October 2020–Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN)

October 2020 Vol 2 Issue 10

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-October, 2020!

I’m delighted to announce the “soft launch” this week of a project I worked on last spring and summer, during the first wave of Covid. While some creatives pressed “pause” at that time, I downloaded Zoom and got busy! The articles that resulted  feature successful grads of the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship’s startSMART program. (Please scroll down to the bottom, after you click on the link, below.) The stories all celebrate the astonishing milestone of Praxis’ 30th anniversary, in 2020!


Alongside the work of fellow alumni, podcaster Christina Cherneskey and videography project manager Megan Kent, I interviewed and wrote articles on four remarkable graduates of Praxis’ startSMART program. I asked these grads to share their insights with those outside of the program, but with whom we share our community.

Special thanks for the excellent (very patient) layout and web production by Saskatoon’s own Trusted Marketing specialists, Renee Larre and Nicole Grimley (https://trustedmarketingservices.com/). And thank you, as well, to Praxis CEO Monica Kreuger and Praxis administrator Elaine Mantyka, for instigating and overseeing the project.

I encourage you, valued readers, to tune in and take inspiration from the success stories of these alumni (Cheri McPhillamey, Ebtsam Elsheikh, Richard Jelsma and Joscelyn Armstrong).

While I have begun to promote these articles (presented as blog postings) on the “GlobalPraxis 30th Anniversary Webpage,” I have pressed “pause” until the end of this turbulent year, to deal with elder care in my family.

About two years ago, I was honoured to listen to an inspiring talk by Andrea Hansen, Benefits Advisor, Writer and Speaker, of Sutton Wealth Planning. Andrea spoke to the women of the Saskatoon chapter of GroYourBiz (a mentoring group sponsored by the Bank of Montreal). The group was led by the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship’s powerhouse coach, Deanna Litz.

The topic of the talk could be summarized as the importance of self-care and planning, especially for women entrepreneurs, when responsibilities of caring for aging parents and other relatives can overwhelm us and threaten both our mental and physical well-being.

Andrea spoke of her choice, some years earlier, to take a leave of absence from her work to sort through the very complex estate of an elderly relative, whose passing was not expected.

In recent weeks, the insights from that talk have returned to my mind, as I have been clearing out an elderly loved one’s home, when she is not well enough to participate. The myriad of medical and legal issues that arise can be truly overwhelming, and require mammoth effort to organize and resolve. And yet, this is a daily challenge many entrepreneurs face.

Others in my community, including Monica Kreuger and Christina Cherneskey (to name only two), are currently involved in similar elder care.

As an entrepreneurial community, we need to talk more publicly about these challenges that are marginalized as insignificant, embarrassing or otherwise not deserving of attention.

Our population is aging, but quality, reasonably priced, senior living and support services are deeply lacking in our province.

With this as my backdrop, then, in Article One I visit a strategy I have found helpful for coping with elder care with with pandemic times, in general–the “4-7-8” second breathing exercise. It was developed by Integrative Medicine Specialist Dr. Andrew Weil and spontaneously taught, in a research meeting last month, by Saskatoon’s own, Dr. Dee Dee Maltman.

Breathing deeply and knowing when to hold and to release that breath can both literally and figuratively change the game for those who are anxious and overwhelmed.

By contrast, some levity comes In “Storytellers’ Corner,” where I visit a “pet peeve” phrase of American etymologist Bryan Garner–the case of the irritatingly redundant “increasingly more.”

And, as always, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me on the “Contact” page of my website (link below). I’m always delighted to hear from my readers about the salient issues in your lives, in these tough, pandemic  times.




Storytelling Communications




ARTICLE 1: Remember to Breathe

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER:  The Case of “Increasingly More”




Article OneFeeling Anxious and Overwhelmed, these days? Remember to Breathe, says Drs. Andrew Weil and Dee Dee Maltman

Six months into the Coronavirus pandemic in Canada, many of us have reported elevated stress levels, blood pressure, blood glucose levels (darn those lost months of exercise, when gyms were closed!) . . . . More than ever, we need straightforward, accessible steps to take, to manage these stressful, caregiving and pandemic-weary days.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, researchers Emma Seppala, Christina Bradley and Michael Goldstein reported one such step, or tool, asking “why [is] breathing . . . so effective at reducing stress?”

They cited an example of a US Marine Corp Officer who survived driving over an explosive device in the war in Afghanistan, when he discovered his legs were “almost completely severed below the knee.”

In the face of extreme duress, the officer practiced a breathing exercise that he had earlier learned in a training manual, keeping himself calm enough “to check on his men, give orders to call for help, tourniquet his own legs, and remember to prop them up before falling unconscious.” He was informed later that if he had not done so he would have bled to death.

The global pandemic, social justice issues (e.g. Indigenous Lives Matter; Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls; Black Lives Matter; and the “Me Too” Movement,  to name only a few) and stresses involving entrepreneurship or employment have intensified our anxieties. But if soldiers in combat zones can survive by controlling their breathing patterns, as the HBR writers say, shouldn’t our daily lives be all the more responsive to it?

As part of a research team at Yale University, Seppala, Bradley and Goldstein investigated the effectiveness of three practices to improve well-being:

(i) breathing exercises (including a program called the “SKY Breath Meditation,” a “comprehensive series of breathing and meditation exercises learned over several days that is designed to induce calm and resilience”);

(ii) mindfulness-based stress reduction (a technique of meditation to increase one’s awareness and regulation of each moment of stress);


(iii) a program of learning techniques to improve emotional intelligence and the self-regulation of one’s emotions.

While all three of these interventions were to some extent successful,  Seppala, Bradley and Goldstein found that participants who practiced the “SKY Breath Meditation” found the greatest improvements in “mental health, social connectedness, positive emotions, stress levels, depression, and mindfulness.”

An improved breathing method offered the most immediate disruption of (and then relief from) stress,  mood and even the burden of “conscientiousness”—effects that grew “even stronger when measured three months later.”

By undergoing a task that simulated a high pressure situation, both before and after receiving instructions for the breathing meditation, the participants “held steady in terms of breathing and heart rate,” as a “buffer against the anxiety” they experienced. The breathing technique produced “not only . . . a more positive emotional state, but also [the ability] to think clearly and effectively perform the task at hand.”

While I’ve found talk-based psychotherapy can help somewhat to improve my anxiety in stressful times, breathing is a more effective way to reduce intensive feelings of upset, anxiety and overwhelm.

When we struggle with such feelings, our prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for rational thinking and acting) is impaired. So thinking and talking logically do not effectively help us to “regain control” and return to calm.

For that reason,  during these times, we find it hard to think clearly “or be emotionally intelligent” among our peers. By contrast, breathing exercises allow us to “gain some mastery over our minds.”

When we are happy and calm, breathing tends to be regular, deep and slow. If we feel anxious or angry, it becomes “irregular, short, fast and shallow.”

The HBR researchers found that when we “follow breathing patterns associated with different emotions, [we] actually begin to feel those corresponding emotions. . . . Changing the rhythm of [one’s] breath can signal relaxation, slowing [our] heart rate and stimulating the vagus nerve.

That nerve runs from the brain stem to the abdomen, and is part of the parasympathetic nervous system [which controls] the body’s ‘rest and digest’ activities” (vs. the sympathetic nervous system that controls the ‘fight or flight’ response).

Tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system helps us to feel calmer and return to thinking rationally.

As inhaling air causes our heart rate to increase, exhaling slows it down. Seppala, Bradley and Goldstein say that “When you feel agitated, lengthen your exhales.” While they refer us to the “SKY Breath Meditation” program, it does take time and repetition to use these interventions.

For a simpler process that offers very significant results, I recommend the “4-7-8 Breath” relaxation exercise developed by Integrative Medicine specialist, Dr. Andrew Weil (from the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine). It was introduced to me by U of S Integrative Medicine specialist and family physician, Dr. Dee Dee Maltman.

This exercise is simple, quick, can be done by anyone, anywhere, and requires no equipment. Dr. Weil has referred to the 4-7-8 exercise as “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.”

These are the basic steps:

(1)   Inhale slowly through your nose, to a slow count of 4.

(2)   Hold your breath steadily, to a slow count of 7.

(3)   With the tip of your tongue placed against the ridge behind your upper front teeth, exhale through your mouth, to a slow count of 8.

(4)   Repeat this cycle times, pausing briefly in-between each repetition.

If you have a private space to do this exercise, unobserved by others, Weil recommends that you exhale loudly, making a “whoosh” and a guttural sound, releasing pent up stress, anxiety, etc., in that exhalation.

Weil says that for those with high levels of anxiety and who have a hard time holding their breath for the 7-point count, they can speed up the exercise (but keep to the 4-7-8 ratio for the three phases). With practice, people become able to slow down the process and to inhale and exhale more deeply (thereby improving the exercise’s effectiveness).

If you use the 4-7-8 exercise at least twice per day, for four breaths at a time, for a whole month, Weil says that you’ll find the “natural tranquiliz[ing]” effect to grow over time.

After the first month, it can be extended to 8 breaths, per cycle.

Dr. Weil says that the exercise cannot be done too frequently, after that first month of practice and that any lightheadedness after that time will pass and should not worry us. You will gradually notice an increase in your resilience to stress (as I know I have).

Dr. Weil recommends using the 4-7-8 breathing practice “whenever anything upsetting happens—before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension.” You can also use it to fall asleep, making it valuable for insomniacs!

And now it’s your turn: When you feel the stress ratcheting up in your workday, how do you respond?

Have you ever tried the 4-7-8 Breath Relaxation Exercise?

What kinds of stresses could it calm for you, as you progress through your working life?



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: The Case of the Redundant “Increasingly more”

In a recent blog posting from his “Usage Tip of the Day,” American etymologist Bryan Garner discussed the term “increasingly more” as a “REDUNDANCY” that demonstrates sloppy thinking and writing.

Garner suggests that choosing simply one of those terms–i.e. “increasingly” or “more,” would suffice–but a surprising number of professional writers fall into the trap of redundancy.

He finds the following example, as one of its earliest known cases, in an article called “When a Best Seller is at Stake, Publishers Can Lose Control,” (by Roger Cohen, from The New York Times, 12 May, 1991, E4): “As the business becomes increasingly more competitive [should be simply “increasingly” OR “more”], do publishers care which books they publish or what shape the manuscripts are in, when they hit the press?”

As in every aspect of life these days, deflating rhetoric and simplifying our language serve to inform and educate the greatest numbers of readers and writers in our communities.



Special thanks to friends and colleagues who have provided services and support through this time apart from my copywriting and teaching.

In particular, Ben Nussbaum, Dani vanDriel, Barbara McEown, Rev. Roberto DeSandoli and Heather DeSandoli, Lillian McKay, Monica Kreuger, Elaine Mantyka, Silvana Cracogna, Laura vanLoon, Erin Watson, Margaret and Ken Wilson, Ashleigh Mattern, Katrina German, Cheryl Kadesh and Jackie Procyshyn  (and those whose names momentarily escape me). I am grateful and thank you all deeply.

I also acknowledge the excellent work and cameraderie of fellow Praxis alumni and creatives, Christina Cherneskey and Megan Kent.

Thanks to web designer extraordinaire, Toronto-based Oliver Sutherns for making revisions to my website (late last summer) in a timely and skilled manner.

And special thanks to you, my readers, whose emails and text messages remind me that you are still engaged by this newsletter, roughly eight years after I started it (the most recent postings now appear under my “blog” section).



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now write marketing and communications documents and lead  workshops that help small- and medium-sized businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively.

I also help economic immigrants  to write more effectively, so as to secure better jobs.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).  I am taking bookings for 2021.

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).