On finding calm with a new app (from Dr. Jud Brewer) in the mid-August issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’

August 2022 Vol 4 Issue 8

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Teaching ESL and Entrepreneurial Communications
“I will teach you how to tell your story”

Welcome Mid-August, 2022!

Another heat wave is upon us, this month, with temperatures expected to reach above 33 degrees Celsius, today! We might all be relieved not to live in Europe, however, where temperatures greater than 40 degrees
continue to break weather records. One of my ESL students in France has described images of drought familiar to Saskatchewanians: “brown grass, parched soil and air that is oppressively still.”

More evidence (if we needed it) of environmental degradation, due to climate change. Here at home, in happier news, the CBC announced last Friday that adult consumers in Saskatchewan (under 50 years of age) can now acquire their second Covid booster vaccinations. This is great news, as it is well overdue and remains our best defense against the “seventh wave,” now
evident in spiking infection levels in our local wastewater.

Do you find that any of life’s uncertainties—such as Covid, or a new program year—cause you anxiety? If so, keep reading!

In Article One, this month, I discuss some of the salient insights of a watershed mindfulness app, recently developed by psychiatrist and neuroscientist, Dr. Judson Brewer. Brewer and his team have named the app “Unwinding Anxiety,” picking up on the name of his earlier book on the topic (2021; reviewed in the November 2021 issue of “Tell YourStory Newsletter”).

The app dives deeply into how we turn to anxiety (unconsciously) as a “habit-loop” (i.e. a kind of easily triggered, bad habit) and shows us how to use mindfulness to break free of that. On the horizon? A healthier, happier state of being.

Then, in “Storyteller’s Corner,” we visit the blog of American etymologist, Bryan Garner, on the somewhat unflattering adjective, “embattled.” Most of the world could be said to feel “embattled” by Covid, as we enter year three.

To my valued readers: I hope these dog days of summer still give you time to sleep a little later than usual; linger over a cup of coffee a bit longer, maybe with family or friends; breathe deeply into sensations of anxiety you might otherwise try to flee. . . . . When you find inner-peace from any anxiety in your lives, I know you’ll share it with those whom you love, and with others who need it most.
Happy late summer! And may the program year that is about to launch bring you both fulfillment and peace of mind.


Storytelling Communications

ARTICLE 1: On finding calm with a new app from Dr. Jud Brewer
STORYTELLER’S CORNER:  Bryan Garner and the origins of “embattled”

Article One: On Entrepreneurial Wellness–Finding calm with a new mindfulness app

In a 2021 book called Unwinding Anxiety: Treat your Brain to Heal your Mind, Brown University based addiction psychiatrist and neuroscientist, Dr. Jud Brewer, wrote compellingly about the depth and despair of human anxiety. (Note: I apologize for erring earlier by saying Brewer was based at Yale–he is no longer).

Brewer discussed (for the first time in a laypersons’ book) the habitual nature of anxiety, and discussed how the practice of curiosity, mindfulness and other strategies can help us to “unwind” anxiety and panic and shed unhelpful coping behaviours (e.g. OCD, overeating, gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, etc.). But the program he recommended was less than fully clear, especially to lay readers.

I’m writing this month to share that Dr. Brewer has since developed for international subscribers, a computer app, in which he defines the concept of anxiety the app will defuse, as “a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

As emotions go, anxiety is one of the most painful in human experience. Most of us have endured it in the past. And without being conscious about it, many sufferers only “feed it,” or “make it worse, in our efforts to make ourselves feel better.” When we feed anxiety, our minds become more and more
tightly wound up in stress and fear, even though most of those fears are unfounded and seldom come to pass.

Dr. Brewer reminds us that the human brain is wired for reward-based learning. The brain learns by identifying a “trigger,” which causes us to exhibit a particular “behaviour,” that in turn gives us a predictable “reward”: Trigger—> Behaviour —>Reward.

His app shows that reward-based learning works well when we have good experiences—and can overwhelm us, when they are bad. As Brewer says in his app, “a bad feeling triggers anxiety, we distract ourselves and we feel slightly better, temporarily, and we repeat.” Therefore, we binge on
chocolate bars, ice cream, excess gambling, smoking, drinking, etc. We get caught in what Dr. Brewer calls a “habit loop,” where we’re only distracting ourselves from the emotional sources of anxiety, and which traps us from addressing what underpins it.

In the app which was years in the making, Brewer actually illustrates how to use specific exercises, so that even people who thought mindfulness would not work for them, can learn “to pay attention to the present moment and non-judgmentally.” We learn in real time how to use curiosity, focused
breathing and other simple and effective exercises.

Amazing truths arise from the “Unwinding Anxiety” app. If you’ve ever experienced anxiety surrounding performance or relationships—or any other stressor–I encourage you to subscribe and study it for yourself:


(Recognizing that some sufferers cannot afford private medical apps, Dr. Brewer and his team, who also staff an online community meeting place for clients, can offer short-term access, pro bono.)

When we learn the reality of how anxiety works, as he says, “we can begin to care for our minds ourselves, becoming the ‘master mechanic’ ” of them.

This is life-altering medicine, good readers, and I encourage you to explore it for yourself and to find what steps you can take to liberate you from anxiety.

Rather than trying to ignore or distract ourselves from it, we can learn how to maintain calm and sustain more joy in our lives than we otherwise would feel.

Thank you, Dr. Brewer!

And now it’s your turn. When have you experienced anxiety in this hyper-digital, fast-paced age?How have you managed it? Would you consider using an app to train yourself to restore calm and resilience?

Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . . 

Bryan Garner and the origins of “embattled”

American etymologist Bryan Garner recently discussed in his “Usage Tip for the Day,” the term “embattled.”

He tells us that “embattled” has “traditionally meant “ready for battle,” usually in reference to an aggressor whose troops and weapons are ready for fighting.” For instance, we could read: “The enemy’s army waited, embattled, for the sun to rise over the battlefield.”

But in the last 70 years, Garner writes, the adjective has taken on the sense of “beleaguered (perhaps through sound association with battered) and has been applied instead to the victim of aggression.”

We might describe former UK prime minister Boris Johnson as “embattled” during his last months of office, when his dishonest and illegal activities finally caused the Conservative party to expel him.

Closer to home, a classic example of “embattled” individuals was furnished by the “Canadian Senate expenses scandal” (also known as “Duffygate”) in 2013. Then, “embattled” senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were publicly exposed for their excessive spending habits and dubious expense claims.

The late American actress Elizabeth Taylor was seen for much of her life as an “embattled” screen icon, whose affairs, eight marriages to seven men, religious conversions, substance abuse and many years of ill health became tantalizing fodder for the tabloid press on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Embattled” is an adjective in active use. For instance, consider the following sentence (from yours truly): “After enduring years of Covid-19’s mercurial symptoms, unexpected contagion, high mortality rates, repeated testing and vaccinations, our embattled public have expressed ‘wishful
thinking’ that Covid may soon be over.”

Do you have a question, story, riddle or joke on any aspect of communications?
Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue.




And now for my favourite feature of this newsletter!

This month, I’m delighted to introduce you to the acrylic landscape painting of Saskatoon based artist, Steph Pister.

A family member recently gave me one of Steph’s remarkable landscape paintings, to beautify my office. The painting is called “Take Cover,” as rain clouds advance on the prairie horizon (shown below, with apologies for icontact’s small image size limits):

Steph describes herself as having “a passion for capturing Canadian landscapes and living skies.”

I was introduced to her work through her Facebook page, “Steph Pister Art” (@StephPisterArt), where she has more than 400 followers.

There you’ll find her remarkable vision of rural Saskatchewan, and especially of the lake country where she grew up.

She has trained with expert Robin Adair, of U of S community arts, and is highly prolific.

Steph is available for commission painting and invites inquiries over Facebook.

Make your home or office reflect some of Saskatchewan’s under-appreciated beauty and support a gifted local artist who is also a hardworking mom!

Steph’s prices also make her art affordable for gift-giving. (As they say, Christmas is right around the corner…!)

I invite you to follow her on Facebook, where she updates her large collection, frequently.

I’m also delighted to update you on the success of cohort two of digiSMART, the latest program offered by Saskatoon’s own Praxis School of Entrepreneurship.

DigiSMART allows entrepreneurs of all ages and niches to “upskill” their digital knowledge. The program’s second cohort is fast at work, applying what they’ve learned.

And PSE Vice-President Brent Kreuger, Chief Facilitator Deanna Litz, along with alum from the startSMART program, Christina Cherneskey and I, have queued up to present special modules on digital communications
(including videos, podcasts. blogging and social media).

Now be honest: Wouldn’t your business grow faster and stronger if you could adopt these kinds of marketing? Want to use communications to tell your unique story? Here are the details!

DigiSMART has been made possible by provincial government funding, so is available FREE for business owners in and around Saskatoon.

Select from a range of 40 modules, including “basic,” “strategic” and “specialized.” Register for just one, four, or all 40 modules to build your skills toolbox!

A new cohort will shortly start. Contact program administrator Elaine at (306) 664-0500 who will answer your questions, send you the outline of modules and show you how to register.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity of the year: digiSMART!

And please spread the word to other entrepreneurs who know that upgrading their tech skills will grow their businesses!

There are always new businesses and entrepreneurs to promote. Please send me your list of faves!  But this is a wrap for mid-August!


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 teach English as a second language (ESL) that helps new and economic immigrants to secure better jobs; I write communications documents that help SMEs to close more sales by communicating more effectively;
and I write ebooks and chapbooks that help companies share their legacies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca)