Podcast - Successful You

Successful U is about living your best self and exploring what might be getting between you & your vision for success!

Episode Notes

Links and Resources For Building Resilience Episode #4

Podcast Episode: Brené With Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and How to Complete the Stress Cycle

Student Health Clinic at Vancouver Island University

What is Resilience and Why is It Important to Bounce Back?

Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way

Positive Intelligence, by Shirzad Chamine

How Great Leaders Inspire Action – start with why by Simon Sinec

Habits For Happiness, VIU Blog post – Sharon Kelly

Find Support At VIU

Connect with VIU’s Success Coaching Services

Episode Notes 

Welcome to Successful U – A podcast about Living Your Best Self and exploring factors that could either support or get in the way of that pursuit. I’m Sharon Kelly, the host of Successful U and VIU’s Success Coach.

When the going gets tough, when we face difficulties and uncertainty, motivation and the ability to move forward can sometimes flag. Sometimes people describe this situation as being in brain fog with no focus or motivation to carry on with their work.

Today’s topic is resilience what can build or tear it down. Resilient people are able to handle stress, and are more productive, connected socially as well as better able to bounce back from hardships and setbacks. People who have a self-critical, trash-talking inner voice have the tendency to be less resilient.

Health Impacts of Chronic Stress

First, it is important to know that chronic stress and brain fog can indicate the presence of a number of underlying medical conditions such as low iron, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid issues to just name a few, or it could be due to excessive depression or anxiety. So, if you’re experiencing severe brain fog, I do recommend that students make a point to schedule an appointment with a medical professional to rule out or find and deal with physical health conditions. It's also a good practice to make sure to also reach out and connect with mental health professionals. If you are experiencing excessive or severe depression or anxiety these are conditions that can actually fog up your brain and stop action or forward momentum on your work. Reaching out and connecting with a counsellor, therapist of psychiatrist may be another step you want to consider. A medical doctor can make that referral as well if you start by booking into the medical clinic on campus or with your own dr. VIU has a medical nurse practitioner as well as the psychiatrist both of whom students can see. You would never ignore a broken leg but rather seek medical attention, so I encourage you, that if your depression or anxiety is excessive please see a dr. or nurse practitioner first.


We can experience foggy thinking from burnout. Additional symptoms of burnout include lack of focus and a decrease in accomplishments and emotional exhaustion. An excellent book on this subject is a book called Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (yep they are sisters). They explain what happens in our bodies with burnout and also suggest are a number of ways to address burnout. There are a number of ways we can help ourselves get through emotional exhaustion and get re-motivated to engage back in with work and life. Sleep, exercise and a nutritious diet definitely help. Getting steps in, going out in nature or getting to the gym, and getting some aerobic exercise to get oxygen on the brain can help us burn through stress hormones lingering in our body. Exercise also gives us hormone release that lifts our mood and adequate sleep can also lift our mood, improve our memory and help us to better focus. Breath work, or mindful breathing has an incredible power to relax our bodies, especially if it is combined with progressive muscle clenching and relaxation. Positive social interactions, belly laughter, crying it out and expressing affection are also the ways in which we can connect with others and process emotions in such a way that we feel them, and we release them. Acknowledging, feeling and processing our emotions connecting with people in such a way that creates a feeling of coming home to safety all have a positive impact in getting through to the other side of emotional exhaustion. The book is worth a read for a fuller description of why each of these strategies work.

Many of the strategies they describe also contribute to resilience, which is a protector and an enabler in times of change and challenge. The definition of resilience that I really like is that resilience is the capacity to quickly recover from difficulties. Another is that it is the ability to bounce back from hardships.

Defining Resilience

A number of things that research has revealed about resilience include the following findings: resilient people are more innovative; they are more productive. Being resilient protects our productivity, our wellbeing, and our social connections. If you're a resilient head of a family or head of an organization or a team, resilience trickles down - there’s a multiplier effect for resilience. When resilience is present, there is increased communication and increased collaboration. Highly resilient people have a kind of hygiene around building their resilience through practices that support resilience. So, it's worth looking into what resilience is and figuring out how resilient you are.

7 Principles for Building Resilience

Cultivate Belief

The first principle is to cultivate a belief in your ability to cope. Start by taking a good look at what your beliefs are and cultivating a belief in your ability to cope if you do not already have the belief. What are your beliefs about yourself? Are they helpful? Do they detract from what you are accomplishing or, or wanting for yourself or do they support you in going for it?

Very often when I'm coaching and we're looking at an issue or something that the person really wants for themselves, we will address the relationship the person has with what they want, and that often includes what they believe they can or cannot accomplish in relation to their coaching topic. This belief also seems to be intertwined with their mindset and their internal self-talk.

Adjust Your Mindset

A person’s mindset and identity are likely indicated by their narrative or internal dialogue as well as by automatic thoughts. With regards to facing a difficulty in completing a daunting task such as writing a thesis or completing an assignment do you see yourself as a survivor? Do you perceive yourself as somebody who grows and thrives through challenge? What's your current identity and mindset as it relates to facing difficulties and challenges? How encouraging, kind or response-able is your internal dialogue? How do you talk to yourself? Our mindset and internal dialogue are critical to how we respond to difficulties. So, the first and most important principle for building resilience, in my estimation is to be mindful of your narrative and then work to cultivate one that is more compassionate and growth oriented than harsh and judgemental. If you have an inner trash-talker or saboteur, you may want to read Taming Your Gremlin by Carson or Positive Intelligence by Chirzad Charmine.

Our internal automatic voice indicates and impacts our identity. Our internal narrative or self-talk is also related to our mindset. When we can learn ways to shift our mindset, embrace new identities and cultivate a more supportive and life-sustaining internal self-talk we can build resilience and positively change our results and impact.

Automatic Thoughts Related To Mindset

We have a tendency to see the world as we are, not as it is, and we also have a tendency to believe what we automatically think. Our mindset is a compilation of our fears, values, beliefs, esteem and past experiences. Mindset drives what we think, say and do. And our actions impact our results. Mindset is largely automatic; however, we can mindfully change our mindset, and when we change our mindset, which in turn impacts our thoughts, feelings and actions we can change our life.

Here are a variety of contrasting various kinds of mindsets that set off very different internal narratives or self-talk we could possibly hold. For instance, we could hold either a fixed or growth mindset. The first spawns automatic thoughts of either knowing something or not, being talented or not, while a growth mindset sets off thoughts of figuring out what we don’t know and thoughts of trying and experimenting and sorting out how to grow a capacity or skill we don’t have yet. If we have a judger mindset rather than a learning mindset will may be harsh and critical whereas a learner mindset is more curious and then those kinds of thoughts follow. When we hold a compassionate mindset, the thoughts would be kinder and more encouraging than the harsher, more negative judger mindset. It is possible to shift our mindsets and our automatic thoughts, but it does take conscious awareness, effort and mindful practice.

Know Your Why

Another important principle for building resilience is to “know your why”. Consider your existing beliefs and go then ask yourself: What's meaningful to me about what I’m doing What’s meaningful to me about getting through and finishing what I started? In order to do that, it is also useful to be clear with yourself about what you value. What are your North star values? Do you know what is important to you and secondly, are you aligning with what's important to you? Doing so will increase resilience.

Cultivate Positive Emotions

Resilient people cultivate positive emotions. Being able to cultivate positive emotions is correlated positively with resilience, wellbeing and flourishing. So, this next principle for becoming more resilient is to purposefully nurture positive emotions. So, what are some explicit things that can help with that?

First, look after you physical health - get your body moving (exercising burns up cortisol and it releases hormones like cannabinoids that make us feel good). We can cultivate positive emotions by remember to eat brain nourishing food, but to also mindfully enjoy our food when we do eat.

We can take steps to nurture optimism - that glass half full perspective. Optimism is not something that we are born with… it is something that is learned. It's totally learnable. Research indicates that you can learn to be kind to yourself and also kind to others. Kindness is another thing that supports positive emotions as do grateful thoughts. If you want to increase your happiness, take time to practice being grateful…. Maybe spend some time thinking about one individual that you're really grateful for. Think about all the qualities of that person that you are grateful for and the quality of your relationship and what makes you so grateful to have that person in your life. That's one way to cultivate gratitude. You can also decide to try an exercise called “Spot the Positives”. We can have a very crappy day. I mean, I don't know about you, but sometimes this pandemic can be challenging. If we can look back and identify the things that were positive or figure out what the positive learning has been from a challenging experience this practice can actually enhance our positive emotions.

Socializing with others is also a sure-fire way to create positive emotions. We are social beings. We are wired to be in community. And when we have physical distancing in place, it can be very, very challenging, to not also become socially distanced. When we are socially distanced, we can feel very lonely and alone. So an important way to build resilience is to find ways to be creative, to reach out and connect with people socially, even if you're physically distanced.

Another way to enhance positive emotions is a gain a sense of accomplishment. When goals are set at the right height - when you can take a huge project that you have chunked down into smaller, doable pieces it is easier to have a sense of accomplishment with each milestone reached. This is so much better for supporting a sense of accomplishment in comparison to that, to-do list that seemingly never ends. You can ask, “did I do my best to set goals”. And “Did I do my best to make progress towards those goals rather than “did I reach all my goals”? Or, did I do my best to find joy and meaning in my day. These kinds of practices for setting out goals and recognizing progress rather than expecting perfection can be helpful in cultivating a sense of accomplishment and that helps build positive emotions and also resilience.

Help Others

The next principle for building resilience is to take time to help others. Research shows that when we have an expanded focus and aren't just focusing on ourselves but are focusing on other people, we build our own happiness. It turns out that the relationships between people and the act of helping others builds happiness and resilience. We could, maybe one out of the week for five weeks, identify something that is small, do-able and focussed on helping others in a way that’s compassionate and kind towards somebody else. Write a thank you note, go give blood, do something positive, focus on what you can do and then do small doable accomplishments in terms of feeding into other people's lives. Cultivating our connections to others where we care for others supports our resilience. How sweet it that?

Connect with Supports

Resilient people remember that they are not alone and they cultivate connection to existing supports. At VIU we have a wide array of services and supports that students can reach out and make connections to the people that serve in those roles and departments across campus. We have professors, librarians, writing and math center staff, advisors, counsellors, peer helpers, and even me as your success coach to reach out to for support. Resilient people reach out, ask for help and practice vulnerability and courage when they acknowledge they have a need and ask for help in getting that need filled. Remember to reach out, ask for help and practice vulnerability and courage in doing so.

Talk It Through

Finally, resilient people take time to talk it through. You can talk with a friend, your colleague with a family member. You can connect with a counselor. As I coach, I very often work with students in terms of building their resilience. You can reach me on the website at www.viu.ca/successcoach where you can book an appointment with me for 1:1 coaching. You can self-book an appointment with me, and I encourage you to look for the welcome package on that overview page where you can learn more about what coaching is and what it isn’t. I meet with people over zoom and I also have phone appointments available. So, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out and you can see that I have my email there on this page as well.


Today’s topic is about resilience. You can see that there are many factors that go into building resilience. How resilient are you? Combat burnout and build resilience by working through what needs to change for you according to these 7 principles for you to build greater resilience. You don’t have to go it alone. If you want to partner with a coach at VIU, please do not hesitate to explore the website and book yourself an appointment with our VIU Success Coach here: www.viu.ca/successcoach/booknow

As always, please remember to like and share this podcast if you found it interesting or helpful. I am your host, and this is another episode of Successful U. A podcast about living your best self.

Unlocking Us – a Podcast by Brene Brown: Burnout. We're all experiencing it and we're all desperate for a way through it. In this episode, I talk to Drs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski about what causes burnout, what it does to our bodies, and how we can move through the emotional exhaustion. This has been a game-changer for me and for my family!


Giving Thanks Can Make Your Happier

Improving Acute Stress Responses:  The Power of Reappraisal

Mindfulness and Positive Thinking

Mindwell’s toolkit for developing a Mindfulness Practice

Take 5  - the core mindfulness practice taught in the online MindWell Challenge

The Concept of the Triune Brain

The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensieness and Stonewalling

Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow

Understanding the Stress Response

Victor Frankl

Episode Notes


Welcome to Successful U:  A podcast about living your best self and pursing your dreams and achieving your goals.  I’m Sharon Kelly and and today we are going to explore the concept of stress and how to handle it both in the long term as well as in the moment.  This episode is focused on the impact of our perception of stress, the impact of chronic stress as well as some practical strategies handling stress in the moment, particularly if we can tell we are moving beyond our own optimal levels of stress.

I was talking with one of my coachees recently and he is concerned that in this very tight economy he is at risk of losing his job.  One of the things he had created for himself is a mindfulness practice. One of his colleagues shared with him that he also though he may also lose his job and that he had lost all motivation to try and was drinking more than usual. My client was marvelling that the mindfulness practices he had put in place and consistently used each day, were now really helpful in assisting him to remain calm and grounded.  Instead of panicking, he expressed a readiness to both dig in and work harder at excelling in his current role as well as lifting his head up to look for other opportunities that might better suit what he wants for himself in his future. Even though he was facing the stressful situation of being put on an improvement plan, he maintained that was able to stay calm and leverage the added stress to fuel his motivation to dig in and work the plan as well as start the process of looking for other potential avenues of work for himself. 

Where are you at on that continuum?  If you are not as grounded, thoughtful, and response-able, as you would like to be under stressful conditions, what could be standing in your way?  What is your perception of stress? Are you episodically stressed or chronically stressed?

A.     During these strange times, when everything is out of sync with our usual sense of so called normal, levels of stress can run truly high, too high.  And when optimal levels of stress are surpassed, then optimal performance becomes impossible.  When change, or anything out of the ordinary is perceived as a threat, this results in feeling fear.    Stress is often seen as the ultimate enemy.  But is it?  Is stress the ultimate enemy?

B.   It turns out that stress is NOT the enemy and that some stress can be a good thing – Some level of stress can increase our alertness and improve our performance, which is why procrastinators often say that they do their best work at the last minute. That optimal level of “just enough stress”, can give us the edge to perform at our best.   Researchers have also demonstrated that how how one thinks about stress impacts performance too.

C.   When you change your minds set about stress and believe you can harness it benefits, the results can be incredible. We can leverage how it heightens our ability to focus because we are more alert and ready for action in stressful situations. 

D.   When stress is PERCEIVED as a terribly bad thing however, or if we go beyond that optimal level, stress can damage our ability to focus and ultimately our performance.  When our mindset puts stress in the category of “dangerous threat” our mind perceives it to be an actual dangerous threat and then we lose the capacity to use our whole brain and get hijacked into an automatic fight, flight or freeze response.


A.   The main players in this automatic response mode when we sense danger - are the hormones Cortisol and adrenalin and parts of our brain called the Amygdalae and Hippocampus. When the fear response is activated, our body floods with hormones, increasing our blood pressure, heart rate, and the amount of sugar in our blood, among other things. The Amygdalae, part of our emotional response center –regulates fear, as well as basic CONDITIONED responses like those in the Pavlov’s Dog experiments. 

B.   The Amygdalae scan for danger and the hippocampus remember what was dangerous, and working together signal situations as  perceived threat AND then the endocrine system is triggered to release adrenaline and CORTISOL to get us physiologically ready to deal with MAJOR THREAT and we fight, run away or we could freeze right up.

C.   If the threat were a real, live, dangerous animal that we need to outrun or fight off to survive, getting flooded with cortisol is absolutely brilliant.  Our senses are aroused, our bodies ramp up for action and our brains get routed into “automatic response mode” – we operate in our ancient survival instincts.  If the threat is a bear or cougar, like we may encounter roaming the woods outside and around Nanaimo during certain times of the year, we are amped up to get the heck out of dodge! That’s a good thing!

D.   When our brain perceives CHANGE or UNCERTAINTY as a REAL threat, that is when it is NOT such a good thing.


A.     What turns out to be bad about stress is CHRONICALLY HIGH STRESS levels for one. The other is going past the point of an optimal level of stress.  Past that point is when automatism kicks in we are limited to just using our fast thinking reactionary system 1. David Kahnaman labled these two types of thinking and acting as the system 1 and system 2.  System 1 is the limbic system and the brainstem while system 2 is the more thoughtful, determined, parts of our brain that encompasses the prefrontal cortex. When in system 1, where automatism kicks in, old stories get triggered and we may spout well-worn scripts (those nasty saboteurs or gremlins judging everything and everybody negatively) and we are more likely to pick a fight or run away – or completely stuck in a freeze state of not knowing how to move forward or retreat.

B.     And from a physiological standpoint, chronically high levels of stress can lead to cardiac issues, anxiety, depression or complete lack of motivation (to even get off the couch and do anything at all).  Much has been written about combatting chronic stress such as getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising regularly.


A.     When we are chronically stressed, we can become what some people call “amygdalae regulated”. In this highly reactive state, we are prone to make snap-shot decisions that are less thought through and we tend to listen to our fear based, inner trash-talking voices. (I will address that barrier to dreams and goals next time).  When our amygdale, our “eye looking outward” scans the environment and forever perceives stressful situations as threats – that is when we remain on high alert & our bodies continue to produce high levels of cortisol, which in turn impacts our brain-body connection and can even impact neural connections in our brain growing new brain cells in the  (amygdala) and the killing off neurons that store memories  in the hippocampi.  That is why it is called amygdala regulated and that is why chronically stressed out people experience issues with memory.

B.     When we get past the point of optimal stress, we are much more reactive, and less contemplative, empathetic, creative and curious.


A.     It is important, in my opinion, to know that EVERYTHING we see, hear and sense routes through our Limbic brain – the emotional brain first and that it is why it is natural to have emotions arise in all circumstances.  We may even have memories “triggered” by situations or even tones of voice that call forth memories that trigger feeling as well as inner voices that are self-sabotaging, automatic scripts that are less than helpful and usually destructive.

B.     When we are chronically stressed and continually flooded with cortisol, our amygdale will have grown and we will have established well-worn neuro pathways to react in maladaptive ways that likely helped us survive when we were young, but don’t serve us well as adults.  This how we become pleasers, hypervigilant, hyperrational, or avoiders when stress levels rise.  And we have a smaller and smaller window of opportunity where we are still stop, breathe, remember what we really want, and choose our responses instead of simply reacting.  I will address these kinds of trash-talking, less than helpful ways of talking to self (or others) in a future episode, however, for the time being, just know that they are often part of the automatic fight, flight or freeze pattern.


A.     When determining what that optimal levels of stress is for us, it is helpful to know what our own personal signals of stress are – such as rapid breathing, flushing of the face or sweaty palms.   And then also having practiced and reliable ways to bring ourselves back into the present, ground back into our bodies, slow down our breathing and even bring our own heart rates back down from racing to our more normal resting heart rate.

B.     When we are NOT past the point of optimal stress, we still possess the ability to pause and breathe and make choices in the moment concerning how we chose to respond instead of reacting.  We remain response – able.  When we are chronically stressed when just one more stress inducing event occurs even the smallest of pinches can trigger fight, flight or freeze.


A.     When hearts race past that optimal level of stress, John Gottman’s research on conflict in married couples identifies 4 types of destructive behaviour.  One of these behaviours he labels stonewalling, which is basically a complete physiological shut down in which the “stonewaller” has gone beyond the point of being capable of either hearing or processing what the other party is saying.  Stonewalling is like Freezing (you’re there, but not really there) or fleeing, if you actually just simply leave the room, hang up, or checkout.

B.     The other destructive behaviours Gottman says show up in a heated conflict is fight.  He labels these destructive conflict patterns contempt, blame & criticism.


A.     Knowing that there is a point beyond optimal stress where we can kick into destructive habits is extremely useful.  Being able to NOTICE these our own signs of when we are reaching the point beyond optimal and then also have PRACTICED tactics to pull back into a more relaxed physiological state is extremely useful.  This state where physiologically we are capable of accessing our whole brain and maintain the use of the System 2, the more deliberate and thoughtful parts of our brain, also helps us stay present to both ourself and the people around us. As I said earlier, everything routes through the limbic brain, so we cannot help but have feelings about everything we see, hear and experience.  However, if you can feel the emotions rise in your body and notice what they might be telling you without attaching to the feeling, we can take note of the feeling and hopefully the message too and then pause.  When we pause and breathe to relax we can notice the emotion and then let it subside.  Breathing, (maybe 5 quiet mindful breaths) helps bring us back into our bodies and the present moment. Checking in with our emotions, and not getting swamped by them, can help us avoid an amygdala hi-jack and can allow space to choose to tap into our System 2 – that deliberate and rational part of our brain wherein we can choose empathy, creativity, and thoughtful action instead of reacting.

B.     When we can keep breathing and maintain a state of pre-frontal cortex regulation we can stay engaged in empathy, curiosity, cognitive agility and creativity and that enables us to exercise choice.  When we can pause, breathe and ground into our bodies and the present moment, we can, with practice, stop ourselves from sliding into automaticity and physiological overwhelm and instead stay in the present moment using our whole brain.

C.     It helps if we have established a consistent mindfulness practice, so it is easier to do it in the moment.


A.     Practice mindfulness

When you learn to be mindful, you can practice so you can get to the point that you can stop and breathe and ground yourself in the midst of a stressful moment. Practice, practice, practice, so that when you need it, you have the capacity to stop, breathe and choose your response instead of simply reacting.

                i.         I love this quote by Victor Frankl:

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.   In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   

              ii.         Learn to quiet our mind.  Learning to notice when we are stressed and learning to pause and breathe in the moment, has the power to bring us back into our bodies, get oxygen on the brain and enable us to stay pre-frontal cortex-regulation where we can choose our response instead of reacting in an amygdala hi-jack.

B.     Take command of thinking through lists

A particular list I think is super helpful is to take out a piece of paper and put a big line down the middle of the page.  On the one side identify all the things that you cannot control.  

                i.         Identifying and labeling fears has a way of putting a pin in them and deflating them somewhat.   Then in the other column write down all the things that you CAN control.  What are they?  Write them down!!  Think about them.  Think about that you can control more often and longer than those things that are out of our control.

              ii.         Where I focus my attention can impact how stressed or optimistic, I feel.

1.     Do I focus on the negative and everything that went wrong?  Or do I focus on what is positive or what I really want, or all that I am thankful for?  This last place to focus is called a gratitude practice.  Nurturing gratitude has been identified as a way to both combat stress and build optimism.

C.     Practicing Gratitude

                i.         This practice involves scanning our day and our life for that which we are grateful or the silver lining in a difficult situation.  Keeping this kind of journal is a proven method of nurturing optimism.  When you keep such a journal - try adding three new things for which you are grateful for …. every day.  Start with one and see how many days it takes for your list to grow to a 100.

              ii.         I am not advocating a Pollyanna approach where we ignore what angers and pretending that everything is FINE when clearly, there is disparity and disrespect in this world.  Just as important is finding ways to honour your anger. How can you create time for yourself to take stock? If you are undertaking the work of confronting your own biases, how can you do that with self-compassion?

D.     Self-care is another strategy to combat stress. 

Self-care is not selfish.  It is relevant and imperative for helping us deal with stress positively and with self-compassion.

                i.         Self-care is not just about bubble baths and rainbows.  It is practical and there are some ways that are more effective at building our resilience than others.  Exercise, nutrition, destructive habit avoidance and building trust into our work or school relationships which creates social safety, belonging and identity in our work and school life are all ways to take care of ourselves and build resilience.  Practicing self-compassion is a powerful strategy for combatting stress, increasing resilience and having a balanced approach to dealing with our own shortfalls and failings.

              ii.         Maybe ask yourself this question: What self-care routines will help me care for my body, and reduce stress?  What’s in the realm of my control regarding how I use my mind and what I focus on? How can I notice my emotions and learn from what I am feeling without spiralling into wallowing in negative emotions and destructive negative self-talk?


Thank you for joining me for another episode of Successful You.  Today we explored handling stress in the moment and ways to lower the overall sense of stress we have in our lives.

Although it’s natural for us to feel nervous, stressed, and fearful in times of uncertainty - exercising compassion, empathy, and kindness towards both ourselves and others improves our personal well-being.  Setting up routines and structures to care for our own well-being such as meditation, prayer and mindfulness as well as taking time to exercise and nourish ourselves physically, spiritually and socially do help us deal with stress.  Such actions and thoughts ripple positively outward towards everyone with whom we interact.  We can unintentionally negatively impact those around us.  Practicing the mindful breathing and even saying a short mantra like “I allow myself to feel, then refocus before I react” can be helpful.

Taking time to purposely create habits and practices that boost positive feelings can help us to open up and be more expansive in our thinking and more connected with our social networks.  This tighter connection with people - is also a key aspect of helping us to reduce stress and to flourish.

Please remember to like and share this episode if you enjoyed it and know of some others that might like to listen.

I am your host Sharon Kelly and I look forward to our next episode where we will explore Inner Trash Talking voices and how they get between where you are and living your best self in your version of a successful life.


Links and Resources Related to Remote Work

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Wall Street Journal: Coronavirus Keeps Workers at Home

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Gretchen Rubin on the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Resource Books Related to the Topic

The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of your Time, Tasks and Talents by Nancy Ratey

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes Remarkable Results by James Clear

Resources Related to Sleep

Sleep and your Mental Health

Better Bedtime Sleep Rituals

Five Ways Sleep is Better for Your Relationships

Episode Notes



Welcome to Successful U:  A podcast about living your best self while you are pursing your dreams and achieving the goals you set for yourself.

Thank you for joining me at Successful U where we explore what it means to be successful, how to get from where you are to where you want to go and what might be getting between you and your future vision.

I am Sharon Kelly and this is a podcast all about Successful You.

Today we are going to look at how to be a successful telecommuter which workers and learners alike are contending with in the midst of our 2020 reality.  Today we are going to look at the physical environment of living, studying, and maybe even working and socializing with friends and family from your home.  Is your physical environment set up to help you to focus and be productive in your work and school assignments this year?  Does your environment help or hinder you achieving your goals?


Currently remote work is advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it’s one of the policies that nearly half (46%) of organizations are implementing because of the COVID-19 epidemic. Everyone who can do it, is doing it these days

According to Statistics Canada:

    • 40 per cent of Canada’s workers found themselves working from home as pandemic lockdowns were enforced. That compares to less than 10 per cent in 2018 who had the option to work a day or two a week from home.
    • Businesses that expect their employees to continue working from home include the information and cultural industries sector (47 per cent) and the professional, scientific and technical services sector (44.5 per cent).
    • More Canadians will be working from home once the COVID-19 pandemic is over as more employers’ report that their staff can effectively do their jobs remotely.
    • Nearly one-quarter of Canadian businesses expect that 10 per cent or more of their workforce will continue to telework or work remotely post-pandemic.


Environmental Benefits

 Less gas, reduced carbon emissions reduced air pollution, less paper with mainly electronic reports and less use of plastics

Potential Productivity Benefits

    • More flexibility in managing family and life tasks
    • Increased control over working hour
    • No stressful, time-consuming and costly commute
    • More autonomy
    • Better quality of life
    • Better concentration

Potential drawbacks & concerns

There are both personal and structural concerns that will not apply to all people across the board in equal measure, however they are worth mentioning and addressing


    • Loneliness
    • Feeling disconnected from team/peers/colleagues
    • More difficulty in turning off from work
    • Perceived reduction of supports and lack of mentorship.
    • Lack of attention to health & self-care


    • Lack of proper study/workspace
    • Lack of reliable internet connection
    • Distractions from pets, children, spouse, room-mates, electronics,
    • Lack of access to technology such as programs or platforms

The Physical Environment is a Section of the Life Wheel 

What is your physical environment like in your pie of life?  Will you leave your living space to study or work and go to the local or your school’s library or maybe out to a coffee shop?  If you plan to work or study at home, have you paid attention to the set-up?

    • Where will you do your work, and have you considered the following factors?
    • A dedicated space that is for schoolwork that is separate from your sleep space as well as entertainment/relaxation spaces
    • Good lighting
    • Furniture that supports good posture
    • Workspace supplied with resources needed for your work
    • Noise cancelling headphones if you have noisy housemates

How chaotic or organized is your home environment?

 It’s not just people with ADHD who can be distracted by a chaotic environment.  Laundry, clutter and bills piling up can create bad credit, bad feelings and strained relationships.  Delegating, decluttering and staying organized are good strategies for creating a more serene, less distracting home environment.

Ways to Deal Distracting Clutter

  1. Delegating might be what you need if you run from a task instead of towards it.  You can arrange for bills to be paid automatically or you can enlist help to either do it for you or help you stay on top of paying your bills.
  2. If you are going to do something yourself, separate the actual task from the set-up.  The set up involves having everything you need ready and available to do the task.  It might mean having one place to put the bills along with everything you need to pay the bills.  
  3. It helps to ritualize weekly and monthly tasks by designating a night of week or every Saturday morning for doing laundry and even pairing something less desirable with  something you really enjoy such as watching a favourite program.
  4.  If you know you are challenged to keep up with tidying, dishes or doing the laundry, take measures to get it done.  Delegate it or set a specific day of the week to get it done and then write it on your calendar and make it routine. Even post reminders like putting a post it note on that pile of Laundry that says "Do Laundry On Wednesday"
  5. Declutter your home and keep it organized.  There is no time for SHAME.  Accept that your struggles are not a character flaw.  First, simply acknowledge it is a problem, and then take steps to do something about it.
  6. Know that it could be emotional.  Clearing up clutter can be emotionally toxic as cleaning out clothes, going through unfinished paperwork and clutter can bring up a host of feelings  such as old memories, shame, horror you have forgotten something.  Prepare yourself and don’t let old negative tapes and self-talk side-track you from getting it done. 
  7. Does it have a home?   Create a “home” for your cellphone, keys, wallet, glasses – anything  you tend to lose track of easily.  The basket by the door works wonders for me.  If                            everything has a home and gets placed in its home after each use, then it is easier to keep things picked up.
  8. Use the three second rule.  When picking up and decluttering, don’t hold anything in your hand for more than 3 second.  Make a quick decision.  Throw it away, put it in its home or make a home for it.
  9. Stand up and keep moving – even when going through stacks of paper.  It helps you remember to keep moving and keeps your brain from spacing out or hyper-focussing.
  10. Don’t look back. Once you have dedicated that box of clothing for donations. Use a box or a no-see-through bag and then label the box and get them out of your home as soon as you can. Then you can eliminate the temptation to go through the bags and boxes one more time.
  11. Do a swap and ask a friend to help who does not have an emotional attachment to your things.
  12. Tell someone your intention and keep it alive through accountability.  Create a tangible accountability system for yourself. Create time sheets for doing dreaded tasks.  For instance. Tape a paper post a piece of paper on the pantry that says clean top shelf for one hour.  No need to do that whole hour at once.  But keep track.  If you do 10 minutes, write it down and    go back later.  Go back again and again and when you reach 1 hour stop.  This helps you chunk it down into doable pieces. And it allows you to see that you actually did spend 1-hour        cleaning. And organizing the pantry.
  13. Designate different places for doing different tasks.  Maybe doing a mundane task like  paying bills can be done in a closed confined space.  Find out what works for you and then create a ritual and reminders in your calendar and on post it notes where you notice them and are reminded to get that task done.

Remote Learning and Wellbeing

Those working from home are divided about the impact it has had on their mental health, with about equal numbers saying it’s been terrible (15%) or great (16%). Most say it has been “okay” (68%).

Research conducted by the neuroscientists at Neuro-zone found that the three most positive predictors of Resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic were:

  • Exercise duration
  • Destructive habit avoidance
  • Practicing optimism
  • Building trust

 Personal Growth - Creating structure through developing habits and routines

  • Sleep specialists advise to consistently get up at the same time every day and practice a consistent bed-time routine. 
  • Consider always making your bed when you rise so you consistently accomplish something when you start your day.
  • Consistent times of exercising such as getting out for a walk every day or regular gym times and consistent meal-time routines also help to care for self through creating structure and routines for not just work but also self-care.
  • Pay attention to your energy cycles and schedule the right kind of tasks for your different energy levels throughout the day.
  • Doing a little bit every day has a compounding effect.  Identify your top priority for each day then block your calendar, invent a deadline and go distraction free.

Put energy into your system and not just putting energy out 

  • For lots of people that also means making sure we are connecting with friends, family and school or work colleagues.  So, making time to connect with important people in our life also sustains us in our work.
  • Organization, routines and habits can help us to create a supportive workspace in our homes and can support us in putting energy into our systems.


Today we explored the rise and likely continuing practice of telecommuting as part of more and more people’s working lives and the reality in so many students’ lives in 2020.  It seems like this form of work is with us for the forseeable future.  Paying attention to our Physical environment, our health and personal growth are three sectors of the wheel of life that we explored for setting ourselves up for success as remote workers or telecommuters. 

Please remember to like and share this episode if you enjoyed it and know of some others that might like to listen.

Please subscribe, like and share this Podcast - Successful U. A podcast about creating your version of success and sorting out how to get from where you are to where you want to go and discovering and dealing with whatever might be standing in your way.

I am your host Sharon Kelly and I hope you will join us in our next episode where we will explore Stress and how to handle it in the moment.

Links to People and Things Mentioned in the Show

Episode Notes

You want to be Successful, but what does that even mean?

Welcome to Successful U:  A podcast about living your best self while you are pursing your dreams and achieving the goals you set for yourself.

Thank you for joining me at Successful U where we explore what success means, how to get to where you want to go and what might be getting between you and your vision for living your best self.

I am Sharon Kelly, and this is a podcast all about Successful You.

A.    How Do You Measure Success?

I believe that for most part, people likely consider the same basic elements when assessing both success and satisfaction in life.  I propose that the basic aspects of life that most people consider seem to fall into about 7-9 categories depending on how you dice them:

  • Career
  • Money
  • Connection with family, friends and possibly significant other
  • Fun and recreation
  • Health
  • Personal development or spiritual growth
  • Physical Environment – where we work, live and study
    1. For each of these aspects of life, everyone has different measure of what it means to be successful and satisfied.  As an example, everyone’s productive measure of success in a particular class or even a career is different.  The same goes for how much money is enough and what a satisfactory living arrangement or physical environment is like.  What do you want to learn and develop in your personal life?  So everyone’s ideas are likely different, but for you and your successful life what is your vision regarding what you want your life to look like if you were living your best life now and also in a year, and 5 or 10 years down the road.
    2. The first step in defining this success for yourself is to create a vision for what you want for yourself NOW and in the FUTURE in each of those aspects of life.
    3.  Part of this vision of what success looks like takes into account what we think is important and what we value most in life.  If I shared this stack of 150 values with you, I am willing to bet that each of us would put different things in the important, very important and not at all important piles.  What we come up with as our top 5 values of what is absolutely most important is also likely different.  Knowing what you value and then living your life in alignment with your own values is one of the ways we can set ourselves up to living a successful life as our best self as we define success.

    B.     Obstacles to Success

    1. I am pretty sure that I am not the only one that can mess things up for myself.   Getting acquainted with how we tend to self-sabotage, trash talk ourselves or have tendencies towards vices and addictions that get in the way of what we really want in our vision of success is part of the equation.
    2. Mindset, habits, fears, and how we have learned to speak to ourselves can either help or hinder us from success.  Learning to be mindful and aware of these factors is the first step to addressing them.  I will do a future episode on mindfulness.
    3. Learning how our brains are wired and putting into place habits that look after our basic operating system is important.  When I talk about this basic operating system and am talking about our mind set and developing positive intelligence which means learning to hear our inner gremlins or saboteurs and dialing them down and dialing up our strengths.  Looking after our health (physical fitness, adequate sleep and nutrition) also feeds into our emotional wellbeing.  Do you have some habits and routines in place to look after your basic operating system?  And do you have some sure-fire ways that you consistently mess up your own vision of success?  It is easy to think about how we mess things up but before we go into any of that, lets first envision life, that pie (wheel) of life in all its aspects, and envision what would be ideal.

    C.     Wheel of Life

    1. We human beings are all basically wired to be in community with other people. This is likely a key reason why there are up to 3-4 aspects of life that are intertwined with the relationships we have with other people.
    2. Building good relationships at school, at work and in our personal lives, with friends, family and significant others along with some but not all aspects of fun and recreation involve other people. IF these relationships were all ideal, what would they be like?  How would they look and sound? When we are dealing relationships, we need to pay attention to aspects of our own personal growth and development such as how we listen, what healthy boundaries look and sound like and how we deal effectively with inevitable conflicts including how to ask for what we need without blame or criticism.  We human beings are interdependent people and are wired to be in community, so learning how to create and maintain good relationships with others feeds into most people’s definitions of and measure of success.  SO, for starters, what  kind of relationships do you envision for yourself as you envision your ideal future?
    3. So, when you think of all of the other pieces of the pie of life  (wheel of life) from career, and money to personal relationships, health, physical environment and personal or spiritual development, what does your pie of life look like now?  What is your current level of satisfaction with each of those pieces? If you were a 10/10 in satisfaction for all the sections in the wheel or pieces of life – then what would your life feel like?  This act of thinking about the future is called Prospection.  Thought leaders on prospection include Marty Seligman, Roy Baumeister and Gabrielle Oettngen.

    D.    Prospection

    1. Stages of Prospection: These thought leaders talk about prospection as something we accomplish in two stages.  The first important stage involves envisioning new possibilities and then the second stage is turning those possibilities into realities. 
    2. Benefits: Research has shown that being able to consider new possibilities for one’s future leads to greater growth, well-being and goal attainment.  Prospection can even help you bounce back from hardship and loss.  We have collectively gone through a period of difficulty with loss of jobs, freedoms, even hugs from a wider that wider range of people outside our personal bubbles!!  Amidst these changes and losses, that have come about from the pandemic, imagining new possibilities is like inviting in a breath of fresh air.
    3. Identify Your Values: So, if you were going to embark on prospection…. The first step in prospection is to identify your core values.  You can start this process by identifying some areas of your life where you find the most fulfillment.  These areas can pinpoint directions for future grown.  Also, core values ca act as your North Star, shining light on important decisions and guiding prioritization of your limited time and energy.
      1. Take Stock – what is most important to you – then you can take stock and identify how you are already honouring your values in your work, school, and in aspects of your life.  Think about all the aspects of your life where you are already living out your values then you can wonder about areas of your life where you could be living out your values more.  With a refreshed look at your values, you can then consider what your best possible self might look like in the future.  
      2. Write Out Your Ideal Future: writing about your future as if you’ve already attained all of your goals helps you visualize your ideal life.  You not only remind yourself of what matters to you, but you can also gain powerful insights into how you can bring your future to fruition.  When you write out your future as if it is coming alive now, this is a helpful exercise that also builds optimism as it helps to prime your mind for seeing opportunities and not just roadblocks.
    4. Tools
      1. Vision Boards: Some people will take their future vision of their life in all aspects of the pie of life and create a vision board.  It can be a collage, a single image or object.  Whatever inspires you is a perfect visual representation.
      2. WOOP IT: stands for Wish, opportunity, obstacles, and then plan. When you have a vision, in order to put legs on that vision, start to think about The wish and the opportunity and the meaning and impact of realizing your vision.  Only then do you focus on the possible obstacles and then create a plan for bringing that vision to life.

    E.     Useful Self-Coaching Questions

    1. Here are some great questions to ask yourself:
      • What is my wish?
      • What is my opportunity in this?
      • How will my life be different when I realize my vision?
      • What values of mine will I honour?
      • What could stop me?
      • What actions will I take?
      • When will I start?
      • What will I do first?
      • Who committed am I on a scale of 1-10
      • What would move me to a 10 if I find myself not quite there yet?
    2. Obstacles are a given.  Obstacles can be external or internal.  When executing your plan, stay flexible.  In order to develop cognitive agility, you could play with the ideas of If and Then.  Imagine the week in front of you.  Run through all the tasks and objectives you would like to accomplish to move you to your goal.  Visualize TWO reels in two different boxes.  One reel is titled IF and the other is THEN.  Think of an obstacle that could get in the way of one of your plans. Next decide how you will address that obstacle.  Most often in my coaching with people, once we know the vision, we do lots of exploration of the possible obstacles to understand what is getting in the way of the vision.

    F.   Growth and Development

    1. This is where personal growth and development comes in. People can grow and develop on their own.  You can sometimes get further and go faster when you have a thinking partner.  Coaching is about partnering with people in service of their goals to bring their vision of their best self in their life to fruition. As a Coach, I partner with people in a thought provoking and creative process to inquire about their wishes and opportunities for themselves and help them address setbacks, obstacles and stress or anything else that might be getting in the way of them achieving success as they define it.  
    2. Today, we talked about Success and that everyone defines it differently and we each have different measures.  I invite you to try out this prospection process and envision Successful YOU.   In future episodes, we will explore some of the obstacles that might get in the way such as stress or self-sabotage as well as some helpful tools such as exploring ideas like mindset, health set and habits for happiness and mindfulness.

    I am Sharon Kelly and I am the host of Successful U –  a podcast that explores what it means to be successful, what could stand in the way (cause interference) in getting from where you are to where you want to go.  Thanks for joining me in this first episode.

    Please remember to subscribe, like and share this episode if you gained insight and would like to hear more.

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