Celebration = Gratitude

101 Healthy Tools for Coping with Stress

Stress, disappointment, and negative emotions are inevitable. Sometimes coping is easy; other times it is more difficult. However, it is our job to cope. Our energy effects others, and it is our responsibility to monitor that energy.
Here are 101 ways to Cope:
  1. Bake cookies
  2. Eat two and give the rest away
  3. Go to a bookstore, read travel books, and fantasize of a faraway vacation
  4. Take a walk
  5. Call a friend that you enjoy talking to but haven’t heard from in awhile
  6. Breathe deeply
  7. Flirt with someone that deserves your attention
  8. Plan something, real or imaginary: a new career, a room in your dream home, your future children’s names
  9. Clean a room or closet in your house
  10. Volunteer your time
  11. Watch the sun rise
  12. Take a moment to smell your coffee before brewing and sipping
  13. Read something entertaining in a comfortable space: outside, a comfy chair, in bed
  14. Watch your favorite comedy
  15. Listen to upbeat music, preferably disco
  16. Write a stream of consciousness
  17. Find something that you are good at and that you enjoy doing. Become better at it.
  18. Play with pets: yours, a friend’s, or a shelter
  19. Look at old pictures, letters, or memorabilia
  20. Exercise mindfully
  21. Go on a date
  22. Shop. Buy something that you feel great in, whether it’s earrings, a stunning dress, or a great pair of yoga pants
  23. Enjoy a good glass of wine
  24. Get a makeover
  25. Play a game with friends
  26. Kiss
  27. Open the windows during a rainstorm
  28. Go to your favorite concert
  29. Surround yourself in snuggly material: your favorite sweats, a down blanket, fuzzy socks
  30. Start a blog
  31. Get a massage. Do it yourself or splurge. Massage your scalp with eucalyptus shampoo, or your feet with lavender creme
  32. Create something artistic
  33. Hit balls at a batting cage
  34. Get dressed up
  35. Drink herbal tea
  36. Try progressive muscle relaxation
  37. Run as hard as you can, even if for only for 30 seconds
  38. Take a scorchingly hot shower
  39. Meditate or pray
  40. Work in a garden
  41. Attend a community event
  42. Drink hot chocolate
  43. Watch videos of laughing babies on Youtube
  44. Take an ice bath
  45. Run as long as you can, even if at a slow jog
  46. Learn something new: a recipe, foreign language, how to knit
  47. Ask yourself how you feel; respond with advice that you would give your best friend
  48. Eat ice cream
  49. Go to a driving range
  50. Make love
  51. Go to a play or performance show
  52. Eat something decadent, slowly. Enjoy each bite.
  53. Do something unexpectedly nice for someone else
  54. Change a room in your home: Paint the walls, rearrange the furniture, refurbish a piece of furniture
  55. Scream loudly in a secluded space
  56. Take a dance class
  57. Go swimming
  58. Find something that makes you feel sexy: music, high heels, lipstick, lingerie
  59. Tell yourself that in this very moment you have everything that you need
  60. Give yourself permission to do something indulgent
  61. Forgive someone
  62. Appreciate something with age and history
  63. Explore new territory
  64. Go to an amusement park
  65. Stretch your body
  66. Sit at an outdoor cafe
  67. Do something that you never thought that you would
  68. Attend a marathon race as a spectator
  69. Hold a baby
  70. Initiate a girls’ night
  71. Sit in the warmth of the sun
  72. Join a group: AA, a book club, a rec league
  73. Consult with a health professional
  74. Read something inspirational
  75. Work on a puzzle
  76. Play like a child
  77. Go for a drive
  78. Attend a cultural event
  79. Gaze at the stars
  80. Remind yourself that you have gotten through worse before
  81. Sit next to a natural body of water: a stream, the ocean, a waterfall; listen mindfully
  82. Work towards a health goal like weight loss, a faster run time, or doing the splits
  83. Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Create a space in your mind that is peaceful and safe. Go there.
  84. Make a list of long and short term goals
  85. Take the first step towards your goals
  86. Pay off debt
  87. Find a non-profit or charity organization with a cause that you are passionate about; get involved
  88. Give your full attention to someone else
  89. Take a quiet bubble bath
  90. Make peace with your stress by finding gratitude for it
  91. Go fishing
  92. Go to a museum
  93. Visit new sites on the internet
  94. Put clean sheets on your bed
  95. Enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass
  96. Yoga
  97. Go on vacation or plan a staycation
  98. Sing your heart out
  99. Buy fresh flowers or a new plant for your home
  100. Go out to dinner
  101. Allow yourself to let go

He’s Not Perfect. You Aren’t Either

More real wellness, like this, to be shared in this month’s Wellness Challenge.


To Sleep Well in the New Year

I just read a study which stated that sleeping more was the third biggest New Year’s resolution. It is no doubt that millions of Americans are having issues with sleep and energy. We are working and worrying more and more. And there is a growing trend in unhealthy energy products that will shoot you up, but will also have a dramatic impact on your sleep, only further enhancing the cycle. Both of these have a resounding impact on good sleep health.

Studies demonstrate that the benefits of 8-10 hours of sleep per night could benefit cardiovascular health, weight management, healthy skin, prevent cancers, decrease mental illness, and lead to a healthier well-being.

So what is getting in the way of our sleep? No doubt that there are some extraneous variable out there, like having babies or rowdy neighbors. However, the most common forms of insomnia and sleep deprivation are obesity and anxiety. The good news is that both of these are very treatable! However, we have to make it a priority. We have to commit to follow the sleep rules and to putting ourselves FIRST. We have to commit to health and a long and fulfilling life. 

Here are five essential steps to good sleep hygiene:

  1. Stop caffeine consumption five hours prior to bed.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet. Do not starve yourself.
  4. Create a soothing bed-time routine.
  5. Incorporate sleep supplements, such as calcium, magnesium, and L-Arginine for optimal restoration.

You Can’t Achieve Your Goals if You Haven’t Made Any

The first step to every counseling or coaching relationship is to figure out your goals. I ask a series of questions that helps me identify what you want to accomplish. The question of your goals is always asked when I am done. I don’t want to miss anything. Sometimes you know what your goals are and sometimes you don’t. However, we will never get to your destination if we don’t clearly identify your goals.

Clearly defining your goals is the #1 way to achieving them. Many clients will tell me that they want to be happy or healthy. What the heck does that mean? I can assure you that happy to you might be different to someone else. So you and I need to carefully iron out what happy is. Does it mean satisfaction in your relationship? Being less tired? Having a fulfilling career? What will it take you to achieve happiness? If we can’t identify it, we won’t know when we get there.

Setting clear, measurable goals both short-term and long-term helps to bring awareness to what we want and need. It enables you to create a path to get there. We might need to redefine them along the way. We might need to break them down into microscopic steps, but it is crucial for a successful outcome.

I mentioned earlier, that I have often heard clients tell me that 2012 will be their year. What does that mean? How will we make this new year yours? What will you have to achieve to feel that this endeavor was successful? And how will you get there?

Week 1 of the Wellness Challenge is all about setting clearly defined, measurable goals. Then we follow steps that keep them at the forefront of your mind, make them attainable, and combat the obstacles that will surely show up. Is this your year? Let’s take on the Wellness Challenge together!

Testimonials of a Wellness Coach

I am so grateful to be able to do what I do. It has taken me several years to get to be at this place in my career and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I always knew that the essential tools and lessons that I was learning through education, experience, and introspection were missing somewhere in life lessons 101.

Here are a few amazing testimonials and feedback that I have received from individual and group wellness coaching in the last couple of weeks.

“I have lost 11 lbs in 5 weeks. This is unreal. Thank you so much.” ~L.S, 32

“I am going to bed every night before 10:30. It was hard at first but now I am sleeping and rested. I haven’t felt this way in years.” ~ J.L, 39

“I stopped my psychotropic meds. I just don’t need them now and I feel great.” ~G*

“This is why everyone needs a coach. Women need to hear that it is ok to stop beating themselves up!” ~H.T, 35

“It is hard to balance your weight loss goals with your goals to go out and meet people, but I am doing it!” ~L.S, 32

“I have started eating breakfast or having a smoothie and am seeing changes in my mood, energy level, and weight.” ~A.B, 28

“Powered through a 4 mile run. It was a challenge but I finished.” ~E.H, 26

*Not recommended without consulting a physician

30 Before 30: A Recap

I think I have been looking forward to 30 since graduate school. I loved being young, hanging out with my friends, feeling youthful. However, that was a detriment when you are looking for respect and validation in a professional career. Also, as my life progresses, I feel really great about where I am. I am in love, have great friends and family, and am building a great company. So my adventure in 30 Before 30 was a combination of things I haven’t done, things I love to do, and things I probably shouldn’t do after 30 (emphasis on shouldn’t).

However, mid-way on my journey between the start of my list and my 30th birthday, my life derailed a bit. After my car accident this Summer, there were several factors that threatened my ability to keep checking off. Mainly, my health, my bank account, and my motivation. I am going to leave that for another post, because I feel that I should devote some time to owning it. But nevertheless, my birthday got closer and closer and my check-off percentage was well below failing.

I was sad but I was coming to an acceptance point that Life Happens and just because I didn’t complete these things by 30, does not mean that I won’t complete them. I know I will. But for the last week or so I had given up. My list did mean a lot to me, though. Each item represented me in some way and it was a bummer that I didn’t get to satisfy them. Chuck knew this (one of the many reasons why I love that man).

Anyway, my birthday is steadily approaching and I am feeling dread. I didn’t get my items checked off. I am not traveling the world like I would prefer to be, sipping my expensive bottle of wine in Napa (#29, maybe). I am suddenly feeling reluctant about this whole 30 thing. Maybe I’m not ready. Maybe my life isn’t where I want it to be. Maybe professional credibility is over rated.

Enter the birthday week (yes, we do birthday weeks around here). And I am feeling- Whatever. Ugh. But then the fun(ny) starts. You see, Chuck and I have birthdays 5 days apart. Usually, we just kind of celebrate both birthdays with friends, together. I did say that I wanted my own this year so felt that he, too, should have his own. I proceeded to plan some mild festivities at the house with friends that Thursday (his actual birthday). I also thought that it would be fitting to have some Happy Hour drinks on Friday. I wasn’t trying to throw some elaborate surprise party. I just thought that it would be fun to have a large group of Chuck’s friends sort of show up and join us wherever we went to. I emailed this to his business partner and a few other close friends, thinking, “Oh, this is nice. He’ll like this. Nothing too crazy but the opportunity to see all of his friends at his favorite bar.” Yeah, that’s not what happened. I get a response back from his business partner, telling me that it is a great idea and him and the guys went ahead and set it all up at Solas, a downtown night club (Chuck hates clubs). They had already started inviting people and it was going to be a great time. I wish someone was in the room with me when I read that email. I literally had a WTF look on my face. I was not happy. This is not what I had said or planned or wanted. I composed myself a bit, then composed an email to Jason, gently explaining these concerns. I then conceded to the idea of a Happy Hour at Solas for my fiance and continued to invite a few more friends.

The joke was on me. I knew there was something a bit fishy about the whole thing but as we opened the elevator to our rooftop party, there awaited friends and out of town guests all screaming and holding signs up for me. Insert tears. I was overwhelmed. Three people whom I love dear, Valerie, Misty, and Carin had traveled from out of town. Everyone was laughing and so excited that I thought that the party was for Chuck and threw a twist in it all at the last minute. We had drinks and snacks. I was glad I threw on a dress but really wish that I had brought a make-up refresher. I was gushing. The coolest part (other than 90% of my favorite people in one room) was that Chuck had blown up my list and had gotten people to start signing up for items. It was so incredible.

I got Valerie coaching me on my 8 minute mile. Cynthia assisting with creating prayer space. Joe offering to buy me Atlas Shrugged and me vetoing it because I am on page 983 of Gone with the Wind which is torturous enough. There is Brooke hooking me up with new stationary. Chris and Sara offering a fabulous bottle of wine. Gillie says she is all over the new shoes. Mike and Melissa are ready for a baby break and to hit the amusement park. Lauren, (once she stopped making fun of me for calling it “the splits”) will be keeping me accountable to knock that one out. A guy that I just met that night, Jason said that he was going to hook me up to the back of his boat and practice wake surfing. Carin will be my day drinking buddy. Chuck generously offered to make out with me. The girls assured a night of dancing. Everyone promised that a tree would get climbed.

By the end of the night, we had crossed off #2, #6, and #17. And it was one of the most fun nights I have had in years. I laughed. I cried. I danced. I kissed. And I didn’t really care that my makeup was gone and smeared. I didn’t care who was watching. I didn’t care who was there or wasn’t there (although some people were missed). I didn’t care if I was  judged by 20-somethings or work colleagues. I was me. I was proud. I was confident. A list is fantastic. But having amazing people by your side, helping you, supporting you, challenging, you, loving you… now that is what life is all about.

On my actual birthday, I had gotten many “Welcome to the Club” wishes, bragging about how great the 30’s are.


A Life Less Complicated

My life has never been chill and relaxed. I don’t know why since that is something that I promote. I suppose that as a goal-oriented woman, I have never been able to live a life without goals to strive for. My advisor and supervisor in graduate school used to get so made at me. My final year in graduate school I decided to do my internship at two different locations, work two jobs, take my course load, and write a thesis (which was not a part of the curriculum). I negotiated this with them by saying that it was temporary. I only had to balance them all for a few months. Well, it seems that a schedule like that has been the norm, rather than the exception. I’m not sure why when it drives me crazy at times. I guess the answer is because I wouldn’t be satisfied with less either.

Needless to say, that is sort of how my life is now. A contract job (with lots of governmental changes), a new business, growing the business, planning a wedding, envisioning a family, home browsing, a car accident and subsequent health issues. You know, the small stuff. Often times, I am OK with it. It is what I need to do to get closer to the dream. Other times, I think it is all foolish. I often have thoughts about letting it all go and simplifying.

I think, let’s sell the house and all the belongings and head south (or further east). I’ll teach yoga, wake-up with the sound of the waves, and walk to wherever I need to go. In recent fantasies, surfing is included. However, my question to myself is why do I have to leave the country to simplify my life? Why isn’t it accepted to live that lifestyle if it is what I seek? Why can’t I accept it?

I recently finished a cleanse. You know, one of those things where you restrict your diet in order to jump start your metabolism or adjust the types of food you consume. I suppose that I look at a chance to live abroad as that same chance… a lifestyle cleanse. The opportunity to push the reset button. Do I need a reset button or just a good vacation? I think that all I am ready for is a little bit of ease. As much as I love goals and working toward something, I am ready to achieve and be. Yes, I am ready to just Be. I think I am ready for a life less complicated. Whatever that may entail.

Motivation for the Unmotivated

** Full Disclosure: This post may be a bit of a rant or vent as I use my blog as a therapeutic outlet for personal/professional life stress.**

Many of you already know that I have worked in community mental health for almost three years. It was my stepping stone immediately after graduate school and now serves as supplemental income while I build my practice and the center. I had never wanted to work in community mental health but saw it like living in a dorm: doing it for a year is good experience and a rite of passage. But just like a dorm, 3 years is too long. I have learned a lot about clinical mental health, the bureaucracies surrounding healthcare, and low income people… heck, people in general. I also don’t think I would have embraced DBT, a very marketable tool, so fully had I not been in community mental health.

However, I’m tired. I am burnt out. It is too stressful to build a career in this field (for me). The work is stressful, yes, but there is also the never-ending gotta-keep-my-lights-on kinda stress. If my clients don’t come to session, I don’t get paid. And there is no penalty to them for not showing up. So I am relying on individuals experiencing inhibited motivation or exaggerated fears (common symptoms of depression, anxiety or the like) to show up in order to get paid. Swell. Now we have to look at the governing body that supplies the money from which I get paid. The government. Double Swell. 15 months ago, Medicaid cut provider reimbursement rates by 8%. Ouch. And news has surfaced that they have just made an additional 3% cut. So, I am relying on people that may or may not be motivated for treatment (through no intentional fault) to attend their sessions (with no penalty if they don’t) in order to get paid less than I was making when I just finished school, and hope that cuts don’t go lower, all with the same eagerness, integrity and optimism.

So, maybe needless to say, I am losing motivation for working in community mental health. Correction: I have lost motivation for work in community mental health. I have many clients whom I love. However, the worries about paperwork, no shows, insurance, unsanitary work environments, and bureaucratic nightmares are worries I am ready to live without. I plan to serve those that may not have the financial resources, but not like this.

But what are my options?

That has become the distressing question of the millennium! I have considered it all. I applied for and got a full-time, cube job as a wellness counselor. Decent pay, good benefits, bad commute, no flexibility… no private practice. Nope. That wouldn’t work. I could go back to personal training as supplemental income. Flexibility, fun environment, lots of time and energy spent building another clientele… Nope. Not a good option when you are already building one business. Get a part-time job working a register. Hmmm… interesting but might make me nauseous when I get a paycheck that is 1/10 of my hourly rate that I have earned through tens of thousands of dollars that I owe on student loans. Keep coping with community mental health. That has seemed to be the best option. I have tons of flexibility in my schedule to jump if I need to sign some papers or check out a potential space for the center. I can continue to build my practice in the meantime which is giving me joy and pride.

So this is how I cope: Blog and vent with other therapists that are frustrated. Take a break from work and plan my wedding. Focus my energy on building the dream. Yoga. Coffee and/or wine hiatus mid/end of day respectively. The most helpful skill is reminding myself that it is temporary. I have gotten through worse. It is almost over. I am SO close to a dream profession. And not just a dream profession but my dream that will accommodate my life as a therapist, wellness junkie, wife, and one-day mom.

So, I will keep on keepin’ on… for now.

I’m SAD: Understanding Mental Health Diagnoses

I often have clients that suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after they receive a diagnosis. “I’m Bipolar? What? Wow! I must be worse than I thought.,” or  “Borderline Personality Disorder? Oh geez. That just sounds terrible. There must be something really wrong with me if I have a Personality Disorder.” Thank you for that, society. Session one is often spent destigmatizing mental health and the various diagnoses. I often tell clients that this is just a way for health professionals to communicate your symptoms. It is your story that matters and every story is different. Your experience with Bipolar Disorder is very different than how client B is experiencing Bipolar Disorder. Mental health diagnoses are subjective. There is no blood test. It is based on the cluster of symptoms that the diagnostician put together, which is based on what you felt relevant to tell said diagnostician in that 1-2 hour period.

Let’s play a game. Client A comes in complaining of extreme stress for several months. She has a high stress job, recently got engaged, and has been juggling some financial hurdles. She often feels anxious, eager, and impatient. She had difficulty sleeping for a while but mostly just feels very tired. Her fiance teases her for going to bed so early and calls her an old lady. Work has not been very fulfilling. She continues to workout but less frequently and less intensely. Her regimen of healthy eating has often been disregarded. She has made less effort to go out with friends and would often rather crawl up on the couch with Netflix. However, she is in a great mood today, the first day of 70 degree weather in over 3 months. (Client A is purely fictional. Wink.).

Situational Depression? Stress? Mood Disorder NOS? PMS? Seasonal Affective Disorder? Sure. Maybe. Yes. Just depending on which you focus on, it could be any of those. It’s not really fair to tell clients, “Well, hmmmm, I don’t know,” or “It could be any one of these five things.” So we make our best assessment and treat accordingly. Usually the true troubles reveal themselves. Either way, we treat according to your symptoms: Continue stable diet, exercise, and sleep regimen, get outside, reconnect with friends even if disinterested, build mindfulness practices to help with anxiety. Maybe take medication. Maybe try an alternative approach like light therapy.

So maybe I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or maybe I have PMS on the tail-end of a chaotic couple of months. Whatever you care to label it, the core components of healing are the same. I just may need to negotiate tropical vacations into my health and wellness budget every January.