Monthly Archive: October 2016

Healthy body – healthy cosmos

When I look at the state of the world today, I see chaos:  in political changes, the falling apart of established treaties, the local work situation, even house prices and the weather.  It seems we hear one thing – that everything is settling down and the economy is good – and witness quite another.

When I begin thinking of these things, I know I can either feel overwhelmed and helpless, or turn my focus onto something I know I can do. That one thing begins with me – how I am in my world.

Tich Nhat Hanh reminded me of this in his recent quote: Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos.

Keeping myself healthy takes daily effort and commitment.  I’m reminded of a young person I met recently who either overdoes or underdoes everything (not that I’ve ever done that!) – he either overworks until he pulls a major muscle, or stays in bed, not eating, isolating from his friends and the world.  At his age, he can get away with that self-abuse much longer than I can at my age.  But eventually, his own lack of self-care will translate into his inability to be present with what’s going on around him, and therefore his inability to make good choices that impact him and those he cares about.

What keeps people healthy? Being happy and contented. And what makes this possible? Good, solid relationships.

Robert Waldinger, 4th director of the long term study of Adult Development at Harvard made this point in a recent Ted Talk, the founders of the study asked the question: What if we could study people from the time they were teenagers into old age, to see what really keeps people happy and healthy?  They were able to study men over a period of 75 years, beginning with 724 men. About 60 men are still alive and participating; and they are now studying the more than 2,000 children of these men.  The men were tracked in 2 groups – the first were sophomores at Harvard; the second were a group of boys from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods.

Throughout the 75 years, these men were interviewed, their wives and children interviewed and observed, their medical records scrutinized.  The clearest message they got was this:  good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period. Conversely, loneliness and isolation is toxic.

The second lesson: the quality of our close relationships matters.  Living in the midst of conflict is very bad for our health – possibly worse than being isolated. When looking at men who had reached middle age, and trying to predict how they would be at 80, the researchers found that it didn’t matter as much what the person’s cholesterol levels were as how satisfied they were in their relationships. On days where there was physical pain, those octogenarians that were in satisfying relationships reported being just as happy as they were on better less painful days, while those who were isolated reported magnified pain.

Third, happy relationships protect not only our bodies but also our brains. In general, our memories stay healthy longer.

Being human and busy, we mostly look for a quick fix – and building relationships isn’t quick.  Many of us focus on diet and exercise, sometimes to the exclusion of the people in our lives.  But in reality, focusing on building happy relationships is more long-lasting in terms of health than anything else. Yes, caring for our physical is important, but how we live with the rest of our fellows is the foundation.

Happy in Denmark – people helping people


Quote of the Day

There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that. -Mark Twain


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



3 Triggers of Holiday Depression

Yes, the holiday season starts within a week and it is not uncommon for people to have to deal with holiday depression or the holiday blues. While some of us can’t avoid feeling depressed or down during the holidays, there are some triggers we can avoid that will help us not be so impacted by the holiday season.

First, know that you can’t avoid stress but you can change how you deal with it during the next 2 months.  I truly believe that by applying mindfulness to stress — deep breathing, awareness, meditation, yoga, visualization — we can interrupt the damage that stress causes to our system- which does inflict depression upon us.  Start making a plan to remind yourself to breath, meditate and practice yoga when feeling extra stressed and depressed this holiday season.

Second, know that you don’t have to stay around toxic people just because it is the holiday season. Yes, this is why people send greeting cards. If someone is emotionally abusive or simply likes to stir the pot or criticize you during family gatherings, avoid them. If you can’t avoid the person at a party, don’t go. You have the option to always decline an invitation for the betterment of your mental health, although you don’t have to say that is the reason. Pick and select your parties with a critical eye. If you know toxic people will be there waiting to judge, skip the event and the stress and then the depression.

Third, don’t soak up the booze. The next 2 months are not a pass to drink all you want or eat all you want. The after effects will make you feel worse about your body, your appearance and possible addiction issues / challenges. So, if you can, keep everything in moderation. Overdoing it with booze and food- especially the cookies- can lead to sugar highs and lows and weight gain or emotional reactions that aren’t good for us, make us regret things, and then these leftover feelings add to the depression. Stay positive and keep everything in perspective and moderation.

There is no magical answer to avoid depression during the holiday season, but you can know your triggers and how to avoid or handle them so you can be less stressed and less depressed.

Midlife – Crisis or Refinement

“Midlife” is a term that keeps getting redefined because we live so much longer and healthier.  It’s now supposed to cover between the ages of 45 and 65, but that’s likely going to change soon.  For one thing, people at 45 aren’t really into midlife yet: many are still settling down and deciding what they want to do with their lives. For another, more and more of us are opting not to retire at 65, or even at 70: partially for financial reasons, but also because we can and do want to continue working.

True, our energy levels aren’t the same as when we were 45, and we need to work a lot smarter to accomplish anything with that diminished energy, but overall, we can do what our parents and grandparents couldn’t.

I was reminded of this from an article by David Lawson – he defines a Midlife Crisis as simply a developmental crisis that can happen during midlife.  Developmental crises cause abnormal changes, and can happen at any age – pregnancy or adolescence, the death of a loved one, divorce, for instance.

Midlife crises are different for men and women.  Research shows that menopausal women do not experience any increases or changes in anger, anxiety or depression during menopause. In fact, most women feel more fulfilled at this time of their lives – feeling more assertive, confident, energetic and sexually freer.

Men, on the other hand, do experience a loss that is often traumatic for them – the loss of vitality that comes with age. We increasingly hear about men during midlife quitting their jobs, leaving their families and buying sports cars.  But in reality, most men deal with this crisis through quiet introspection, and generally adjust without making dramatic changes.

In truth, midlife crisis is simply another event that can test us. Martha Beck reminds us that these and all crises come in two levels:  they either disrupt our lives for anywhere from a few hours, to days or months or they turn into something worse and last longer.  In modern military English slang, these are, respectively, snafu’s andfubar’s.  The first stands for “situation normal all f****d up”; the second stands for “f****d up beyond all recognition”. How we handle a snafu can often determine whether it gets resolved or evolves into a full-blown fubar.

Snafu’s are daily annoyances that can be pretty disruptive – a flat tire, losing your keys, getting hopelessly jammed in traffic when you’ve got to be somewhere important; for mid-lifers, moving from a spacious house into a tiny apartment, or moving on from a long-term unsatisfying marriage to single independence once more. Even if the crisis seems positive, it’s disruptive and can be hard to handle.

For most of us, when we hit a snafu, we automatically put on the breaks, stiffen up, and act as if all is well.  Meantime internally, we’re freaking out, unsure of what to do and how to be.  Animals, on the other hand, do the opposite: when they end up in a minor crisis, they openly freak out, getting it out of their system, mobilizing them out of one situation and into a hopefully better one.  In a crisis, our bodies are wired tomove, not stand still.

So next time you find yourself in the middle of a snafu, get yourself to a place where you can let it all hang out for a few seconds. Have a good cry, or a good scream. You may find that your focus has returned and your capacity for getting through this minor crisis has strengthened.

Viola Davis – how she got through midlife crisis


Quote of the Day

I finally figured out that not every crisis can be managed. As much as we want to keep ourselves safe, we can’t protect ourselves from everything. If we want to embrace life, we also have to embrace chaos.
-Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Breathing Room


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

Burn-Out; What To Do!

We all suffer from burn-out now and then. No one likes to talk about it, so we tend to suffer in silence. Well, guess what- you don’t have to anymore. Suffering in silence can lead to isolation, depression and more of a feeling that you’re burnt out and unable to make a come back to the ‘normal’ you. I am sharing 3 tips below for avoiding and/or overcoming burn out. These are tips that I share in my professional speaking commitments. If you’re interested in learning more about having me come speak to your professional organization, please click here:

The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD describes job burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” Yes, I agree 100%. So, the first thing you have to consider when dealing with burn out is frustration. You may feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter that much anymore, or you may be disillusioned with everything. If frustration is unusual for you, address it. Instead of sitting down and crying or feeling bad for yourself, put yourself in a time out and have an internal conversation. Play detective and really interview yourself as to why you are feeling frustrated. Make sure to write down the answers so you can see the results in black and white. Understanding the source of frustration will not only help you discover if you are burnt out, but discover if you need to address anything else, too.

Burnout and chronic stress may interfere with your ability to pay attention or concentrate. When we’re stressed, our attention narrows to focus on the negative element that we perceive as a threat. If you feel this way, start making yourself walk for at least 15 to 30 minuets. Physical activity will help to clear the mind and acts like oil when we emotionally feel stuck. If you can’t walk, make sure you do some type of physical movement to get the positive vibes flowing and your mind pointed in a different direction.

Finally, ask yourself if you are tired all of the time. A sign of burnout is when you feel tired all the time. Exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical. It’s the sense of not having any energy. If this is how you feel, first seek out medical advice. There could be underlining physical problems as to why you feel tired. If the doctor rules out anything medical, you will have to address your personal and/or professional life. Maybe you are spending too much time working or too much time driving around the kids when you could be resting. Once you do take a look at your commitments, you probably will have to address when and where to cut back so you aren’t burnt out and too tired.



How being depressed is hopeful

Dr. Peter Breggin is a rare bird – a psychiatrist who does not believe in drugs.  He has been a psychotherapist (and psychiatrist) for over 45 years.

He never gives psychiatric drugs to people who are depressed – there are too many warnings on these drugs, and could very well make them feel worse.

He believes, as I do, that depression is a total loss of hope. When we have hope, we think we have a future, love, companionship and connection.  Hopelessness is a loss of all this.  The loss of hope may have begun in childhood or later in life, but the one measure that can predict recovery from depression is hopefulness.

Yes, there is likely a chemical imbalance in the brain, but that is not the cause – just another result of the loss of hopefulness.  Therefore, the most fundamental thing to help someone – and to help yourself if you’re depressed – is to build a hopeful relationship. A loving and supportive relationship with another. If possible, discover where you lost hope, and then seek help to unravel that time in your life, re-adding hopefulness into your life and re-taking charge.

There is a truism that once we realize it, we realize we’ve always known it: that we can only get what we seek; and so this means that if we want to enjoy life, we must seek what we love to do. It’s something we need to take charge of, not something that will necessarily come our way otherwise.

Being depressed can actually be a hopeful sign, because it means you still have feelings: that you hate where you’re at means that you know where you want to be. Your feelings mean you have a passion and a huge capacity for life that has been thwarted and inhibited by life circumstances.

If you’re depressed, then see if you can find the passion that’s been buried under pain and disappointment, and find the help you need to unearth and revive it. Rediscover what you’re missing, what you’ve lost, what blocks it. It’s in each of our hands to discover how we want to live and then to do just that.

Mona Lisa of the Dust Bowl


Quote of the Day
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.


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


The 6 things you need to develop to live a successful life

A number of weeks ago, I heard an interview with Brendon Bouchard. He was introducing his latest book High Performance Habits. The book is a summary of a 3-year research project looking at why and how high-performance people do what they do.  He defined High Performance as Sustained, long-term success.

He discovered some key things that all of the people he interviewed had in common.  These people were all highly successful, not only in their business but also in their personal lives.  Much of what Bouchard discovered has been said by others, probably forever, but in his gathering it all together, he’s created something powerful.

He identified 6 habits that were true for every high performer he interviewed. I’ve put them in my own words and as I understand them. Here they are:

  1. Show Up. That’s right. Show up – daily, weekly, monthly.  Do what needs doing, and don’t skip it! Turn this way of operating on a daily basis into a habit that you learn never to drop.
  2. Balance your life. Balance is about living well emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and sexually.  This is something I learned in Shamanism, and now it’s coming into modern use.  Without this kind of balance, we lose energy, and simply aren’t able to show up all the time, when we need to.
  3. Clarity. High performers define the feeling they’re after, like “overall contentment” on a daily basis: not having a feeling of contentment for a split second, but how, in general, they want to feel regularly.  How do you get there? If you know how you want to be and feel, you can begin to define the kinds of activities that will get you to that state. For instance, I want to feel light-hearted and full of hope; and know that the kinds of things that will get me there are focusing on what’s truly important and always including time with those I love.
  4. Positive self-talk. Bring that inner elder to the surface so that she can guide you openly and powerfully.  For instance, every day, I decide what I need to do, then I have a talk with myself. Like: Maryanne, you really need to focus on getting this document out, so make some relevant self-contracts – this is completely doable and once you’re finished, you know you’ll feel fantastic.
  5. Manage transitions. Take time when you’re switching from one set of tasks to another to reset your intentions. Take a break, let go of the current focus, and set the next intention.  For instance, once I finish my newsletter, my next task is usually to see a client.  Before I can see that client, so that I am 100% present with her, I take 10minutes.  Often, I’ll cup my eyes with my hands and simply sit there, breathing and relaxing. It really works.
  6. Stop striving and start thriving. Full engagement, joy, confidence – those are the three things high performers feel as they work.  They don’t feel stressed, striving for something they don’t yet have.  They’re happy and engaged.  They’re thriving, right now, in the present moment.

I encourage you to get a copy of his book, and see how you can apply what he’s found in a way that works for you.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Secrets to success – Richard St. John

successful life

Quote of the Week
Find a purpose to serve, not a lifestyle to live.
― Criss Jami, Venus in Arms

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at

3 Ways to Reduce Worry at Work

If you have anxiety, it doesn’t go away simply because you punch-in at work. Worry about personal problems at work is the biggest reason productivity at work goes down, so it is worth your while to do everything in your power to reduce anxiety and tension in the workplace. I know, easier said than done.When I speak to my corporate groups about worry at work, I always start out offering tips to help and then we dive more into the methods, reasons and specific details from there. To help you, the reader, start to get a hold on your worries at work, I am noting the same 3 tips to vanishing worry at work below that I do offer to my corporate speaking groups.

#1. Repeat the worry. Yes, I am telling you to worry but in a healthy way. If you’re worried about your kids, address the worry. Say to yourself, “I’m going to allow this space to worry and I am going to ease the worry by sending a quick text.” Address and then problem solve right away. If you can’t text, say a prayer or go into the bathroom and do a quick meditation. The point is to allow yourself the worry but then allow yourself room to address and ease it to.

#2. Make it a point to focus on how you breathe. You may notice that when your body is tense and full of worry, you hold your breath. Focusing on breathing is a common but effective technique for calming the nerves. Concentrate only on breathing in and out, beginning and ending, breath to breath, moment to moment.

#3. Put yourself on a time-out. When kids act out, we often give them a time-out. Sometimes we have to self-assign this practice. If you feel your worry is turning into an anxiety attack, excuse yourself. It is OK to go for a walk. It is OK to have to use the bathroom – even if you go into the restroom to cry it out and then collect your thoughts. The point is, you can and will get through the anxiety attack but you have to give yourself space to let it run its course. We are all human and we all worry. There is no shame in quietly giving yourself a time-out to deal with fear and emotion as long as you can pull yourself back together and be professional. When the worry starts to interfere with work, that is when you may need added professional help.

Can You be Driven and Embrace the Moment?

Embrace the moment, a phrase made popular by Tich Nhat Hanh and others, is something most of us think is a good way to live most of the time. I was listening to a clip from Marie Forleo about how you can be driven and zen at the same time and wasn’t quite buying it. Not to put down what she was getting at, which is to embrace the moment, but I’m looking at it from my perspective; from that perspective, whenever I’m driven, no matter what state I think I’m in, it isn’t in the moment.

Being driven, according to the online dictionary, means to be controlled or propelled by something. It has an external control and a compulsive quality that makes it irresistible to the person who is driven.

Most people I know have a dream of how they want their life to unfold.  Some of these people are also ambitious – focused on making their dream a reality. But not everyone is driven to make that dream come true – focused on nothing else, determined to push through any obstacle that may stand in their way. I can be that driven, and when I’m in that place, I’m not anywhere in the present space, or in the moment. I’m in the future focused on the end result, or in the past, making sure nothing that had been a problem remains a problem.

Not everyone who has a dream is driven.  And this is the point. Mindfulness – living mindfully – is the antithesis of being driven.  Tich Nhat Hahn says that embracing the moment, living mindfully, reduces suffering and promotes healing.

Here are three daily practices that can help when we find ourselves driven:

  • Begin with a focus. Choosing what we focus on can greatly change how drive influences us. influences us.  For instance, if I chose to focus n being healthy, then it’s not likely I’m going to stay up until 2am working on a deadline.  Instead, I’ll find ways of getting it done that don’t require any sacrifice to my health.
  • Meditate. 10 minutes in the morning can set up your entire day.
  • Practice momentary mindfulness. Every so often, learn to pause and be mindful for a minute.  Some people do this by setting a timer.  There’s even an app called a mindfulness bell that you can set to ring at random intervals.

Tich Nhat Hanh on Mindfulness


Quote of the Week

I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live. -Tich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

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

Speaking Of It…

When I speak to corporate groups, social groups, and write as a guest blogger (see my piece on PsychCentral), I like to address the elephant in the room. That is stress. We are all busy. We all have personal issues. We all have to deal with family life, people at work who we don’t like, and we all worry about keeping a job. This said, many of us also have to battle anxiety, depression, illness, etc.  Sadly, I can’t write that there is an easy way to eliminate stress. There are too many variables. We can’t dodge stressful situations. We can’t control physical or mental illness. We can adjust the attitudes of other people. So, we have to learn how to cope.

In speaking with my groups, I address stress and then I teach how to cope for the real world. There are ways to help ease how you handle stress and the amount of stress you come into contact with. Again, these tools will not eliminate stress- but they do help! So, what are they? I am listing them below;

  1. Look at stress like you would look at a client with a challenge. You have to identify the stresses you can and can not control in you life. There is your starting point. Once you identify the stresses you can control in your life, you can start to make a plan to eliminate these stresses from your life. For example, if your neighbor is constantly causing you stress over a barking dog, avoid interactions with him. If you leave at the same time everyday and he or she grabs you to talk to you about your barking dog, leave earlier or later. Avoid the conversation and the needless stress if you can’t stop the dog from barking.
  2. Walk. It seems simple enough, but it works wonders. After a week of walking everyday for 20 minutes, you will see what I mean.  Just about any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and burn away anger, tension, and frustration. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction to your daily worries. Walking helps the heart and the mind and it is low impact enough to be a good starting point.
  3. Learn how to say “no”. This is very hard for people, especially for women. We are taught at an early age not to be rude, and saying “no” is viewed as rude. Let’s just face it. But, you don’t want to end up so stressed out that your blood pressure is going up, you are tons of pills, and you shake inside because you simply don’t want to be viewed as rude, or your womanly instinct is to play the role of  a caretaker. Instead, I suggest that you know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is only going to lead to stress and even resentment. Say “no” because sometimes being a little rude is worth your health!


Soft focus

I’m hard on myself in many ways, both physically and mentally. It’s something I secretly take pride in – this ability to remain focused on some task for a lot longer than I should. It’s also something that narrows my focus and deprives me of opportunities that I could otherwise enjoy.

Here are a few every-day examples of what I mean:

My partner and I passed a restaurant that featured hand-made pasta.  We’d just been to a cooking class on making pasta and wanted to have a taste, so we sat down and took a menu. On that menu was gnocchi. Gnocchi was something we’d been talking about for a week off and on. By the time we sat down, I was over-tired and starving, and was focusing hard on only one thing: food. I saw gnocchi on the menu and immediately ordered it, totally forgetting what had brought us to that restaurant until it was too late.

I wanted naturally to experience as much of Italy as I could while there, with the result that I overdid it, stuffing as much of the experience into the short time as I could, and exhausting myself in the process.  Then, when I had a chance to spend some time with friends, I became ill and was forced to rest earlier than I wanted.

Here’s one that may resonate with you: every time I see my partner get flustered over his own issues, such as being on time, I find myself getting flustered for him.  There’s really nothing I can do, and yet every time I begin to narrow my focus to see what I can do to help.

Each time, I fail to notice my physical exhaustion and the narrowing of my vision; my desire to keep going over-rules my better judgment.

There’s a concept called soft focus that’s been around for some time.  I was reminded of it in a workshop I attended with Cathy Gray in the Gestalt Conference in Taormina.

In it, we were encouraged to take time to simply connect with our inner knowing, closing our eyes for a moment, and then with a partner, expressing ourselves through our hands.  For instance, These hands make things, and bring to life and reality what is in my mind and heart …. I create every-day things with these hands … I cook delicious food that I can share with people I love … I remember my mother and grandmother every time I do this … I can share my thoughts and values with others through these hands ….

We shared our hands with each other, and then our response to that sharing. And in so doing, enriched our mutual experience, building on our own self-knowing and creating something also out of the connection we made with our partner.  What we created together ended up being new, unique and unrepeatable.

This is soft focus. It creates a space for exploration and creation.  Soft Focus is really a photographic term that refers to a deliberate slight blurring of a photograph. We also do it with our eyes whenever we relax them – they actually flatten a little, blurring everything and widening our field of sight to the peripheries of our left and right. It’s meaning has been broadened to mean seeing everything there is to see, broadening our own focus. Tom Brown refers to it in his wilderness survival courses. Cathy Gray referred to it in her psychotherapy workshop.

You can tell if you’re in a soft focus by how you are connected with yourself and your environment – if you can sense your own body and are aware of all of your surroundings. You can also tell with a simple exercise:  hold your two index fingers out in front of your eyes, then slowly move then simultaneously to the sides of your head, keeping your arms extended.  In hard focus, you lose sight of your fingers; in soft focus, you don’t.

After the gnocchi experience, I made an agreement with my partner, that whenever he noticed me going into hard focus, he’d let me know, thus giving me a chance to become aware of it in the moment so that I can begin to change a habit that’s been with me for most of my life.

With this in mind, I began to slow down – deliberately; to let go of the list of what I wanted to do, and make room for moment-by-moment enjoyment.  In one of those moments, we were in a small medieval town called Tofia – steep, narrow streets, tall stone buildings on either side. We came across an old woman with two companions, laughing and talking. She was clearly in some arthritic pain, but together, the three of them cheerfully negotiated those streets with grace.

I could have missed that moment.

If you find yourself over-focusing, overdoing regularly, take a moment to soften your focus.  See if it makes a difference in your life.

Beautiful Soft Focus Music – by

Quote of the Day
She was attractive, but so was everyone in this kind of light; the longer the wavelength, the softer the focus. -Peter Watts, Blindsight

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