Optimal Self Workshops – Resident Module Review

Review the Mental Health Continuum, the Big Four+ and H.E.L.P. here:

Just like your physical health, your state of psychological well-being can fluctuate over time. The Mental Health Continuum is a colour-coded spectrum that you can use to reflect on your stress levels. It’s not a formal diagnostic tool, but a handy visual guide for self-reflection.

Consider how your moods, attitudes, and behaviours may shift in one direction or another. Each “phase” of the Mental Health Continuum has a corresponding set of recommended actions to take. Earlier identification = earlier intervention = better outcomes.

The Mental Health Continuum was adapted from the Government of Canada’s Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) program.

The “Big Four+” are a set of tools based on principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and performance psychology. Originally developed by the U.S. Navy SEALs, these simple tools have been proven to help individuals in high-stress situations cope with stress and improve their performance. Most of us have already used these skills in one way or another – anyone can use them!

  • 1. SMART Goal Setting
    The SMART goals framework helps structure your goals so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Your goals should be:Specific – define exactly what you are going to do

    Measurable – include concrete criteria to track your progress

    Attainable – your goals should be challenging, but realistic

    Relevant – remind yourself why this is important

    Time-bound – set a deadline for yourself

  • 2. Visualization
    Visualization has been proven in sports and medicine to reduce stress and optimize performance. Envision yourself completing a challenging or technical task, such as running a code. This mental rehearsal will help prepare you for the real deal.
  • 3. Cognitive Reframing
    Our internal monologue, past performances and beliefs all affect our expectations in any given situation. Becoming aware of your self-talk and challenging your negative thoughts will help you maintain your focus and improve your performance. Consider distortions such as overgeneralizing, catastrophizing, and black-or-white thinking. Follow these six steps to challenge your negative self-talk after a stressful experience:Reflect on the situation (who, what, when, where, why).

    Identify the emotions you experienced.

    What negative thoughts were running through your head?

    What evidence supports your automatic thoughts?

    What evidence does not support your automatic thoughts?

    Can you come up with a more balanced, alternative thought?

  • 4. Tactical Breathing
    Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering your heart rate and helping stem the flood of stress hormones in your body. Tactical breathing follows the rule of 4s: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds (repeat as needed). In just seconds, you can effectively calm your body during acute stress.
  • + Focus and Attention Control
    The “+” in the Big Four+ refers to maintaining your focus and attention control to further optimize your performance. Consider how your focus can be directed internally or externally, narrow or broad. Different situations will call for different areas of focus. Be mindful of where you’re directing your attention in order to combat tunnel vision or vigilance fatigue.

Sometimes you may notice a peer or colleague who seems to be in distress. It can be intimidating to broach that topic of conversation with someone, so the H.E.L.P. acronym offers a guide to do so:

Ask How they’re doing. Make sure you find an appropriate time and place.

Provide Empathy. Put yourself in that person’s shoes and engage with their feelings as if they were your own.

Listen without judgement. Make them feel heard, understood, and not alone.

Plan next steps with them. What informal or formal support is available to them?