12 Steps to Relieving Stress

 Life could be a lot more manageable if we were to relieve as much stress in our lives as possible.  Allowing stress to take over can result in the inability to concentrate or focus, the inability to think clearly and make good decisions, destructive mood swings, and health conditions that can eventually lead to death. It’s important to take care of YOU so you are able to take care of others and take control over your life. And, if there are major issues that are holding you back from leading a happy life, counseling can be very beneficial. Here are some helpful ways to manage or eliminate stress.

  1. Breathe. Practice long, deep breathing filling your diaphragm with air. “Breathe in calm (through your nose), breathe out tension (through your mouth).” Practice daily.
  2. Be still and quiet, or pray. Learn how to quiet your mind at least once a day.
  3. Exercise. Exercise increases endorphins in our brains for a lot of positive benefits. It is recommended to exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes for the most benefit.
  4. Laugh. Incorporate laughter into your life on a regular basis. It’s impossible to be stressed and laughing at the same time.
  5. Stop. Turn off the negative “stink’n think’n.” Turn all negative thoughts into positive ones.
  6. Affirm. Use positive affirmations to affirm what you want in your life.
  7. Gratitude. Identify what you are grateful for each day.
  8. Balance. Set healthy boundaries with family, friends, colleagues, or other situations in your life.
  9. Splurge. Do things to take care of yourself. Get a massage, a manicure, take a hot bubble bath, etc.
  10. Prioritize. Make a list of your projects and create a realistic time frame for each.
  11. Sleep. Sleep is crucial in managing your stress. Women require no less than 7 hours of sleep per night.
  12. Play. Find fun activities to participate in that bring you joy!

 

“To Love Oneself is the Beginning of a Lifelong Romance.” 

Some have deemed National Boost Your Self-Esteem month as a “weird and unusual” celebration, but, we see it as an excuse to self-reflect and build confidence.  The National Association for Self-Esteem (NASE) defines self-esteem as “The experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness.”  A healthy or high self-esteem will not only allow you to live a happier life, but it will also strengthen your ability to handle challenges, build your tolerance, motivate you to take risks, and encourage a life of love.  When participating in self-refection and understanding your own self-esteem, it is important to note that we often see ourselves through the eyes of others, thus, our self-esteem can be built upon or broken down by our surroundings.  Charles Taylor author of Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity and Multiculturalism writes, “We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us. Even after we outgrow some of these others (our parents, for instance) and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live.”  Before taking the steps to boost your self-esteem, we encourage you to take a look at the people in and around your life that may be influencing the image of yourself that is being reflected.  Don’t look at this task as a profound, life-transitioning challenge.  Just a few simple changes can make a difference and can help you live a life of hope, harmony, and happiness with a healthy self-esteem at the core.  A few tips:

  • Surround yourself with positive people that will reflect beauty back to you
  • Be positive, even when it seems like a challenge (it takes less muscle in your face to smile than frown)
  • Journal about your daily activities and thoughts – highlight the positive and explore where the negative stems
  • Do an activity that you are good at
  • Celebrate the little things – a productive day at work or getting all the laundry done deserves a celebration every once in awhile
  • Question your negativity or doubt – remember we are sometimes wrong
  • Stop thinking about yourself – do something for someone else
  • Relax – turn off and just breathe
  • Lighten up – Don’t be so hard on yourself!

 

5 Proven Strategies for Releasing Negative Thoughts

Whether by virtue of our self-imposed stress, propensity for self-blame or the scarcity mentality that keeps us from connecting with our gratitude, negative thinking can be a significant obstacle to our personal development and emotional well-being. Escaping the thrall of our negative thoughts is not simply a matter of putting a brave face on things. Positivity doesn’t just happen — it’s created and as we are the architects of our own reality, that creation is in our hands.

The initial challenge here is to get past the evolutionary and social obstacles that foster our anxiety and fear. The thinking that keeps us rattling around this prison of negativity, however, is the same thinking that can foster our freedom.

The first of several practices for getting past our negative thoughts is to simply not believe what we think. If we identify, or over-identify, with our thoughts, they start having us, rather than us having them. Holding fast to a particular negative belief or belief system, we not only limit ourselves, but mire ourselves in that negativity. For example, should we operate with a poverty mentality, we paralyze ourselves into thinking we will never have enough. Taking a moment to recognize what we do have and then acting to further cultivate that breaks us out of this cycle of negativity. Knowledge is in the thinking; wisdom is in the doing.

It can also serve us to question our reality. When confronted with a negative thought we can take time to ask ourselves three things: “Is it reasonable? Is it rational? Is it reliable?”

Establishing the reasonableness of a thought helps us get some perspective. There is such a thing as a reasonable level of anxiety. When that anxiety blooms into a full-fledged panic simply because we don’t know what’s going to happen, then we’ve likely stepped outside the bounds of that reasonableness.

Next, we need to establish if our thinking is rational. If, for example, we are struggling to make ends meet every month, but the bills are still getting paid, it’s probably not rational to be sitting up for the better part of the night fretting over losing the house or having the car repossessed. If, however, we find ourselves in a place where the bills really aren’t getting paid and our concerns are reasonable, we need to point our rational response at what comes next, rather than creating more internal conflict by fretting over something we may not be able to control.

Finally, we can explore if the thought is reliable. Has it happened before with any degree of consistency? If the answer is no, then it’s quite likely we’re making up a story, rather than responding to a potential.

Another helpful means for sorting out our negative thinking is unpacking our feelings. When our psychophysiological response to a situation passes through the filter of our worldview — our subjective assumptions, expectations and ideas about the way the world works — we experience a conscious feeling. The quality of that feeling is determined by what we are thinking about the situation. For example, if two people are standing at the top of a roller coaster one may be feeling excited, while the other is feeling fearful. Both are experiencing a relatively similar physiological response, but for one that translates into a feeling of anticipation, while for the other it translates into a feeling of apprehension. The difference between the two is how each person is thinking about the experience before them.

Unpacking our feelings can lead us back to the source of our experience and, once we identify what we’re thinking about that experience, we can ask a very simple question: “Why?” What is it about roller coasters that make me fearful or excited? What is it about the envelopes with the little windows or the phone ringing that makes me anxious? Once we find the source, we can label it and then, release it because in identifying the thought, we now control it. It no longer controls us.

An additional technique for releasing negative thinking is to ask ourselves, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?” This kind of extreme perspective serves as a foil, giving us a more realistic view of what’s actually in front of us. Scripting a scenario that plays to our greatest anxieties, fears and negativities allow us a certain relativism that can take the charge out of our experience, making it more manageable.

Once we’ve employed these various techniques for shepherding our thoughts, we need to find a means for keeping them corralled. Journaling prompts us to slow down and develop a more balanced sensibility around our larger picture, engaging all of our faculties and senses in organizing our thoughts. Exercise releases endorphins, calming and centering us, which allows us to think more clearly and with greater acuity. Praying (asking God to change our thoughts) is a highly-effective way to release the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

Whichever of these techniques we may choose, our primary focus is on creating a shift of mind that takes us out of our negative headspace and into one that is more positive, or, at least, balanced. We create our experience by virtue of how we are thinking about a particular situation, good, bad or indifferent. What’s important to bear in mind is that if we can think ourselves in, we can always think ourselves out.

An A-to-Z Guide to Achieving Your Dreams

As a therapist/life coach, people often ask me, “What are the success principles you see that work?” Obviously, there are many. The following list is a start:

  • Avoid negative sources, people, things, and habits
  • Believe in yourself
  • Consider things from every angle
  • Don’t give up and don’t give in
  • Enjoy life today; yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come
  • Family and friends are hidden treasures; seek them and enjoy their riches
  • Give more than you planned to give
  • Hang onto your dreams
  • Ignore those who try to discourage you
  • Just do it!
  • Keep on trying, no matter how hard it seems; it will get better
  • Love yourself first and foremost
  • Make it happen
  • Never lie, cheat, or steal; always strike a fair deal
  • Open your eyes and see things as they really are
  • Perfect practice makes perfect
  • Quitters never win and winners never quit
  • Read, study, and learn about everything important in your life
  • Stop procrastinating
  • Take control of your own destiny
  • Understand yourself in order to better understand others
  • Visualize it
  • Want it more than anything
  • Accelerate your efforts
  • You are unique, nothing can replace you
  • Zero in on your target and go for it!!

 

22 POSITIVE HABITS OF HAPPY PEOPLE

 What’s the secret to being happy? You can learn how to do it, just as you can learn any other skill. Those who are happy tend to follow a certain set of habits that create peace in their lives. If you learn to apply these habits in your own life, there’s a good chance you’ll be happy, too.

1. Let Go of Grudges

Forgiving is necessary for your own happiness, as holding a grudge means you’re also holding onto resentment, anger, hurt and other negative emotions that are standing in the way of your own happiness. Letting go of a grudge frees you from negativity and allows more space for positive emotions to fill in.

2. Treat Everyone with Kindness

Kindness is not only contagious…..it’s also proven to make you happier. When you’re kind to others, your brain produces feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin, and you’re able to build strong relationships with others, fostering positive feelings all around.

3. Regard Your Problems as Challenges

Change your internal dialogue so that anytime you have a “problem,” you view it as a challenge or a new opportunity to change your life for the better. Eliminate the word “problem” from your mind entirely.

4. Express Gratitude for What You Have

People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. The best way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you’re grateful for each day. Doing so has been linked to happier moods, greater optimism and even better physical health.

5. Dream Big

Go ahead and dream big, as you’ll be more likely to accomplish your goals. Rather than limiting yourself, when you dream big you’re opening your mind to a more optimistic, positive state where you have the power to achieve virtually anything you desire.

6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

If the issue you’re mad about will be irrelevant, a year, a month, a week or even a day from now, why sweat it? Happy people know how to let life’s daily irritations roll off their back.

7. Speak Well of Others

It may be tempting to gather around the office water cooler to get and give the daily gossip, but talking negatively about others is like taking a bath in negative emotions; your body soaks them up. Instead, make it a point to only say positive, nice words about other people, and you’ll help foster more positive thinking in your own life as well.

8. Avoid Making Excuses

It’s easy to blame others for your life’s failures, but doing so means you’re unlikely to rise past them. Happy people take responsibility for their mistakes and missteps, then use the failure as an opportunity to change for the better.

9. Live in the Present

Allow yourself to be immersed in whatever it is you’re doing right now, and take time to really be in the present moment. Avoid replaying past negative events in your head or worrying about the future; just savor what’s going on in your life now.

10. Wake Up At the Same Time Every Morning

Getting up at the same time every day (preferably an early time) is deceptively simple. Doing so will help regulate your circadian rhythm so you’ll have an easier time waking and likely feel more energized. Plus, the habit of rising early every day is one shared by many successful people, as it enhances your productivity and focus.

11. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Your life is unique, so don’t measure your own worth by comparing yourself to those around you. Even regarding yourself as better than your peers is detrimental to your happiness, as you’re fostering judgmental feelings and an unhealthy sense of superiority. Measure your own success based on your progress alone, not that of others.

12. Surround Yourself with Positive People

The saying “misery loves company” is entirely true. That’s why you need to choose friends who are optimistic and happy themselves, as you will be surrounded with positive energy.

13. Realize That You Don’t Need Others’ Approval

It’s important to follow your own dreams and desires without letting naysayers stand in your way. It’s fine to seek others’ opinions, but happy people stay true to their own hearts and don’t get bogged down with the need for outside approval.

14. Take Time to Listen

Listening helps you soak in the wisdom of others and allows you to quiet your own mind at the same time. Intense listening can help you feel content while helping you gain different perspectives.

15. Nurture Social Relationships

Positive social relationships are a key to happiness, so be sure you make time to visit with friends, family and your significant other.

16. Meditate (Using prayer or clearing your mind and visualizing yourself in a calm, relaxed environment or situation, then pay attention to what your body is feeling)

Meditation helps you keep your mind focused, calms your nerves and supports inner peace. Research shows it can even lead to physical changes in your brain that make you happier.

17. Eat Well

What you eat directly impacts your mood and energy levels in both the short and long term. Whereas eating right can prime your body and brain to be in a focused, happy state, eating processed junk foods will leave you sluggish and prone to chronic disease. My nutrition plan is an excellent tool to help you choose the best foods for both physical and emotional wellness.

18. Exercise

Exercise boosts levels of health-promoting brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress and also relieve some symptoms of depression. Rather than viewing exercise as a medical tool to lose weight, prevent disease, and live longer – all benefits that occur in the future – try viewing exercise as a daily tool to immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress and feel happier.

19. Live Minimally

Clutter has a way of sucking the energy right out of you and replacing it with feelings of chaos. Clutter is an often-unrecognized source of stress that prompts feelings of anxiety, frustration, distraction and even guilt, so give your home and office a clutter makeover, purging it of the excess papers, files, knick knacks and other “stuff” that not only takes up space in your physical environment, but also in your mind.

20. Be Honest

Every time you lie, your stress levels are likely to increase and your self-esteem will crumble just a little bit more. And, if others find out you’re a liar, it will damage your personal and professional relationships. Telling the truth, on the other hand, boosts your mental health and allows others to build trust in you.

21. Establish Personal Control

Avoid letting other people dictate the way you live. Instead, establish personal control in your life that allows you to fulfill your own goals and dreams, as well as a great sense of personal self-worth.

22. Accept What Cannot Be Changed

Everything in your life is not going to be perfect, and that’s perfectly all right. Happy people learn to accept injustices and setbacks in their life that they cannot change, and instead put their energy on changing what they can control for the better.

 

7 Genuine Ways to Practice Gratitude

Some people avoid practicing gratitude because doing so feels “fake.” But, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s because any time we try something new, it’s going to feel awkward and unnatural. In fact, such reactions can be good, because it means you’re noticing and paying attention. If you can lean into the experience, you’ll be more likely to let go of your self-consciousness and take in the experience. Gratitude also might feel “fake” because we confuse it with sugar-coating. We assume it means pretending that challenges don’t exist. However, true gratitude is being honest with yourself and taking stock of your circumstances so you can respond healthfully. It is paying close attention to and recognizing what you have. It is awareness and acknowledgement for gifts we receive every day that keep us physically and spiritually awake and alive.  Lionel Hampton defines it as “when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.”

Here are helpful ways to practice gratitude.

  1. Acknowledge your “fresh bread.”

Rumi states “There is a basket of fresh bread on your head, yet you go door to door asking for crusts.” Gratitude is about acknowledging the “fresh bread” that you already have. Acknowledging what you have helps you internalize it and become nourished by it.

For instance, if you’re going through a difficult time, acknowledge it. At the same time, think of what has helped you survive; remember your inner strength, as well as the people and places that may have supported you. Practicing gratitude in this way can help you connect with the dignity of your circumstances, and remind you of the resources that you draw on.

  1. Linger over positive experiences.

See if you can hang onto the ‘positive aftertaste’ of an experience — a taste, a sight, a sound, a feeling — just a few extra seconds.

  1. Catch others being considerate – and tell them.

This is different from giving a compliment. Instead, it’s about telling someone specifically what you appreciate.

Examples are:  You tell your child’s teacher, “Mary’s been working really hard on that project. We’re so glad to see her interested and engaged in your class.” You tell your spouse, “Honey, I really appreciate you having the kitchen so clean. It feels so nice to walk into a clean house after my long trip!”

  1. Practice together.

Share your gratitude with a loved one.  Some people even do this by texting a gratitude list to one another daily, before going to bed.

  1. Focus on your breath.

Appreciate the ease with which you breathe, and that your breath sustains your life.

  1. Involve your kids.

If you have kids, teach them to practice gratitude as part of their bedtime routine. Example: Ask your child, “What was the best part of your day today?” After they respond, express gratitude about that part of their day, and then encourage them to do the same: “I’m so grateful that you got to play with your best friend at recess today! Wow, that’s great! What a treat for you! Are you grateful for that, too?”

  1. Avoid censoring yourself.

Give yourself permission to express gratitude for all sorts of things. Being grateful about trivial things can make the practice more real and enlivening.

If you are truly grateful for the undissolved sugar at the bottom of your iced tea, for example, be grateful.  Practice being grateful for the things that are seemingly trivial – but wonderful – things: the cat jumping in your lap, a traffic-free commute, movies and popcorn, red maple leaves outside your window, getting the piece of cake with the most cream cheese frosting.

At first gratitude may feel like you’re “going through the motions.” But if you stick to your practice – even if it’s not “heart-felt” in the beginning, eventually it transforms into true gratitude.

 

“As a Man Thinketh in His Heart, So Shall He Be.”

Are you tired of thinking yourself out of success?  You could be weighed down and held back by something that is invisible, yet is among the most powerful bits of energy that exist in the world today.

Your self-limiting beliefs might have you bound and tied for so long that you don’t even notice anymore.

Stop handing over your life to your self-limiting beliefs!

Here is a 5-step approach to breaking the (mental) chains that bind you:

  1. Identify your self-limiting beliefs. Ask yourself:
    • ​​What negative thoughts recur in my mind almost every time I face something new, difficult, or big?
    • Which of my values contradicts that which I’d like to achieve?
    • What is my old (tired) story — the one I use to excuse/exclude myself from moving forward in a positive way?
  2. List the ways these self-limiting beliefs hold you back, in…
    • ​​your self esteem
    • your relationships with others
    • your work
    • your overall success
  3. Create new self-affirming beliefs. Ask yourself:
    • ​​What have I done in the past (or what am I doing now) that disproves this disempowering belief?
    • What do I need to do to leave my “old story” in the past, and create a “new story” for the rest of my life?
    • How can I describe myself in a way that makes me feel good about me?
  4. Choose to be more mindful about your thoughts and the power (negative or positive) they yield, on a daily basis.
  5. Create 3-4 positive self-statements to use as an empowering phrase to fuel you on your journey to consciously choosing more positive self-beliefs.

No one has more control over you than you.  Even under the worst conditions, you get to choose how you respond.  Change your mind — change your life!

 

 The 5 Qualities to Help You Stay Strong

The hardest thing about hard times is this: You know you’re not in control anymore. (But ask yourself something: Were you ever?) You have to make big changes before you’re ready or suddenly question what you thought you knew. But it’s possible to turn even the most upsetting situations into opportunities for growth if you can muster enough willingness, trust, faith, patience and surrender. Here’s why these qualities are so essential if we are to transcend our troubles.

Willingness
This is the all-important ingredient for making it through tough times. You must be willing to do what you believe you cannot, and acknowledge what you’ve avoided. Yes, this can be painful, but when you are unwilling to see things—and people—as they are, you can’t deal with the problem, and I can guarantee your situation will be prolonged.

Trust and Faith
Very often people confuse these two principles, but they’re very different. Trust is the belief that you can get through anything, and faith is the energy that grows from that trust, helping you carry on until things get better. You can’t have the latter without the former.

Patience
This is the capacity to accept and tolerate difficulty without anger or sorrow—and it’s your lifeline when you find yourself in the midst of a hard time. In the same way that we are unable to rush the sunrise or the unfolding of the seasons, we can’t force ourselves through a challenging experience in less time than we need to learn, heal or grow. Patience makes our difficulties pass as gently as possible.

Surrender
It’s not about giving up or bowing down. It’s about holding on to the knowledge that something bigger and more powerful than you is at work beneath the surface of your experience, and that it will take you exactly where you need to be. Now, in hard times, surrender is probably the greatest challenge you will encounter because it’s so hard to accept uncertainty. But that, my beloved, is the point. You don’t know what’s to come, but you must know that whatever happens, you will be okay.

“Choose Happiness”

We all have free will. We can all choose happiness in our lives. It is much easier to choose happiness in life than to choose to be unhappy. How much energy do you waste complaining about things? How much energy do you spend wishing your life were different in some capacity? On the flip side, how often do you express gratitude for what you do have in your life? How often do you take a step back and really embrace all the positives that life has to offer? As simple as it sounds, it really is a choice that you can make. Sometimes it is just flipping the switch in your head that you are going to look at things differently and choose to feel happy and blessed. I am not saying that you need to ignore the difficulties that life throws at you, because there will be many in life, but it is a matter of what you want your life to look and feel like the majority of the time.

Personally, when I am grounded and positive in nature, things tend to come more naturally. When I am going through a rough patch, everything else seems so dire and magnified. If you don’t feel that you are a “happy” person by nature, that doesn’t mean it is a lost cause. You need to begin by focusing on what brings you joy now. For what we focus on, becomes our reality. When do you feel the happiest? Trust that you do have the power to bring more joy into your life. Trust that, by taking baby steps, you can get rid of the negative voice on your shoulder, and be guided more by the positive and hopeful voice. Know that it takes far less energy to experience joy than it does to focus on the negatives. I am not saying that you are going to wake up tomorrow and just feel happy and jubilant, but you can try to see things through a different-colored lens and experience a bit more of the joy factor.

ACTION TIPS:

1. Where’s the joy?
Do you feel a lack of happiness in your life? Do you feel as though your life is just passing by? Do you feel as though you’ve lost control? Acknowledgment is the first step in making some changes. You can give in to the hopeless feelings, or you can take charge. Know that each and every one of us is born with the right to be happy and content. No matter your circumstances, there is always something you can do to begin to turn things around.

2. Seek it out
What makes you happy? When do you experience the most joy? This week keep a journal of when you felt joy. Maybe it was when you were singing to music. Maybe it was when you were taking an aerobics class. Maybe it was when you were reading a good book. It’s important to detail these times so you can put yourself in those situations more often. Know what it takes to light you up, and then, do more of it.

3. Quiet time
One important step here is to take some much-needed quiet time. It is crucial to set aside this time every day. This time gives you the opportunity to say your affirmations, to pray if you do so, to reflect on what you are grateful for, or to just quiet your mind. This is when you set the tone for the rest of the day. Take this time to bring about the positive and supportive voice and lift your spirits.

Keep On Keeping On

    What happens when you find yourself at the end of an exhausting, long and hard day, wanting to stay on the straight and narrow path, yet feeling your old destructive ways and self-defeating patterns creeping back in?

      There are four major contributors to relapse:

  1. Complacency (getting lazy), feelings of pride sneak in and you think; “I’m strong enough to go to the bar and not drink,” or “I can have just one drag. It won’t kill me!”
  2. Confusion and the pressures of hard decisions; “Should I stay on this job or should I go back to school full time? How will I pay the bills?”
  3. Compromise……“It’s only one night and I’m so lonely. I know he’s not the one, but…….”
  4. Catastrophe……..the sudden loss of a loved one, loss of a job or a car accident. Recovery is hard work. You can’t just “will” it or “wish” it done. I can “wish and hope” that I can fit into my skinny jeans but it won’t actually happen unless I choose to eat right and exercise. And, the first time we lift weights or start an exercise program, our muscles hurt. We can hardly get out of bed the next day. But, day by day, it will get easier and the same is true in recovery. However, there are tools that will make it a little easier.  I don’t have to rely on MY willpower. I can open my heart and make time daily for devotion with God to know Him more and His will for my life through self-examination, Bible reading and prayer. We need the support of others…..a friend, counselor, sponsor or family member I can call when I am struggling. Try not to allow prideful thinking in; “I can handle it,” “I’m never going to do that again,” or “I don’t need help.” We can do nothing without God.

         The evaluation process can prevent a relapse. What do I need to evaluate? Ask              yourself how you’re doing in the following areas:

  1. Physically: Am I tense…..do my back and shoulders hurt, am I getting headaches or stomach aches?
  2. Emotionally: How am I feeling? Am I hurting, exhausted, angry, resentful or tense?
  3. Relational: How am I treating my spouse, family, co-workers?
  4. Spiritual: What is God telling me or trying to teach me?

    Next, should I do an evaluation? Sometimes, you will do a quick evaluation in the moment…for example, when you lose your patience and temper with the checker at Wal-Mart. There will be times that you do a daily self-evaluation when journaling and reflecting on your day. And, annually, when you set aside time to determine your goals and objectives for the upcoming year. It’s important, when doing any evaluation, that you slow down long enough to actually hear from God.