Monthly Archive: April 2016

Coping with Trauma & Depression

Do you really know how something impacts your life? Many people who are suffering from childhood or adult trauma do not realize the impact the trauma has on their day-to-day lives. The fact is, trauma impacts our lives in very real ways and there are far more negative ways of “coping” with the related symptoms than there is positive public information on the subject, which is why I am writing this blog post.

According to the Support Alliance, When we witness or experience a traumatic event, such as an act of violence or a natural disaster, we are affected mentally and emotionally. Whether we are personally involved in the incident, have family or friends who are injured or killed, are a rescue worker or health care provider, or even if we learn about the event through the news, we will experience some sort of emotional response. Each of us will react differently and there is no right or wrong way to feel. The emotional response each person has is a normal part of the healing process.

The emotional responses that are typical are isolation, anger, or drinking / drug abuse. These are all unhealthy but common responses. What people don’t talk about often is the depression associated with trauma. And while many of us understand why someone who has been witness to, or the victim, of trauma would be depressed- we often don’t knowledge it or offer help! The number of traumatic events you have previously experienced may also affect your response, leading to severe depression, which is why I stress that people pay attention to their specific symptoms, and be ready to seek help if symptoms should persist or worsen.

Rates of depression are very high in people who experience PTSD. In one study supported by the National Institute of Mental Health , 40 percent of people who had PTSD were experiencing depression one month and four months later. Early intervention is extremely helpful in treating PTSD and depression. Rates of depression are very high in people who experience PTSD. In one study supported by the National Institute of Mental Health , 40 percent of people who had PTSD were experiencing depression one month and four months later. Early intervention is extremely helpful in treating PTSD and depression.

If you’re thinking your depression is “just feeling upset by what happened”, think again. Depression is associated with trauma and can make all the other symptoms associated with trauma and PTSD worse.  I am available to help out with either or both depression and trauma. Please click here to set up your free consultation.


Our body – the sacred temple that houses our spirit

Do you love and appreciate your body?

This topic came up in conversation with a friend, who reminded me that our bodies are precious. Without our body, we have no chance to learn and grow, or to connect with the world around us.

Most of us have no idea how we’ve cut ourselves off from knowing how we are physically.  Our focus is always on how much we can do or get done, and that can mean ignoring the back pain, or tight calf, or stiff neck … until it turns into something that can’t be ignored.  Then, if you’re like most of us, we deal with it, returning to ignoring our body’s messages once more the moment we feel better.

Our lives are filled with priorities, responsibilities and obligations. Some days are non-stop; we can easily fall into over-stressing ourselves physically. More and more demands are placed on us. We are trained to ignore our body’s signals; to “power through it”. Mind over matter.

And yet, there is only so much our bodies will take before breaking down.  Like the engine that it is, it needs regular maintenance and care; and like any other engine, if it runs continuously, it won’t be long before it begins to show signs of wear and tear.

Learning to sense what our bodies need at any moment is a skill that we as young children knew, then lost as we grew into teenagers. We lost the connection to the subtle signals our bodies give us – the “nudges” and whispers that are saying “slow down”, or “take a break”, or simply “stop!”.

Our body is the sacred temple that houses our spirit.  Without this body, we have no chance to grow and evolve.  It deserves our utmost respect and care.  On those days when I listen, I might hear “slow down!” from that twinge in my back.  If I listen, I’ll still get done what’s essential, finding a better, less stressed way to fulfill my obligations, responsibilities and priorities.

If you’ve lost that sacred connection to your body, and want to regain it, then get reconnected by trying this.

  • Greet your body every morning when you wake. Take a few minutes to feel out how it’s doing and what it needs. Discover how those needs can be met. It will be subtle.  For instance, when I woke this morning, I was reminded that yesterday was physically taxing because my neck felt stiff, and my body didn’t want to move quickly.  So I took things a little more slowly than usual, giving my body time to ease into the day.
  • Check in with your body at least three times during the day.  Set a timer so that you don’t forget.  Rebuild that habit you once had as a child.
  • Take a moment to connect before sleep, in gratitude for how your body has supported you today.

Warm-Heartedness for Healthy Mind, Healthy Body – Dalai Lama

Quote of the Week

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
-Jim Rohn
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

Are You Really Stressed?

One of my clients recently took my Burning The Candle At Both Ends program.  The client took it because we do personal sessions and basically was just trying it. Surprised, the client’s response was  that there was former notion that life was stressful. The client simply thought that the stress (or chaos) was life.  Would you be able to spot a stressful life if you knew nothing other than living in chaos and tense situations all of the time? Most people have become so desensitized to what is causing stress in their lives that they have NO IDEA that they are stressed out.

Below are 5 Hints That You May Be Stressed Out and NOT Know it.

1. You’re perpetually sick and just can’t seem to get over it. If it seems like every week you’ve got a cough, sore throat or a fever, you might want to blame your workload or being pulled in too many directions within your personal life.

2.  You can’t focus on normal stuff. When you’re too overwhelmed to focus on what’s in front of you, or you can’t remember simple things like a coworker’s name, it could be a sign you’re overworked. Research has connected long-term exposure to excess amounts of cortisol to shrinking of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center.

3. Back Issues. If you’ve got knots in your shoulders, a stiff neck or your lower back cramped up after a long day of work, it could be the constant of a job or personal situation, not just the position you sit in during the day. If your back pain developed after an accident or emotional trauma, it could also be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Institute of Health recommends talking to your primary doctor, as many people aren’t able to heal their back pain until they deal with the emotional stress that’s causing it.

4. Lack of Sex. While you or your partner might not be aware of it, stress and tension are the leading causes of erectile dysfunction or disinterest in sex. If your sex life is off, something within your life is off too.

5. Bald Patches. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease brought on when the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing small round patches of hair loss on the scalp. And yes,this disease is brought on by being stressed.

Want to know more about identifying stress in your life? Please contact me!

Boosting Happiness on those down days

It’s been the trend for several years now to see depression as genetically-based – something we could take a pill for that would relieve our symptoms.  But according to the latest research, scientists now admit that they can find no gene that can account for depression.  Researchers are also finding that antidepressants are effective about 30% of the time, which is the same as that of a placebo effect.  In other words, antidepressants simply don’t work.

The startling fact is that depression is on the rise.  People get depressed when they are worn out and begin to feel that things will not get better.  They lose hope of getting out from under – increasing debt, too many responsibilities.  It’s a real issue for many of us; we all have down days.
For those down days, here are 4 things you can practice that will decrease depression and boost your happiness (some courtesy of Linda Esposito).

  • Know it’s temporary. Life is never a straight line; it’s organic, which means that it has natural ups and downs.  And that means that whatever is happening now will change.  So if nothing else, wait it out, because things will get better.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.  In it, write down three things you are grateful for today; make one of them specific.  Then, write down one thing you didn’t like about the day, and how it kept you stuck.
  • Chose to re-focus.  It’s natural to be focused on something. In fact, it’s essential, and we can either focus on what brings us pleasure and energy, or otherwise.  Sometimes, we do need to take time to feel pain, but we don’t have to dwell on it.  That’s our choice.
  • Savor the moment.  Take time throughout your day to really savor the moment – the air on your face, the feel of the ground, … whatever is in your space right now that touches you.

How a Bout of Depression Led to Dwayne Johnson’s Career-Defining Moment

Quote of the Week
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
– Richard Bach

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

Walk Away Stress

One of the biggest questions that I am asked about, personal sessions and speaking sessions, is in relation to stress. We all have stress in our lives, but the levels are all different and so are our coping skills. One of the best ways, however, to diminish symptoms related to stress is to walk and to do so to music.  Music changes the brain waves in our brains and can help us boost our chemical levels. Walking, on its own, also helps to relieve stress, tension, and keep us in shape. Walking to music is like a double dose of vitamin C for our mental health. It helps so much, even if you walk for ten minutes a day- although, I recommend thirty minuets and at a reasonable pace.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” said philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Walking actually increases blood flow to your brain and the music helps change your frame of mind. Eventually, as you listen to the music, you will find time to  consider different aspects of your problems away from the distractions of your office or home. Creative ideas and solutions may flow more easily, or you may simply hear a song that reminds you of a time that was happier or less stressful. These memories and fresh ideas promote comfort and raise the dopamine levels in your brain and blood chemistry, helping you to further relax.

Walking also burns calories and makes your body move, promoting a natural tiredness when you arrive back home. This natural tiredness can lead to better sleep, better cardio health, and a calmer you at the end or beginning of your day. Walking to music may be one of the healthiest, most holistic, things you can do for yourself besides seeking professional mental health counseling. I highly recommend it. This said, if you have any underlining physical health concerns, talk to your doctor about alternatives to walking to music. You may have to swim to music or garden to music or crossword to music. Whatever the case, finding a healthy distraction that gets you thinking and moving a little is worth it!


Bipolar Moments – Some Relief

It is hard to work in a competitive environment when you have bipolar disorder. There is a lot to consider, such as stress and the different personalities, that can impact your health. In many cases, people who have bipolar disorder can actually have their line of work acting like a trigger (sometimes for years) without knowing it.

If you have bipolar disorder and you feel like work is too overwhelming, consider the following questions and how you may answer them:

Work duties
Required skills
Required education or training
Required license or certification
Typical hours
Working conditions (physical demands of the job, environment, and stress level)
Career path and opportunities for advancement

Are you considering pay vs. stress? Are you considering your work hours? Example; is the graveyard shift really appropriate for your symptoms? What about skills? Are you working in an environment that requires making quick, well-thought out and non-reactive decisions?

I always tell my bipolar clients, and the corporate companies I lecture to, that mental illness shouldn’t be stigmatized and that everyone has unique skills and set-backs. There is no set of answers to the points of considerations noted above that make one person with bipolar right or wrong for the job. Everything has to be compared to if a person with bipolar feels a certain job is no longer helping or hurting their lifestyle and frame of mind, which should also be discussed with a vocational coach and the therapist.

The best thing to do, if you are bipolar and looking for work or considering making a career change, is to understand that you have more options than setbacks and that no decision has to be made alone, which should offer you some relief. Still have questions? Please contact me for a free consultation. I am here to help.

Shame and Vulnerability – and Innovation, Creativity and Change

I’m no stranger to shame.  I’ve tried a lot of things, and often failed.  And every time that happens, I can feel the burning eyes of the judgment of others boring through me.  At those times, it’s a struggle for me not to make myself fundamentally wrong.

That’s shame – a soul-eating emotion, as Jung put it. Feeling that we are somehow fundamentally flawed; fearing this is so and living with this giant secret.

Vulnerability is the antidote to shame – being willing to making mistakes, to revealing our true selves, becoming open to failure and others’ judgments.

I know I’m not alone with my shame. Our society today has a lot to do with hiding our shame and vulnerability; and this is largely because we live in times of high demand and increasingly less return.  Most of us are in debt and worried about our future.  This leads us to becoming self-protective.  And when we become protective, we begin to hide our vulnerability.  When we hide our vulnerability, we lose the ability to be innovative and creative, or to embrace change.

Brené Brown talks about her research on shame, vulnerability and creativity in two ted talks Listening to Shame  and The Power of Vulnerability. She emphasizes in both of these talks that a fundamental truth about shame in our society today: So many of us feel deep down that showing our vulnerability is a sign of weakness. On the contrary, showing our vulnerability – our underbelly – is our most accurate measure of courage. Rather than being a weakness, it is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.

Whenever we create, we make something from nothing; and doing this isn’t at all possible without taking a risk and delving in the unknown.  We must be vulnerable to create anything.

Ms. Brown points out that vulnerability – and shame – is gender-specific in our society.  For women, shame stems from our expectation that we need to do it all, perfectly, and never let anyone know what it cost.  For men, shame is all about appearing weak; feeling that their spouse would rather they die on their white horse than fall off. Both are restrictive and kill innovation and creativity, as well as joy and fulfillment. If we end up falling short of this impossible ideal, we feel shame – fundamentally flawed and not worthy of love and connection.

Connection is the antidote – and to connect, we need to be vulnerable. Shame leads to addiction; addiction leads to isolation.  To break this cycle, we need to dare greatly, now! Show the world who we really are, and connect.

The Man in the Arena – Teddy Roosevelt (full text below)

Quote of the Week

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
– Anon

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
-Teddy Roosevelt


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

Sadness or Depression?

In my last blog post I talked about the difference between sadness and depression. I want to explore this popular topic a bit more today. What is sadness?  It is defined as follows:

the condition or quality of being sad.
“a source of great sadness”
synonyms: unhappiness, sorrow, dejection, depression, misery, despondency, despair, desolation, wretchedness, gloom, gloominess, dolefulness, melancholy, mournfulness, woe, heartache, grief; informalthe blues

Depression is defined as follows:

feelings of severe despondency and dejection.
“self-doubt creeps in and that swiftly turns to depression”

So, what is the difference? Clinically speaking, depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors in pervasive and chronic ways. Depression does not necessarily require a difficult event or situation, a loss, or a change of circumstance as a trigger.

When making a diagnosis of depression, at least five of the following symptoms must be present:

  1. A depressed or irritable mood most of the time.
  2. A loss or decrease of pleasure or interest in most activities, including ones that had been interesting or pleasurable previously.
  3. Significant changes in weight or appetite.
  4. Disturbances in falling asleep or sleeping too much.
  5. Feeling slowed down in your movements or restless most days.
  6. Feeling tired, sluggish, and having low energy most days.
  7. Having feelings of worthless or excessive guilt on most days.
  8. Experiencing problems with thinking, focus,  and the ability to make decisions most days.
  9. Having thoughts of dying or suicide.

Being sad is usually the result of an event or life trigger. Sadness is temporary and healthy, where depression can be a genetic predisposition or caused by underling medical issues (aging, post-pregnancy), or feelings of sadness without the trigger.

When I speak to groups about depression and sadness, anxiety and the workplace are often involved. It’s important to inform peers about depression and sadness if you notice a problem and then offer help. Understanding and providing tools and resources is always suggested. Want to know more? I am available to speak at your next corporate event.

Depression Warning Signs

People come to me often because they feel anxious. What they don’t understand is that a lot of that anxiety is rooted in depression. How many of you feel anxious? Do you also feel like you may depressed? We tend, as a society, to speak about anxiety a lot and ignore depression. Ignoring depression is serious. I speak to my corporate groups often about the challenges associated with depression- more so, by not addressing it.

Do you know the warning signs when it comes to depression? Sadness or downswings in mood are normal reactions to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but depression is much more than just sadness.

Traditionally, the signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
    Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

And sometimes depression can be caused by the life changing events that can initially start off as leading to emotions like anxiety or sadness. The problem is, if these feelings go unaddressed, depression can turn into clinical major depression. The risk factors for this are loneliness, lack of social support, recent stressful life experiences, family history of depression,  marital or relationship problems, financial strain, early childhood trauma or abuse, alcohol or drug abuse, unemployment or underemployment, and health problems or chronic pain.

As you just read, chronic pain can either be the cause of depression or a symptom! Depression is not anything to fool with. I speak with corporate and individual clients about this subject matter on a daily basis and I am willing and ready to help you or your group.

What’s a Leader Worth?

Being a leader in our own group or community, be it at home, at work, or anywhere, has become a buzz-word that we all hear.  This idea of leadership can mean so many different things that I thought it would be worth trying to nail it down.

Michael Blanding recently looked at leadership value in his article on the latest research on good bosses.

It should come as no surprise that, just as with good bosses, good leaders can have multiplier effects for everyone around them. Researchers at Harvard Business School have verified what we all suspected – that a great boss (including a great leader) enhances everyone’s productivity, performance, and personal sense of satisfaction.

Psychologist and author Daniel Goleman popularized the term Emotional Intelligence in his book of that name in 1995. From his research of effective leaders, he discovered that good leaders all have a high degree of emotional intelligence; that their effectiveness depends much less on education, intelligence, or even good ideas than it does on this single quality.

He defined Emotional Intelligence as “the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” This encompasses at least 5 qualities: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill.

How might we enhance our own leadership qualities from what Goleman says?

  • Self-awareness: the first step in any personal growth is awareness.  Without it, nothing else is possible, because we simply don’t know what we aren’t aware of.  As an example, if you’re having a bad day and everything seems to be dissolving into chaos, take a moment and consider what part, if any, you played in that.  Were you worrying over something and not really available?
  • Self-regulation: this can sometimes be translated as discipline. What it means is our ability to control our own impulses, in a relaxed and present way (vs. never saying what’s really on our minds – something that might lead to heart problems down the road).
  • Motivation:  The ability to keep ourselves motivated and engaged, and as a result, influence others in this way.  It’s different from drive, which can be blind; and it’s different from attempting to instill motivation in others directly, which can be manipulative. Motivation keeps us from slipping into inertia, which can waste valuable energy and time.
  • Empathy:  Brené Brown defined empathy as “feeling with people”. Empathy includes an ability to see something from another person’s perspective, staying out of judgment, recognizing emotion in others, and communicating this recognition. It fosters genuine connection with others.
  • Social Skill: A nice-to-have for some of us, and often the one thing most of us distrust, because we’ve learned that it can hide so many evils. Even so, if it’s genuine, then it can be a powerful communication tool that operates on mutual respect.

The Dalai Lama has often said that discipline is key to happiness, and self-discipline is based on our awareness of what moves us, of what’s important to us, for living well.

Empathy vs Sympathy

Quote of the Week
All religion teaches the virtues of love, altruism and patience, while showing us how to discipline and transform ourselves to achieve inner peace and a kind heart. Therefore, they are worthy of our respect. – Dalai Lama.

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