Category: stress management

Harmonizing Your Emotions & Intentions

As February ends and March begins, you may be considering commitments to positive changes in your life; get more exercise, eat less sugar, have less screen time. With all of these healthy resolutions, another you may consider; reprogramming knee jerk reactions or emotions that set up a negative domino effect on your life. Do you tend to get upset about reoccurring issues? Are there triggers that put a bee in your bonnet, or perhaps family members that seem to have an emotional power over you? If you struggle to keep calm and clear during particular stressors, resetting your emotional reactions can be a way to move your life in a different direction.

Let’s face it, you can have the best intentions to carry through with changing your behavior, but if your emotions are on autopilot (which for many of us they are), it can be a constant battle of wills. What you know to be true may differ greatly from the scenario your emotions are trying to convince you of. For example, your mother or long distant boyfriend calls and you hear irritation in their voice about your upcoming visit. Immediately you assume the person is irritated with you and become defensive. Communication breaks down, feelings are hurt, and you end up feeling terrible about the mix up.

Sound familiar? An effective way to reprogram those automatic emotional reactions is to immediately, think differently about it. Don’t mull it over or stew, begin to implement going within and breathing, relaxing, rather than jumping to conclusions. This takes a lot of practice because the trick is to do this right away while in the midst of the emotional crisis or challenge.

Start with small efforts to change your emotional patterns rather than tackling the deeply embedded ones that typically are related to your childhood. For example, reassure yourself of your abilities to change. Read affirmations on a regular basis. Without making a big announcement, begin to react differently when challenge presents itself, which it will, that is life. Begin to choose to not get hysterical or upset when someone is rude, or cuts you off in line. Remember, you are in control; you don’t have to imitate bad behavior. Rather than gravitating towards the negative behavior, do an about face. Collect yourself, breathe, and walk away.

Begin to be present in your life; this will help with your resolve to reset your emotional responses. Spend time paying attention to the underlying issue you are reacting to. What are the big triggers for you? Feeling powerless, unlovable, frightened? Work on healing those deep-underlying emotions that keep you from reaching your fullest potential. Facing your fears with a counselor, through meditations, and/or spirituality will empower you to be less reactive. Developing emotional courage will reprogram your responses. Emotional courage, like all courage comes with practice and awareness. It doesn’t mean that you will never feel fear.

When you have learned new emotional behaviors, you are ready to tackle those long lasting emotional trigger people, mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, and friends. It will be a leap of faith, but trust your new self to pull through. Go back to the basics, retreat within, breathe, remember that you are not a slave to your emotions; you can choose a different path. Again, remember it is important to immediately turn to the new response, don’t dally, that will give your auto response a chance to kick in. Breathe, recite a positive mantra, refuse to let the old emotional baggage drag you down, let it go.

Living in negative emotions such as fear, jealousy, judgmental attitudes accomplishes nothing but depleting you of your light within. And living on high alert, will eventually lead to physical illness. The brain, the mind, and the heart are all interconnected, one impacts the other. It is possible to reprogram your emotional responses; just like it is possible to learn new things, to open your mind, or to lose weight, it is a choice. Life does not have to be a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. You can choose to liberate yourself through love, presence, and letting go.


Sound Heals

If you have ever been lulled by the rustling of wind through the trees or relaxed on the sand listening to waves lap the shore, you’ve experienced the healing aspect of sound.  Perhaps in the morning as you awake you hear the birds singing and it causes you to smile, to feel safe, to ponder the gifts of life.

Notice how particular songs, rhythms, or melodies have the power to lift and renew your spirits. Other sounds or vibrations can be irritating or cause you to lose focus, the unrelenting sound of a jackhammer for example.  Sound has the power to set an emotional mood, be it romantic, sultry, festive, or relaxing.

Sound has been utilized as a healing modality for thousands of years in a myriad of cultures.  Many indigenous people use drums, flutes, spiritual songs, chants, and rhythms to promote health and healing.

Simple physics tell us that everything has its own sound or vibration and resonance, that the frequency in which it moves varies.  Although we can’t hear the music of a wood table or a rock their molecules are moving, they have an energy that is creating vibrations, sounds.

Part of PTSD from being in battles is from the constant barrage of noise.  Even pets respond to bad vibrational sounds such as fireworks, gunshots or loud squealing of tires.  When a person is overexposed to abrasive sounds, this wreaks havoc on the nervous system, which in turn can cause dis-ease.

Good vibrations or soothing sounds, on the other hand, calms and comforts us. In an article The Healing Power of Sound, Karen Olson describes how sound therapy can heal everything from headaches to chronic pain. Diane Mandler, a certified sound healer in California, writes that her clients obtain: “relief from pain and discomfort, clearing of sinuses, shifting out of depression, [improved] ability to sleep . . revitalization and clarity, feeling of well-being, great connectedness, and deep personal transformation.”  Using Tibetan singing bowls; Mandler believes these healing sounds and vibrations bring the body back to balance. Sound medicine ascertains that realigning your vibrations will keep you physically and mentally healthy.

How exactly does sound heal?  The healing quality or vibration in particular sounds resets or synchronizes with our brainwaves, allowing us to quiet the mind.  Similar to meditation where the breath is the vehicle, healing sounds allow the fluctuating brainwaves to find a steady vibration that takes you into a relaxed state of being.  When your body is in harmony it is able to heal. Sound healing can allow stuck energy to flow again by penetrating blockages.

Children respond to soft, soothing sounds as well.  Take a crying baby outside (if it is peaceful of course) and watch as they stop and listen to the wind, the birds.  A roomful of rowdy toddlers can be tamed with a bit of relaxing music or singing.

Learn to be aware of sound in your life. If you live in an urban environment, you may be overly exposed to the squeal of subways, the constant roar of traffic, the buzz of never-ending conversations or people’s music, which may be abrasive. Just like being mindful of your diet or getting enough exercise, being aware of noise is essential to your well-being.  Carve out time to close your eyes and listen to healing music; Spotify and Pandora both have a plethora to choose from.

Try a sound therapist if you have insomnia, migraines, or chronic pain as a way to heal. Seek out natural sounds as often as you can, and let the healing vibrations bring you back to balance.


How to Deal With Losing a Pet

If you have ever had a pet that has passed on or had to make the difficult decision to euthanize, you know how challenging the grief can be.  Our pets are part of us, they are an extension of our families and when they are gone, there is a big hole in our hearts that often triggers feelings of guilt, sorrow, despair, and depression. The following offers a few suggestions to help you cope with your loss.

Allow yourself to feel, to cry, to experience the death of your pet rather than stuffing your emotions, allow them to happen and be present with them.  Deal with your feelings and grief as they arise, this will help you in your ability to process the loss. Talk about it with loved ones, friends, share that you are feeling sad. If you have children, talk to them about their feelings, give them permission through your example to express their grief openly.  Give them and yourself the opportunity to talk about your beloved pet.

Prepare a ceremony, either before euthanizing or after your pet has died plan a celebration of life.  Gather at your pet’s favorite spot, or in your home. Invite people who knew your beloved companion, light candles or burn incense.  Ceremonies help give us closure and a chance to commemorate our pets.  They help us deal with our grief and our losses as well as allowing others the opportunity to say good-bye.  Maybe have the children sit in a circle and light a candle.

Create a memorial, a place where you can show homage to your pet.  If you have their favorite toy or a memento, (such as a tuft of hair or a paw print) choose a sacred spot in the backyard or under a favorite tree where you can make a small shrine.  Memorials help you remember, they also help you process loss.  Place pictures or anything sentimental on the memorial.  Maybe your pet had a favored stuff animal or quirk that you want to remember. Again, if you have children, this is a wonderful way for them to actively work through their grief.  They can color pictures, make sacred symbols such as a cross, Star of David, or a rainbow.  

Deal with your guilt, if you have any, and most everyone that has had to euthanize a pet, has questioned their decision, even when they know it was the right and humane choice.  You may be mulling over memories, imagining that the pet was not that bad off.  The truth is, when we are in pain, feeling sad over a loss, we forget details, we tend to gloss over the grim realities and fantasy like ideas that maybe it wasn’t that bad.  Going back over what could have been done differently does nothing but perpetuate guilt. Know that you and your vet made a kind and loving decision and that your pet is no longer suffering.   

Give yourself time, rather than rushing out and replacing the loss with a new pet, allow yourself ample room for grief.  The new pet will never have the exact same temperament and unique nuances that the old one had.  Be kind to yourself, create space for grief and sadness and time to truly be ready to move on.  Grief is an unfolding process, simply willing it away or avoiding it stunts that process.  You may experience all five of the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) or perhaps just a few.  Over time, the pain fades but not the memory of your pet.  You will get to a place where you can once again laugh at silly stories of your pet’s personality while remembering those tender loving moments you shared.


Living on Your Own

More and more lately I see and hear about people who are choosing to live on their own. Some of these people have never been in a long-term
relationship (or married). They have elected to live on their own – and not engage in a romantic relationship, or even the kind of friendship that could evolve into a living situation. They often have a significant person in their life and choose not to live together. While others have ‘friends with benefits’ to satisfy their sexual desires. There are many options.

Living on your own can be a time of immense self-discovery, self-love, and positive independence. Conversely, living with a significant other can be a time of deep connection, learning, and growing while becoming closer to someone you care about. Imago relationship theory is based on the premise that we grow best by being in a relationship. That only in a relationship with a significant other can we heal any childhood wounds that we may have and grow fully.

There are positives in both situations, and only you can determine what living situation is healthiest for you physically, emotionally, and mentally. Exploring the positive and negative elements of living alone will help you decide what is best for you.

Living alone has some significantly positive psychological benefits.

  • It encourages independence and self-sufficiency.
  • It promotes interior solitude.
  • It helps to reduce your feelings of loneliness by building up your capacity to be alone.
  • Solitude can help to restore and reenergize you.
  • There is less chance for uncomfortable conflict when you can keep your home anyway you like.

While living alone can be peaceful (and you’ll never argue over what you’re having for dinner, or what music you listen to), it has a few negative aspects to consider.

  • You may miss the companionship of sharing a space with another
    individual.
  • When you are in a relationship, you can either be in the relationship
    or you can be right – you cannot be both. Living alone allows you to
    be – and always stay – “right.” There is nobody in your space to
    challenge your beliefs.
  • The kind of sharing, that comes from living with and building
    relationships with people we care about is something that comes with
    practice. Living with a significant other can help us build these
    internal connections.

There comes a time in all our lives when living on our own is appealing, usually when we graduate high school. It may even be necessary for a time while we grow to be comfortable on our own, and in our own skin. It can be helpful in developing a sense of independence, or it can help us find joy in simply being.

On the other hand: conflict and compromise often are what help us stretch and grow into the very best version of ourselves. The truth is, there is no right answer as to whether you want to live with a roommate or partner, or on your own. Both situations come with drawbacks, but both present you with opportunities to grow and learn more about who you are as an individual.

So, what do you do? My suggestion: embrace where you are in life. Listen to your own heart, and confidently go in the direction that will provide you with what you need right now. You deserve to be joyful and to find a deeper, truer version of you – find a living situation that allows you space to do just that.


Find Your Inner Artist

We all have an inner artist just waiting to emerge and be appreciated. Even if you don’t feel that you’re innately creative, there is something inside all of us yearning to build and create. Many hobbies can be considered “creative” – even if they’re not typically sorted into an artistic category or subject matter.

You may be an engineer, sales person, or developer. In these cases, you may develop code for software programs, build relationships with clients, or create pieces of technology that many of us could never even fathom. You may be a parent, a friend, or a romantic partner. In these cases, you’re creating habits with your growing children, nurturing a strong and supportive network, and building a line of communication between yourself and your partner. Expressing your creativity manifests in all areas of your life. You are always growing and creating, no matter who you are, whether you realize it or not.

It’s important that we tap into this inner creative personality of ours – we all deserve to find our inner artist and nurture them. Luckily, there are countless activities we can engage in that help us on the path of artistry
and creation.

A few ideas might be:

  • Break out the paints or colored pencils and create something beautiful. Whether it’s abstract art, or you paint something realistic – you’re working the creative side of your brain. It doesn’t matter whether your final product is perfect. Perfection is not the goal –
    allowing your creativity to flow is.
  • Dance like nobody’s watching to your favorite song. Allow your body to move freely around the room, and imagine any tension you’re feeling being released from your body.
  • Build something with your hands. Whether you enjoy woodwork, pottery or you want to put together the dresser you ordered last week – it’ll feel good to pour your energy into something physical and to see a standing, finished product when you’re done.
  • Write something. Anything. Whether you’re journaling or jotting down a poem, writing something will jog your creative juices and keep them flowing.

Finding creativity is a beautiful thing – what are your favorite ways of being creative?


Shedding Toxic Friends in the New Year

Life happens in seasons. The New Year tends to be a time when we evaluate our lives and make big decisions or changes. While this is a positive thing, it can also be confusing when the things we decide need changing are our friends.

Sometimes the people who have stayed in our life as friends become toxic over time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they themselves are toxic individuals – just that they no longer serve a positive purpose in our life. Just as life happens in seasons, friendships happen in seasons, too.

A friend who may have been very close to you in a season when you needed them and they needed you is someone to cherish. But that relationship can sour for any number of reasons. Maybe you two just aren’t in the same place anymore. Maybe they aren’t being supportive as you try to make positive changes in your life or to break bad habits. Maybe they feel intimidated by you as you move forward with other positive, supportive friendships and romantic relationships.

Whatever your reason for feeling that a person may not be the friend they once were, “breaking up” with them is never going to be easy. Still, it’s important to remember there is only one you, and YOU, are the only one in charge of taking care of yourself. It may seem as though these friends need you, or you may feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for distancing yourself from the relationship. If you’ve carefully evaluated the relationship and deemed it hurtful or unhealthy, there is no reason to continue feel guilty.

A few symptoms of a toxic friend are:

  • They regularly and repeatedly tear you down with actions or words.
  • They don’t support the positive changes you’re making.
  • They encourage negative or destructive behavior.
  • They lack empathy.
  • They take advantage of your kindness.
  • They lie or act in an untrustworthy manner.

If you feel your friend fits these characteristics, or if the relationship is consistently one-sided, it’s okay to act in your best interest and shed the relationship. By doing this you give yourself permission to start fresh this year. You give yourself time to grow valuable relationships that positively contribute to your life. You never know when you’re going to find a wonderful new friendship in someone who is kind, encouraging, and supportive.


Choose Your Best Self

Do you ever feel as if your life has come to a grinding halt, as if stuck in the mud with no idea how to get out?  Are you working a job you dislike but are afraid to leave, or in a dead end relationship? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.  Even in these modern times where choices abound, many of us are too fearful or complacent to bust a move, to take a risk.  The good news is you don’t have to stay stuck; by taking a few steps at a time you can begin living the life you envision.

First, get very clear what you want to let go of and what you want to take on.  Ignore listening to the nagging thoughts that say, “you can’t”. Simply write down all of your ideas regardless of obstacles that you perceive    Pauline Kael, a film critic who wrote for the New Yorker magazine once said, “If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending, do it.  Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door to keep it open.”  In other words, don’t allow limiting thoughts to stop you from achieving, and moving forward.  Often the obstacles we imagine are simply self-imposed restrictions.

Start where you’re at, challenges and all.  If traveling is your goal, save money work a little extra, if it’s going back to college, start with perquisites online, if it’s a new job, make a new resume and send out five a week.  Invest in yourself, human beings are dynamic, our cells are in constant movement, we can create change and free ourselves from those habits and thoughts or behaviors that limit our life.  Take scissor and cut the cords that keep you stuck.  Perhaps that means letting go of perfectionism by allowing yourself to stop being afraid of making a mistake.  Mistakes can be our greatest teachers.

Post positive encouragement around you, make “I can do this” sticky notes and put them everywhere.  We all need positive feedback, but when there’s no one there to give it, seek it out for yourself.  Listen to guided meditations and read articles that inspire you. And most important, protect yourself from naysayers.  Family and friends can unintentionally sabotage our desires by expressing their own fears and judgements, but they have nothing to do with you. Find like-minded folks who have made the trek from fear to freedom.  Share your doubts and ask for advice, not that you have to take it, but useful insight is fantastic for it can fuel you when you’re feeling low or depleted.

Even if you take baby steps, they are steps towards changing your life.  Do an inquiry on yourself, ask why is it difficult to take risks, what in your life taught you to play it safe?  Once we become aware of the source of patterns, we can begin to revise the script.  Put the old tapes in the garage and see yourselves as the writer, doctor, mother, that you want to be.  Dare to dream, and make your dreams come true.  Face the fear head on, shake hands with it and bid it on its way.  When fear sneaks back at your mind’s doorstep, remind yourself that you no longer have to let it in.  Acknowledge it, then dismiss it.

Live your way into life, sitting around thinking about change doesn’t bring it on action does, whether it’s about exercise, eating healthy, or finding a new career.  You deserve to be the person that you are meant to be.  Everyone has gifts to share and once you acknowledge yours, put pursuing your dreams on top of your priority list.


Small Acts of Self-Care

Starting to incorporate self-care into your routine can positively impact your outlook, productivity, self-perception, and interactions with others. But during busy seasons of life it may feel like a challenge to set aside time in your days to practice self-care. Luckily, there are many small ways to weave self-care into your schedule – some of which you may not have considered before!

#1: Read a Book

Turn off your phone, step away from your laptop, and crack a book you’ve been wanting to read for a while.

#2: Take Yourself to a Show

Whether you prefer live music, or you want to see the latest movie in theaters, take yourself out on the town. Work can always wait – and you’ll appreciate getting out of the house to decompress.

#3: Take a 5-Minute Break

Short on time? Try a 5-minute meditation break. Take deep breaths, clear your mind, and pull yourself out of stress and into the present moment.

#4: Eat Well

When you’re in a busy season of life, eating habits can slip. Try to prepare healthy snacks and meals for yourself ahead of time or at the beginning of the week. You deserve to eat healthy, filling food to fuel you through your day.

#5: Dance

Relaxed breaks can be calming, but the endorphins released during movement can be equally beneficial. Take a few minutes at the end of your day and sway to your favorite song.

Self-care doesn’t have to be the stereotyped examples you read about in magazines. You can find a system that works for you – whatever that looks like. Care for yourself in a way that brings joy and peace to your mind, body, and soul.

Small Acts of Self-Care was originally published on Bridge of Life


Approaching Situations that Cause You Anxiety

Many of us have situations that cause us anxiety. It may be speaking in public, or it may be facing a conflict in your relationship. Recognize that many people have similar reactions. Whatever situation you’re facing that causes you anxiety – I know that it can feel overwhelming. You may feel as though you’re unable to control how you’re feeling, or that you can’t possibly face these situations.

I suggest you take these steps to overcome your anxiety so that you’ll be able to manage the negative impacts.

Accept How You’re Feeling

Any anxiety that you’re feeling is usually a response to a deeper fear or source of upset. The first step to approaching situations that cause you anxiety is to embrace how you’re feeling. Accept the fact that the situation you’re about to encounter causes you anxiety. Feel it deeply, and allow for your reaction.

Create Space for Yourself to React

It’s important to give yourself emotional and mental space to react to the situation that causes you anxiety. If you’re afraid of public speaking and you throw yourself into a public speaking event without preparation or time to accept your anxiety your negative feelings are likely to escalate. Instead, create space for your reaction to the situation. Give yourself time to react. Likewise, after the situation is over, give yourself time to decompress. You will want to have plenty of space during these situations to accept and move past your anxious reaction.

Practice a Moment of Meditation

When the anxiety you experience is situational, meditation can help. Some people prefer to meditate before they approach the situation that causes them anxiety. If we follow the public speaking example, you could take time before the event to meditate calmly. Focus on being fully present. You can also meditate during the situation that’s causing you anxiety. Meditation doesn’t need to be a quiet act where you’re alone. It can be repeating a mantra to yourself in your head, or it can be focusing on your breath instead of any negative emotional reaction. Again, using the public speaking example, you can take a few seconds between sentences to repeat to yourself, “I am strong.” Or you can take slow, metered breaths between each phrase. After you exit the situation that’s causing you anxiety, you can still practice meditation to soothe yourself and bring yourself back to the present moment.


Saying Yes, Saying No: Assertiveness in your Relationship

The word “assertive” is often confused with aggressive and therefore considered a negative trait. Nobody wants to be viewed as aggressive, rude, or pushy. But I’m challenging you to look at an assertive personality trait as something that’s incredibly positive. In fact, I encourage clients to use the Assertiveness Method to attract their best life and act with self-confidence. Being assertive can help you make the best decisions for you and to respond to others in a balanced way. Learning the Assertiveness Method is simple – say “no” three times a day. It’s very possible that you find yourself saying “yes,” even to requests that you’re not wild about. Choose three small things a day that you don’t want to do, and instead of saying, “yes,” say, “no.”

You can say, “no,” to something big – maybe a relative wants you to pet sit for them while they’re out of town and you have other plans. You can also say, “no,” to something small – maybe your significant other asks you to grab them a cup of coffee while you’re reading your book, and you don’t want to.

Saying, “No, I have plans that weekend so I can’t watch your pets,” or, “No, I’m reading, would you get the cup of coffee yourself?” may sound impossible. You may have to force yourself to do it at first, and it will be uncomfortable for everyone involved. But over time, about 3-6 months, you’ll start to feel more capable and balanced. You’ll say yes when you’re invested and want to do something and no when you don’t. You’ll feel more connected to yourself, like you’re taking better care of yourself, and that you’re setting yourself up for your best life.

The Assertiveness Method can also work positively in your relationship. When you’re committed to your significant other, there’s a willingness to sacrifice for them. You may want to say, “yes,” to help them, make their life easier, go to events with them, etc. This is a positive thing! However, when you start saying, “yes,” to requests even when you don’t want to, a level of resentment starts to build. To keep your relationship happy and healthy, practice saying, “no,” to requests you don’t want to fulfill. Though you may both be surprised at first, you will both appreciate the honesty and openness in the long run. And, of course, you’ll each individually appreciate the fact that you’re caring for yourself – and therefore bringing your best self to the relationship.

For more about the Assertiveness Method, watch my video here.