Courtney’s Blog

How To Build Mental Resilience in 5 Minutes With a Brain Game

Creating a strong, resilient personality seems like something you might either be born with, or else you could take a lifetime trying to build it. But it’s not true:  the strategies you can use to increase your resilience don’t have to be tedious or difficult.


Want proof? Check out this article in the Harvard Business Review by Jane McGonigal, a game designer who used gaming theories to bounce back after her traumatic brain injury. McGonigal noticed that it didn’t take much time or effort at all to take baby steps toward recovering her resilience. In fact, some of the smallest things she did had the biggest impact, like little mental counting games and other things that would usually be considered “time wasters.” Her findings back up what I experienced when I was recovering from my brain surgery: when I was laid up in bed for several weeks, I didn’t have the stamina to read (my favorite restful activity!) and my eyes weren’t even up to watching television. But I played round after round of solitaire, even when my neurons seemed to take five times as long as usual to notice the next move.


Jane and her twin sister went on to create the gaming app SuperBetter, specifically designed to help you build up your resilience and notice your already-resilient responses in everyday life. The most important payoff of these gaming activities? The McGonigal sisters say it’s a 3-to-1 positive-to-negative emotion ratio. For every negative emotion you experience in your everyday life, having three positive emotions helps your brain stay capable and your spirit stay resilient.


So what can you do in your life to keep a healthy 3-to-1 ratio? Will it be checking out fluffy animals on YouTube like the McGonigals? (if so, my personal favorite is The Dodo. You MUST check out the rescued baby goat who is only happy when she’s wearing costumes). Will it be solitaire, like me? I’m also a huge proponent of volunteering as a way of keeping a positive perspective. Research for my first book, The Giving Prescription, showed that helping someone else pays you back 5 huge benefits:

  • An increased sense of purpose
  • Deeper personal connections
  • Greater sense of personal power or ability
  • A measurable increase in endorphins dubbed “The Helper’s High”
  • Tangible payoffs like networking


Playing games may be great for your health after all. If you find yourself struggling to stay afloat, set aside 5 minutes to do something enjoyable, whatever that means to you. Try to focus on keeping a 3-to-1 positive ratio, and insert a little play in your life, and you may just find yourself better able to bounce back from life’s challenges faster.


Now that’s better than just winning a game!

How Men’s Brains Experience Stress (and Why the Difference Matters)

Everyone gets stressed out, but it turns out that when men get stressed, their brains make less of a particular hormone that helps keep us calm. Learn why men and women experience stress differently, and what men can do to beat their particular brand of stress.

5 Warning Signs of Burnout Syndrome

If the alarm goes off and you just can’t face another day, you might be a victim of burnout syndrome. While burnout is not an official medical diagnosis and has no scientifically agreed-upon definition, burnout is understood as a feeling of exhaustion and dissatisfaction with life circumstances, whether at work or at home.


Most of us know what it feels like to have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. When we’re at our best, we can handle juggling everyday life stressors. (Need a little help? My free To-Do List Makeover will help you feel less frazzled!) But if you’re suffering from burnout syndrome, it’s more than just regular stress. You’ll likely feel several of these symptoms:



Feeling exhausted even if you’ve gotten plenty of sleep is a common sign of burnout. When you are burned out, you often feel a significant decrease in your energy level, which can lead to feeling much more tired than normal.



The stress that leads to burnout syndrome can take a toll on your immune system and cause you to be prone to headaches and upset stomach. An ER doctor once told me Sunday evenings were the busiest ER times because people under severe work stress are prone to chest pains, heartburn, or gastric conditions thinking about the work week ahead.



If you are normally highly engaged at work, but find yourself unwilling to get deeply involved in conversations and problem-solving, that’s a sign of burnout. Burned-out people pull away from their family and colleagues and they also use a technique called “depersonalization” to pull away when they’re in conflict with others. (Check out this article if you want a scientific take on burnout).



Not feeling your usual levels of happiness? Or even your usual levels of sadness? By the time you reach burnout, your emotions have likely been in such overdrive that it’s common to feel numb. You may think it’s great you don’t get angry so easily, but you also won’t feel joy or peace as easily, either.


Poor Performance

Burned-out people aren’t great employees, partners, parents, or friends. Because of the other 4 factors above, you’ve lost your motivation to participate and achieve. You might be forced to admit to your burnout after a surprising performance review, or a counseling request from your spouse.



There is no single agreed-upon method for treating burnout. One of the first things you can do is manage stress levels. To get less stressed, ask yourself:


  • Am I paying attention to the difference between important and urgent?

If you don’t already know about the Eisenhower Matrix, check it out!

  • Am I doing the activities that are most important to reach my personal goals?

Download my free To-Do List Makeover to fit more into your life without being more stressed

  • Am I burned out for a reason, and can I change my circumstance?

Many of the above signs can also be symptoms of depression, so if you implement new coping strategies or               change your circumstances and STILL notice these signs, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with a health care provider in order to get to the bottom of it.

You can come back from burnout, so don’t let it ruin your career or your life. If you catch these 5 signs of burnout, you can manage your stress, change your circumstances, and get back on track.

How To Beat Stress Without Leaving Your Desk

Work stress can leave you feeling powerless, so here are two easy techniques you can use to refocus your energy and perspective if you’re feeling stressed out at work. And you can do it without ever leaving your desk! (Because I know you can’t always go for a walk or cuddle puppies in the middle of a busy work day).

3 Signs You’re In Desperate Need of A Change

How do you know if you need a change? Despite the fact that transition can be uncomfortable and uncertain, many of us know what it feels like to crave something new, or feel a push toward a different path.


While all of us can benefit from breaking our of our rut every now and then, there are three clear signs that you absolutely NEED a change, stat.


I Just Can’t Take It Anymore!


It won’t surprise you to know that a major freak-out episode is usually a good sign that something’s gotta give. If you’re feeling like life stinks and everyone around you is conspiring to behave poorly, that’s a strong indicator that you need to change your circumstances.


When you find yourself lashing out in anger, ask yourself if your response is proportional to the immediate issue at hand. If it isn’t, you may have stayed too long in a situation that needs to be addressed, and your buried frustration is bubbling up. If your anger IS justified given the situation, then that can still a good cue to make a change, because there’s no use staying in a situation that makes you angry. Long-term anger doesn’t get better with time, it just turns into resentment.


I Could Really Go For a Nap Right Now


The flipside of the freak-out is feeling UNemotional. If you feel like you’re going through life feeling numb and hazy, you’ve completely checked out. The absence of strong feelings is a lesser-known – but still important – sign that you need to make a change.


Because there’s not a lot of drama associated with this feeling, you may not even realize you’ve fallen into this trap, at first. But if you’re always tired, detached, and you just don’t care about things as much as you used to, think back to the last time you were passionate about an issue. What was it? How can you recapture that excitement and engagement? If you find yourself just wanting to check out and take a nap instead of engaging in life, it’s time for an overhaul.


No Thank You, I Don’t Feel Like a Change


This may seem counterintuitive, but one of the main signs you need a change is that you don’t want change! If you’ve gotten so comfortable that the thought of transition makes you want to cringe, then you better sign yourself up for some, stat!


Why? Why would you willingly go through change if things are just fine? Because “just fine” doesn’t stay just fine for very long. Nothing in life stays the same, just because you’re enjoying it.


In fact, being too passive about your life isn’t the same as being low-key. “Just fine” probably isn’t good enough for you, anyway. All the best success are made by going outside of your comfort zone. So maybe things are smooth sailing now, but change is likely coming. So its best if you get used to it and prepare yourself by regularly engaging in small, transformational behaviors. Reading, learning, new hobbies… all of those things are little changes that take your life from fine to excellent.


How do I know if I need a change?


We all get handed change whether we need it or not. But if you find yourself in one of these three situations, it’s a red flag that change would be good for you. So jump on board and go along for the ride.




The Shocking Reason Women Feel More Stress at Work (And It’s Not What You Think!)

According to the Harvard Business Review, there’s a surprising reason women feel more stress in the workplace than men do, and it has nothing to do with childcare, emotions, or any of the things we usually suspect. Find out what trick your mind could be playing on you that’s causing stress and getting in the way of your success.

Say These 3 Things When You’re Feeling Unappreciated at Work

This Friday is Employee Appreciation Day, when employees are supposed to feel even more valued than they SHOULD already feel. Sadly, the reality is that many employees feel disrespected, many managers aren’t great at listening, and lots of workplaces are full of conflict and contempt.


If you feel unappreciated at work, here are 4 short scripts you can use to get a little respect, and help yourself feel better about your work environment.


Say This:

“My plate is completely full with the X Project right now. If you’d like me to take on this new task, let’s discuss which priorities you want me to put on the back burner.”

Not This:

“Fine.” <as you walk out of the office huffing and eye rolling that your manager keeps piling more and more on you, as though you don’t already have plenty to do>


We often think that our employers know exactly how much work we’re balancing – they’re the ones who gave it to us, after all! And if we make that assumption, then when they pile more work on, we feel unappreciated, like “don’t I do enough around here?!?!” Your manager may be forgetting how much work you take on, because you’re so good at it that they don’t have to worry – it’s almost like a backhanded compliment. So don’t stay silent. Speak up and remind them of your workload. No bonus points for passive aggressively taking more work on and feeling unappreciated!



Say This:

“I would appreciate it if you would look at the proposal I sent and give me feedback, so I can proceed.”

Not This:

“Sorry, but can you please look at my proposal?”


Save your sorries for when the situation calls for it! Recent studies reveal women, in particular, apologize for things that don’t need to be apologized for. When you say “I’m sorry,” simply for interrupting your manager’s time, it can be perceived as a sign that their time isn’t worth being spent on you. There’s no need to apologize for asking for a moment of your manager’s time in order to get your work done. Phrase your request in a strong but polite way, and you’ll be commanding respect.



Say This:

“I’m really pleased with the work I did on the X Project. I’d love your feedback so I can see if my evaluation of the work is accurate.”

Not This:

<Nothing, and hope your good work gets recognized come promotion time.>


It’s okay to toot your own horn when it’s well deserved! We sometimes assume our higher-ups should notice our successes, and then we get frustrated if they don’t acknowledge them. But managers are human, and sometimes they forget or don’t realize how much their feedback would mean to you. So ask!



We all need respect in order to enjoy our jobs, so speak up with confidence and say these three things. The odds are good that your manager respects you and just forgets to say it, so ask to be appreciated and hopefully it will come your way.


Happy Employee Appreciation Day! I appreciate you!








PS – in a perfect world, how would your boss show appreciation to you?

Surviving Your Teenager’s First Breakup

Rejection is hard, and that first rejection for a teenager can be devastating. Here’s a guide for parents on the healthiest ways to help your teenager get over a breakup.

Warning: 5 Happiness Habits You Should Avoid At All Costs

The pursuit of happiness is a worthwhile endeavor. Happiness brings all kinds of good things to our lives. But how do you make yourself be happy?


It turns out, it’s not exactly easy. Many of us make some common mistakes on the road to happiness.  These five happiness habits have become common recommendations, but they don’t actually make you more happy at all!


Happiness Habit to Avoid #1: Filling Each Moment


If you’ve ever heard the phrase “live each day like it’s your last,” you’ve been on the receiving end of this bad habit. The mistake comes from a good place – we should savor our lives like the gifts they are. But this habit runs the risk of making us feel frantic and rushed, like we have to cram our lives full of unforgettable experiences. That’s stress, not happiness!


Instead, make sure you build time into your schedule for relaxation, hobbies, and peacefulness. I’m writing this sentence from a hammock right now, in fact! Don’t try to fill your life with so many opportunities that you don’t have time to enjoy just “being.”


Happiness Habit to Avoid #2: Purging


We’ve all been told that one of the true keys to happiness is accumulating experiences, not “stuff.” Research appears to concur that we all don’t need so many items lying around our house. But if you’ve ever cleaned house in a fit of fury and tossed away treasured mementos and memories, only to regret it later, you know the sad impact of this mistake. There’s such a thing as too much purging, and we run the risk of losing happy reminders of the past.


It’s a great idea to purge things that no longer serve you (see my previous entry on the 11 Things a Happy Person Doesn’t Keep Around the House). But don’t go too far. If it brings a smile or a tear, those memories are worth their weight in gold.


Happiness Habit to Avoid #3: Following Others’ Happiness


“That person looks so happy,” you think to yourself. “If only I <did yoga/ volunteered at a hospital/ knit my own sweaters/ learned how to surf/ fill in the blank> then I’d be that happy, too!” It’s true that there are some things that bring universal happiness. Volunteering, for example, has emotional benefits for nearly everyone. But you have to find your own unique calling, by volunteering for something that’s meaningful to you. Avoid tagging along on someone else’s path to happiness, and instead find the things that do it for you.


Happiness Habit to Avoid #4: Faking It ‘Till You Make It


We’ve been taught that if you make yourself smile, your attitude will naturally follow your outward expression. It turns out that’s wrong: a study from Michigan State University found that fake smiling can actually make you feel less happy and more emotionally drained. Instead of faking a smile, acknowledge your real feelings (even if only to yourself), then try to find an activity that will give you a genuine smile. I hear cat videos are readily available these days…


Happiness Habit to Avoid #5: Chasing Happiness


This might be the most counterintuitive lesson of them all: chasing happiness might actually make you feel worse. The reality is this: you can’t pursue happiness any more than you can avoid sadness. Both are feelings that come from simply being alive. By trying to chase the feeling of happiness, we set ourselves up to have a self-absorbed, ultimately shallow life (this Psychology Today article explains more about why).


Researchers say we shouldn’t chase happiness, but rather we should chase meaning. By living a meaningful life, full of purpose, we end up feeling happy and content as the end result. That’s a happiness that can last!



Don’t fall into the trap of these common happiness habits. They may be widespread and commonly recommended, but they won’t help you actually feel more happy in the long run.


Stress Relief Strategies for Entrepreneurs

How does an entrepreneur deal with stress? These three techniques – tailored specifically to the needs and worries of entrepreneurs – will help you feel peace, find moral support, and avoid stress triggers.