Finding Your Inner Calm

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day. As the discussion turned to the latest political happenings, I felt that welling up feeling in my body. That signal that I’m beginning to feel anxious and could easily be triggered by something shared in the conversation. And there it was……the very thing that I was fearful would be said, was said.


I didn’t say a word. I kept quiet and the conversation continued. I felt my heartrate stay elevated and that stressful feeling in my body stick around. Soon, it was time to go and I spent the whole car ride home upset about the discussion. When I got out of the car, I didn’t feel any better. Having an explosion of emotions didn’t aid me in releasing my frustration. In fact, I felt exactly the same.


That whole episode was not characteristic of my personality. Usually, I am able to listen, reflect and understand when another person shares their viewpoints. And usually, all without turning on the judgement. However, something had changed.


I felt that level of stress continuously throughout the following days. Granted, these are not normal times. Dealing with the changes of COVID and the uncertainty going forward, played into this feeling. Being bombarded with the latest news update, wasn’t helping the situation. And I realized, that I couldn’t even concentrate to accomplish simple tasks at work. I no longer had the ability to be creative. My brain just seemed way too overstimulated to allow the creative process to unfold.


In addition, I was worried all the time. My mind was proficient at finding the “perfect” thing to worry about hour after hour. It’s as if it was just searching for something to attach to and continue the worry cycle.


When stepping back from the situation, I realized that I needed to become more mindful and live more in the present. I needed to quiet my mind.


Mindfulness is the mental state achieved when you focus on being aware in the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and body sensations. It’s not thinking about what happened in the past, and not focusing on what might transpire in the future. It’s living in the now. Although I had been mindful in my daily life in the past, I had lost my way the last couple months.


The constant bombardment of the latest politics, COVID updates, business struggles and racial tension had gotten me off track. I’m guessing that many leaders out there are also wrestling with the inability to be mindful and present. I can imagine many of you are struggling, like myself, with all the “what ifs” that could happen in the near future, with so much being up in the air. And when all this stimulation takes up too much brain space, you are much less productive.


So here are some suggestions to find more calm and mental clarity.


Take 5 minutes to start your day off on the right foot with meditation.

Set the timer for 5 minutes, get in a comfortable sitting position, and just focus on your breathing. Pay attention as you inhale through your nose, and slowly exhale through your mouth. Your brain will try to bounce around to other random thoughts and that is OK. Just keep with it and go back to the focused breathing. Make no judgments over the thoughts, just let the thoughts wash over you and let them leave your body. Over time, this will get easier and you will be able to increase your time.


Limit your Social Media and news access

Do you feel your stress level going up when you get on Social Media? It’s good to be informed and educated. Focus on receiving enough information to be educated on the world news. Recognize that line where you might be diving in headfirst and not coming out. For example, I worked hard today to have a work-out without checking my phone over and over for the latest update. Just make it a point to focus on the present task and not overload your brain with too much stimulation.


Learning how to be mindful is a process and takes time and hard work. It’s not something that you master in a day. However, learning this skill can help you gain self-control, emotional regulation, lower your heart rate and find your calm.


I could use a little of that right now.

Building Resilience

My son sent me a text with a pic attached from his local Costco. He was standing in a long line that snaked all the way back to the meat section. He reported that people were buying incredible amounts of food and they were out of all their paper products and water. He thought it was comical that people were hoarding water since everyone has access and will continue to have access to fresh water.


Yet, when he got to the front of the line, the worker asked him if he wanted the available bottled water at the counter. Someone had decided against it and left it at the register. He excitedly accepted the water and felt accomplished that he had scored big.


Now, his sane mind told him that he didn’t need this water. However, emotions can apparently be strong motivators. Look around and you can see how this fear can become contagious. I’m sure you see it daily in the grocery stores. Yesterday, I saw people running through a Kroger to snag one of the last available toilet paper packs.


There is no denying that this is a scary time filled with uncertainty. You don’t know from day to day how things are going to change. And the truth is that human beings really don’t like change. Your patterns, routines and habits have all been upended. Kids are out of school, parents are working from home, and all your usual services and supports are closed. All of this combined can make you feel a complete loss of control.


So what can you do about it? Here’s a couple ideas to help you through this time.


Establish a schedule and new routines in your daily life.  Getting exercise and going to the gym daily helps me stay sane. It makes me feel energized for the rest of the day. With the gyms closed, I knew that I needed to establish a new healthy routine. Two days this week I was able to go for a walk outside, and the others, I jumped on the treadmill. The exercise coupled with getting “out of the house”, helped me immensely.


Monitor the amount of time that you spend on Social Media and news. It’s important to stay informed, but too much information can make you feel overwhelmed and can heighten anxiety. I have noticed that when I overconsume news, I become distracted easily and have difficult focusing. When you feel that happening, walk away from your computer and become involved in a different task that’s pleasurable.


Reach out and connect with others

I crave interaction with others. Therefore, staying in my house can feel like a punishment. Make a point to reach out to friends and family as much as possible. Contact that friend you haven’t talked to forever. Check on your elderly neighbor that doesn’t have family in town. With so much technology that enables us to connect, there’s no excuse for not reaching out. Be creative, make a plan and take action.




Focus on doing good for others

Being isolated in the house can lead us to some extraordinary “overthinking”. It can take you back in time, looking at your failures, or worrying about things yet to happen. The best cure for this is to redirect that energy in helping others in need. How can you give back during this time of need? How can you use your talents to help people that are currently struggling?


It’s easy for us to get lost in the moment and feel like this time will last forever. Remind yourself that this is not forever, and this is just a moment in time. If you have too, say this out loud to yourself, when you are having a low moment.


We will all this through this time together.



Positive Stress

As many of you know, I work 12 hours a week at a clinic as a Mental Health Therapist. I can honestly say that 90% of my work is helping individuals deal with the stress that they are experiencing. That’s when it really hit home with me that there was a real crisis when it comes to work and stress.


According to the American Institute of Stress, 40% of workers report that their job is extremely stressful. Up to 80% report that they have experienced stress at some point in their current positions. Stress appears to be a real workplace problem that results in productivity loss, health issues and more.


However, I would like to look at this from another angle. We are always viewing stress from a negative perspective. The truth is that stress can actually serve a positive purpose in life.


Stress helps you understand what is important to you.

Years ago, I was working in a job that was no longer making me happy. Each day I drove to work, I would try to remind myself why I was so lucky to have this job. I would attempt to rationalize how I was in the right place. Yet, I was constantly stressed and anxious.


The bottom line was that I was miserable in that position. I knew in my heart that I didn’t belong there, but I was afraid of a change and to go somewhere else. I was settling so I could stay safe and in my comfort zone. But this decision made me feel uncomfortably stressed.  Listening to my stress, I realized that I was not living true to my values. I value taking risks and I was doing the opposite. My actions and my values were not aligned. In the end, It was this realization that actually propelled me forward to eventually find the right fit for my life.


Stress helps you get things done.

Do you really want to eliminate all the stressors from your life? Well, good luck with that. I’m not a big fan of doing paperwork and I doubt I would get my work completed if I didn’t feel a little bit uncomfortable. I felt that twinge in my stomach yesterday that signals stress and it pushed me to get this blog written. I felt that twinge of stress this afternoon and it pushed me forward to finally call the car dealership and make an appointment for my car. That stressful feeling really comes in handy when you need to accomplish tasks and make your deadlines.


Stressful situations help you toughen up for future challenges.

No one makes it through life without having some bad things happen. And no one gets through life without having some less than spectacular days. However, stressful, uncomfortable times can build resilience for the future. Experiencing these moments and making it through to the other side, empowers you in life. The next time something stressful and uncomfortable happens, you can remind yourself that you are just becoming more resilient with this experience.


Maybe you need to change your mind set when it comes to stress. Instead of having a negative perspective when it comes to stress, begin to see how it can help you become your best self.  

When Change Doesn’t Go Your Way

image looking over cliffIt’s no secret that the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers the other night in the Super Bowl. Especially crushed was the quarterback, Cam Newton, who showed his true feelings and emotions at the press conference following the game.


Cam has been lambasted in the media for appearing sullen, having one-word answers, and subsequently, walking out during the conference. Apparently, he didn’t get the memo that as a top sport star, he is also required to be on his very best behavior— especially in front of millions of people.


The problem was simply his reaction to CHANGE. He didn’t expect to lose. He wasn’t prepared to lose. I doubt any true athlete is prepared to lose or they would never win.


So let’s review the facts: Cam Newton was the only player in recent times to be awarded the Heisman Trophy, win a national championship and become a first overall pick in the NFL within a one-year span. In 2011, he was the NFL rookie of the year, a 3 time pro bowler and named to the All Pro First Team. In his rookie year, he broke numerous records and in 2015, the Panthers only lost 1 game in the 15 weeks that they played.


Suffice it to say, Cam Newton didn’t get much experience learning how to lose. Winning in life is what he knew, and the more he won, the more he expected to win. That’s a good thing and that’s how teams become winning franchises. The Super Bowl is what every player has worked for all year. The snag is that he just assumed this would turn out the way he anticipated.


Now, I imagine that your emotions run high during a game. I suppose the adrenaline runs out of control leading up to the big game. Some of that emotion drives you to succeed while an overdose can take you out of control. And then, the end of the game comes and you have won or lost. In this case, his team lost and he’s required to go right from running on overdrive to 0 in a few minutes.


He’s expected to accept the fact, graciously I might add, that he has lost something he has worked for his whole entire life.


Becoming resilient in life and riding the waves is often a learned skill. You become adept at accepting change, moving on from experiencing major let downs and disappointments and finally, realizing that life goes on. You learn this at work when you lose that promotion that you thought you had in the bag. You learn this when you start a business and you fail miserably. You learn this when you think your boss is going to tell you how lucky they are to have you as an employee, but instead, they tell you that you‘re fired. You control your emotions in these situations the best you can, but no one would fault you for not being able to be gracious while you’re being kicked.


No one makes it through a career without getting hit with some bad luck here or there. The important thing to remember is that people are not robots— they are complicated human beings with feelings and emotions. You don’t always do the right thing. Sometimes it’s hard to keep it together and control your emotions. Sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes you don’t want to accept the CHANGE that life has thrown at you and you can’t take control in 15 minutes, or for that matter, in 15 days. Often, it’s a process and takes a while to think things through and make sense of the situation.


So give yourself and others a break when going through CHANGE and failure, whether it takes place in the workplace or on a world stage. In time, we all will learn to accept and understand this unexpected turn of events, becoming more resilient.




Just Relax

image relaxAs I write this, I’m sitting on a porch in Florida, looking out at the ocean. The sandy beach is only a step away from my chair. Earlier, staring at the rhythmic waves almost lulled me to sleep as I struggled to read my book. I feel so happy to be sharing this house with my family, yet somehow, I can’t relax. I can’t truly let go of the feeling that I should be doing or accomplishing some task. I can’t let go of the thought that I must plan and organize what comes next.


Now, normally, my way of thinking enables me to be incredibly productive and successful in life. I’m naturally always thinking ahead and mapping out how I’m going to get the most done in the smallest amount of time available to me. However, this mode of thinking is now my enemy. I am having difficulty turning it off and allowing myself to just enjoy the moment. I’m struggling with just being present and not thinking ahead to what will unfold for the rest of the day.


I constantly know what time it is and I’m often contemplating what that means to me. Everyone has called me on it. I’ve tried to cover it up but apparently, I’m not doing a very good job.


I’ve decided that all the suggestions, inspirational quotes, and advice in the world is not going to help me to become “in the moment”. That is something that must come from a different place.


I must make the DECISION to become present in life.


There’s a lot of reading out there on how to become present in your life. I am told that the ability to be “in the now” is a goal that each one of us should attempt to achieve. When I see young children, I recognize how they’re naturals at this way of life.   However, you and I have learned over time that it is impossible to achieve your goals with this mind-set.


You have learned to fight the intent to become present. You are mapping out what comes next because you must do this in order to keep everything in your life running smoothly. You are constantly anticipating what comes next and what obstacles might stand in your way of achieving your daily goals.


This is ingrained in your brain and it is difficult to retrain this way of thinking. Your brain has learned this overtime and runs this automatic loop without you being mentally aware. You are no longer consciously making a decision. If only being told the statement “Just relax” really worked!


In order to truly change, you must recognize when it is happening. You must listen carefully to the thoughts as they unfold and be able to speak back to them and fight the strong urge to control. You need to constantly remind yourself that it’s OK to just “be”.


The whole concept is difficult— but not impossible.



Eliminating Stress



Is anyone out there feeling some stress today?  I’ll make an educated guess that most of you are feeling some level of stress.  It has become the norm in our everyday lives. However, you don’t have to live your life this way.  There are strategies that you can utilize and decisions that you can make to lower or eliminate the stress that you feel on a daily basis.  Here are some tactics that might help you lower your level of stress and enable you to enjoy your life more.


Get an objective view of the situation

I understand that you lead a busy life. You have a lot of different responsibilities on your daily priority list.  However, you can become so overwhelmed with your commitments and responsibilities and so hyper focused on your own experience that you can no longer see things clearly. In order for you to get a more realistic view of your life, ask yourself the following questions:


1. What impact would this have on my life or others if I don’t follow through with this responsibility?


2.  Is the impact worth my level of stress and anxiety?


By asking these questions, you could force yourself to see that it isn’t the end of the world if you drop this commitment.  It’s so easy to get lost in the endless loop of stress or anxiety that you can lose sight of whether it even truly matters.


Watch your extreme thinking when you start getting stressed

Think about someone you would deem as stressed or anxious.  Chances are they talk in extremes and their extreme thinking fuels their anxiety.  They pepper their communication with words like  “have to”, “always”, “never”, “must” and “should”. They speak in hyperbole, setting themselves up for more stress. This communication style is simply fuel to the fire.  The running dialogue is always swirling in their head, and it’s the perfect storm for a life filled with stress and anxiety. Until they address what they’re telling themselves and make an effort to manage it, the stress and anxiety will only get worse. We all fall into this pattern now and then, so make an effort to acknowledge it and take action.



Stay away from stressful people

Do you know any people in your life that are stress mongers? These are the ones that just resonate with anxiety.  Every time you’re around them, stress just seeps out of their pores. The problem is that it usually then seeps into your pores.  Their goal is for you to understand the level of stress that they are feeling.  However, what actually happens is that they successfully transfer that stress to you.  Often, you leave the conversation feeling stressed and anxious while they go on to their next victim. I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that they probably don’t follow through on any advice you give them.  My suggestion to you is to minimize your time with these individuals.  If it’s impossible, just don’t engage in the anxiety talk and change the subject in the conversation.


Steve Maraboli said the following,


“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health.  Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.”



Please keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to fall into this unhealthy pattern.



images dandelion


I worked at my desk for way too long and I couldn’t concentrate anymore.  On top of that, it was 85 degrees outside and I was itching to enjoy the beautiful weather.  I decided that I would go for a quick walk to clear my head. As I walked outside the front door and looked around, I marveled at the front yard. It was as if I was seeing it for the first time.


I noticed that there were some weeds cropping up in one of the flowerbeds, so I decided to delay my walk and take care of it.  I looked around and noticed the lush green grass and the flowered trees. As I neared the front of the house, I spotted it.  There, in the middle of a nicely manicured bed, was the biggest weed that I had ever seen. It had a very thick stem and a large yellow flower. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the flower/weed was at least 5 feet high. If you’re wondering if I’m confused and that it really was a flower, I can 100% assure you that it was a weed.


As I stepped over to the gargantuan weed, I wondered how I had missed it for so long. Much to my dismay, this 5-foot behemoth was not hidden behind bushes.  This flower/weed was not obscured from any vantage point in the front yard.  How was it possible that this weed went unnoticed by me?


I grabbed it and yanked hard, pulling it out of the ground. I ceremoniously carried the weed to the trashcan and threw it out.  On my way, I looked around to see if anyone was watching me.  In my mind, I wondered how many neighbors had obviously noticed the weed and were taking bets on when I was going to finally do something about it.


As I went for my walk, I wondered how I could have left my house numerous times during the day and driven back into the driveway without ever noticing the obvious. I mean, it was HUGE and in plain sight. I decided that the reason that I didn’t see the weed was because I didn’t want to see it.


As humans, we are wired to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. If you think about it, everything in life comes down to these two things.  Let me tell you a secret— I don’t like working in the yard.  To me, it’s a pain. I’ve been putting off planting my flowers and other yard work for sometime now. As I thought honestly about this, I realized that I hadn’t noticed the obvious because it was painful for me.  I avoided looking at the yard at all costs. This way, I didn’t have to feel any pain or discomfort and could go about my life. Yes, this sounded like denial to me.


As I faced the music, I made a commitment to change this negative pattern.  No matter how much progress you make in handling issues in a proactive manner, now and then, you can easily revert back into negative patterns from your past.  So here’s you’re wake-up call— is there something in your own life that you’ve been conveniently avoiding?  Are there some weeds that you need to attend to in your own garden?


I have faith that you’ll take the steps to move forward in your life.



Technology: Blessing or Stress?

technology head


As you probably know from reading past blogs, long distance bike riding is one of my favorite things to do in the summer. My husband and I go on 50-mile trips every weekend. A few months ago, he purchased a new and improved bike. He felt that the difference in the ride was incredible.


Would anyone like to guess what I received for my birthday a few months ago?  That’s right, a new and improved bike. He wanted me to be able to keep up with him on our long bike rides and felt that this bike would make all the difference. He also purchased a Garmin device that could constantly monitor my speed, heart rate, calorie burn and a multitude of other things.  This monitor system is attached to my bike so I can view my progress at all times.


After the first trip on my bike, I commented to my husband that I didn’t feel like I usually do after a ride.  He looked at me, confused. Usually after a ride, I feel accomplished and relaxed with my brain rested and rejuvenated.  I just didn’t feel this way. I chalked it up to being hyper alert on my new bike.  I decided I wasn’t totally comfortable yet and that I needed time.


By the second trip, I was definitely getting used to my bike and comfortable with the new gears.  However, during and after the ride, I felt the same feelings as before. Where were my feelings of accomplishment and rejuvenation?


I decided that I needed to figure out what had changed in the experience. The ride had gone from pure enjoyment to something more akin to work.  I thought back to the rides I took last year.  Some of my best writing ideas came to me on my rides. The most ingenious ideas for my speaking presentations seemed to arrive out of thin air. I created fabulous plans for my business on my biking trips.  There was something about the exercise, coupled with the natural landscape— it was the perfect recipe for problem solving and idea creation.


Instead of creating, my brain was constantly busy monitoring the Garmin.  I was tracking my progress second by second— was I going too slow, was I going the right pace?  I was obsessed with watching the change of speed and the slow creeping of the distance. I no longer noticed the trees and plants or the wildlife that I encountered along the trail. I spent the whole 4 hours staring at the ever-changing screen instead of taking in the sights and smells.  This constant monitoring was destroying my experience. This constant monitoring made me stressed.


I had lost my favorite part of the whole experience— being mindful and present.  I had lost the ability to just let go.


Technology certainly plays an important part in today’s society.  I’d be lost without my computer, phone, iPad etc.  However, sometimes it can hold us back from being at our best and living in the now. We need to make a point of disconnecting and being in the present.

Enjoying the Holidays

The holiday season is a time of gratitude and thanks. We look forward to the celebration, bringing our families together and enjoying the quality time. We spend hours getting ready for the festivities and preparing for the feast. We envision how fabulous our time will be with our families and friends. In our heads, we play out how each minute will pass, how the food will be appreciated and how the love will be shared.


If you spend any time on the Internet, you can view the great photos of family and friends enjoying their time together. The food is beautifully displayed to perfection and each family member is having a wonderful time. However, things aren’t always what we imagine them to be.


I’m sorry to say that reality is often very different than our expectations. Our expectations lead to disappointment as we watch how things can turn out differently than we anticipated.  You would think after we reach a certain age, we would stop doing this to ourselves. However, life doesn’t work that way.  Again and again, we may be setting ourselves up to be more disappointed.


How can we stop this vicious cycle? Maybe I can suggest a couple mind shifts you need to make to enjoy this time a bit more.


Stop expecting people to be what you want, not who they actually are.

We all have a family member or friend that continuously disappoints us. They irritate us with their choices in life and let us down in their behavior.  Common sense would tell us that that after all this time, we would accept this and be prepared for what unfolds. But often we do the opposite. We may be setting ourselves up by expecting this individual to be more than they can possibly be.  Holidays are not going to change their behavior. They are not going to suddenly appreciate, change, or have any realizations just because of the time of year.  Accept who they are once and for all and stop expecting a different outcome.


Don’t focus so much on the details and miss the point of this time of year.

I appreciate a perfect ornamented table, a gourmet dinner, and everything that goes with it as much as the next person.  However, I’m aware that sometimes we can tie ourselves up with the details and lose our focus in life. Even I sometimes do it.  I, myself, have become obsessed with trying to find the perfect runner in the exact shade for the dining room table. This will become my quest and I will spend day and night searching for the only thing that will do. It’s a crazy waste of my time because in the end, no one but me even notices. Step back and take a good look at what truly matters in the whole scheme of things.


Whether you enjoy this time is completely up to you.  You are in control of your emotions during this time of year, whether you want to believe this or not. Take responsibility and make a decision to treat this year differently.

A Dose of Reality

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant was recently on the news, sharing his views on education and working moms. In front of a large crowd, he quoted the following—

“Our country’s education problems began when mothers went into the workplace in large numbers.” As you can imagine, he received incredible backlash for that thought.  He later changed that statement to something a bit more palatable for the many dual career families in the audience.


There’s nothing new about the controversy surrounding moms working outside the home vs. moms working at home. In fact, when my own children were younger, I was surprised by the strong opinions on both sides of the fence. We’ve been having this battle about “what’s best for the kids” for a long time.  However, the battle we really need to pay attention to is the one going on in our own heads.


I coach very successful career-minded women that juggle numerous responsibilities. They feel tremendous pressure to succeed in their careers and in their personal life.  They are devoted to their families and every day is a struggle to make their lives run smoothly. My job involves helping them to identify their priorities in life and subsequently create a life that better reflects their priorities. That said, I’ve witnessed a mode of thinking that has become prevalent with successful career women— their need to not only succeed in their careers, but also be the absolute perfect parent.


So I guess the question becomes, what makes a perfect mother?  Is it creating a homemade dinner every night for your family? Is it baking daily for your family or making a handmade Halloween costume for your child every year?  Could it be getting your child involved in every extracurricular possible to ensure success in their life?  Maybe it’s volunteering weekly in each one of your child’s classes at school?


I hear a lot of this faulty thinking with successful women.  They struggle with guilt daily because of their inability to do everything they BELIEVE it takes to raise a successful child. Social Media just magnifies the guilt. On Pinterest, you can view the beautiful cakes that moms are making or the incredible craft projects. On Facebook, you can hear how a fellow mom’s child just received a 36 on her ACTS and another mom’s child just received a full scholarship to college. The pressure is on to show that you too can mold a child into a successful wonder.  But, how can you do everything, and is that even realistic? Something eventually has to give, and most of the time it’s the woman’s own needs that go unmet.


I have raised two sons while working outside the home.  Here’s what I know, having lived the experience as a Mental Health Therapist and a parent: Don’t get so lost that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Don’t lose sight of your true priorities.  You want to raise a successful, confident, independent child that has integrity? Then give them the tools to achieve this. Give them unconditional love, rules to feel safe and your QUALITY TIME.   When you’re with them, be present and listen. Make sure they feel that they can always come to you with a problem and you will help them think it through. Be a role model for your children and don’t be so stressed that you miss the opportunity to take advantage of those teachable moments.


Let go of the rest.


Let me be honest here— if I asked my kids what they remember from their childhood, they’re not going to mention the perfect meal, homemade cake, or the many hours I logged in their classroom. Those are great if you truly have the time to make it happen.  However, They WILL mention the time I went hiking with them or the time I listened to them when they were going through a crisis.


So all you working moms out there— get your priorities straight and stop listening to the inside chatter. Be present in the times that truly matter.