At the beginning of every December I always tell myself that I’m going to slow down enough to really enjoy the holiday season, but it always seems to fly by in a whirlwind of stress and excitement. I think we can all agree that the holiday season tends to be a crazy one. Whether you have family coming into town, you’re taking a tropical vacation, or you’re working up until the eleventh hour of Christmas Eve, we tend to have a full plate this time of year.

It seems that this past week has brought on a whole new concept of holiday stress. This week our world has been plagued with three horrific tragedies, one of which took place far too close to home. Three people in Oregon and 28 in Connecticut lost their lives to gunmen, while 23 suffered brutal injuries in China. After last Tuesday, the idea of Christmas shopping at the mall became synonymous with fear, distrust and avoidance. It’s disheartening and shocking that so many children are amongst the recent dead, with their lives violently taken so close to a holiday that they find so magical. This week has been a wakeup call to say the least; Our country’s state of mental health is not what it should be. For many, it is easier to buy guns than it is to seek the counseling they so desperately need.

In the spirit of Christmas and in honor of the innocent lives that were lost this week, please take the time to reach out to your family and friends who mean the world to you. Make amends, let go of your grudges, and most importantly, forgive. This week we have seen how short life can be; It’s not meant to be spent in anger or hostility, it is meant to be nurtured and filled with love. Allow yourself to let go of some of the stress that is so common this time of year because in the larger scheme of the world, the little things seem pretty insignificant right now. Send good thoughts, prayers and wishes to the families of the victims and give thanks that we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy the holidays with loved ones.
I wish you a blessed and peaceful holiday season filled with love and forgiveness.

12 Tips for a Mentally Healthy Holiday Season

1. Do your best to get enough sleep so that you can keep a stable mood, feel good and avoid getting sick. Sleep can be a panacea for even the most stressful things.
2. Keep your shopping list simple and affordable. Nothing is worse for your mental health than the stress of added debt or a negative balance in your bank account.
3. If you’re on a budget, suggest your family does Secret Santa this year instead of buying a gift for everyone.
4. Plan meals that are easy for you, unless of course it is your passion to create elaborate and fancy dishes to decorate the holiday table.
5. Remember to breathe deeply and often. This will help you stay more calm and relaxed.
6. Stay in the present moment. You will enjoy yourself and others much more!
7. Be of service in one way or another by donating your time, treasures or talents to those less fortunate than you. This will make you feel good.
8. Call or write to someone you haven’t forgiven or are still holding a grudge against. No matter how much time has passed, it will feel great to be able to let go of your anger. A block in our lives will hold us back from being who we are meant to be.
9. Spend a day soaking up the Christmas ambience of the city with your family or friends. Enjoy the holiday decorations, have a cup of hot cocoa, and window shop the day away.
10. Drive home from work via different routes and check out the Christmas lights. A creatively decorated home is sure to delight you!
11. Slow down and enjoy what you are doing to prepare for the holidays. No matter how much you have to do, you’ll most likely get it all done whether you stress yourself out or choose to be present and enjoy what you are doing.
12. Smile and make eye contact with people you don’t know. This is what our world needs more of!

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving week and my favorite holiday of the year. I love it because it’s a time to get together with family and/or friends, socialize and eat yummy food. Healthy comfort food mostly! It is a day to indulge in conversation, play games, take a walk, watch football, or just be.

Many of my clients dread this time of year. Memories of the past invade their minds and they dwell on images, conversations, and actions of others that have ruined the holidays for them in the past. If you are one of these people I’d like to encourage you to explore a different outlook this year.

Years ago in Louisville, Kentucky I saw a small plaque hanging on the wall of a gift shop. To this day I regret not purchasing it, however, it’s message is still imprinted in my mind:

“NEVER LOOK BACK EXCEPT TO GAIN PERSPECTIVE”

Nothing rings more true than this. This message is what we need in order to focus on looking forward. The past is the past, memories are only memories and have nothing to do with today or the future. We can learn to let these memories go by focusing on the here and now and enjoying what is happening in our lives right now.

The true meaning of the holiday can often be overshadowed by food, family outbursts, and traditions gone wrong. Fortunately, as cliché as it might sound, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for everything and everyone we are fortunate enough to have in our lives.

If your family is challenging to be around for the holidays, then create a new family. Good friends can be as good, if not better, to celebrate with than the family you grew up with. After all, friends are the family we choose for ourselves.

So whether your Thanksgiving involves a hectic day in an overheated kitchen, a lazy day on the couch watching football, or perhaps a day not so different than any other, take time to think about everyone and everything you appreciate in your life. The little things or the people who are always there, no matter what, can be good places to start your thanks.

As for my thankfulness, I am deeply appreciative for you in my life and the connection we have. Whether you are or have been a client of mine or are a potential one, one of my colleagues, part of my family or one of my friends, please know that each of you is important to me and it is an honor to be able to connect with you. Thank you for being you and trusting in me.

Eight Tips for a Bountiful Thanksgiving

1. Reach out, connect with others and send them your appreciation. It does make a difference.
2. Have a potluck dinner with your friends or family. It creates less stress in the kitchen and more time for a game or Monopoly tournament.
3. Order your food ahead of time: choose fresh, organic meats and vegetables.
4. Make plans in advance with your friends and family. Organizing food for 10 takes more than a day’s notice and you don’t want to be questioning your plans or stressing out the night before.
5. Indulge in tradition: Enjoy every bite of what you might not normally eat AND pumpkin pie.
6. If you are feeling ambitious, try making a new dish.
7. Know someone that doesn’t have anywhere to go? Invite them to join your family, sometimes a stranger is the perfect way to break up the family’s usual dynamic.
8. Always do your best to stay in the present moment and be thankful for what is, because no matter what, things just are what they are.

One of my clients, let’s call her Ann, got married last year at the age of forty-five. When she came to me, she was not only stuck in an abusive marriage, she was stuck in a bad place in herself. As we worked on many things over time, although she got stronger and had a far greater awareness of who she was and what was important to her, she remained incredibly fearful of leaving her husband. She tried in every way she could to convince me that it could get better, while knowing in her heart of hearts that it never would.

This wonderful woman stayed paralyzed, unable to take action. Eventually it came time for me to tell her that I thought perhaps someone else might be able to help her more. That was the only catalyst Ann needed for something to finally come loose.

Her language began to change and she tapped into her anger. She started to find things to do after work and went home later than usual, beginning to do many things she had never allowed herself to do. She joined an organization that held an annual fundraising walkathon, and she put in many miles per week training. As Ann trained she began to lose weight and went off the antidepressants that had kept despair at bay.

For a long time, maybe for the first time, Ann began to make goals for herself and meet them. As she did, her self-esteem and sense of self-worth blossomed. With her confidence at an all time high, she made a plan, stashed money away, moved important documents out of the house, lined up some friends with a truck and moved herself out.

All the work she had done while she was stuck lay dormant inside, just waiting for the spark of confidence to catalyze action in her life. It was awesome!

Not only did Ann make a significant move out of a destructive relationship, she continued to work on her confidence as a single woman living alone for the very first time in her life. After a year she began to date, finding several wonderful men and eventually choosing the right one, her new husband! They look great together and are well suited to one other.

It took a lot of confidence building to take the initial step of leaving an abusive marriage, and yet with the right support, Ann was able to get herself back on track. The first step was to improve her relationship with herself and then move toward the loving partnership she deserved.

 

A Few Tips for Improving Your Confidence

    • Acknowledging and accepting that you are stuck is the first step toward reaching for your best self.
    • Trust that being stuck is a temporary state that can persist while you continue your inner work. Allow support from only those who honor your need to be where you are.
    • Learn to tune into your self-talk. Replace self-criticism, when you notice it, with positive affirmations.
    • Focus more on what you want than on what you don’t want. The more we are stuck the more challenging this can be.
    • Consider whether decreasing or going off antidepressants might help. (Always consult your health care practitioner) These medications can make us feel apathetic, and unmotivated. Anger is a great motivator and yet it’s hard to get angry when we are numbed-out on medications.
    • Take good care of yourself physically. Eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep and enough exercise will contribute to an increase in your energy and a clearer mind for making decisions.

Tis’ Olympics season once again and if a summer season filled with barbecues and long days lounging in the sun ever had stiff competition, the Olympics would surely be it. To me, Olympic season always means an overflowing TiVo crammed with events, an undeniable amazement for the amount of fireworks, money and advertising endorsements that goes into production, and yes, I’ll admit, a pang of jealousy of all the amazing athletes. Yet despite all the media glitz and social glamour of the Opening Ceremony, the sheer volume of tweets about David Beckham speedboating the Olympic flame into the stadium, and the USA swim team’s much loved viral rendition of ‘Call Me Maybe,’ the Olympics is still very much centered in the soul of passion for sports.

In a post-race or event interview, you never hear Olympians say, “I’m so glad I made it here by myself,” or “I’d like to thank myself for all the support I’ve given myself,” because they choose that time to thank the people who have been there for them every step of the way. There’s a reason the camera zooms into the audience to focus on athlete’s families and friends, because they are a huge reason that they can call themselves Olympic medalists. The emotion and pride on the faces of the supporters is just as powerful as the faces of the athletes themselves. We may not all be Olympic gold medalists, but we truly cannot make it to the finish line of anything without a powerful support team to encourage us every step of the way.

With any new endeavor, it’s vital to identify the people in your life who will be there for you no matter what obstacles you may encounter along the way. You’ll need someone to catch you when you fall, someone to face the world for you when you just can’t bear to get up out of bed, and someone’s arms to leap into when you’ve achieved what you once thought was impossible. Without these people in our lives, the ending will be bittersweet, because who wants to celebrate alone? The going may be rough, but no one becomes a gold medalist overnight, not even amazingly gifted athletes. In a world of buff professionals, the scrawny underdog often comes up on top, followed by a loyal pack of supportive friends and family. 17-year-old gold medalist Missy Franklin explained to the media that she didn’t move to a big swimming state to train, like many professionals encouraged her to do, because she would not have been happy being away from her friends and family. She believes being happy and around loved ones has helped her be successful. If she’s not a success story, I’m not sure what is.

So as you sit down to watch your next favorite Olympic event with your loyal life supporters, take a moment to thank them for being your own personal cheerleaders. In turn, make sure you’re being the best supporter you can be, because you never know when someone may need a little encouragement to strike gold.

10 Tips for Giving, Receiving and Appreciating Support

♥ Listen with your heart first, then your head.

♥ Ask good questions (what and how, not why) and follow up with more questions for clarification or offer suggestions if appropriate.

♥ Organize a lunch date with a friend and suggest that you both bring new material to show each other your progress or talk about what’s important in your lives.

♥ If it helps, make a list of what endeavors your friends have embarked on, and follow up with them on a regular basis.

♥ If you need help, be courageous and ask for it. Most people are happy to help if they know you need it.

♥ Take the time to thank everyone who has supported you, no matter how small the gesture may have been.

♥ Take time to connect with those who need you.

♥ Stay in the present moment when you are with someone, texting or glancing around gives them the impression that you’re not focused on their big news or moment.

♥ Offer your support in any way possible, even when you think it may not be well-received or appreciated.

♥ Remember that we all go through rough patches. They are an important part of the success process and the moments where we all need support the most.

Graduation is a time for bringing things to a close and ending a chapter in our lives that we once thought would never end. Sitting amongst a crowd of endless caps and tassels reminds me of all the new beginnings that are sitting in the foldaway chairs, waiting to cross that stage and cross into the unknown that will become the next big landmark of life.

My daughter graduated from the University of Oregon this week, and seeing her cross that stage and accept her diploma took all of 10 seconds, but it was representative of her three years of grueling hard work and perseverance. It amazed me that this huge chapter of her life came to a close in just a few stairs, a handshake and a quickly snapped photo.

This week she and I have both left behind her college years, at least her undergraduate years, and we have both gained new knowledge to take forth along life’s journey. It can be emotional and scary to leave behind what has given us so much, but it’s all a part of life’s cycle. If we don’t continue through our own life chapters, we’ll never know what comes next. So as we all graduate and come into the next big stage of life, take the time to grieve what is ending and reflect upon the goodbye, but remember that it will become a memory to hold forever.
 

10 Tips for the Road Ahead

Get to know yourself well because you have all the answers that you need for you – the trick is learning how to access them.
 
Follow your intuition regarding things that interest or excite you – these are what your spirit wants to explore.
 
Be open to possibilities – you never know where inspiration may stem from.
 
Always be aware of your language and choose your words positively – speak for the present and the future, not your past.
 
Train your mind to stay in the present moment – your life will be richer when you practice mindfulness.
 
Exercise on a regular basis – not only will it keep your body in shape, your mind will be much sharper.
 
Read everyday, if only for 10 – 20 minutes – be a lifelong learner.
 
Reach out to others and make new connections – social connection is what living is all about.
 
T ake some time to quiet your mind on a regular basis – this will help you with everything else in life.
 
Never look back except to gain perspective.

Experiencing Grief on Mother’s Day?

Maybe your mother is gone, left this world before you got the opportunity to tell her what’s in your heart. Or perhaps you did not get the chance to be a mother yourself despite a strong drive to do so. Maybe you’re estranged, physically or emotionally, from the woman you call “Mom.”

Whatever the source of your feelings of grief and loss, it’s never too late to build a nurturing connection in your heart to motherhood.

Describe your perfect mother.

What does she look like?

How does her voice sound and what does she say?

How does her perfume smell?

How do you feel when you hug her?

Connect with these deep feelings and give yourself permission to cry on this Mother’s Day.

If you are grieving the loss of motherhood, take some time to envision your life as a nurturer, including all the relationships in which you yourself embody the qualities of the perfect mother. Allow yourself to feel and celebrate the many ways in which you are a mother at heart.

 

 

8 Tips For Honoring The Spirit of Motherhood

Write a letter to your mother or surrogate mother, to send or not.

Create a picture or collage of your mother or what motherhood represents to you.

Visualize your perfect mother and ask for any guidance she has for you today.

Design and perform a letting-go ritual for releasing feelings of grief and loss around mothering.

Gather a big bouquet of flowers for yourself to honor your own nurturing capacity.

Share your time with children or others needing the love and attention of a surrogate mother.

Make a timeline of important events in your life and the nurturing women who supported and inspired you.

Play your mother’s favorite music. First listen while allowing memories to surface. Then listen again as if hearing the music for the first time.

Happy Mother’s Day

I have three mothers and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. Each one holds a special place in my heart for the roles they play for me. First, my biological mother, Bev, endured the pain of birth and cared for me physically until I could take care of myself. My second mom, Sunday school teacher, Eriz, gave me the unconditional love I craved. Lastly, my dear Aunt Tina has lovingly guided me, even when I find it difficult to hear her frank wisdom.

Mothers are many things to us and important for a variety of reasons. Most significantly, our biological mothers are responsible for giving us life. After birth, other caring women step in to take on different roles. We all want a mother who is kind, loving, nurturing, accepting, understanding, non-judgmental, supportive, and encouraging.

And yet, not everyone is fortunate to have gotten the perfect mother. If we’re lucky enough, perhaps we have found those very special women who are more like mothers than our own biological ones. I call them “surrogate mothers.” They accept us, however we show up in life. They listen, giving advice only when we ask for it. They don’t judge us, they just love us no matter what. Everyone who did not get a loving and understanding mother needs at least one of these.

Perhaps she’s an amazing aunt or older co-worker – smart, wise, fun, stimulating– there to guide us, to pick up where mother left off. She speaks her mind, encouraging us when we need it, and helping us to confront what we most fear. Life just wouldn’t be complete without this kind of female role model in our lives.

No one should be without a loving and accepting mother and I often encourage the women I work with to discover who can be their surrogate mother or special aunt.

I hope you enjoy celebrating Mother’s Day by honoring the special women in your life!

How Listening Can Demonstrate Love

I always like to think of some simple ways that we can demonstrate love in our normal everyday encounters. Ten years ago, I realized just how important it is include love in all our interactions. I was helping to problem solve a simple miscommunication between my daughter and her father. He was making a non-negotiable request under the auspices of good parenting.

What he was requesting did not really seem all that inconsiderate or unreasonable. My daughter, however, complained that she wanted her father to be nicer and kinder towards her in his requests. She said that he was being rude in the way he acted towards her.

When I pressed for clarification, I determined that he interrupted her when she talked and wasn’t listening to what she had to say. The issue, being emotionally laden for her, made being listened to even more crucial for her to feel loved and cared for. Being my daughter’s coach, I encouraged her to tell her father that she needed him to be a better listener and to be more loving and considerate when he communicated with her. This made all the difference in the world to their relationship.

We all long to be heard and accepted, yet how often do we leave a communication encounter feeling hurt, upset, or frustrated? It is true that the way we feel most cared for is by someone listening to us. Listening is probably the single most important communication skill because when we feel cared for, we feel loved.

 

So how is it that we really need to listen?

Tips for Attentive Listening

❤ Be attentive — put your own agenda aside. Focus on what they are saying not how you are feeling about or reacting to what they are saying.

❤ Drop your defenses — you don’t always have to be right.

❤ Develop an attitude of curiosity — ask questions to better understand the person’s perspective.

❤ Ask for clarification if there is any chance you may have not understood or misinterpreted what was said.

❤ Pay attention to your body language — let your posture be open and engaged (attentive, nodding appropriately, good eye contact).

❤ Have an attitude of love and compassion.

❤ Listen so well that you can repeat back to them what you heard them say (paraphrase).

❤ Be able to convey their feelings (in your own words).

 

Practice Makes the Skill Better

Listening is simple and yet complex. It is a skill that takes a lot of practice to do well, however, the benefits can be phenome

nal! Today and from now on, give the greatest gift of all to everyone you meet and see what a difference it can make to your relationships and in your life.

I wrote this little article ten years ago as a tip for my then very new website. I’d forgotten all about it until I found a version of my old website on DreamWeaver. It is still such a great tip I am reinventing it here because I want it to be a part of my new website.

What Do You Desire for Your Life?

Happy Spring! The blossoms are out and the daffodils and crocus are poking out of the earth after the dark cold Winter. For those of us in the NorthWest, the first signs of Spring are a big deal. The flowers and extra light bring us hope of longer days and lighter moods. Many find they have an uplift in energy and have a desire to start new projects or exercising more.

Did you know that we are meant to dream and be creative?

Now is a perfect time to focus on what you want in life. Do you know what you really want in life? Do you have a dream or goal that you would like to achieve this year? The things you want don’t have to be big, they can be just ordinary things of everyday life. For example, I am working with a young woman who was unhappy with her living space. She didn’t like being at home at all. For her, creating a warm and welcoming energy and feeling of space and relaxation was very important to her well-being. For many months she’d been trying to accomplish this change and it eventually took breaking up with her boyfriend to really inspire her in turning her living space into a sanctuary.

What would make you happy? Being successful and moving forward in life takes intention and commitment. Set an intention for what you want to create and then place your attention on this intention. Think of your intention a lot. When we are living in integrity and set an intention to manifest our dreams and goals then we must say NO to whatever is not taking us in that direction. Getting clear with what we truly want and honoring this will propel you toward a deeper and more rewarding life.

Write down your dream or goal and then share it with someone who supports you no matter what. Steer clear of those who are negative and/or don’t believe in dreams. Surrounding yourself with those who are on a similar path can help you stay on yours. It will also be a lot more fun!

If you’re anything like me, procrastination and not knowing exactly what to do can get in the way of achieving your goals. Working with a coach who has your best interest in mind will help you in ways you never thought possible. Struggling to accomplish things without the right help and support can lead to frustration, decreased self-esteem and failure. My goal for you is to be successful!

The darkness of winter fell over my home around mid morning. It had been raining for days and the forecast predicted solid rain for the next 10 days, which was as far into the future as Weather.com would let me see. I live in the Pacific Northwest and this is the usual weather pattern for January, but it does not fare so well with most of the residents. I think the bears have it right hibernating for months on end because when the winter blues set in, that becomes my natural instinct as well.
 
Winter is a quieter time. I remember when I first moved to Portland from sunny and warm Sydney, Australia. My first winter here I was surprised that people seemed to disappear, no one seemed to be out and about anymore. It was the oddest experience to see them all reemerge again in the spring, like bears coming out of hibernation. I’d never lived in a place where people disappeared into their houses for a season, but perhaps that’s because I had never lived in a place as grey and rainy as the Pacific Northwest.
 
Following the rhythms of nature, we need winter to help slow us down and be quieter. Maybe we slow down in some ways, but I don’t think we slow down enough to make the winter season truly count. With the advent of electricity and so much technology we turn on the lights and stay up late watching television, playing video games, working on the computer, messing around on our cell phones and other busy indoor activities. As a result, we stay up late and most of us do not get the good quality sleep that we need to recharge our bodies. We may physically be inside, but our minds are not.
 
To take full advantage of the quietness of winter I encourage you to turn your electronics off earlier. Dim the lights an hour before bed, have some warm calming herbal tea, take a bath, read a book, or do anything that is quiet and relaxing before going to bed. Do your best to get adequate sleep of at least seven hours. Taking a much-needed break from technology will help reduce stress on many levels, including the stress of the winter blues.
 
Soon spring will be here and we can awaken with a renewed sense of energy.
 
________________________________________________________________
 

Helpful tips for Managing Stress and the Winter Blues

Exercise: It is #1 for anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress management and appetite control. Do whatever exercise you like to do to get your heart rate up and keep it up for 30 minutes. Or if you are not a big exerciser than at least get your body moving. Get out and about, walk in place in your home, dance around the house, join in an exercise or yoga class on the TV – you get the idea. Stretching is also very helpful. Any movement is better than none and walking is always a great choice.

Get lots of sleep: Aim for 7-8 hours each night. Find a regular bedtime (best before midnight) and do your best to keep to it (our bodies like routine).

Eat healthy and nourishing foods. Hearty foods like soup, stews and the like are warming.

Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates as they make our blood sugar levels first rise and then drop. It’s the drop that causes mood disturbances.

Try light box therapy. For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder and what to purchase visit the Mayo Clinic’s page on the issue.

Give yourself the luxury of daily relaxation. Learn to meditate or just sit and breathe. Aim for at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted time each day.

*If sitting still with your eyes closed is not what you like to do perhaps you’d like to check out scenic relaxation DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. These DVDs have spectacular scenery of some of the most well-known places in the USA and include soft relaxation music, ambient sounds, and Alpha,Theta and Delta brain wave frequencies which help to relax the brain. You can find these DVDs here.

Read a great book where you can be absorbed into the story (a nice getaway without financial cost!).

Supplements: please consult your health care practitioner on the appropriate doses to take. Also request testing for your Vitamin D levels.

* Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil): besides aiding in cardiovascular health it is helpful in combatting depression and other mental health issues and enhances learning, focus and attention.

* Vitamin D3: besides its importance for bone growth, it aids in neuromuscular and immune function, and in reducing inflammation in the brain and body (stress increases inflammation). Get out in the sunshine whenever you can.

* Probiotics: vital to the development of our immune systems. A strong immune system will help protect us from colds, flus, and other viruses, as well as aiding other body systems. Keeping well makes us feel much better.

If you are coming in to see me in my office please let me know if you need any of these quality pharmaceutical grade supplements.

More information on what it takes to be healthy in mind, body and spirit can be found in my new online mental health course, Becoming Your Best.

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