‘me’ time. Introverts might be Reflective, Reserved, Steady, or Precise, or again, some combination of those traits.

Ambiversion

Ambiverts have behavioural traits of both introversion and extroversion depending on any number of factors. That’s why sometimes an ambivert wants to join or create the party yet other times, would just prefer some solitude. Many people would fall into the ambivert category.

Extrovert_Element
Introvert_Element

What’s the Difference Between Extroversion and Introversion?

“Extroverts begin to suffer burnout most often when their work and or personal relationships are stressed or hampered,” explained Dr. Bonnstetter. “This can be when they’re unable to meet, connect, and enjoy the company of friends, family, and co-workers on a regular basis.”

They often begin to feel emotionally off and struggle with tiredness, emotionally blunted, and depression.

What Does Burnout Look Like for Extroverts?

“Extroverts begin to suffer burnout most often when their work and or personal relationships are stressed or hampered,” explained Dr. Bonnstetter. “This can be when they’re unable to meet, connect, and enjoy the company of friends, family, and co-workers on a regular basis.”

They often begin to feel emotionally off and struggle with tiredness, emotionally blunted, and depression.

How Can Extroverts Fight Burnout?

A big way Extroverts can fight burnout is by acknowledging their own feelings and communicating with others. Making genuine emotional connections right now is more important than ever; call an old friend, reconnect with friends in a socially distant hang, or write some letters.

When it comes to acknowledging your feelings, that self awareness is more important than ever. The emotional bluntness or numbness might feel like coping, but it actually means you are ignoring your feelings. Shoving down emotions will only speed up the process towards burnout.

Increase your self awareness and let yourself feel your feelings! Remember that all feelings end eventually, so even if things feel particularly bleak right now, it’s going to change in the future.

 

What Does Burnout Look Like for Introverts?

Introverts begin to suffer burnout when their daily routines or work and life balance are disrupted for extended periods of time. This is obviously and unfortunately something we have all been handling for the last six months.

When this happens, introverts often begin to feel a lack of motivation. they struggle with creativity and new ideas, and can begin to feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. These feelings result in anxiety, depression and a heightened sense of dread.

How can Introverts Fight Burnout?

Introverts suffering from a lack of routine need to take matters into their own hands! Wake up at the same time, take a lunch break away from your work, exercise and handle chores, and make sure to actually sign off from work when your day is done. The stricter you can be with your day-to-day, the better off you’ll be.

Another way introverts can battle burnout is to give their creativity a boost. Their internal world is very important, since that is precisely where Introverts gather their energy.

Try to tackle creative blocks by learning an entirely new skill! Studying a different language, taking up painting or sculpting, or trying to teach yourself a complicated recipe are all mindful, grounding activities, and might subconsciously get the creative juices flowing.

What Else Can You Do to Fight Burnout?

Introverts and extroverts alike need to handle their stress before it results in true brain burnout. The good news is that you’ve already got started by reading these tips!

In this time, the importance of mental health cannot be overstated. Stigmas around therapy and psychiatry have improved in recent years, but are not entirely eliminated. If you’re struggling right now, seek out the help of a professional.

Just in the same way we get regular physicals at the general practitioner, regular check ups for mental health are a great proactive measure!

In light of other problems, it’s all too easy to shrug off our own inner turmoil. However, doing that will result in burnout, which has physical, mental, and emotional ramifications. Take care of yourself right now, so you can handle whatever life throws at you in the future.

Burnout_Fight

Adapted from TTI Success Insights