Rac session2

#ResilientAsiaChallenge Session 2: Training Your Brain

Published on: 17 Jun 2020

Session 2: Brain training — How can I reprogramme the way I think about stress so I can limit my stress triggers?

Kicking off week 2 of the Resilient Asia Challenge is today’s expert on emotional intelligence, Deiric McCann, who guides us on ‘how to reprogramme our brain’ and use stressors to our advantage. I don’t know about you, but I’m keen to find out good stress relief tactics at this strange time. Luckily for us, he has suggested some great strategies we can all apply to our daily life.

So, how do people’s mindsets differ when it comes to dealing with stress?

I think we can all agree this is not how we imagined the beginning of 2020 to play out and most of us have felt a tad overwhelmed with the stress surrounding the unknown. Today, we are able to tap into Deiric McCann’s insights as he begins by noting there’s actually a large amount of variability in the way people report their dealings with stress based on their cultural expectations. On one hand, some cultures are very direct with their emotions and reports, while on the flip side some cultures only report what they think is expected of them e.g. ‘I’m doing fine! I don’t need help from others’. Of course, where each culture is placed on the curve during this virus directly impacts their experience too. A community with 20,000 deaths is going to feel more on edge than those of us who’ve experienced 50 deaths and aren’t in total lockdown.

An encouraging result from today’s webinar was that two-thirds of viewers who responded to the polls initiated by Deiric said they were feeling confident in their ability to handle stress during the current situation. For those who responded that they weren’t feeling particularly confident, Deiric touches on last week’s topic of the well-known trait of stress, the ‘fight or flight’ response. He notes that prolonged stress can have a particularly detrimental impact upon your heart as well as switching off our digestive system and immune system and most of us are familiar with this frustrating sensation. Promisingly, half of this session’s global watchers voted that they believe they have the tools and techniques to deal with stress, such as this ‘fight or flight’ response.

What are lesser-known side effects and how can we use them to our advantage?

So, while I’m sure most of us are familiar with the notorious ‘fight or flight’ concept, Deiric introduces us to the lesser-known side effect of ‘The Challenge Response’. When this response occurs we experience a surge of additional energy where our heart rate rises, adrenaline goes up and we feel focused instead of ‘fight or flight’. While most of us think about the negative impact of stress, Deiric asserts that it can actually be used to our advantage (hurray!). This could be in terms of fine-tuning our responses and allowing us to rise to the challenge, cue images of a brain surgeon, control tower operator or professional sportsperson, or if you’re like me, simply meeting that dreaded deadline.

He also explores the concept of ‘secondary stress’ where we become stressed about the mere fact of being stressed in the first place (insert exploding brain emoji!). He says one of the immediate things our brain does when faced with stress makes an analysis about whether we have the capabilities and resources to deal with it. If you are lucky enough to feel in control of this stress then you will be greeted with ‘The Challenge Response’ which will get you off the couch and ready to achieve your goals in no time. Following on from this, Deiric acquaints us with research-proven techniques on how to deal with stress. He notes that research has proven stress can be something pretty positive when harnessed to help achieve your goals. Ultimately, it comes down to that tricky thing called mindset. If you view stress as having the potential to be useful, then you will automatically train your brain to think about how you can use it to your advantage. Deiric encourages us to try out three things you can do immediately to change the outcome of your stress:

  1. Embrace the mindset that ‘this too shall end”, e.g. there will be a post coronavirus period and hibernation won’t be forever. Use this as an opportunity to work on your personal vision that you can check in with on a regular basis and in turn create a ‘positive emotional attractor’.
  2. Harness the power of gratitude on a regular basis. To do this, he recommends journaling that begins with a prompt, such as, ‘today I am grateful for/the person I am most grateful for…’ and put on a timer for a few minutes to get your stream of consciousness going. There’s no doubt a lot more than you realise to be grateful for!
  3. Get a coin that is not native to where you come from. In the morning pick this coin up and tell yourself you are going to be open to opportunities today, then place it in your pocket. At the end of the day, take the coin out and ask yourself what you are grateful for today.

So, rather than focusing on the general doom and gloom at the moment, Deiric encourages people to make it a practice to think about the minor things you have to be grateful for, not just the major. Maybe it’s simply a kind gesture from a friend or coffee catchup on Zoom to uplift you. Lastly, he urges people to acknowledge stress is there for the body to promote action and it is up to you to train your brain and use it in a positive way. It’s all about choice! Let’s all ask ourselves ‘what can I learn or create during this period that will be valuable post-coronavirus?’ Rather than feeding your own panic and stress why not alter your thinking from ‘what if?’ to ‘what is’ and take each day as it comes.

Recordings of all sessions have now been made available and can be accessed at no cost at If you liked the format of the Resilient Asia Challenge and would like a customised wellness series for your organisation, please reach out to us at


  • Today’s hosts are Eric Toh, an executive coach and facilitator, Sally Leonard the CEO and founder of Black Dog Consultants and sister company Resilio and Raatha Ganesh, the Disruptor in Chief of Resilio.

  • Today’s guest contributor Deiric McCann is a leading global expert in the area of emotional intelligence. Based in Ireland he is the Head of International Development for Genos International. He is the co-author of ‘Leadership Charisma’ and supports a community of more than 1500 partners worldwide in developing their businesses.

  • A thank you to Happyer for working with us to produce this blog. Happyer is a job platform for the modern job seeker