Monthly Archive: January 2016

Unusal Signs of Depression

Sadness, being tired, having no feelings at all – these are all obvious signs of depression. But, would you know how to spot unusual signs of depression within yourself or someone close to you? I’m listing the top three signs of depression below that aren’t common but should be considered!

#1. Being bored! One of the classic symptoms of depression is loss of interest or enjoyment. Most of us tend to picture that going hand in hand with feelings of sadness and loss. However, this can present to look like plain old boredom. When you start to drop activities until only the simplest and least demanding (watching TV, surfing the Internet, napping) remain, it could be a sign of depression.

#2.  Inability to make simple decisions. If you struggle with making mundane, everyday decisions, such as what to wear to work or what to make for dinner, you might really be depressed! The mental distress and low energy that come with depression can sometimes make these choices seem paralyzing and can send the person into a tailspin of anguish.

#3. Eating! Yes, eating. Unintentional weight loss or gain, particularly substantial weight loss in a fairly brief period of time, can be a sneaky depressive symptom. Decreased or suppressed appetite is a chemical side effect of depression. If you find yourself going from eating three meals plus a snack daily to eating only once or twice a day for no particular reason (or the opposite, bingeing resulting in significant weight gain) it may be depression.

Depression – it’s part of living

I found myself revisiting a situation that made me very sad, and spent some time feeling hopeless about it, as I so often do when I go there. Life presents all of us with these moments – moments, events, that we can’t control and that end something that was beautiful.Most often, it’s not a big thing; we end up in a funk: dissatisfied, un-energized, and unmotivated.  Sometimes it’s more profound.  Tony Robbins has some good advice on getting out of a funk that I’ve linked to below.  I want to talk about the deeper times.

First of all, being depressed is simply part of life. There are always things in our lives that we have no control over, and everything eventually dies.  These days in our Western world, depression is, indeed, seen as a disorder – a disease.  That’s unfortunate, because then it leads us to see being depressed as somehow wrong. It’s healthy to be depressed at times – it means that we are aware of a lack of control and the end of something of value to us.  Depression becomes a problem only if it continues over months.

Everyone experiences moments of depression; it’s unavoidable.  It’s not “abnormal” to be depressed. In fact, it is “abnormal” to never be depressed.

We can deal effectively with depression in four ways:

  • Acknowledge the loss.  The underlying sadness or anger needs to be felt.  If we don’t sit with these feelings, they will surface in other ways, possibly leading to chronic, long-term depression. Spend a few minutes, hours, or even a few days, processing the pain and anger, acknowledging the pain, and allowing it to run its course. It’s a way of honoring our loss and our own pain.
  • Move.  When we’re depressed, we don’t move.  Even our brains are sluggish. So help yourself by going for a walk, doing housework, watering your garden – gentle activities that get you physically in motion.
  • Connect. Connect with friends, family, and colleagues.  If this is too much, then connect with Nature – breath in the air, pet an animal, feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk.  Connecting is natural to us, and it brings us into the present, helping us to put our pain into context, supporting us through the process.
  • Finally, make room for something new. Nature abhors a vacuum, which means that what was lost will be replaced.  Acknowledging and honoring our loss helps us to make space for the new. It may help to create a personal ceremony – a kind of rite of passage – to make it “official”. For profound losses, I always include this last step, and it never fails to help me move on.
How to Pull Yourself out of a Funk
Quote of the Week

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life  that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit or contact me directly

When we’re triggered

A few days ago, I got an email from a colleague that made me angry. Not righteously angry – as I might be at an unjust act.  But simply by reading her words, I felt a heat behind my eyes and in my chest that told me I’d been triggered by the words.  Because I was familiar with this feeling, instead of lashing out, I let it sit and waited till the feeling had passed before responding. Whew! Another opportunity for apology and feeling lousy about myself missed!

Tibetan Buddhists refer to this kind of triggering as shenpa. Shenpa is sometimes translated as “attachment”, but Pema Chödrön in her book Taking the Leap prefers liking it to getting “hooked” – we hear a harsh word and something in us tightens, which then quickly spirals into blame or self-denigration.  Whatever it was that triggered us may not bother another person at all: it touches our particular sore place, and that sore place is the place of shenpa.

Self-discipline, coupled with self-acceptance and compassion, is one way of learning to deal with and be with shenpa.

For the Dalai Lama, self-discipline is a fundamental human value, because it helps us take charge of our lives and live responsibly. Self-discipline is really about taking care of ourselves.

But there’s a component to self-discipline that we can easily miss that weakens it’s effect and ultimate impact: whether our efforts include self-acceptance, or not.

Pema Chödrön tells a story – one we might relate to – about working hard, watching our diet, exercising daily, meditating daily. Then one day after years of being very disciplined in our lives, a personal disaster strikes, and we immediately fall apart.  All those years “don’t seem to have added up to the inner strength and kindness for ourselves” that we need to deal with the crises. The reason that self-discipline didn’t help might be because it was lacking in self-acceptance and self-compassion.

The next time you find yourself triggered, once you become aware of it, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Become aware. Notice that you’re triggered.  Identify it as such.  Simply sit with that awareness.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths.  And in that moment, with full self-acceptance and self-compassion, acknowledge where and how you are.  Take it in.
  3. Move on. Relax and move on in your day.  Acknowledge that being triggered is momentary and no big deal.

If you’re new at working with your own triggers, then you might not notice them before reacting.  Once you do realize what happened, that’s the time to practice compassionate self-discipline. At least that way, you will minimize a secondary shenpa that happens to all of us who react to triggers – self-denigration. Then with practice will come increased awareness.

And, once we unhook – Sally Kohn: Let’s try emotional correctness


Quote of the Week

“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.”
― Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly

Getting Healthy is a Team Sport

I was reminded this week by a friend who is going through stressful times, that physical health depends not only on eating well and treating our bodies well, it also depends on how well we feel.  For instance, I can eat three light and vegetable-laden meals a day, get in a healthy 10,000 steps, and a solid 8 hours of sleep, but if I’m also stressed and working 16 hour days, all that effort to maintain my physical health will eventually fail.  These efforts may delay the onset of something serious, but it won’t stop it.

Research shows that our bodies work differently when we’re stressed. In an attempt to conserve energy, our bodies when stressed convert sugars and carbohydrates into fats at a much higher rate than usual. The more we’re stressed, the more this happens.  When we’re in our 20’s and 30’s, we might not notice this as much as we do when we get into our 40’s and 50’s because we have energy to spare and can easily compensate.  But when we hit our 40’s, things change; it gets harder and harder to keep up and our health begins to break down. For this reason, medical experts call diseases caused by stress, such as type II diabetes and hypertension, diseases of slow accumulation.

One activity that can definitely help us in dealing with stress and poor health is to turn the effort into a community one. Humans are social animals. When we isolate, we increase our stress levels. So it makes sense to support ourselves in reducing stress and regaining our health with the mutual support of our friends.

Marie Forleo interviewed Dr. Mark Hyman on how getting healthy requires (i.e., not an option) working and connection with other people.

He found from working around the world that chronic disease is actually communicable, in that it’s a social disease.  Social drivers impact the prevalence of diabetes, obesity and other habits and available foods that ultimately cause disease.  Think of the last time you were out with friends – did everyone order a desert after? And if they did, did you too?  Probably, because we are influenced by who we’re with.
He therefore recommends three things:

  • “Friend” power is more powerful than will power. Use your social network to get yourselves and your community healthy.  We can intentionally help each other live better lives: instead of meeting and sharing ribs and fries, with cake afterwards, why not support each other to eat well, exercise weekly, shop together.  Small groups who do this are more successful getting healthy than most people doing it on their own.
  • Live in a supportive area.  Studies show that just changing your zip code can influence your health.  Does your area support walking?  Are there grocery stores available where you can get affordable produce? It makes a difference.
  • Eat healthy. Food influences our immune system, our metabolism, and the way we store fat.  It affects all hormones, the bacteria in our gut – which regulates food processing. He claims that “By transforming food, you can upgrade your biological software literally within days”.

One thing we don’t realize is how close we are to health – you don’t need a doctor or a nutritionist. What you need is a mutually supportive team.

Sebastian Junger: Our lonely society makes it hard to come home from war


Quote of the Week

If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.
– George Burns


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly at

Starting fresh in the New Year – 3 ways

Last week, I offered a webinar for the first time.  One thing I discovered is that I have a lot to learn about doing webinars.  The topic was about 3 things you can do to help you when you’re stressed.

There’s an old Cherokee story about 2 wolves you may have heard: A grandfather was speaking with his grandson about the violence and cruelty in the world.  He likened it to two wolves fighting in our heart – one was angry and vengeful, the other was understanding and kind. The grandson asked which would win, and the grandfather replied – the one I chose to feed.

Leading up to giving the webinar last night, I experienced a lot of new things, including stress.  The following is exactly what I suggested you can do when you’re stressed, and what I did for myself that night, feeding that second wolf.

  • Get my head and feet back – by breathing out.  When we breathe in, we’re actually exciting our stress response system (our sympathetic nervous system); and when we breathe out, we activate our relaxation system (our parasympathetic nervous system, to be exact). Every time we breathe out, we relax our body.  And so what I did was to take a few deep breaths, taking twice as long breathing out as I did breathing in.
  • Give myself a smile, opening my heart. Once we’ve taken a few breaths and are back on our feet, then and only then are we ready to re-connect, opening up our heart and becoming available to the world around us by giving ourselves a smile.  Look at a photo of a loved one, hug a pet, send a note to a friend, hug a tree. When I do this, I become available and present.
  • Pause, giving myself inner space. This is easier said than done because when we’re stressed, our minds are in the future, worrying, planning, anticipating.  Pausing, doing nothing for a few seconds, expands us inside, gives us the inner space we need to act responsibly. When I take a moment to simply pause, I am able to experience my own naturalness.

These three things – breathing out, giving yourself a smile, and pausing, aren’t independent of each other.  We need to calm down before we can get into a better, more open place, and we need to be in that place before we can realistically pause.

In Pema Chödrön’s latest book called “Taking the Leap”  – she talks about how people need more than a private spiritual practice these days. It’s true that a lot of people have a spiritual practice to help them feel better in this stressed-out world.  But this stressed-out world is in trouble; it’s in crisis; and so these days we not only need to feed our own souls, we need to become leaders in our community.  What I talked about as the 3 brief ways, she calls the 3 qualities of being human – natural intelligence, natural warmth and natural openness.

Natural Intelligence – is when we know instinctively what to do, when we’re not caught up in hope and fear.
Natural Warmth – is our ability to love, have empathy, and a sense of humor, to feel grateful – it has the power to heal relationships.
Natural Openness – is mental spaciousness, giving our intelligence a chance to be able to tell us what it really knows.

When we cultivate these three things, we are creating a fresh new start for ourselves and by extension, our community.

Burning the Candle at Both Ends 

What I just talked about is something that will get us through a given situation, but won’t reverse or stop chronic stress.

Why?  Because chronic stress took a while to become chronic and so for that reason alone will take a while to reverse.  It’s something that is a result of being stressed more often that otherwise, and putting our bodies into a state of stress-readiness that it was never made for – over and over, for sometimes a number of years – is a problem.  There are consequences from doing this, just as there would be with any complex machine or organism that is constantly over-worked.

I want to go to a quote from Kris Carr that pretty much sums up what Burning the Candle at Both Ends is all about: If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again.  All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.

To learn more about my program, click here


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly

A Kind and Balanced Beginning

So much has happened in 2015 that’s painful – both in the world and, for many of us, in our personal lives.  During these times, it’s helpful to cultivate kindness andbalance, creating an intent to support us through 2016.

Compassion is another word for kindness.  It’s often defined in one of two ways – to “suffer with” another; or to “feel sorry” for another.  The first means to empathize with another person’s pain, connecting with that other at a deep, personal level. The second means the opposite – to distance ourselves from the other, effectively isolating from them. Compassion as kindness connects us to others  in an open-hearted way.  It can also connect us to ourselves, and as Pema Chödrön reminds us, compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.

Balance, according to Google, helps us remain upright and steady. In her Facebook entry How to Stop Making a Big Deal about your Problems Ms. Chödrön writes about balance as making a space within ourselves that both honors whatever happens and at the same time not making those events a big deal. She sees this as balance because it supports us through the rest of our day.

Beginning this new year with the intention of kindness and balance can begin with setting aside a few minutes a day:

  • Make space. Create a physical space for yourself that supports you in this daily intention.  I have a space in my living room where I go to every morning first thing.  It’s calm, open, and free of distraction.
  • Take time out. Give yourself the gift of a few minutes – 5, 10, 20, 40 minutes, whatever works for you, each day. Make it the same time every day, so that you’re less likely to be distracted by other events. I like to take some time first thing, before anything else distracts me.  It helps me shape the rest of my day.  It might also be the only time for letting thoughts and feelings surface that are otherwise conveniently filed away.
  • Cultivate openness. Be open to whatever appears – it may be the only time you can be so open.  Being present in this way lets you simply be with the feeling or thought, honoring it for what it is.

Being with ourselves in this way cultivates kindness toward ourselves.  If done daily, it also helps us sort out what is truly important, bringing us into a better balance, every day

You can learn to cultivate kindness and balance every day. I want to invite you to my free webinar, 3 Brief and Unusual Strategies to Manage Stress on January 5, 2015. You’ll be able to use these short, yet powerful, techniques anywhere to transform your day from stressed out to super, freeing yourself from that rock you might be stuck under.  If you’re interested , click here

David Wilcox – Kindness

Quote of the Week

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
-Lao Tzu


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations.
For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at