Learning to set BOUNDARIES

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From time to time, we all get the dreaded feeling that there just isn’t enough time to do everything we need to do, let alone squeeze in a few of the things we want to do. Between demands on our time from work, kids, kids’ events, spouses, and countless other activities that vie for our attention, it is easy to get so bogged down to the point where you feel overwhelmed to the point of drowning. Part of it is surely our culture. After all, we live in a society where the appropriate response to “How’s it going?” is “Oh, I am so busy.” So many people wear it as a badge of honor sometimes, but at what cost? In this post, we’ll explore a few ideas that can help you take back control of your life and your time and hopefully return some of your sanity back, too!

Set Boundaries

It sounds simple, but it is easier said than done. What sort of boundaries am I talking about? Here, I’m referring to personal boundaries; the ones that are often hardest to bring up but that have a significant impact on your mental health and well-being.

For example, do you hate attending holiday functions with your family, because someone always brings up how impressive and accomplished one of your siblings is? Or perhaps someone in the family leaves you feeling guilty that you don’t visit as much as you used to. Any variation of these can leave us feeling depressed and despondent. However, there is a way to overcome those anxieties: set boundaries.

Whether it is the dreaded family holiday get-together or something else entirely that you dread doing, try and level-set with whomever you’re visiting and tell them what is and is not okay tobring up, talk about, or share while you’re there. These are difficult conversations to have, especially with loved ones (the same rules apply for workplace functions, too), but until you express your feelings, no one may know their behavior is negatively affecting you.

Self-awareness is a major aspect of setting boundaries. After all, in order to set them, you need to know what they are. When you have clearly communicated your boundaries to those who need to be made aware, that is just the first step. If someone violates your boundaries after you’ve set them, it is equally as important to be assertive and let them know how their actions are affecting you. Whenever possible, seek the support and guidance of others whom you respect and can count on to be there for you.

Make Healthy Choices

Healthy minds and healthy bodies are key ingredients to regaining control in your life. With all of the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, though, it can be difficult to find time to head to the gym or take time to just focus on your thoughts without distraction. However, achieving a healthy mind and body doesn’t require giant time commitments, and the results will serve you well all year long.

Moving our bodies in deliberate, thoughtful ways helps connect our bodies to our minds. One great way to do this is through practicing yoga. Yoga includes physical movement, breathing exercises, and promotes an awareness of Self that other workouts simply don’t give you. By bridging the physical to the emotional and even spiritual, yoga allows your body to relax and move while calming your mind and putting you back in the driver’s seat and regaining control.

Mindfulness is another great way to regain control and balance in your life. It is also very much in line with the practice of yoga. There are a lot of great benefits associated with mindfulness, namely the ability to become fully present, aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and become more reflective and less reactive to the world around us. You can incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine in a number of ways. One of the easiest ways to start is to focus on your breathing. Since breathing is so integral to everything in our lives, deliberate concentration on breathing in and out can put your mind and body at ease, leaving you with a feeling of more control in your daily life.  Breathing is just one exercise of many, so this appeals to you, I encourage you to further your research and find more mindfulness routines that suit you.

Don’t Try to Change Everything at Once

Old habits die hard, and breaking out of them is difficult to say the least. Generally speaking, research suggests that it takes about 21 days of consistent patterns and action for something to become habit. That’s why it is so important for us to be mindful about how we’re adopting these changes into our life.

If the goal is for us to feel less stressed and less overwhelmed, what sense is there in trying to fix everything at once? That sounds stressful!

So, be mindful about creating boundaries, eating right, and getting exercise. These changes don’t have to be enormous, either. If you’re looking for an easy addition to your daily routine that is incredibly helpful, try simple breathing exercises.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try to pinpoint what specific things in your life that are the source of the stress. Then, close your eyes and simply focus on your breathing: Gentle inhale through your nostrils, gentle exhale through your mouth. Repeat. In. And out. In. And out. 

When you complete this exercise, your head will be in a much better place to approach your stresses rationally and head on. You’ll be amazed at how satisfying regaining control with a few simple breathing exercises can be.

I would love to hear from you! What do you do in your daily life to help reduce stress and not feel incredibly overwhelmed all the time?

Let Love Grow

Let’s face it: Relationships require work. Sometimes, really hard work. All too often, the longer you and your partner have been together, the more work your relationship requires. That seems kind of counter-intuitive, right? After all, the longer you’ve been with someone, the better you should know them. And the better you know someone, the less conflict you should have, right? If only it were that easy! As relationships go on, other stressors and factors enter the picture that may not have been there when the relationship was just starting to blossom. Busy careers, bills, kids, kids’ activities...all of these can cause couples to drift apart. Sound familiar? If it does, don’t worry! There are ways you and your partner can reconnect, bicker less, and grow stronger in your relationship.

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Bickering

Every couple bickers from time to time. Occasionally, that bickering morphs into full-fledged arguments, complete with yelling and exasperated sighs, and migraines. Bickering can actually be really healthy for relationships, as long as it is done respectfully. “Huh?” I’m sure you’re saying. Stay with me! 

Bickering and arguing can be healthy when you’re not just waiting for your turn to speak but when you just shut up and listen to what your partner is saying. Often, the causes of arguments are small things that have built up over a period of time, but which have never been expressly communicated. So, the next time your spouse gets on your case about not cleaning the toilet, listen to what they’re saying. They may not be mad about the toilet; perhaps you’re not taking initiative on cleaning in general.

In the heat of the moment, people can say things they don’t mean or that they instantly regret. Avoid this if possible! The best way to do this is to hit pause. When you recognize that the argument is not yielding anything productive, put it on hold. Whether you both need to walk away and get some fresh air, or (contrary to popular belief) go to bed angry, just give each other some space. These moments of reflection help calm emotions and allow our more rational sides to come back to us. When sufficient time has passed, talk about your argument calmly with one another. Chances are you’ll both find a little humor in what you were arguing about, too.

Sometimes, couples that argue are in healthier relationships than those who don’t bicker at all, because those who aren’t bickering about anything have (sometimes) given up on the relationship without knowing it. When people aren’t bickering and aren’t blissfully in love with their partner, they’re like ships passing in the night. They know the other is there, but they’re not seeing them.

When this happens, what can you do? Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is just talk. Let your partner know what you are feeling, and see if they feel the same way, too. Go into this conversation with an open mind and open heart, and really listen to what your partner has to say. This type of dialogue is essential to growing together as a couple. If you are uncomfortable having this type of conversation or you feel like it has gone beyond the point where simply talking one-on-one with your spouse will work, seek professional guidance from a therapist or marriage counselor.

Reconnect

Relationships are breeding grounds for stress. There is constant pressure from your career; you want to make sure you’re providing the best life you can for your kids; and the result of this is that your relationship with your partner can unintentionally take a backseat. When this happens, it is easier to justify disagreements or, worse, accepting and living in a situation that seems stagnant and doomed.

One way some couples can reconnect and reignite the spark is to either get away or spend some quality Adult Time together. Whether this is a relaxing vacation with just the two of you or sending the kids to the grandparents’ or summer camp for a bit, these moments together can work wonders on a relationship.

Vacations are a great way to hit “reset” and forget about the worries of the real world (just make sure you’re not checking your work email incessantly!). Sitting on a beach with a fruity drink and a trashy novel (followed by some passionate love making in the room) can be just what the doctor ordered. Vacations also get us out of our normal routines and inspire spontaneity that is absent in our day-to-day.

For couples who have the means to do so, sending your kids to summer camp can be an incredible way to fall in love with your partner all over again. This is a great option, because camp offers kids a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and grow into themselves, so you don’t have the same type of guilt that may accompany a parents-only vacation! On top of that, you and your partner can still do your normal career things, but you can enjoy extended happy hours or more frequent date nights without having to worry about getting back in time for the baby sitter.

No matter how long you’ve been with your partner, there is always a way to grow and mature in your love for one another. Sometimes, the monotony of everyday life can grate on us, and our relationships are the first to suffer. Be proactive when you can. But if you find yourself bickering or looking across the dinner table wondering, “Who is this person I’m living with?”, give each other a chance. Talk, communicate, hold one another tightly, and ask for help if you need it! 

Relationship Refresh

Intimate, loving relationships are one of the most amazing things in the world. Finding a partner with whom you can share life’s adventures, tragedies, and joys is an incredibly wonderful gift. Like anything worthwhile, though, relationships require constant work, communication, and ongoing attention in order to thrive.

What do you do when your relationship begins to show signs of wear or is fraying a bit at the edges? Every relationship has its problems, so understanding ways in which you can identify problems and work towards a resolution is of paramount importance if your relationship is to survive and grow.

In this post, we’ll explore 3 common relationship problems and possible solutions.

Recognize and overcome relationship problems

Regain Balance

We often hear that relationships are a balancing act, requiring ongoing repositioning and adapting to our partners’ cues in order to maintain a healthy symbiosis. There is a lot of truth to this, but relationships also have ability to become lopsided and imbalanced.

But what does it mean to really be “balanced,” and how do we get from a place of imbalance to balance? For our answer, we need to understand how our emotions, and the actions that impact those emotions in relationship, are regulated by our bodies.

Our bodies produce and release all sorts of chemicals depending on what a situation calls for. When we work out or push our bodies physically, the body releases endorphins, which lessen the pain from these strenuous activities and leave us feeling good. Afterall, if the body didn’t release those feel-good endorphins after a killer spin class, why would we ever want to go back!?

From the relationship aspect, though, in order to understand why a relationship may be off kilter, it is important to realize that the way the body reacts chemically to certain situations may be at the root of relationship problems. Consider the fact that other feel-good brain chemicals such as oxytocin (aka the “trust” hormone), serotonin (an antidepressant), and dopamine (a “reward” chemical) all have the potential to play significant roles in our, and our partners’ behavior.

Think of the phrase “having too much of a good thing” and how it may ring true in relationships. “Feel good” chemicals also have the potential to serve as a crutch when we’re feeling low or stagnant in our relationships. The release of dopamine, for instance, feels good and is rewarding, but those same characteristics can make it more addictive. In other words, the actions you or your partner take to get that rush of emotion may actually be harming your relationship, but the addictiveness of the feeling may make it harder to stop the behavior that is causing the body to release those feel-good chemicals.

When you recognize that you or your partner may be seeking “too much of a good thing” in terms of these chemical releases, you’re on the right path to fixing a broken part of your relationship. However, it is important not to impose this on your partner: they may feel attacked and emotionally vulnerable if you do, which may actually encourage more of the behavior that you’re trying to solve!

Look Inward

When you’re trying to find your balance with your partner, you may be wondering, “If we’re hard-wired to release these chemicals, then what can we do to break the addictive nature and regain balance with our partners?”

The first thing that we can each do is to look inward. All of us are in control of our own selves and emotions. When we are able to take emotional stock of our actions, behavior, and feelings, we gain a clearer understanding of how that may affect our relationships. For example, if we recognize that we’re constantly engaging in behavior that has a negative impact on our partner, the question then becomes: what can I do to change my behavior?

Similarly, it is equally important that your partner take the same emotional inventory. Often in relationships, bad (or if not bad, damaging) habits form early on but don’t manifest until much later, because one partner or the other shrugs it off thinking it isn’t a big deal or that it will end soon.

By talking with your partner about your own process you can encourage them to evaluate themselves. This relationship “work” has the potential to bring you closer together during tough phases of your time together. When your partner recognizes not only your emotional vulnerability and confidence in expressing these emotions in a self-aware way, you may just give them the confidence they need to start their own inward journey.

Stay Strong

We won’t be so naive to think that every relationship can be fixed by finding balance and looking inward. The unfortunate truth is that some relationships are just toxic, or even downright dangerous. Understanding the difference between a relationship needing “work” and a relationship that is causing emotional or physical harm is paramount.

However, sometimes you do need to seek balance and look inward to recognize you’re in a toxic relationship. If you come to this realization, understand this: you are not alone. Seek the guidance of trusted friends or family.

Our friends and family (and, if necessary, professional help) often see our strengths even if we cannot. Their support, love, and encouragement in times of struggle are often the boost we need to confidently recognize the impact unhealthy relationships can have on our lives.

Toxic relationships can be saved if the other partner is truly willing to make the necessary changes, but having the strength to recognize that your partner isn’t letting you be the Best You is a giant step towards a healthy Self.

No matter where you are in your relationship with your partner, never be afraid to seek the guidance of friends, family, or professionals. Alone, it is hard to see the forest for the trees or to recognize patterns that others may see immediately. Give yourself time to look internally to understand yourself. Trying to mend fraying or broken relationships is never easy, but it is possible, and it starts with you.

Reignite the Spark

It will probably come as no surprise to you, but relationships take a lot of time and work in order to grow and ultimately be successful. I often see clients who are in a relationship standstill or rut. They’ve been with their partner for years and each can anticipate what the other will say before they even say it!

When you get to that point, or feel like you’re teetering on the edge of it, what can you do to reignite the spark that brought you together in the first place? This post explores many of the ways in which you can bring some spice back into your love life.

Reignite the Marriage Spark

AppreciatE

If we were to believe all of the Hollywood date-night movies, Love (with a capital L) would always be outwardly displayed by some grandiose gesture, hot air balloon rides, and endless candlelit dinners surrounded by rose petals. But those of us who live in the real world know that love is a combination of lots of little things: holding the door open for your spouse, emptying the dishwasher, waking up in the middle of the night to clean urine-stained sheets from your little ones. Every day, our partners do little things for us because they care. Are you making sure to appreciate and acknowledge the little things your partner does for you? One way to practice appreciation is to keep daily list, either on paper or in your head, and at the end of each day, tell your partner one of the things you are appreciative of from earlier in the day. This little gesture can go a long way. And who knows...maybe they’ll start their own list of “appreciations” and begin the practice, too!

Acknowledge

Similar to sharing the little things you appreciate about your partner and what they do for you, I also encourage my clients to talk about the small things. What are the “small things?” Well, there’s always the classic example of a man leaving the toilet seat up. Maybe she takes spoonfuls of peanut butter right out of the jar to eat, and it kind of grosses you out. Whatever it is, it won’t do either of you any good if you bottle up those little annoyances. Gently bring these small annoyances up to your partner. Don’t be accusatory (because remember: there are probably a few things that you do that annoy your partner!) but let them know that some certain behaviors or actions are a bit annoying to you. Opening up this line of direct, thoughtful dialog tells them that you want to be honest with them and that hopefully by talking about it, the two of you can come to an understanding or agreement about these annoyances.

That said, there is also virtue in letting some of these small annoyances go. Really. Some things may just not be worth bringing up, especially if it is a lifelong habit of your spouse, or you know that they truly get a lot of joy from whatever action it is that annoys you. The trick here, though, is to actually let it go. Do what you need to do to get over it and not let it bother you any more.

Talk, Talk, Talk!

Notice a theme in the first few tips to a healthy relationship? Communication is King. Small things, big things, middle-of-the-road things. No one wants to be that couple who eats an entire meal together in silence because they have nothing to talk about any more. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been together for 4 or 40 years, keeping your dialog open, fresh, and fun is one of the keys to relationship longevity.

What to talk about? Anything! Talk about your partner’s hopes, dreams, even disappointments. Is there anything that they’ve done that they regret? Perhaps there are things you can talk about that bring new ideas to light that are energizing and invigorating to your mate. Talk about doing something together that may be out of both of your comfort zones. Again, don’t let things fester in silence. Bring things up into the open and have honest, thoughtful conversations.

spend time together

If you and your partner share a lot of the same interests, one thing that can reignite the spark and take you both a bit out of your comfort zones is taking a class together. Find something that interests you both, but that neither of you considers “a strong suit.” For example, if you find yourselves eating out a lot, try signing up for a cooking class. There are tons of options out there ranging from cooking basics to region-based fare (think Mediterranean, Chinese, Mexican, etc) that are designed for couples to learn together.

Another option is taking classes in outdoors activities such as sailing or rock climbing. Perhaps this is something you’ve both wanted to do for a long time, but things like work, kids, time, etc have gotten in the way. Don’t put it off any longer! When you both learn something together, you’re creating new memories and often, the playfulness, the joking, and the fun that sparked your relationship in the first place bubbles back up to the surface.

No matter what you end up doing, relationships take work. But like all things that come with hard work, the rewards are incredibly valuable. When you and your partner overcome relationship hurdles together, you forge stronger, more enduring bonds that will take you years into the future together.

Children + Mindfulness

children and mindfulness

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Kids are like sponges: they absorb everything.” When uttered, this phrase is typically used as a warning to parents or their guests: “Whatever you do, don’t mess up...the kids are watching!” One errant bad word and you’ve got an adorable 3 year old walking around saying something she shouldn’t to your in-laws!

Something that is often forgotten about the “Kids are like sponges” sentiment, though, is that they also absorb good things. As an adult, kids look up to you and watch to see how you react and interact with the world around you. In a time where kids and adults alike seem unable to separate from their screens, practicing mindfulness in your life, and showing your children how to be mindful, can have immeasurable benefits.

I often see kids in my practice who are anxious or who struggle with other cognitive hurdles like ADHD. I have found that introducing kids to mindfulness exercises and games can help them immensely when they’re feeling overwhelmed or out of control. Below, I review some of the common advice I give children and their parents on how they can be more mindful every day.

Start With Yourself

Do you already practice mindfulness in your everyday life? If you do, that’s great: you’re one step closer to having a mindful child. Remember: Kids are like sponges, and they look to you for how to behave. So, if you don’t have your own mindfulness routine yet, start one. It can just be a few minutes a day, but getting into this habit will help you as you guide your child on their own path. There are tons of resources available online if you need a little boost to see how to start practicing mindfulness in your daily routine.

Mindfulness is FUN!

People frequently come up to me and say that they’d love to teach their kids to be more mindful, but they have trouble getting them to stay still for 30 seconds...it's something I’ve heard a million times and my answer is always the same: Make a game out of it! Kids love games, and games are a great way to introduce them to the concept of mindfulness.

Tip: Make sure the game is age-appropriate, and don’t worry about calling it a mindfulness game or not...it's just a game that incorporates mindfulness. Consider taking a walk around the neighborhood, and devote 30-60 seconds to a Listening Game. What do they hear? Birds? Cars? The wind through the trees? A simple exercise like this can plant the seed in your kids to be more aware of the world around them. 

Mindfulness is Calming

Right before bedtime is a great time to practice mindfulness with your kids. While they’re laying down, and after you’ve read them their story, guide them through an exercise that brings an awareness to their body. “Gently scrunch up your toes. Okay, now un-scrunch them. Feel the muscles in your legs. Feel them get heavier. Picture your belly and take a deep breath in. Now, breathe out.” There are lots of body-awareness scripts available online, too, to help you get the hang of this one. The quiet of the house and your soothing voice make this a great time of day to pass along mindfulness to your kids.

Remember: mindfulness doesn’t happen overnight, and it is not a “cure” for an unruly or rebellious child. However, mindfulness is a tool that you can equip your child with that can serve her well for years to come. Simply being aware of our surroundings and how we fit into our environment is a step in the right direction.

 

 

Need a reset? The time is NOW.

need a reset the best time is now

New beginnings don’t need to start or stop with New Year's’ celebrations. Don’t get me wrong, there is something powerful, almost cosmic, with the changing of the year. It is a time when anything seems possible, and you can say, “Adios!” to another year. However, New Year's happens once a year. What about the rest of the time? What happens when you need a reset? This is a question I toyed with for years until it hit me: my birthday falls close to the middle of the year...perfect! It was an amazing shift in perspective for me.

I’ve been able to use the time surrounding my birthday to contemplate my year thus far. I’ve looked inward and listened to my heart so I can hear what it is telling me. Am I on track with the person I wanted to be this year? What can I do differently? Having this conversation with myself, and being open and honest in my assessment of my progress, has been life-changing. I feel as though I am getting a second New Year’s Resolution, and I embrace the rest of the year as a challenge, but one I am equipped to meet.

So what if your birthday doesn’t happen to fall in the middle of the year? Don’t let that stop you. Find any date and make it your celebration and your time to reflect on the first half of the year. Use this day as an opportunity to explore what the rest of the year looks like for you. Who says beginnings can’t start in the middle?

With that said, I’ve come up with three easy-to-do exercises to help you get in your groove and find a renewed sense of energy and purpose.

Set a date, and stick to it. Like I said, your birthday may not fall in the middle of the year. If this is you, don’t worry. Pick a date that may have other special meaning to you. It could be the birthday of a loved one, an anniversary of a first date...something that may make you look back and smile. If you’re still coming up blank, that’s okay. Perhaps the summer solstice, which happens every year between June 20 and June 22 (but pick one!), is meaningful to you. Like New Year's, the Summer Solstice has that cosmic element that officially brings in summer and is the day of the year in which we get the most amount of daylight. What better way to enjoy that extra bit of light than by exploring the ways in which you can start fresh for the rest of the year?

Reflect, then Look Forward. What has worked for you so far this year? What would you like to change? Make a list. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly. Get it all down on paper. Smile and be thankful for the Good. Reflect, and write down how the bad made you feel and any thoughts on how the Bad can be turned into Good the rest of the year. Not sure what I mean? Perhaps you lost a loved one, a job, or are just in a rut. That sadness you feel can be transformed into positive energy. Maybe volunteering more and helping others can morph your Bad into a Good. Then there is The Ugly. Maybe you’ve been less-than-admirable in some aspects of your life. Own it. Recognize it. Change it. Write down the “warts” and then set out how to fix them moving ahead. Your future self will be glad you did.

Stay Accountable. Once you have your list and have set goals for yourself for the New You, check in on yourself! Don’t let excuses get in the way of becoming a better you. If you’ve struggled with New Year’s Resolutions in the past, tell a friend or family member what you’re up to and ask them to help keep you on track and on target. Something that has always helped me in goal-setting is setting SMART Goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By setting your goals in this deliberate manner, you take actionable steps to a better you.

Unplug, Stop + Breathe

stress and the media

For better or worse, we live in a 24/7 world. At any time of the day or night, we can flip on our television or open our tablet or phone and be immersed in information. On one hand, this exposure to such a vast amount of knowledge and data can be enlightening and liberating: at no point in human history has the collection of information been so vast and so accessible. On the other hand, sifting through all of the noise that this causes can be nearly impossible and finding the golden nuggets of truth in the rushing river of 21st century media can seem like it is just too much.

If you are already prone to feeling stress or anxiety, our “always on” world isn’t doing you any favors. The human mind is a powerful, powerful creation, but one that is simultaneously fragile. With a 24 hour news cycle and social media platforms, our minds are constantly inundated with unnecessary junk.  

You may not realize it, but when you hear a news story about how the world may come to an end at any moment or watch a show about a house hunter with a budget larger than anything you could imagine, your mind continues to process that information long after you’ve changed the channel. In the news example, your mind is subconsciously trying to cope with the possibility of certain doom! That’s a tall order, don’t you think? And in the example of the house hunter with an astronomical amount of disposable income, your mind may start to wonder “Why can’t I  have that? Am I not good enough?” We needlessly put our mind through the ringer when we are constantly exposing it to these stimuli.

Now, compound all of that with the “normal” stress and anxiety you feel on a day-to-day basis: juggling demands from work; needs around the house; time spent with friends and loved ones fostering important relationships. By themselves, these are already a lot to deal with! Throw in the barrage of media from the TV and our phones, and we’re in hyperdrive but don’t know who is flying this rocket ship! What can we do? How do we make it stop?

Unplug. Step back. Breathe. Focus on what is important to you.

When it all seems too much to handle and your stress level is reaching its peak, just unplug. Even if just for 15 minutes at the beginning. Find time in your day where you don’t have a TV on and where you’re not looking at your phone. Just be present in the moment.

Find someplace comfortable. Someplace where you feel safe and away from distractions. Focus on your breathing. When you focus on your breathing, you’re telling your mind that it is okay to slow down and take a break from processing of all that “stuff.” Like any good exercise, this takes practice. But just like any type of practice, the more you do it, the better you become. Finding 15 minutes is no longer a chore, but part of your daily routine, and a routine that will leave you feeling alive, powerful, and in control of your life, even in this chaotic world!

The mind is a beautiful thing, but we must take the time to care for it. When you step back and focus your energy inward, your mind can take a break. When you’re done, you’ve done yourself and your mind an incredible favor.

Waking-Up

waking up and showing compassion

     This winter was very difficult for a lot of us. The cultural climate of constant conflict and discord has left many of us feeling emotionally, spiritually, and even physically, drained. It is so important that we take the time to invite this new Spring season into our lives, and welcome a much needed, and refreshing, change.

     Over these past few months, I have observed many of my clients going through a big shift, and they can feel themselves coming out of a life-hibernation. Many are sharing that they feel as though they are suddenly acutely aware of their potential, power and worth. Wonderful right? Except for many people, this time of inner revolution can feel a bit overwhelming and scary. Often, as we begin to move into our highest selves, there are multiple layers of complex narratives that bubble to the surface. It’s a process, a tapestry of tales and experiences, stitched together to form a renewed sense of Self. There are things we can do along each step of the way to empower our fierce truths, enliven our bravery and decrease any discomfort that may come up. You will absolutely come out of the process feeling stronger and better than ever before, you just may need support along the way.

Here are some tips and tools for when you feel yourself, bravely, waking-up:

1. Often times, when we recognize things that we hadn’t before, we initially wish we could go back to a time when we didn’t know. I think a lot of this is rooted in fear of the unknown. We mistakenly believe that this new awareness will diminish our sense of safety, security and predictability, so, rather than cradle our newfound truth, we try to throw it away and ignore it. If you find yourself in this place, I invite you to write it down. Write down the new calling/dream/truth/goal in a journal or a place that feels safe to you. Even if you don’t want to do anything about it, just give it a space to live outside of your body/mind/spirit. “Ok, truth. I hear you. I see you. I acknowledge you. I might not do anything about it right now, and I might wish you were never here, but I thank you for stopping by.” As you allow yourself to write about it you will begin to notice an evolution of your feelings. Set aside 5-10 minutes of you day to ask yourself important questions like, “What if I allow this truth to be true? What if I don’t have to do anything about it just yet, but I can just try it on for size? What would it look like if I leaned in to this newness? What am I, actually, afraid of?”  To use a favorite analogy from Sue Monk Kidd, once we are stung by a symbolic bee, we cannot be unstung. Write it out and you’ll find your way.

2. As you begin to stand in your new sense of power, you may feel an unexpected guest arrive: Anger (with a capital A). I’ve seen this so much lately, especially after the election. While we are very often told that anger is a foe, I believe it is actually a friend, trying to tell us very important information. As we wake-up we may start to feel less tolerant of people mistreating us; we may begin to question the motives of those we’d previously accepted without question; we may start to feel a deep, primal rage simmering while we re-examine our society and our history. This is when I highly recommend seeking the help and guidance of others. Perhaps you schedule an extra appointment with a therapist, or maybe you have a trusted mentor in your life to turn to. Either way, it is so important that you talk through the anger and explore its messages, before quickly reacting and potentially doing things you might regret. Anger is trying to deliver messages to us, but if we make rash decisions in its grasp, we very possibly miss the incredible gifts it has buried within. It’s not about making the anger go away, it’s about embracing it and then excavating for important artifacts. Using it as a tool rather than a weapon. We must take the time to work with our rage, knowing you owned it, not the other way around.

3. Right after the election, I found myself with numerous clients struggling with sudden severed relationships. Many experienced breaks in family ties and shared about dissolved friendships. The first thing I want to ensure everyone is that they are not alone. While we may feel temporarily isolated or displaced, and begin to blame ourselves entirely, it is so critical that we grant ourselves some serious self-compassion. As we leave the shores of the familiar and chart a course for new, unknown, lands, we can sometimes lose our bearings for a bit. We feel proud of our new strength and knowledge, but, at the same exact time, we might be met with unexpected longings for our previous routines, patterns, and relationships, even if they were toxic. When we are in these inbetween spaces, it is important to start seeking out supportive friends and relationships that nurture your transformation. It is also critical to practice massive amounts of self care. Some examples that always help: Going for long walks, finding a good book at the library, taking a bubble bath each night, getting a massage, practicing yoga a few times a week, sitting alone in nature, repeating positive affirmations, getting plenty of sleep, eating lots of grounding vegetables and fresh fruits, drinking plenty of water, and taking time to journal. You are not alone, and you will feel whole once again.

     As you enter Spring this year, remember that it may not always be easy, just like the butterfly struggling to emerge from her cocoon or a new flower pushing mightily through the thick winter mud, but it is, without question, always worth it. As you hear the song birds begin to sing outside again, remember to use these tools to keep yourself centered and courageous. There is big work to be done in this world, and we need you to be your best self, now, more than ever before.

 

Keeping Balance

Yoga for keeping health and balance

I was talking to a fellow yogi the other day and our conversation naturally turned toward the idea of balance. She is a work from home mom of eight children, the youngest being 8 months old! She struggles daily to keep balance on many different levels. There is the balance of taking care of the children, the house, her business and other commitments. There is the balance of relationships with her children, her husband, her friends and her family. Maybe most importantly, there is the balance within herself – mind, heart, body and soul. In a perfect world all of these things would ebb and flow sweetly, pushing and pulling together into a symphony of beauty. We do not live in a perfect world! How do we balance all of our commitments, relationships, and our own sweet spirit in the midst of so much busyness and sometimes even chaos?

Balance is a common need for so many people. In our rush, rush, rush, super-efficient, every moment posted on social media for the world to see daily lives our society is starting to see the need for calm.   We are starting to see the need to be still. Yoga is a long practiced proven, healthy and positive way to gain the calm and stillness that we seek. Yoga will bring balance whether you have a consistent home practice, take a class at the local gym or a combination of the two. The benefits of yoga are endless for balancing both your mind and body, which in turn helps to balance all aspects of your life.

There is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that goes:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

Our beliefs and our thoughts lead to our destiny! Balance starts in your own mind. This is why it is so vital that in order to gain balance in life that you begin with meditation. Learning to quiet your mind will help you to free yourself from limiting and negative thoughts. Connecting to your own thoughts in such an intimate way will bring your own intuition, dreams and desires forward. This will lead to a healthy balance of negative and positive emotions.

Your emotions then in turn help to balance your body. It is a well known fact in the practice of yoga that we carry our emotions in our bodies. By creating balance in your thoughts you also create balance in your emotions which affects your body.

The practice of yoga is also physically balancing to your body. Yoga aids your body in releasing negative energy such as anger, stress, frustration, insecurities, etc. When this happens it creates a shift between the positive and negative energies in your physical body, bringing balance to them. That balance allows more positive energy within your body such as dreaming, joy, patience, peace, love, kindness, gentleness, etc. That balance can also relieve physical pain in your body allowing you more freedom in life.

Think of the yin and yang symbol that is used to represent balance. There is both positive and negative energy within the sphere and they are in perfect balance (the same amount). There is even a spot of light in the dark side and a spot of dark in the light side. The “line” between them is not straight, which I love! I believe that shows that either side can move into the other creating an imbalance. When I look at the yin and yang symbol I see that it is always in motion.

So, you see balance is not something that you work hard toward one time and then everything is perfect. It is like most of life… a constant ebb and flow, give and take, push and pull until every once in a while you get that beautiful balance. The process of gaining that balance is part of the reward of achieving balance within. So, learn to love the process! Take joy in the learning to bring your own beliefs, thoughts, words, actions, habits, values and destiny into balance.

Get on your mats every day and quiet your mind!

On Resolutions

resolutions and your health

During this time of year, we often begin setting goals and dreaming big. We fill our journals with plans for the future and prepare ourselves for what’s next. We fill our heads with visions of sugar plums and make lists of endless possibilities. It all feels so magical and exciting, and it is! But sometimes in the middle of this beautiful process of expansion, we forget about gratitude.

The Winter Solstice, or the return to light, is the perfect time to pause and reflect and maybe even offer ourselves a bit of self-love. Sure it’s alluring to write resolutions like, “Next year I will get in shape!” But what if we sat under the sky and, with one hand over our hearts, whispered, “I am so grateful for my health, my resilient body, my ever-beating heart.”

Feel the difference?

I recently worked with a Mother who was going through a transition with her teenage son. She thought she was setting important goals and boundaries, but he expressed that by setting so many goals for his future, she was, inadvertently, sending him the message that who he is, currently, and all of the things he is accomplishing right now, was all somehow not good enough. Until he shared that with her, she truly never realized that’s how it was all coming across. I think the same can be said for how we speak to ourselves. When we repeatedly declare, “Next year I will be thinner/smarter/better!” We may also be sending the inverse message to ourselves that who we are, today, is just not good enough. And that’s simply not true. We are radiant, brave, resilient beings.

Try this:

  1. Carve out 10-15 minutes of your time between now and December 21st to sit quietly and try this practice:
  2. Take a few deep cleansing breaths, allow your muscles to release any tension, and repeat, “I love, accept, and respect myself.”
  3. After you’ve done this for 5 or 6 deep breaths, think of the things you’d most like to change in the new year, and then see if you can offer yourself some grace and compassion in those areas. Find the gratitude from which to build your plans of evolution. If you get stuck finding self-kindness, just repeat the mantra, “I love, accept and respect myself.” When your 10-15 minutes is up, it is my hope you will feel lighter and more at ease.

Being motivated to become better versions of ourselves is an incredible feeling, and when we can do so from a place of reverence for the gift of what already is, I believe our chances of feeling fulfilled multiply tenfold. Even when we are exhausted, or angry or just totally ready to close one door and open another, granting ourselves permission to find the beauty in the imperfect NOW, is truly powerful.

No Time Like the Present

Anyone who practices yoga regularly is probably aware of the benefits yoga has on mental health. They each compliment one another on so many levels and the integration of yoga with mental health is becoming more popular by the minute.

Yoga and mindfulness especially, are all the rage these days. It seems everywhere I look, there’s a new study on how yoga can help with depression, anxiety and ease stress or relationship tension. How slowing down to become more ‘mindful’ can help us to make healthier choices and teach us new ways of coping to unpleasant, unpredictable life events.

The benefits are written about everywhere, yet people remain challenged in starting a regular yoga practice. I see this struggle in my patients as they come in session after session, reporting back to me with reasons why this week {yet, again} they could not make it to their mat.

I get it. Starting something new is difficult. Especially when it involves slowing down, getting centered and becoming grounded in your body. Emotions, fears and anxieties are bound to come up. However, yoga can be extremely healing and having a consistent yoga practice can be so supportive to emotional well-being.

SO… for all the curious newbies who are aspiring to start and keep a consistent home yoga practice, but are a little unsure of where to begin- I will outline a few simple steps to get you going.

Number one. Intention.

I suggest you become aware of why it is you want to start a yoga practice in the first place. Is it to help with your insomnia or anxiety? Do you want to lose weight? Perhaps you want to get to a calmer, more relaxed state of mind. Whatever it is, it’s okay. Intention is key to so many things in life, which is why I think it is essential to any yoga practice.

An example may be, “My intention to start a yoga practice is to slow down my racing thoughts so that when my children/partner/life become irritable/frustrating/demanding, I have the necessary tools to help me deal with the situation at hand.”

Number two. Time.

 I suggest practicing yoga in the morning. A morning yoga practice is my preference for many reasons, but mostly because this is when the mind is most clear. Plus, it’s the perfect time to get grounded and start your day with that intention you set! A morning practice can also help keep your energy lifted throughout the day. If that’s not a possibility for you, it’s perfectly okay. Practicing yoga around the lunch hour or in the evening can work well too, to refresh the mind, help release tension and counter afternoon fatigue.

Number three. Space.

A small, private room in your home or office is ideal for a daily yoga practice, although any quiet space that is large enough to roll out your yoga mat is perfectly doable. A balcony or grassy, quiet area in your yard can be a lovely place to practice if the weather permits. Just make sure your phone is off and you are not likely to be disturbed for a while.

I like to put on either a mellow or upbeat playlist and depending on my mood, will light a few scented candles. This is completely optional and really depends on you and what you’re feeling on that particular day. I always encourage my students to listen to their intuition and to trust it. Once your yoga practice becomes more consistent, your ability to tap into your intuition with more regularity will also strengthen.

That’s it! That’s all you need to start. Intention, time and space. These three things, in conjunction with the most critical piece {your breath} can provide you with the opportunity to develop a consistent, fulfilling yoga practice within your own home. Keep in mind too, that if you’re able to make it to a local yoga class, that’s a great way to build connection and be a part of your community.

Most importantly, go easy on yourself, have fun with it and enjoy the process. Learning something new can be challenging! Give yourself permission to fully experience whatever comes up.

Nurturing your Relationship

build better communication as a couple

Relationships are very, very challenging- but they can also be so wonderful and fulfilling. Quite possibly, the most important relationship in many of our lives is with our significant other. Unfortunately, this relationship often doesn’t get the nourishment and focus that it needs to grow and thrive. Why is this?

The business of life seems to get in the way and everything else seems more pressing.   Let’s face it- work demands, family obligations and dealing with children’s needs are all taxing. It’s easy to let life take precedence over love and not give the relationship with our partner attention. Intimacy can become challenging and growth halted as communication falls to the wayside. However, a relationship can be fostered and flourish through some simple actions.

Below, I will outline four tips to help communicate better with your loved one:

  1. Check In – Once a week, find a time and way to check in with each other, whether it’s a date night out, an evening in, or any other activity that is just the two of you. Hold each other accountable for this time together and make it a priority it to show up for it.
  2. Little Things – Simple, thoughtful gestures can make a big impact. Something as small as a sweet text message to let your partner know you’re thinking of them, or a sweet hand written note can go a long way in aiding better communication.
  3. Tune In – Keep electronics OUT of the bedroom. Date your partner NOT your phone. When you’re out for a dinner, make sure to keep phones and other electronics tucked away so that you can focus on each other and really tune in to your partner. Even when you’re at home, take time without your phones, iPads, computers and televisions to just focus on one another.
  4. Plan something – Having a big event or trip to look forward to as a couple is important. Whether it be a weekend trip or a night away, special time blocked off is a space in which to reconnect as a couple. When you’re away, your roles at home (Mom, Dad, Boss, etc.) are set aside and you become a different person. Relaxation helps let barriers down and can provide the space needed to further communication.
Communication with your partner

Remember, no relationship is perfect and all relationships take work. You’re not alone.  I hope these tips are helpful reminders. As always, if you or someone you know is looking for relationship advice or counseling, please reach out! I’m here to help.

Got Mom guilt?

overcome your mom guilt

One of the most common themes I see in my practice these days is Mom guilt. What is Mom guilt you might ask? While there is no specific medical definition for mom guilt- what I see is more of an underlying feeling that “I’m not doing enough” or “I need to be doing more.” Along with these emotions are feelings of uneasiness and low sense of self in doing activities exclusively for one’s children, or not doing enough for them in everyday life. While it is very unlikely that either of those situations is actually happening, the feelings a Mom may have are very, very real.

Mom guilt comes in many forms and our modern day, social media-fixated society can help further this guilt. How so? Mom’s are constantly on the go and sometimes the only moments of downtime are spent scrolling through phones. A quick run through of Facebook and Instagram feeds can be helpful for Mom’s to feel connected- However, these same feeds also bombard Mom’s with an overwhelming feeling they must live up to these unrealistic standards. There are pictures of perfectly kempt children in matching spotless monogrammed outfits; a selfie of a forty-something mother of three with a bouncing blowout, impeccably trendy outfit and not a fine line in sight. These images are simply a peek into the perfectionism that is thrust upon our culture and the unachievable standards mothers often hold themselves to.

So… How can you deal? Below, I will offer 5 steps to help you cope with Mom Guilt.

Step one. Surround yourself with people who empower you

Seek out and be amongst those who support you, empower you and engage with you in a healthful way. Create a group of friends who will help you when you’re down, remind you of how amazing you are, and be there to lean on in times of distress.   Reach out to other mothers and girlfriends; foster those relationships. Communicate with your spouse and express what you need. Feeling connected to others, can help improve feelings toward oneself. 

Step two. Forgo comparing and develop compassion 

It’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to other mothers, particularly when they may seem as if they have it all together and are doing it all perfectly. Appearances are just that: appearances. Remember, what you see is not always what you get. Comparing yourself to another fuels insecurity and insecurity can breed guilt. Sometimes it is as simple as avoiding interactions with those who can cause you to feel insecure. It is important to develop the confidence and strength not to engage with people who may make you feel inadequate. Most importantly, have compassion for yourself.

Step three. Detach from technology

Studies have shown that technology affects us in many ways, from our sleep patterns, to physical ailments and emotional responses. Put the phone, the computer and the iPad down. Turn off the television. Be present in the moment without technology. Technology provides us with social media, which in turn can drive unwarranted comparisons of oneself to another as mentioned above. Take time to engage with your children, your friends, your partner and just be. Not only is this good for the mind and body, but also for the soul. Be mindful of what you are putting in front of your face and your brain.

Step four. Learn to take time for yourself

It is possible to learn how to take time for yourself! Start by taking five minutes each day and do something for you, whether it be meditating or something as simple as taking a hot shower with the door closed (a nearly impossible task for many moms!) Each week, add five minutes to the amount of time for you: 10 then 15, 20 and so on. Use this time to go for a walk, treat yourself to a manicure, go to the mall, take a yoga class, anything that makes you feel happy. As you go on with this routine, it will slowly help ease the guilt that comes with spending time with an on yourself.

Step five. Listen to your intuition 

A patient of mine recently told me a story of a girls’ trip she took with a group of friends after the birth of her second child. It was her first trip away from her children and after a day away, several hours of crying, anxiety and guilt she chose to leave the trip early and return home. Sometimes your guilt can get the best of you and sometimes it is there for a reason. Maybe you aren’t ready to leave your children just yet. Maybe you need some alone time for yourself and friends, but for a limited window of time. Maybe you just need to be with your children. We have intuition and instincts for a reason. When in doubt, listen to your gut. If your guilt is driving you to a place of complete emotional reaction, explore the reasons why and do what you feel is best for you.

Spring Forward or Spring Back?

How to build and receive love

Remember back when the toughest decision you had to make was choosing between the jungle gym and the slide during recess? Fast-forward to your adult years, and chances are you’ve encountered some pretty trying road blocks in life, for some, lots of them.

Your 7-year-old self didn’t have to think about paying bills; about getting along with a boss; about the difficulties of conceiving; about choosing the right parenting techniques; about watching your cholesterol; or about transitioning to a new job or career. You weren’t concerned with any of these things, and you certainly weren’t concerned with overcoming these obstacles with a partner. By now, it’s likely that playground seemed like a much simpler time – you may even kick yourself for ever wanting to grow up too fast.

The truth is these are just a small sampling of life’s road blocks. We’re faced with obstacles every day that not only challenge us as individuals, but also challenge us in our relationships, particularly our romantic ones. If we aren’t careful, our relationships can suffer. We can’t always control the road blocks themselves, but we can (in many cases) control how we deal with them, so that a detour doesn’t become a relationship dead-end.

Amidst the season where we spring forward, here are three simple practices to help you stay ahead of the obstacles without having to spring back in time to that playground.

Communicate.

Simply put, talk to each other! It seems obvious, but sometimes we let life take priority over having a face-to-face conversation with our partner. NOT through emojis; NOT through texts; NOT through email; NOT on their Facebook wall. In person.

I highly encourage you to set aside uninterrupted time with your partner every day to simply talk to them – no TV, no phone, no tablet, no laptop. How are they doing? How are they feeling? If you can’t communicate during the less challenging times, how will you be able to communicate during the really challenging ones?

Acknowledge obstacles head on.

I hear many couples tell me they don’t want to burden their partner with something they are dealing with. However, it’s important to remember that even your personal road blocks can have a great impact on your partner. If it’s burdening you, that burden’s likely to carry over to your partner indirectly. Practice acknowledging these obstacles right away, no matter how small they seem.

Discuss both sides of the situation – how it makes each of you feel, the potential complications and outcomes, and how you can work together to deal with the issue head on. Maybe this is something you’re always going to have to deal with, maybe it’s something that will go away next week. Either way – so long as it’s affecting one of you, you need to communicate about it.

Recognize how you best give love and how you best receive love.

Perhaps most importantly of all, your partner needs to know that you love and support them, and that you appreciate them. To effectively communicate that, you must first know how your partner prefers to receive love and support; and how they prefer to give love and support. Is it through acts of kindness, is it through verbal words, is it physically, is it through all of these things? Your answers to this question might be different – and that’s okay as long as you recognize your communication styles.

Maybe you prefer to receive love through verbal words, in which case your partner should learn how to effectively (and consistently) tell you they love and support you. Maybe you prefer to receive love through acts of thoughtfulness, such as a surprise dinner, tickets to your favorite sports team or singer, or doing the dishes. Whatever the case may be, if your partner isn’t feeling the love, you better fix something, and quick!

We might not be able to go back to a simpler time on that playground – but why would we want to when we can come out even stronger on the other side.

Exhausted with Expectations?

learning to live with your expectations

Expectations. We all have them.

Have you ever found yourself feeling sad or disappointed in a relationship and not known why? With a little reflection, you may realize you had an expectation about something or someone and didn’t even know it. And neither did they.

To help bring awareness to your expectations, take some time to explore what your expectations are and how you acquired them. Often times, we pick-up messages about what relationships are suppose to be like and how we should be treated by others from movies, TV, family, and friends. If we don’t take time to consider our expectations, then we may accidentally adopt other people’s expectations that simply don’t work for our relationships or for us.

Unmet expectations can be detrimental to a relationship. Expectations can feel overwhelming and uncomfortable to the organic flow of relating to another person. If we have expectations of others and are really attached to the outcome, then we can engage in power struggles by using manipulation or control tactics to get our way. This strategy often leads to conflict and unhealthy dynamics where partners do not feel free with one another, do not act authentically, and most importantly may not communicate honestly with each other.

Coming to the realization that your partner cannot live up to your expectations or ideals can be devastating. Couples can feel disappointed, frustrated, betrayed, or resentful and move to end the relationship because of unmet desires and unfulfilled expectations.

SO… What can you do?

 

1. Own it.

That’s right- Take ownership for your needs and desires! The truth of the matter is – we know what we need better than anyone else. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to get our own needs met. If we give our ownership to others (by expecting others to magically know what we need and give it to us) than we can feel dependent, powerless, and misunderstood. Taking ownership also inspires action. We realize we have the power to create change. Also, we have the opportunity to nurture ourselves in the ways that we need it most. This is a difficult practice, but it can be very empowering.

2. Express.

Yep. Communication is KEY. Express your needs, desires and expectations to your partner. No one can read your mind. Have you ever consciously expected something from someone, but didn’t voice it? Usually, this is a recipe for disappointment and resentment. How is someone suppose to know what you want if you don’t tell them? Even if they get it right once in a while, it sets up a dynamic where two people are operating on assumptions, which leads to miscommunication and frustration. Get in the habit of making your needs known and stop expecting those around you to read your mind or “Just know” how you feel and what you need.

3. Speak Up.

Sharing your needs and desires with your partner may seem scary and vulnerable because it requires you to open yourself up and acknowledge that you have needs – this can make you feel vulnerable to the other person. What if they don’t care enough to meet your needs? But, what if they do? Imagine being able to ask for what you need in a clear and clean way (to own it, without making it someone else’s responsibility) and then to receive it from someone who genuinely wants to give it to you. This can truly be a transformational experience and a doorway to deeper intimacy. By taking ownership of our needs, desires, and expectations, we can work with our partners. We can help teach them what works and doesn’t work for us, and then we have the opportunity to learn and grow together.

4. Empathize.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Usually, people are doing the best they can. And your partner probably loves you in the best way he/she knows how. This is important to remember when you are holding your partner up to an expectation or an ideal of yours. It may be helpful to consider, the question “How would I respond to the situation if the roles were reversed?” This is often easier said than done, especially when one feels hurt and protective. Trusting someone and giving them the benefit of the doubt can be extremely difficult if you have experienced a lot of hurt and betrayal. It is important to keep track of your wants and needs. If you are taking responsibility for your needs, then you will be more likely to take care of yourself and not harbor resentments in your closest relationships.

5. Seek.

When opening up to your partner, if you feel a strong negative reaction, feel threatened, or really self-protective- than this may be a good indication that you have underlying hurts carried over from your younger years. These hurts will DIRECTLY impact your current relationships unless you deal with them. There are many opportunities to heal and grow, through self-help books, articles, groups, and psychotherapy. It’s never too late to learn new skills and to start practicing them. Your love-life may actually depend on it!

6. Allow.

Allowing space for people to meet you in the best way they know how can be a truly satisfying experience. When we lift our unspoken expectations off of our partner, share with them what we need in a genuine way and then step back and allow them to meet some of these needs we might be genuinely surprised and happy with how things go. Try and practice allowing things to happen in a new way and you may get new results you are very pleased with.

Overwhelmed with Life?

Want to get back to a place of mental clarity and relaxation

Do you have so much on your plate right now that you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out most of the time? Do you have too much going on and feeling overworked, frustrated and under-appreciated?

Want to get back to a place of mental clarity and relaxation?

In our age of fast paced lifestyles and heightened commercialism, everywhere we turn is a demand for our attention. On top of the information overload, we are working longer, and taking less time off. The result? More stress and less time for ourselves. Juggling between work, children, family and our personal needs it’s easy to get sucked into the never-ending list of to-dos.

Let’s look at five important and useful stress management techniques to overcome this sense of exhaustion and anxiety in order to live a more relaxed and stress-free lifestyle.

Five Ways to Overcome the Overwhelm

1. STEP AWAY

Sounds simple, I know. But sometimes, we can become so engrossed in what we are doing and in trying to make things “just right” that it becomes impossible to step away. However, you can’t overcome feeling overwhelmed when you’re in the thick of it. You have to step away to be able to view your circumstances from a fresh perspective.

Suggestion– Temporarily move your work or project to a different room, get up from your desk, and go out for a walk/yoga class or go sit in a café. Stepping away from your current situation and changing your environment will help you gain clarity and shift you away from your overwhelming state of mind. New ideas and energy may flow into your brain when you give yourself a brief change of scenery.

2. IDENTIFY

When we are feeling overwhelmed, our minds becomes clouded by the tasks at hand and by thoughts that cause us to feel stressed. Many times, we get so caught up in our doing, that we forget why we are even doing what we are doing.

Suggestion — Start with asking yourself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” For the mom who is stressed out while making 12 dozen cookies for her teenage son’s baseball team bake sale, she can lower her stress by re-connecting to the reasons behind the doing. For her, she is trying to stay connected with her son as he is growing and changing, and she is trying to reduce the out of pocket expense of having a kid in sports by supporting team fundraisers. She’s baking cookies to save money and to maintain her relationship with her son. When she remembers the why of it, the how of it may feel less burdensome.

3. JOURNAL

Whenever we are feeling overwhelmed, there is likely a lot going on inside our head. Ideas and thoughts race around in our minds and clutter up our mental space. The best thing to do is to get these thoughts out on paper. I cannot emphasize this step enough- “Write it all down!” is by far the number one suggestion I give to my clients who deal with racing thoughts.

Suggestion — Grab a pen and a piece of paper, a notebook, scratch paper — whatever! Start jotting down everything on your mind. Write without editing and write out every thought. If you have a bunch of to-dos running in your head — list them all out. If you have an idea –brainstorm on paper. And remember not to worry about keeping things looking neat and perfect – this will only limit your freedom to get whatever it is out of your head and onto the paper. Once our jumbled and tense thoughts and plans find expression on a page they will often stop afflicting us and free up our minds to return to a good night’s rest or to enjoy ourselves more in the moment.

4. ASK

People are amazing. Often, we are the problem that is blocking the help we need from getting to us. Because we think family or friends will say no to our request for help or support, we never ask for what we need.

Suggestion – Ask for help and be prepared to be amazed at the generosity that others are willing to provide. The key is to get comfortable with being on the receiving end of being helped. Most people would rather help than be helped because helping someone else can feel like such a powerful position. No one wants to be needy – but let me advise you that most people would love to help someone else if only they knew what that person needed. So, take a risk and open up to asking others for help and then be willing to receive that help when it arrives. Trust me on this one; you can pay it forward in the future when those around you need some love and support. You will be there for them.

5. BOUNDARIES

Time is our most precious commodity. So be mindful. Spend it wisely and consciously.

Suggestion — Start with asking yourself what is most important to you? Once you’ve decided what’s important, create boundaries around important activities and do not budge with any incoming distractions. Do not allow unimportant noise and activities to creep in. Because both email and Facebook can be such time suckers, set boundaries such as only checking it once a day for 30 minutes. In other words, do only what’s absolutely necessary, and anything that doesn’t get done during this time will just go on the list for a future time.

Finally, when we simply acknowledge that we’re feeling overwhelmed we take a huge step forward. Creating awareness about how we feel can help us move into action to regulate our emotions and shift our behaviors in a more positive direction. Remember, you have the ability to design the life you want and the freedom to create the rules.