Monthly Archive: August 2016

Good boundaries make good neighbors

The most compassionate people Brene Brown met over the past 16 years of research were people who also had good boundaries.  Having good boundaries means knowing clearly what is OK and not OK for you and letting others know it.  If we don’t set boundaries, we allow people to get away with behaviors that aren’t OK with us; then end up feeling used, angry and resentful.

Setting and maintaining good boundaries are a sign of self-love and self-respect. Self-love because, like the instructions we see on every air trip, we need to take care of our needs first before we can properly do anything else, including taking care of our loved ones. Self-respect because by setting good boundaries, we are respecting our own needs and limits.  And since how we treat ourselves mirrors how we treat others, we are also showing respect for others when we set good boundaries.

Good boundaries establish something that may surprise you: they are the necessary foundation of real compassion, empathy and vulnerability.  Compassion is the belief that we are all connected with each other, and that this is rooted in love. Empathy is what we learn that helps us communicate this connection and love to others. Being vulnerable is being open-hearted. Setting and maintaining good boundaries frees us from worrying about how others may invade them. They simply won’t cross our boundaries, and this means we are free to see what others do and say in a benevolent light – that they are doing the best they can at that time.  We are free and open to explore, to empathise, to be compassionate and open-hearted in a genuine way.

With good boundaries, we are free to be ourselves in any situation.

If you have trouble maintaining your boundaries, here are three things you can do to built effective ones.

  1. Know your bottom line. This may involve some soul-searching; it isn’t always easy or straight-forward to determine what we are willing to tolerate and what we’re not willing to tolerate.  Sometimes it takes experimenting to find out.  And once you figure it out, it may change with time and under different circumstances. Whatever it is, learn to know it and stick to it.
  2. Be flexible. Having said “stick to it”, circumstances and context aren’t something we can ignore when making decisions.  As you become comfortable with knowing and holding your boundaries, you will also be able to alter them as needed.  Why?  Because there are different kinds of bottom lines: some are based on other more fundamental ones.  For instance, using a pretty frivolous example, I never drink coffee after 2pm; I’m pretty good at sticking to that, but sometimes it simply doesn’t make sense – if I’m enjoying a really good meal and always like finishing that kind of meal off with a really good espresso. Completing a really good meal in a satisfying way is more important to me than not having coffee after 2pm.
  3. Feed your spirit first. Self-love and self-respect are essential for living well and happily. Making sure that your spirit is happy before doing or agreeing to anything will always lead you in the direction of openness and freedom.

Getting on the right track on the first date – Steve Harvey

Quote of the Day

Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change. (feel free to substitute woman and her for everyone and their) – Shannon L. Alder

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

How Habits work, and how to break them

Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days to establish a new habit. A habit is some activity we’ve done so often that it has become automatic. It might be brushing our teeth every night and morning, or eating slowly. It might also be grabbing something sweet whenever we’re upset, or staying up late playing video games when we’re over-tired.
Habits save us time and brain energy and help us live effectively, if they’re good ones. On the other hand they can also complicate our lives and interfere with our effectiveness if they’re not so good.
Charles Duhigg. His new book The Power of Habit discusses the science behind how we form habits.
What he found is that every habit goes through a three-stage “loop”. At first there is a trigger or cue that signals the brain to go into automatic mode. Next is the routine – the actual behavior. Finally, there is the reward – something that our brain likes that helps perpetuate the habit loop.
This happens in the part of our brain called the basal ganglia, located at the base of our brain. This is also where we develop emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions happen in a different part of the brain, but as soon as they become automatic, that decision-making process goes to sleep. This is the real advantage of habits – it means we can have a lot of mental activity that we can devote to other things.
Setting is also part of the behavior, because it in large part contains the cues. So if we want to change a habit, change the setting. Stopping smoking while on vacation, for instance.
This gives the biggest clue to how to change a bad habit. Let’s say you want to stop emotional eating. The cue or trigger in this case would be an event that makes you feel bad – a particular aggressive person, late night loneliness, whatever it is that creates in you a desire to eat emotionally.
First, develop a list of alternatives to emotional eating; then place that list in a place that you would encounter when you go to emotionally eat. It might be eating more suitable foods, like celery; or paying a bill; or going for a short walk. If this list interrupts the path of the old habit, it is more likely to take its place.
Next, begin to change the habit with an activity that’s very easy to do. The easier it is, the harder it is to say “no”. If you had prepared ahead of time bags of carrot and celery sticks, this is easy and quick, and begins a new habit in no time.
Finally, it’s important to reward yourself, to celebrate. Remind yourself verbally that you did well, allowing yourself to feel good about breaking something that was really doing you no good.

Perseverance – the key to success

On a recent Marie Forleo blog, Bryce Dallas Howard talked about her own perseverance. In her business – in any business – it takes a while to do well. She tells a story about her and her grandmother, a professional actor: When Bryce was 16, she went to Vegas with her grandmother, who liked to play the nickel slots.  Gambling nickel slots reminded her of acting because of it’s craziness.

One day, her grandmother was playing and losing, and asked Bryce if she knew the average number of auditions a working actor needed to go on to get a job. Bryce guessed 10; the answer was 64. This helped Bryce “get” what the truth was in achieving success. This helped her keep things in perspective when she began auditioning, sometimes going for many auditions before getting a job.  Bryce’s agent was amazed that she had stuck it out. Many good artists don’t – they become unreasonably hard on themselves, telling themselves that they must be no good.

Bryce discovered that when you’re hard on yourself, things start falling apart because something in your heart sinks when you think you’re the only one rejected so much.

The simple fact is that it takes time, especially if you’re starting from scratch.
Have you given up on a dream because you thought the odds were too great for failure?  I have.  I wanted to be a ballerina when I was a child, and gave that dream up as a young woman because I thought it would be too hard to get anywhere. Yes, the odds were great for failure, but others had similar odds, and made it.

Susan Minarik calls perseverance the “power key to success”. It’s “the ability to keep on keeping on, even when our efforts are met with disappointment or failure, is an ability that can make all the difference in the world.”
But to persevere, we also need to keep four things firmly in mind:

  • Anything worth having is going to take time and effort to get;
  • We learn through making mistakes, so expect many mini-failures along the way; even a few maxi-failures;
  • Not everyone is going to agree with you or be your fan, so focus on those who are; and
  • You are definitely worth it!

I remember my failed dream now and again to remind myself that perseverance eventually always pays off. If we have a dream, and we have a talent, all we really need is perseverance to make that dream come true.

Nick Vujicic – Perseverance

Quote of the Day
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. – Maya Angelou


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

Dealing with Work Stress

For today’s blog topics, I want to conquer how to deal with stress at work. We all face it. Even when we do what we love, there are times when our job will make us feel like we are going under, caving in, and falling into a pressure cooker.

First, could you recognize the signs of being stressed at work? Ask yourself if any of the following apply to you; Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed; Apathy, loss of interest in work; Problems sleeping; Fatigue; Trouble concentrating; Muscle tension or headaches; Stomach problems; Using alcohol to cope.

If you have two or more of the above “symptoms”, then the following techniques can help you. Some of these techniques I elaborate on in an ore comprehensive manner during my corporate seminars.

  • Start moving. The best way to eliminate stress is to start walking. It really helps to clear the mind, regain focus, and the movement boosts endorphins within the body. It is a natural way to decompress and distress.
  • Work on what you eat. Too much sugar will add to feeling irritable while stressed and no one wants that. So, start with curving the sugar and the extra starch in your diet.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene; start with eliminating noise and light from your bedroom during the day. Use blackout curtains or a sleep mask, turn off the phone, and use ear plugs or a soothing sound machine to block out daytime noise.

There is no way to really prevent coworkers or bosses from causing you stress, other than finding a less stressful job. In the meantime, if you work on walking, eating right, and sleeping right-you’re off to a good start!

If it doesn’t work, I can always …

I remember sitting on a ferry one summer, about to get involved in something that would ultimately keep me busy for 3 years, talking myself into it with the soothing caveat that if I didn’t like it, I could always quit.

I did eventually quit, after I had put my time in and felt I’d done as much as I could.  That time, at least, I didn’t use my back door.  Because that’s what it was – that soothing voice in my head telling me I could always quit – a back door; a way of letting me off the hook.  Of always being one foot short of full commitment.

I know I’m not alone in doing this – I hear it from friends and colleagues frequently – and sometimes about pretty important things, like marriage, buying a house, moving to a new city.  Choices that will shape our lives and change us forever.

There are ways of catching ourselves when we’re about to bail like this. Here are three that may save you future grief, and eventually bring you joy:

  • Know what truly moves you. Sometimes we end up in a situation that is more important or meaningful for someone we care about than it is for us.  This can cloud our judgment so that we my mistake our desire to be with our friend for a desire to be there for any other reason.
  • Love yourself enough to treat every choice as important and worthy of your full attention.  I believe that some of us, me included, can minimize and dismiss important decisions by first dismissing ourselves. We aren’t that important; we should consider ourselves lucky to have this opportunity. This kind of inner voice is a false voice from the past and has nothing to do with reality. In every instance, we are worthy of the best possible we can attain, and that begins with our choices.
  • When in doubt, go with your gut. It takes time to know what your gut is telling you, especially if you have a powerful mind.  Your gut knowing comes from your years of experience and living. If there’s a conflict between your head and your gut, go with the experience of your wise inner self – your gut.
Eartha Kitt – Love and Compromise

Quote of the Day
The changes we dread most may contain our salvation. – Barbara Kingsolver

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

Feeling trapped / Breaking free

People feel trapped all the time. They don t need the brick and the mortar and the bars to be in prison. That’s from Tim Robbins who played Andy in The Shawshank Redemption.

It’s why so many people love that movie, and why it’s been in the top 10 for years. In the movie, there was another sweet and endearing character called Brooks who had become institutionalized. He had given up any idea of getting free and had instead built his life around prison routine.  He was content. Everyone liked him.

Then one day he was released and found himself in a half-way house and working at a local grocers.  He no longer had any idea how to live with freedom. It terrified him, and he ended up taking his own life.

I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really: get busy living, or get busy dying. In the movie, Andy and Red got busy living, and Brooks got busy dying.

Brooks had become institutionalized; he had become dependent on a routine imposed on him by the world around him.  He’d lost his ability to face the unknown, having accepted the “bars” imposed on him, and in the process had forgotten how to live with change.

I’ve been there – not in prison, but in a prison of my own making: attempting to fit into a routine or structure not of my own making. So has Tova Payne of Tiny Buddah.  Tova wound up leaving one cage only to wind up in another, until she finally decided to break free of it all by deliberately pursuing freedom: she had seen a New Hampshire licence place that said Live Free or Die. When she did that, it changed her life. But it doesn’t end there, because she also discovered that she had to make that decision to live free over and over again.

What would a day be like if, the minute we woke, we deliberately chose to live free?  How would that day be different from a day where we didn’t make that choice?

Maximizing Positive Outcomes – Deepak Chopra

Quote of the Day
When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.  -Nelson Mandel


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


Investing In Child Mental Health

The sheer amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how children turn out, and a minimal effect on adolescents, according to the first large-scale longitudinal study of parent time to be published in April in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The finding includes children’s academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being. I, frankly, disagree and fault the study!

There are many other studies that prove spending time greatly impacts how children develop when it comes to emotional health and mental health. Ignoring a child, not bonding with a child, and simply not putting positive amounts of time into spending with a child does harm the child later on in life. This brings about trust issues, ability to work with other adults, the ability (or lack of) to form relationships with other people, and basic empathy are all hindered in adults who don’t have an investment of time from their parents.

Amy Hsin, a sociologist at Queens College, has found that parents who spend the bulk of their time with children under 6 watching TV or doing nothing can actually have a “detrimental” effect on them. And the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that children also need unstructured time to themselves without the engagement of parents for social and cognitive development.

As I continue to research and work on this topic, I am amazed at the amount of media “frill” articles that encourage not bonding with one’s child. One article even bragged that it has “10 Ways to Capture Alone Time” when raising a child. While healthy breaks are important, being there for your child sets up trust, security and healthy ways to interact with authority figures. So, what happens when there is no time investment? It can’t be that these children are turning into healthy, stable adults with no disbandment issues.

Children from birth to adulthood need time and attention and physical hugs and cuddles that are healthy from their parents. Sometimes parents become so anxious to raise a “successful” child that they overlook the importance of spending time interacting personally with their child or children, or -worse, they throw money and toys at them- not love. Interactive time is that spent with both child and parent fully engaged in an activity together.

With all the mixed information floating on the Internet, know that spending time is simply important. An investment of time in your child, from a young age, helps the  child feels important and loved. This investment also allows him or her an opportunity to model parent’s behavior. I also believe investing time can help the parent observe and learn about the child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to better guide them as they grown. Plus, the child has a chance to voice their thoughts and feelings and the parent and child develop a stronger bond.

All this said, isn’t it better to invest your time as a parent into your child then risk the adverse impact of doing the opposite later on in life? If you want to watch a great documentary on the investment in time and the human spirit when it comes to children, click here for the trailer to The Drop Box.