Monthly Archive: October 2015

My Tip to Stop Stress in 6 Seconds

Stress is a part of life.  It really is impossible to “avoid” stress, but there are ways to better handle it.  The best way to better handle stress is fairly simple. When I share this trick with clients, they are almost always in disbelief. Well, here it is…

The 6 Second Rule. Yep, whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, stopped what you are doing. Out loud, verbally state “I’m going to use my six second rule.” Next, focus on a wall. Look straight ahead. Take a deep breath in. Let the deep breath go out through your nose. Next, count to six like so “One potato. Two potato. Three potato. Four potato. Five potato. Six potato. I’m now done with the six second rule.”

One of my clients said this exercise was like something The Count from Sesame Street might use. Well, sure. I guess I can see that comparison, only this does work. It takes the panic out of any overwhelming emotions you may be feeling at the time and helps re-center you back to your environment.

Now, try it. Stop reading this blog and do the exercise for yourself. I promise, it works!

Until next time,

Maryanne Nicholls

Why Online Counseling Works

Yes, if you haven’t heard by now, I do offer confidential counseling programs via virtual programs. It is an easy way for my busy clients to find time to work on themselves and their issues. You can find a list of my programs, along with some video blogs, by clicking here:

According to an oversight of the impact online counseling makes (within the last three years), one Yale study discovered the following: “When combined with Cognitive Behavior Therapy, online counseling can be used effectively on a variety of clinical issues. Web counselling refers to counselling services through the internet and includes, for example, emails, chat rooms and web cameras. This type of counselling goes by so many names such as cyberspace counselling, e-therapy, e-counselling and tele-counselling.

Web counselling is easily accessible to all those who wish to use it. Online therapy overcomes barriers that may preclude others from seeking therapy. For example, individuals residing in rural or remote areas where there is no counselling services can benefit from the accessibility of online counselling. Those that are physically disabled or unable to leave their home can also easily access such services with little inconvenience. Those that have visual and hearing impairments can also benefit from such services. Web counselling has also shown to be effective in encouraging children and teenagers to receive therapy as they seem to be more comfortable with using the internet.”

I agree and there are more benefits than just reaching out to those who don’t have the ability to leave home. I have found more and more people are willing to see me in the virtual landscape vs. traditional “in-office” counseling. Why? Well, when I do ask it is usually an issue of both social stigma and affordability. There is more of an anonymous process or feeling to my online services vs. driving to an office park where you may bump into someone you know (which is a whole separate issue when it comes to social stigma and positive mental health services).

The issue of affordability is a big one. Since counselors don’t have to rent space, pay for utility, cover accident insurance coverage fees, and so on- they can be more flexible with rates when it comes to working within a virtual landscape. The savings is passed on to clients who are more likely to be proactive with their health and mental affairs when the bill is less expensive.

If you’ve been considering online counseling, please contact me. I offer a free initial session and your privacy and data is of the most importance to me.

Maryanne Nicholls

On Intuition and Gut Knowing

Trust your gut; womb knowing; intuition.  These are terms we use to explain how we simply know if something is good or bad for us.  We just know!  It’s more a physical feeling than anything else – grabbing our attention when we’re about to do something new, or meet someone we don’t know.

But before we can even begin to trust our gut, we need to learn to identify it. Gut knowing isn’t a thought or an emotion – it isn’t something that comes from our head; nor is it an interpretation or a value judgment.  For instance, “I feel anxious about this meeting” isn’t a gut instinct, it isn’t even a feeling.  It’s a thought – specifically a worry, about the future. Gut instinct is visceral, like a physical sensation.

Now, think of a time when you walked into a strange room, and there was someone a few yards away who gave you the creeps – you couldn’t define it in words, you just had this uneasy feeling deep in your belly.  That is a gut instinct, and you’d be wise to heed it.

Or, think of a time when you really liked an idea that crossed your desk, even though you couldn’t put your finger on it.  You went with it anyway and it turned out to be the best thing you could have done.  That is also a gut instinct.

The thing about intuition, or gut instinct, as Gavin de Becker says, is that it is always right in at least two important ways: It is always in response to something, and it always has your best interest at heart.

In order to trust our gut, we need to train ourselves to heed it. I wrote about this almost 2 years ago, Learning to Trust Your Gut and it’s worth repeating here.

How can you learn to trust your gut? Here are 4 things you can do to learn:

  1. First, quiet the mind.  Try focusing on your breathing for 10 deep breaths.  Before we can trust our gut instinct, we need to be able to recognize it, and we can only do that if we put our inner head business aside.
  2. Pay attention to your visceral responses and reactions.  Do you have a tingling at the back of your head; or butterflies in your stomach; or a clenching, tingling, jumpiness, in any part of your body?  What are those responses telling you?  What images and past experiences come up for you?
  3. Now you have your gut information – the raw data.  That may be all you need to take action.  If it isn’t, ask your higher power, inner wise self, for guidance. Close your eyes, free yourself of any expectations and pre-conceptions.  Then let it go and give your higher self the space it needs to respond.
  4. When your inner wisdom responds, listen to it. It may come to you while you’re dreaming, or during some daily routine.  Watch out for it.

Trust comes from trying things out and seeing them work.  The more you learn to know your gut intuition, the more you will learn to trust it.

Trust your gut – a demo

Quote of the Week

I’ve realized that being happy is a choice. You never want to rub anybody the wrong way or not be fun to be around, but you have to be happy. When I get logical and I don’t trust my instincts – That’s when I get in trouble.
-Angelina Jolie

Common Trauma Misconceptions

I’ve been speaking this month, quite often, about trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are many misconceptions associated with PTSD both in the medical field and everyday society.

Rashish, a healthy living website, recently published the story about Rebecca, a 23 yr. old who never suspected she had issues related to trauma. The article states, “Before her diagnosis this past summer, Rebecca says she didn’t know much about PTSD. “I knew it was something serious that veterans dealt with, but I never had a reason to research the subject,” she says. “I thought there was some scale or level of degree of trauma that caused PTSD. I didn’t think my issues were comparable to a veteran’s, so I thought I was just weak.” Rebecca had struggled with depression and anxiety before, but she knew she was dealing with something else.” You can read the entire piece here:

I think what bothers me about misconceptions of trauma and PTSD is that we always think of someone ready to “snap” versus the daily struggle. Most people with trauma are like Rebecca. They feel anxious. They have panic attacks for that they think as “no reason”. They feel like laying down in bed all day or they can’t bare to stay home, they have to stay busy.

People deal with trauma in many different ways, often thinking they are fine- and often suffering from a multiple of subtle symptoms. Not everyone with trauma and PTSD is sitting at home, shaking, hallucinating, are being directed to commit a crime. Those cases are very rare. In fact, trauma victims are usually so confused about the subtle ways they feel, they end up being more of a harm to themselves than society- which is where I feel the misconceptions are birthed.

Another misconception is the cause of trauma or PTSD, which is often (and correctly) related to sexual abuse as a child or war. Well, these are not the only causes. Falls or sports injuries, Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life),
the sudden death of someone close, a car accident, the breakup of a significant relationship, a humiliating or deeply disappointing experience, or the discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition can all lead to the same feelings of anxiety, depression and withdrawal.

So, what are some of the more subtle emotional and psychological symptoms of trauma or PTSD:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
    Anger, irritability, mood swings
    Guilt, shame, self-blame
    Feeling sad or hopeless
    Confusion, difficulty concentrating
    Anxiety and fear
    Withdrawing from others
    Feeling disconnected or numb
    Insomnia or nightmares

Of course, this isn’t the complete list. People respond to different circumstances with a combination of these symptoms or symptoms not listed above. I can tell you that if you have been feeling anxious or depressed for the past three months and you find a life event on the causes I listed above, you should start to speak with someone about not only how you’re feeling, but how you’re coping.

I also offer free consultations and a free 7-Day Mediation program, which you can find here:

How we learn to love being alone

We all need alone time – to centre ourselves, collect our wits, process the week or day, or simply be quiet and be with ourselves. For some of us, alone time is lonely – I was reminded of this when I heard a talk on modern isolation.

There’s a difference between aloneness and loneliness: Dove Pragito definesloneliness as a lack, a feeling that something is missing, a pain, a depression, a need, an incompleteness, an absence; and aloneness as a presence, fullness, aliveness, joy of being, overflowing love. You are complete. Nobody is needed, you are enough.

When we’re isolated, we can sometimes feel aloneness, but mostly we feel lonely.Stephen Diamond believes that our high-tech culture makes isolates people, and that loneliness is becoming a bigger problem because of that.  He points out that in our grandparent’s day, when there was only the telephone or regular mail, people got out more, mingled more – every day.

Today we don’t do that very much. We can work at home and communicate online; we can even shop from home, exercise, play.  We can do most of our daily activities without leaving our own space.

Our grandparents, on average, worked shorter hours, socialized person-to-person more and slept longer than we do today.

Feeling lonely can actually stress us by triggering our stress-response system.  Why? Because we are social animals, and being separated from our fellow humans can be a threat to our system. We all have an innate need for connection, for love and companionship, acceptance and recognition.

Having said that, not everyone who works long hours and sleeps less than their grandparents feel lonely.  Some of us cherish this time as our alone time.  It brings us joy and renewed energy. And the difference, according to Deepak Chopra is in how we feel inside ourselves.

To overcome loneliness, he suggests we connect to that part of us isn’t lonely. Sometimes we can feel the loneliest in a room crowded with people. The root of loneliness isn’t about the absence of others, but about the absence of, or a lack in ourselves.

This feeling is universal, and is really a result of the way we live today. There are three steps we can take to begin this journey of self:

  1. First, cultivate acceptance. Accept all our emotions for what they are – true expressions of what’s going on for us right now.  If we’re feeling lonely, then allow that feeling to simply be there, and rather than judge it to be right or wrong, just as you would a child or puppy, approach it with compassion.
  2. Cultivate an inner knowing of yourself through meditation. Meditation comes in many forms, walking, sitting, lying down, doing simple chores.  It isn’t about how you sit or stand, whether you keep your eyes open or closed, it’s about focusing on your breath, quieting the mind, and giving your inner self room to be known. If you meditate with an attitude of self-compassion and self-love, and meditate regularly, then you are building a practice and a habit of self-regard. This is quality alone time.
  3. Meditate on the heart.  Make the heart your focus of attention and imagine breathing into that area.  Allow any thoughts or emotions to arise, noticing them, then returning your attention to the heart. Do this for a few minutes.  Then open your eyes, and for the next 30 minutes, simply observe yourself to see how you are. You’ll likely notice that the effects of meditation linger and make everything around you more vivid.

As you re-discover who you are, you’ll notice that your feeling of loneliness will dissipate, and your sense of aloneness take it’s place.


For a set of free 3-minute mindfulness meditations, visit my website. Each one focuses on one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness. It’s a great way to start or end your day.

I’m re-opening enrollment to my program, Burning the Candle at Both Ends this Fall, and working hard on planning a webinar, also in November called Three Brief and Unusual Ways to Live Stress-Free.
I’ll keep you informed as things unfold.

Just say Hello!



Quote of the Week

I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone
– Lord Byron


Children with PTSD

Some of you may be sitting there this Friday wondering what you have to go home and face. I get it, the weekend is supposed to be relaxing but for many – the opposite can be true. Life is hard and terrible things happen, sometimes to children. It is hard enough to be a parent with a child suffering from PTSD, but then to be a working parent – well, you have a battle ahead and I hope some support. If not, please contact me. I do offer FREE consultations to get you started in the right direction.

If you have a child with PTSD, don’t feel different. Many people have children with challenges as a result of uncontrollable circumstances or violence. You are not alone.  If you are not sure if your child is suffering from PTSD, please know that they act differently than adults with PTSD.

For example; many children will refuse to do things which remind them of what happened, for example refuse to get into a car if it was a car accident.

Many children have sleep problems – they find it scary to go to sleep, and have lots of nightmares or shaking during sleep.

Children with PTSD do have separation problems – not wanting to leave their parents, wanting their parents to be with them at night (even older children and teenagers) and they do ‘regress’ in their behavior, losing skills they recently learned (such as wetting the bed, not being able to talk).

More so, children become irritable, easily upset, easily startled and have panic attacks – usually they are always  on the watch for something bad to happen.

If you know something is wrong at home, and there has been a traumatic life event or change in your life with your children or within your child’s life, please seek help. There is no shame in seeking help for you and your child and no reason to be weary of what you will face at home during this up and coming weekend.

Is It Depression Or Something Else?

Many celebrities are talking about the positive mental health movement. They want to take away the stigma of mental health challenges and encourage everyone to be more proactive. While I was thinking about today’s post, I came across a story on a popular TV show that dealt with depression…. only the lady didn’t have depression. In fact, she had pancreatic cancer! Her psychiatrist was seeing her for other reasons, noticed the change, and encouraged a follow-up with her doctor.

SIDE NOTE: Here’s a blog I highly recommend from Health Ambition that foods that contribute to depression.

Depression is serious on its own, but sometimes there are underlining medical issues that need to be considered (or ruled out) before anyone starts treatment for depression. We tend not to think about underlining medical causes for depression because, well – we tend to be busy people with varied stressors within our lives. Depression can happen or we can be hiding it for years, or we don’t want to deal with the stigma of seeing a mental health professional and then we decide to simply “live with it”.

I’m here to tell you, today, that simply “living with it” isn’t a good option because you deserve to address your happiness – or, in rare cases, an underlining medical condition!

I am GIVING AWAY online therapy consultations. I can help you discover what the online therapy benefits are and you get to test-drive my services and see if we are a good match. To learn more about me, my programs, and read my free blog- please click here:

How to channel your anger into energy

Some days are a challenge. Thursday was one of those days for me. I was jammed up in traffic at least three times, held up because of a banking error (that I made), discovered more banking errors by the time I got home that I then needed to deal with, and missed an appointment.

With each succeeding annoying event, my anger went up a notch or two.
To sum things up:
Rough day. Traffic. Late. Money exchange (ARRRRRRGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!)

I felt powerless! I needed to do something with this anger – not just let it fester! When I got home, I used a method I learned from Martha Beck  – find some non-abusive way to voice my anger.

Not everyone reacts to feeling powerless the way I do.  And if you’re one who does every so often, and if it drains you, here’s how to channel it into energy:

  1. Give it a voice – Getting choked up and keeping quiet doesn’t work – it doesn’t calm us or resolve anything.  You may not be able to say it in a bank or to anyone who happens to be close, but can always write it down, or say it in private, like in your car, or say it to a thoughtful friend.  When you do, say it in detail, complete with the expletives and roars. You’ll know when you’re done when you get to the heart of the matter – to what caused it in the first place.
  2. Discover the injustice – anger is always a response to a perceived injustice.  When you give yourself a voice, you will uncover what you feel is unjust.  Simply uncovering it may be all you need.
  3. Once you uncover the injustice, you have 3 options – loyalty, voice or exit (in the words of Albert Hirschman)
  • Loyalty, keeping quiet. People who feel a lot of impotent rage tend to act loyal and keep silent.  While this may look virtuous, if you’re legitimately angry, it will end up souring your connection to others in the name of peace.
  • Voice, expressing your anger. This is harder, but generally more productive than loyalty. To do this productively, you need to both say what’s bothering you and provide a solution.
  • Exit, when things are toxic. The best option in a situation that is badly dysfunctional. It may be a toxic relationship, exploitative job or other unjust situation. Anger in these cases is a friend that gives you the motivation to leave. It may mean actually leaving, or simply emotionally detaching if it isn’t realistic to leave at that moment.
  1. Channel the anger into action – anger can be a powerful motivator to act.  It doesn’t have to be huge – taking small steps can be effective in freeing your heart from rage because with that action, you regain your power.

Inside Out” – on Anger and other things

Quote of the Week
When angry, count four. When very angry, swear.
-Mark Twain

What Is PTSD?

The myth around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is that only those who have been to war or beaten and abused as children can end up with it in life. In fact, there are many people who don’t even believe that PTSD is real.

Yes, it is real and NO you don’t have had to go war or have been the victim of childhood physical abuse to suffer from PTSD. Thus, I want to clarify a few things about PTSD in today’s post.

First, let me repost the clinical side of PTSD. PTSD symptoms are grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

Second, PTSD can come from any type of trauma. Emotional abuse, sexual abuse, childhood bullying, witnessing a violent crime, being a teller at a bank that has been robbed, etc. We all have different levels of tolerance, which impacts how we cope (or don’t cope) with various scenarios.

Now- on to the symptoms:

Intrusive memories

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:

Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

Negative feelings about yourself or other people
Inability to experience positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Changes in emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
Always being on guard for danger
Overwhelming guilt or shame
Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
Trouble concentrating
Trouble sleeping
Being easily startled or frightened
If you feel that you have more than half of these symptoms, it is time to seek out help. No, pills are not the full answer. Prescriptions can help with sleep or help with anxiety, but cognitive therapy is a very important element of recovering from PTSD.

I’m sorry – please forgive me!

Yesterday, one misplaced word in an email I wrote hurt the feelings of a close friend. Even though that was never my intention, it happened.  I immediately made my amends and apologized, learning at a deeper level about the sensitivity I need when writing an email.  There is an art to apologizing that goes way beyond making amends.

We apologize to be polite: I accidentally bump someone on a crowded bus, and I say “sorry”, meaning it. (If I don’t really mean it, that’s still me being polite, but now it’s not very meaningful).

We apologize as a sign of respect: I apologize for having to leave early, I promised my daughter… .

Apologizing has always been a social norm, and with the growth of social media, with people making blunders in front of millions, it’s become more visible.

And as apologizing becomes more visible, so does faking it.

Christina H in Cracked  lists what she believes are the top 6 fakes: “I regret”, when I don’t actually regret anything; “Mistakes were made”, indicating no one in particular, except God or the Universe; apologizing for someone else, when we can really only apologize for ourselves; I’m sorry, but… , refocusing on the excuse or the other guy; pre-emptively apologizing to pre-emptively absolve myself of all wrongs; and finally, apologizing for something not at all bad instead of for the thing that hurt. Humans can be so creative!

Yet, it’s when we have hurt someone and want to make it right, that apologies have the power to change everything. This is when it’s most important to get it right.

Dr. Gary Chapman in his book Things I Wish I’d Known Before Getting Married gives us a 5-step way:

  • Express regret – if we mean it, it shows that we are aware we have caused pain. “I’m so sorry I spoke that way. I know I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m really sorry.”
  • Accept responsibilityspelling out what we did. “I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did.”
  • Make restitution – showing that we want to make it up to the person we’ve hurt. “I want to make it up to you so that we can be friends again.”
  • Expressing the desire to change behavior – making it real, showing with your actions that you mean it. “I lost my temper because of something that happened earlier; I need to take care of that right away instead of take it out on you.”
  • Requesting forgiveness – the final essential step, because before the apology is seen as sincere, we need to ask for forgiveness, without any expectation that it will be given.

Apologies, given and accepted, have the power to change the world by restoring damaged relationships – between two people, between groups of people, even between nations.

Oprah apologizes to James Frey



Quote of the Week

An apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.
– Margaret Lee Runbeck