Archive | Stress Management

Happiness is a Good Night’s Sleep

September/October 2017

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are too many to mention.  And, I’d like to highlight a big one for this article – happiness!

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults (age 18 – 64) get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Children and teenagers need more. 

If you ask most people what they want out of life – happiness is typically in the top 3.

Researchers have discovered a correlation between happiness and the amount of sleep a person gets each night.

Results of a recent study indicate that people who are “mostly happy” sleep 7+ hours at night. Those who reported the fewest hours of nightly sleep were the least happy, were more discontent in their relationships, worried more and had less gratitude in their life.

Another recent study, found that Sunday night is the most difficult night for people to get a restful night of sleep.

Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist, states that a disrupted sleep routine over the weekend is the biggest culprit for poor Sunday night sleep.

“Many people go to bed later on Friday and Saturday nights and then sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday mornings,” Orma states. “So, when they go to bed on Sunday night, they’re often just not tired. And then when they can’t sleep, they start to think about why they’re not sleeping, which only makes things worse.”

Sleep experts agree that job anxiety can be a huge culprit for sleep difficulties, including dread of upcoming meetings/projects, the long commute, fear of failure, anticipation of a negative boss/co-worker or feeling trapped.  

People who worry, ruminate, stew, hold resentments, feel guilt or overthink, also experience difficulties in the area of sleep.

TIPS FOR GETTING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

  • Maintain a regular wake-up time on the weekends.
  • Reduce/eliminate alcohol and caffeine consumption in the evening.
  • Pay attention to the worry/rumination that happens at night and address those stressors head-on. Reducing stress could lead to some pretty radical changes, e.g. job change, terminating a relationship or ending behaviors that create guilt/shame [drinking, gambling, cheating, anger, etc.].
  • Reduce any activities related to work or playing video games in the evening.
  • Use an essential oil to promote sleep, dabbing a little on the bottom of your feet or under your nose.  I purchase my essential oils from https://www.edensgarden.com/.  My 2 favorites for the evening routine are (1) Meditation (a peaceful blend of Lavender, Tangerine, Lemon, Clove Bud, Cedarwood and Chamomile) and (2) Lavender.
  • Incorporate a wind-down routine that is calming, enjoyable and relaxing.  Quieting the mind and inviting a sense of peace can truly nourish your soul and begin the gentle journey to sleep.
  • Avoid naps longer than 15 minutes, especially in the afternoon.
  • Use self-soothing phrases or prayers when anxiety/restlessness begins:
    • I’m ok.  I’m good enough.
    • I’m loved.
    • I’m fine exactly the way I am
    • I’m grateful for ________ and ______ and _______ and ______”
    • One day at a time – I’ll deal with that tomorrow.
    • “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. ….”
  • Do not use sleep tracking devices.  A study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago links sleep problems with the use of these devices. The devices can lead to a fixation or perfectionism related to the data and perpetuates the anxiety. 

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

~~ Thomas Dekker, English Dramatist, (1572-1632)

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Life’s Little Lessons

March/April 2017

From the book, God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett — here are 2 amazing lessons.

Lesson 11: Make Peace with your Past So It Doesn’t Screw Up Your Present
When I hear a client say, “The past is the past — I’ve moved on.” My response is, “Your brain doesn’t agree with that.”

Our brains have an amazing ability to categorize childhood events/messages as either safe or unsafe. When situations occurred in childhood where you felt scared or hurt or unseen or unimportant or not special or stupid – and there was no adult to make sense of it for you – the brain classified that childhood wound as “IMPORTANT”, along with the difficult emotions and the beliefs about yourself (e.g. I’m stupid/worthless/not-good-enough.”).

Those negative emotions/feelings/beliefs are held in a special place in your brain. They travel with you as you think you are leaving them behind.

People then develop strategies/behaviors to try to look good and be accepted by family and friends. These strategies help to mask and avoid the fears/pain/hurt. As people move into adulthood, these behaviors can become excessive and can cause problems.

Addictions (alcohol, drugs, porn/sex, tobacco, shopping, gambling, etc.) can also crop up as a way to soothe the pain.

But, guess what? No matter what strategy you use… the pain never goes away. It’s stuck in the brain.

In my 30’s, I struggled with workaholism — it was my strategy to hide fear of failure. Nothing “bad” happened in my childhood — although as an adolescent I used success in sports/school to push down fear of failure. And, that need to succeed turned into workaholism as I got older. Today, work doesn’t consume me. Why? Because I’ve healed the fear-of-failure wound from adolescence.

Regina Brett writes:
“Over time, I learned how to get unstuck. First you have to recognize you’re stuck. For me, here’s my warning sign: whenever my emotions don’t match what just happened — it’s about my childhood. I’ve learned to freeze the moment — just like you would pause the movie and ask — Is this reaction about the present moment? Or is it about the past? I can’t change the past. But, by changing my response to its leftovers, I can change the present.”

Lesson 20: When It Comes to Going After What You Love In Life, Don’t Take No for An Answer

Regina Brett writes:
“There’s a story about a set of twin boys. One was a born optimist, the other a born pessimist. A psychiatrist trying to understand them put the pessimist in a room full of toys to see what would happen. The boy whined and cried. The doctor put the optimist in a room full of horse manure and gave the boy a shovel. Hours later, the optimist was still grinning and shoveling the manure as fast as he could. Why was he so happy? The boy said, “With all this manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!””

Regina Brett shares her own story of being rejected over and over as she pursued her dream to be a columnist for a major newspaper. And, she never gave up. “Every day, I pinch myself. I have a dream job. I wouldn’t take no as an answer. And, I kept shoveling.”

I can relate to the author’s passion. When I was in my early 40’s, I was tired of working in the business world. My dream became crystal clear … I wanted to be a therapist with my own private practice. At age 45, I went back to graduate school for Clinical Counseling Psychology, followed by years of internships, supervision, more training, testing and licensure.

Some people thought my career move was risky — others thought it was stupid — others said I was “too old”. My father was not one of those people. He held my hand before he died and said, “Follow your dream of private practice and don’t let other people tell you what your dream should be.”

Here I am 10 years later — in private practice. Everyday I pinch myself. I have a dream job. I wouldn’t take no as an answer. And, I kept shoveling.

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Post-Election: Time to Stop Judging

December 2016

It’s an interesting time in history with the recent election combined with social media and the ability to comment on news articles.  On one hand, the Internet is a great way to connect and share opinions.  On the other hand, it creates a destructive environment of judgment, attack and shaming others.

Facebook and the news stories are filled with wide-sweeping labels and judgment.  Even the “take action” articles that people post on their Facebook timeline – are typically filled with angry, negative, shaming and self-righteous statements to support one perspective.

Is it ok to have opinions related to a definition of right versus wrong?  Yes.  Is it acceptable to live your life based on morals/values? Absolutely – it’s called your conscience. Is it ok to hold a belief that a person’s behavior is wrong?  Yes. Is it acceptable to label any human being as bad, stupid, ugly or worthless?  No.

You can hold onto your own morals by deeming a behavior bad – but you cross the line when you call a person bad. What you don’t see, don’t understand — is that your judgment leads to suffering, division and pain.  You inflict pain when you judge and that pain can boom-a-rang back at you when friends or family get hurt by your judgmental ways.

Ask yourself: Am I tolerant of all people – except those that think differently than me?

Do you think you judge fairly?  You can’t possibly know the interior soul of another person – because you don’t walk in their shoes.  Judgment closes your eyes, ears and heart.

As human beings, we make up stories in our head to support our viewpoint:  “They voted for that candidate because they don’t care about the environment — are socialists — are xenophobic — are feminists — are weak — are single-issue voters — are morally bankrupt — are racist”.  Your story is not the tuning fork of truth. It’s a story.

3 Reasons People Judge:
1.  You feel judged
I once had a friend jokingly say, “I’m not judgmental.  I only judge those who judge others.”   You cannot and will not change another person’s judgment with a response of judgment.  Actually, you seal the deal of being judged when you speak to others with your own voice of judgment — and the burn of resentment is fanned inside you and others.

2. You are scared
When a person is scared or feels unsafe or intimidated – they bind together and attack others who think differently.  Post-election, people are afraid they are going to lose something or are fighting to regain something that was taken from them by the previous rule of authority.   People bind together on Facebook and news feeds to express fear and blast those who feel differently.  The reality is that judging provides no sense of rooted, long-lasting security.

3. You feel helpless
Change can create a feeling of “something is being done to me.”  Judgment gives a person a sense of power and control in a misguided attempt to get away from being controlled.  People believe that by putting big negative, shaming labels on others – they’ll get that other person to stop.  The result is perpetual helplessness and more judgment.

6 Ways to Stop:
1. Cut back on your news consumption.  The media sells stories by stirring the pot and jumping to conclusions. Stay in the present moment. There’s no point in imagining the worst case scenario when it might never come to be.

2. Notice your thoughts.  When they go negative – push them in a positive direction or move away from the triggering event or take a positive action step.

3.  Stay off Facebook for a while.  If you feel an immediate urge to respond to a negative post – don’t.  If friends trigger you on Facebook, unfollow them for a while.   Don’t re-post articles that contain language that is demeaning.  If you have negative, shaming comments on your timeline — remove them.

4.  Ask those around you to stop judging.  Judgment begets judgment. Discuss the issues — not the badness of the person.  Listen for the common ground.

5. Avoid sweeping statements.  Stereotypes are never, ever good – and perpetuate division. Don’t use broad-brush labels (feminist, stupid, socialist, racist, hippie, homophobe, gun toter, redneck, etc).

6. Look for change in yourself.  Do something other than complain about the past President or the President-elect.  No matter if your candidate won this election or not … make a difference in peaceful ways and get behind what you believe in: write a letter to elected officials – volunteer – pray – visit the elderly – sponsor a child – ladle soup at a local kitchen – plant a tree – carpool to work — join a goal-oriented advocacy group.

Remember how it feels to be judged, bullied, shamed and misunderstood.
Now stop doing it to others.
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Money Worries Bankrupt Your Well-Being

September 2016

Money is a major source of stress, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA). Almost 3 out of 4 Americans feel anxious about money.

A study found that Millennials (born 1980 and after) and Gen Xers (born between 1965 – 1980) have significant financial worry as they struggle with under-employment, student loans and parenthood.

Worrying about money and debt impacts people individually and it tarnishes relationships. The APA reports that roughly 1 out of 3 couples fight about money.

Having more money does not relieve financial anxiety (2015 UBS survey). Half of those with a net worth of $1 million to $5 million believe that one wrong move, such as a job loss or a drop in the market, could cause their financial position to crash. And people in this bracket feel like there is not be enough time to recover and earn that wealth back, if that were to happen.

OUR BRAINS GO INTO HIGH ALERT AROUND MONEY
Why? The fear response of not having enough money goes back to caveman days. If a big black bear were to appear in the field as the cave dwellers were gathering berries, they would immediately go into fight, flight or freeze mode. As the sense of physical danger increases, their bodies responded accordingly (rapid heart rate, increased adrenaline levels, increased perspiration, dry mouth, tightened muscles, dilated pupils, etc.).

No differently than 4,000 years ago, our brains continue to be geared towards safety. The emotional part of our brain does not know the difference between emotional safety and physical safety. Money touches upon both physical and emotional safety – so it’s a double whammy to our brains.

On top of it all, financial anxiety feeds other anxious feelings – such as fear of failure, fear of being a disappointment, fear of letting the family down, fear of being seen as a loser or fear of feeling inadequate.

If financial anxiety is not dealt with in a healthy way — the increased physiological responses of these fears can destroy one’s health and emotional well-being.

CREATE CHOICES FOR YOURSELF
1. Create a plan. Gain a sense of control by writing out goals and targets. Whether the goals are to reduce expenses or increase savings – look at where you are at now and create a plan. Gallup reports that 80% of non-retirees and 88% of retirees with written financial plans had more confidence that they could achieve their financial goals than those without a plan.

2. Start Small. By focusing on what you can see ahead of you and the action that you can take now – will begin to reduce your anxiety. Start with the small goals first – the bigger goals will be easier as you accomplish the small ones.

3. Focus on the Positive. It is human nature to focus on the negative – what you’re doing wrong. Take some time to look at what’s going well for you with your money, debt, savings —maybe you’ve increased your 401(k) contributions or you’ve started to take your lunch to work or the value of your home has increased.

4. Use Anxiety as a Temporary Motivator. Anxiety can be a sentinel for the things that need to change. Once you begin to make those changes, allow yourself to let the anxiety go. It’s no longer useful.

5. Let It Go. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen? Yes, you may have to cut up some credit cards, cut back on vacations or share a car with your spouse. These changes are not life threatening. Stop and soothe yourself: There’s no big black bear. There really is no black bear.

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Weeding Out Anxiety Organically

August 2016

Everyone feels nervous, jittery or anxious during times of stress —it might be when a relationship is ending, preparing for a job interview or waiting for the results from recent blood work.   That’s normal and most people experience anxiety from time-to-time.

Anxiety becomes a bigger problem when it is constant or at such high levels that it begins to negatively impact one’s life and the ability to function well in everyday situations.  Maybe you notice it’s hard to “stop and smell the roses”.

Reducing your anxiety levels “organically” means making changes to your behaviors and thoughts, so anxious thoughts don’t rule your life.  No matter the level of anxiety you experience — simple changes can go a long way to reduce feelings of stress.

One common form of anxiety is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), women are twice as likely to be affected with GAD as men.  GAD negatively impacts 7 million U.S. adults each year.

When a person suffers from GAD, they feel anxious most days and it impacts them in significant areas of their life (work, home, relationships). Generalized Anxiety is diagnosed when the individual has 3+ of the following symptoms for at least 6 months:
•    Irritability
•    Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
•    Fatigue
•    Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
•    Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
•    Muscle tension

It’s always a good idea to get a thorough physical and to tell your doctor about your symptoms so that they can rule out any possible medical problems.  Medication for anxiety is always an option — your doctor can help you make that decision.

Anxiety is treatable.  Making behavioral changes and shifting your thoughts is a way to organically reduce anxious feelings.

5 ORGANIC DE-WEEDING TOOLS FOR ANXIETY

1. Soothe Yourself
Develop short, self-soothing statements that whisper right into the heart of your anxious thoughts/feelings.  Some of my favorites are:

  • I’m trying something new right now and it’s an experiment.  If I don’t do well, I’ll try something else – I can’t fail.
  • Other people’s opinions don’t define me.
  • Bad decisions from my past don’t define me.
  • I am doing the best I can with what I have.
  • I can’t control people, places or things.
  • One day at a time.
  • I’m not perfect and that’s ok.
  • No one can make me feel inferior without my consent. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

2. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption
Caffeine is a stimulant that triggers the fight-flight response (e.g. increase in heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, etc.) which triggers anxious feelings.  Alcohol can create a temporary escape from anxiety but can also exacerbate anxiety and cause panic attacks.  Be mindful of what happens to your anxiety after you drink alcohol or caffeine.

3. Reduce Social Media
In a recent article, I wrote about FOMO – Feeling Of Missing Out – and the accompanying anxiety.  Limit your involvement with social media sites to avoid comparing your insides to other people’s outsides.

4. Curtail Time Spent Watching/Reading the News
Sound radical?  The media feeds on sensationalism to provoke excitement, big reactions and fear.  Cut back on your news consumption for 30 days and see if it makes a difference for you.

5. Exercise
Physical exercise reduces anxiety and is a great stress management technique. Regular exercise creates a sense of calming, improves sleep, provides stress relief, and increases self-esteem. Even a 20-minute daily walk can be beneficial for anxiety.

OTHER INTERESTING TID-BITS ABOUT ANXIETY*

  • Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults (age 18 and older) — that’s almost 20% of the US population. (Original Source: National Institute of Mental health).
  • Anxiety is highly treatable.  Despite that fact, only one-third of people who suffer from anxiety seek treatment.  
  • According to a study published in the The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,  people with anxiety disorders seek relief for their symptoms often through their medical doctors because the symptoms of anxiety mimic physical illnesses.
  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
  • Women are twice as likely to be affected with GAD as men.  GAD negatively impacts 7 million U.S. adults each year.

*The source for the information cited above is from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

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FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

JUNE 2016

FOMO
Pronunciation: /ˈfōmō/
Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.

This word/acronym is new.  It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 to describe the social angst tied to the usage of social media and electronics.

The anxiety that “others have a better life” has always been somewhat common among 20-somethings as they find their feet in this world as an adult.  They hear of their classmates landing exciting jobs in flashy organizations and can feel overwhelmed as they focus on their college debt and wanting-it-all-right-now.   Facebook and other social media amplifies that feeling – “you’re not doing as well as others”.

The social angst of “missing out on something” also hits 30/40-somethings that believe they should have it all together.  They embrace the fairy tale story woven through Facebook that others are rich, happily married and quite successful. They might notice a sinking feeling inside as they view the in-your-face affluence of a high-school friend, who posts a dozen pictures of her Hawaii vacation.

Even 50/60-somethings experience intensified feelings of inadequacy, regret in relationships and disappointment in fading career choices.  Looking through the lens of social media, it’s easy to say, “Look at Ben enjoying retirement — I should have taken that Federal job when I had the chance.  And, Sara’s grandchildren visit her often — mine don’t.”

Even those in the workforce who have a company phone or Blackberry might notice they regularly check their work email in the evening and/or weekends.  This is another form of FOMO.  The Fear of Missing Out in the workplace has underpinnings of anxiety (such as fear of failure or fear of being judged/criticized).   This type of FOMO drives people to be “attached to work” through their electronics, even though they are supposed to be off work and enjoying work-life balance.

Popular writer on psychology and technology, Nir Eyal (author of  “Hooked”), states that it’s important to remember that the feeling of FOMO is common and not unusual.  Nir offers these tips:
•    Delete social media apps from your mobile device. It is not as radical as quitting Facebook altogether but is a quick and relatively easy way to reduce social media use when you are away from the computer.
•    Take a hiatus from social media. Try staying offline for a day, a week, or maybe even a month. Examples abound of people cutting themselves off and waking up to the wonders of the real world.

My suggestions to clients include:
•    Create a written gratitude list (with pen and paper) to remind yourself of the good things in your life.
•    Focus on what you want from life and begin to live your life more fully, in ways that are important to you (not others).  I found the book, “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren a game-changer for me in my early 40’s.
•    Have a basket by the front door — any work-related devices get placed in it upon arriving home for the evening.  It’s a great place for personal devices too during family dinners and social gatherings.
•    Develop a gentle mantra as you use Facebook, “This is not an accurate representation of reality” – so that you can relish in the good things happening to others while not robbing yourself of peace or contentment.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

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Let Go of Stress * Let Go of a Grudge

May 2016

grudge
Noun grəj/
: a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury

Grudges impact you negatively — physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Joseph Neumann PhD, who has researched the relationship between grudge-holding and heart disease, reports, “When I treat patients with heart disease, I am struck by how many are bitter, angry, resentful and depressed.”  He went on to say, “Holding onto grudges and resentment affects their health and their ability to heal.”

Grudge-Holding Impacts Stress Levels:

  • Bitterness – Loneliness – Anger – Depression – Anxiety
  • Tough to enjoy new experiences
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Feeling misunderstood
  • Negativity that takes up a lot of room
  • Consumed with revenge and punishment
  • Difficult to build new relationships
  • Perpetual energy drain to hold onto “I’ll never let this go”

forgive
Verb for-give
: to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done wrong
: to stop blaming

Here’s the truth about holding a grudge – it hurts you – not the other person.

Resentment is like swallowing
poison and waiting for
the other person to die.

Forgiveness is a process – it’s not an on-off switch.

  • Acknowledge that you hold a grudge and set an agreement with yourself that you want to begin the process of letting it go
  • Reflect upon the benefits of forgiveness for you (not the other person).  Do I want that person to have so much power in my life today?  What would it would feel like to not have that rock of hardness in my heart? 
  • Connect to a spirit of forgiveness and acceptance through:
    • Books:  Two of my favorite authors are Dr. Wayne Dyer “Living An Inspired Life” and Catholic author, Father Jacques Philippe “Interior Freedom”.
    • Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”
    • Visualization:  Feel the anger and resentment in your body.  Now, picture yourself in a beautiful setting in nature (on top of a mountain – by the ocean – in a sunny meadow).  In that place of beauty, breathe in kindness and forgiveness.  Breathe out anger, resentment, vindictiveness and hurt.  You can ask God or angels or a divine light to help you release the negativity and take in a refreshed, forgiving spirit.

Very often we feel restricted in our situation, our family, or our surroundings.  But maybe the real problem lies elsewhere…in our hearts.
Fr. Jacques Phillippe, Catholic Author – “Interior Freedom”

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Feeling Bad About Yourself? It’s your Inner Critic.

November 2015

An Inner Critic is the constant stream of inner evaluation of yourself and others.  Similar to background music in a coffee shop — the Critic becomes background chatter in your mind. It is often surprising to people when they begin to realize how much/often that Critic spews its negative dialogue.

The critical inner voice seems to monitor your behavior and thoughts, easily handing out sub-par performance ratings.  It mocks you, shames you, puts fear in your heart, tells you to not try hard or pushes you into high performance.  It drives anxiety, depression, anger and self-loathing and push you into exhaustion.

What’s your Inner Critic say?
You’re not good enough.
You’re going to fail.
You are a failure.
No one likes you.
No one loves you.
You’re a bad mom.
You’re an idiot.
Work harder.
You’re fat
Give up.
Stay small.
You’re stupid.
That was stupid.
Don’t take that risk.
You drink too much.
They think you’re a loser.
He/She doesn’t care about you.
You’ll never, ever be good enough.  Never. Ever.

People are addicted to self-criticism. Who among us hasn’t had the experience of learning to be judgmental of ourselves as a teenager, when we are so worried about how we’re going to appear to others or what might happen if we don’t perform well?

Noticing the Inner Critic
The first step in noticing the voice of your Inner Critic, recognizing when it begins to attack you.  What are your triggers?  Attending certain social events? Speaking in a meeting? Asking someone out on a date? Trying on clothes? Making a mistake? Being criticized by a friend/boss/sibling?  Not getting a promotion? Yelling at your children? Drinking too much? Not performing well at work?

Making Peace with the Critic
The key to lessening the voice of the Critic is to understand it.  Now that you begin to notice when it attacks you — let’s understandwhy attacks and shames you.

Grab a journal and spend some time with the following.

When did the Critic begin to attack you?  Think of the earliest memories or the evidence of events that have happened in the past that substantiate why it attacks you.  Ponder those memories and past evidence.

Ask that critical voice some questions:

  • What is it trying to accomplish by judging, belittling or pushing you?
  • What is it afraid would happen if it didn’t do that?
  • What is it trying to protect you from?

Notice – is there a small part of you that absorbs everything the Critic says and believes those messages? (I am hopeless.  I am not good enough. I am a failure.  I am worthless. There is something wrong with me. I’m ugly/fat.)

Is it true that you have an Inner Critic AND you have a part of you thatbelieves the Inner Critic?  Most likely — yes.

As you take a next deep breath, see if you can feel some compassion toward the vulnerable part of you that holds that fear or belief.

As an example — I see that vulnerable 13-year old inside of me who holds the false belief that mom and dad won’t love me if I do poorly in school or sports.  The Inner Critic began to push me hard at a young age to succeed and achieve — so I wouldn’t fail and lose their love.

The Critic certainly helped me to achieve things in life and to succeed — and I’m grateful for that.  The problem is that the Critic never stopped criticizing me even during success.   It pushed me relentlessly with constant criticism into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, causing my stress levels to rise.  I became an expert at self-shaming myself if I didn’t perform well.

Once I began to appreciate the efforts of the Inner Critic and I felt compassion for that 13-year old (who still believed good grades = more love) — it became the magic bullet to love myself for who I am — not for what I do.

The old adage “Love yourself” need not just be another cliché.  It can become your truth as you begin to quiet the voice of the Critic.
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Emotional Eating: 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Stop

July 2015

Why are you eating?  Paying attention to the answer is key.

It’s astonishing to hear that the weight-loss industry in the United States hauls in $40 billion annually with diet pills, diet books, meal plans and surgical procedures.   The number of people who are dieting at any given time is 100 million, with an average of 4-5 diets each year.

Yet, obesity continues to accelerate and the United States is facing a health epidemic related to excessive consumption.  Why?

1. Unawareness
Emotional eating is when you’re full and you continue to eat. Snacks and dessert are often eaten when you are not hungry and you don’t even notice. The solution? Be mindful of what and when you are eating. Ask 2 questions when you are going for food, “Am I hungry?  What emotion am I feeding?”  Listen to the response and act accordingly.

2. Food as Your Only Pleasure
You might notice that desserts and snacks help you temporarily feel better and soothe yourself. Why? Sugars and fats release opioids in your brain which are the active ingredients in cocaine, heroin and many other narcotics. The calming, soothing effects you feel are real.  The solution? Find other ways to soothe with a healthy dose of something else; a good book, a walk in the park, a warm bath, meditation/prayer.

3. Inability to Tolerate Difficult Feelings
Not being able to tolerate “negative” feelings makes you susceptible to emotional eating.  The solution? Pay attention to your feelings and then do something to shift that feeling.  Bored – call a friend to chat.  Lonely – go for a walk in the park and say “hi” to people that pass by.  Angry – write a note of apology to someone you’ve hurt.  Feeling unheard — write out your feelings in a journal.  Spiritually dry — pray.

4. Body Hate
It may sound illogical, but it’s true: hating your body is one of the biggest factors in emotional eating. Negativity, shame and self-hatred rarely inspire people to make healthy changes.  Many people tell me they will stop hating their body after they reach a better weight.  That’s backwards — stop hating your body so you can stop your emotional eating.  You might even notice that after you eat a certain food or you eat too much — your Inner Critic begins to berate you, calling you names such as “disgusting, pig, fat, out of control, etc.”  Then, your self-esteem plummets and you reach for food to comfort yourself.

5. Physiology
Letting yourself get too hungry, worn-down or tired sets you up for emotional eating. Solution? Get plenty of sleep and eat only when your body tells you it is hungry.  You might eat when you are actually thirsty — grab a glass of water instead of instantly heading to the vending machine. Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?  What am I feeling right now?”  Use an essential oil such as Lavender on the bottom of your feet at bedtime to help get a natural and restful sleep.

The Solution:  Mindfulness
Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening inside of yourself – body, heart, mind, spirit.  Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment — being able to get that Inner Critic to relax back so you can enjoy the moment.

If you are hungry – eat, pause, enjoy, savor, slow down.  By pausing – you are able to sense when you are full.  Then, stop.  If you want to save room for dessert – stop eating your main meal when you are still hungry.  Let it settle about 5-10 minutes.  Then have a sensible portion of dessert.

In mindful eating you are not comparing yourself to anyone else. You are simply witnessing the many sensations and thoughts that come up as you eat.

Living and eating with mindfulness means that you experience:

  1. The pleasure of eating well that is based on internal cues of hunger and satiety rather than on external food plans or diets
  2. Self-acceptance and respect for the diversity of healthy, beautiful bodies rather than the pursuit of an idealized weight at all costs
  3. The joy of movement, encouraging all physical activities rather than prescribing a specific exercise routine.

QUOTE: “Well, I think probably the main reason
people overeat is stress.”
~Jenny Craig

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Can You Stay Sane While They Still Drink?

April 2015

When I work family members that have loved ones who struggle with addiction – the most frequent question I hear is, “How can I make them stop drinking (or using drugs or gambling or cheating or etc.)?”

You might ask yourself,  “What’s the magical thing that I need to say to them – what threat, what ultimatum?  Should I be mean – should I be nice – do I sweep it under the rug – do I get in their face?”  Perhaps you’ve even done all those things – and none of them work in the long-run.

If you have an alcoholic in your life, you likely understand that life with a practicing addict is generally quite chaotic at times, which might also be tempered with really good times.

What can you do to get off the roller coaster?  Accept you are powerless over the addicted person and detach from them.  You cannot control people, places or things.

Detachment with love means caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It also means being responsible for your own welfare and making decisions without ulterior motives, such as the desire to control the alcoholic.
Detachment with love plants the seeds of recovery. When you refuse to take responsibility for other people’s alcohol or drug use, you allow them to face the natural consequences of their behavior. If a child asks why daddy missed the school play, you do not have to lie. Instead, you can say, “That’s a good question. You’ll have to ask him.”

Detachment means giving up outcomes. Your job is the effort, not the outcome. Leave the outcome to God. Do your part and let go of the rest. You will begin to experience peace.

Detachment with love is not selfish.  It is freeing — and it is love.

Detachment is a choice.
Unconditional love is a choice.
Giving up control is a choice.
Being afraid is a choice.
Choosing to be peaceful is a choice.
Choosing to act, and not react, is a choice.
Trusting your loved ones to live their own lives is a choice.
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