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Université de Montréal

The University of Montreal and of the world

The University of Montréal
and of human stress

Sonia Lupien

B y stressing her guinea pigs in her lab, researcher Sonia Lupien has been able to dispel the general misconception that stress is the result of time pressures. And make no mistake: there is no miracle solution to keep our lives stress-free.


She has concluded that stress is indeed the result of an imbalance between resources and demands. To understand what is eating you, you first have to deconstruct the stress factors. In other words, you have to decide what it is in a given situation that you find novel, unpredictable, threatening or uncontrollable. Then you need to continue this reasoning, i.e. reframe the source of stress, and develop a plan B – this will let you recover your resilience. In most cases, you will never need to put plan B into action. But just the fact that you have an alternative sends a message to your brain that you have the situation under control, and you will stop producing stress hormones. Then you can start working on finding solutions to the problem.


Despite what people might think, stress is not always bad. In fact it is necessary for survival, especially in life-threatening situations. The problem arises when stress becomes chronic. And that’s where Sonia Lupien’s research comes in.


She has been studying the mechanisms of stress and its effects on performance and memory for over 20 years. She has spoken widely on the topic, and wrote a book (Well Stressed: Manage Stress Before It Turns Toxic) for the general public, offering keys to better understanding stress. She is a Full Professor with the UdeM Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress of the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal.