Monthly Archive: November 2016

Avoiding Stress Triggers During the Holidays

We all live and work during the holiday season, but many of us have the challenge of dealing with a lot of stress on our plates. The holiday season doesn’t make the triggers that amplify our daily stress any easier, either. Right now, I am running a “Burning the Candle at Both Ends” program, that is self-guided, at a reduced rate of $44. It is a great chance to learn how to be still and avoid triggers during the holiday season – well, in any season of life for the matter.

This said, here at The Joy of Living I have come up with a few things everyone should know about the holiday season and triggers for stress.  First, disrupted schedules will cause more than a simple annoyance, it is a big cause of stress and a huge trigger. Not being able to maintain your “normal” daily routine because of added obligations keeps us up later , gets up up earlier, and stretches us thin. Be mindful that you’re not the only person feeling the results of having too  much on your plate.

Also, excessive spending is a huge trigger of stress. It’s the season when it seems everyone is running up their credit cards or going nuts spending cash. If you have a history of excessive spending and grandiose gift-giving during hypo-manic episodes, you are clearly at risk for a stressful holiday season. Even if you don’t have this history, knowing you’re going over budget or not putting extra cash into a savings account can be stressful.

And thinking you have to feel joyful all the time this season, well this is a trigger for stress too.e. We all know how we’re supposed to feel at the holidays: alive with joy and filled with love. But a lot of us don’t really feel that way, in fact most of us are stressed out about seeing family and sitting down to a tense dinner. Being depressed during the holidays can add to feelings of isolation because we tend to believe everyone is joyful during this time when this is not the truth.

If you want some extra help without driving to my office this holiday season, it is available and at a discount. Simply click the photo below and learn how to destress this holiday season!


Relationships – the beauty and the horror

The only thing worse than being in a bad relationship for one year is being in it for a year and a day. -Dr. Phil

You may (or not) be a Dr. Phil fan, but anyone who’s been in a sour relationship would have to agree with him: no relationship is way better than a bad one. Dr. Phil was referring to a romantic relationship, but it’s true for any relationship – between father and son, work colleagues, boss and subordinate, even between teacher and student. Any relationship where the lines of communication have dried up, being replaced by manipulation and lack of trust can generate stress, depression, burn-out, resentment, and eventually, will lead to health issues.Most of us are getting ready for the holiday season, and even if you’re not celebrating, you’re likely impacted by it personally. The holiday season is a family time, and can be either joyous or miserable depending on who you’re with. This season, if you feel you’re going to be miserable or alone, try making one change – add at least one thing that lifts your spirits, like volunteering at a local shelter Christmas Day, or taking yourself and a friend to a movie.  Find some way to celebrate your life and the relationships that support that part of you.

Here are some Don’t and Do’s, some from Oprah, for developing and maintaining healthy loving relationships with partners, friends and family:

  • Don’t cling. This pertains mainly to romantic love relationships, but is true for all close relationships. It’s a myth that there is only one true love out there for each of us.  This idea drives us, out of fear of losing that extremely scarce person, to cling on for dear life. And that, in itself, will eventually lead to loss.
  • Don’t change yourself. If someone you want a relationship with has conditions that require you to change who you are, turn away. That person is telling you that they aren’t interested in you.  Sometimes it’s our family who want to change us; in that case, if you want to be with them, be with them, knowing that the connection can only go so far.
  • Don’t settle. If you get the feeling that a friend or lover is stringing you along, then they probably are.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that things will eventually get better.  They won’t.
  • Don’t bend over backwards. Healthy relationships include confrontation and compromise; we all have issues that sometimes need airing and changing. In a healthy relationship, we have plenty of chances to confront those issues and grow as a result.
On the other hand,
  • Do have fun. When we don’t cling to someone, we’re free to be ourselves, appreciate the other person for who they are, and be present for whatever comes up.
  • Do accept and appreciate yourself just as you are. When we don’t accept and love ourselves, we end up comparing ourselves to others, believing they’re somehow better than us simply because they aren’t like us, spending more time in jealousy and envy than in joy.  This will eventually drive others away, even if they truly care.
  • Do explore different relationships. Just as there isn’t only one true love, there are many different possibilities for intimacy and connection.  Ever time we openly connect heart-to-heart with another person, we flood our bodies with happy hormones, calming our system, bringing balance, and enhancing our longevity.
  • Do be open with your feelings and considerate of the feelings of others. “I need to speak my truth” has been too often said to hide lashing out in anger. Confrontation doesn’t have to be hurtful; most of us have reasons for what we do, and most of us are doing the best we can at that moment.  In a tense situation, remember the cliché of “Pick your fights”. Is this one really worth it?

Healthy relationships prolong our health and our life. They bring us joy and make every day something to celebrate and look forward to.  Unhealthy relationships can lead to chronic stress, isolating us and setting us up for serious stress-related illness, such as diabetes type II, cardiac failure and ulcers.

Ash Beckham: We’re all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up

Quote of the Day
A healthy relationship brings joy – not some of the time but most of the time. …
I know for sure that in the final analysis of our lives – when the to-do lists are no more, when the frenzy is finished, when our e-mail boxes are empty – the only thing that will have any lasting value is whether we’ve loved others and whether they’ve loved us. – Oprah
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

When You’re Not Thankful

It was Thanksgiving in the United States yesterday. People sat around their family dining tables and enjoyed one another’s company.  People shared reasons why they were grateful and thankful. It was all roses and rainbows. But what happens when you’re not thankful? What happens when life happens and you are left with a bitter taste in your mouth? The holidays are hard enough, so how do you cope when you feel like you have to fake happy?

First, know that it is OK to not be grateful. You shouldn’t ever mute your feelings. I knew one woman who had a child die. She avoided going to a holiday gathering with her family because she felt like she couldn’t fake being in the holiday season. She shouldn’t have had to fake anything. People would have understood her disposition. Her family being around her would have been better for her mental and emotional health than isolating. I think we sometimes assume people will not understand our plight, but usually if we share what were going through- outsiders understand and can release more often than not.

If you have a bitter taste in your mouth this month, don’t try to hide it. Speak about the taste and why it is there. Talk through what is troubling you. Go to the events as yourself and ask family to let you bend their ears. Talk about life. Talk about the support you need.  Talk about why you may feel jilted, distraught, or not like celebrating.  Don’t avoid but do address.

If you want some added self-guided help, ask for it. I am offering my Burning the Candle at both ends program at a deep discount right now (less than $50) if you use the code ‘Holiday’ and I am always open to start in-person or Skype sessions with you.

Remember, sometimes opening up to others about our feelings helps us more than we think!

That’s How the Light Gets In

Ever wondered if there’s any good to that side of ourselves that we’d rather not acknowledge?  Those aspects of ourselves that open us to pain and that get us into trouble over and over again? Like naivete, rigidity, control, depressiveness – they are endless.

Last week, an icon passed – Leonard Cohen.  Some think of him more as a poet than a song-writer. So much like Bob Dylan, he’s both to me.

He wrote about the beauty of our imperfections as humans. He was a pacifist and saw himself as a soldier. Cohen always ended his shows with a military salute, and when asked about this, he remarked, “I sing serious songs, and I’m serious onstage because I couldn’t do it any other way…I don’t consider myself a civilian. I consider myself a soldier, and that’s the way soldiers salute.”

In memory of what Leonard Cohen gave us, I want to talk about the value of our imperfections, or of our shadow side. When I first heard someone – one of my mentors – say there is a light side in our own shadow, I was confused.  Isn’t that something we should strive to identify and eliminate from our lives?  How can our shadow hold anything good?

How, for instance, can being trampled by shame be in any way good? Or hiding behind mediocrity? Or any of the ways we place our power and authenticity in the shadow? Each of us can identify our own ways. One of mine is shame – I can feel shame not only for something I’ve done, but even more keenly for something someone else has done.  I’ll feel embarrassed for them, and fall over my own shoestrings accommodating them for it, even to the point of carrying the blame for whatever created it.

Not my finest moments.  And yet, if I’m courageous enough to remain open as I fall yet again into the abyss of shame, I always find a bud, something growing in the muck of my shadow that eventually brings joy.  It may be a personal realization, or the impetus to do things differently from now on.  It may even be a softening of my heart when I see another go through what I go through.

The point is, if it wasn’t for those moments of darkness, I don’t think I’d appreciate the brilliance of the light.  And for that I’m grateful.

Leonard Cohen – Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack – A crack in everything

Quote of the Day
… I’d like to thank Leonard Cohen.
The book is named after an excerpt from his poem/song – Anthem. … I first used that stanza in my second book. When I contacted him to ask permission, … he got back to say he would give it to me for free.
I’d paid handsomely for other poetry excerpts, and rightly so. I’d expected to pay for this, especially given that at the time, six years ago, Mr. Cohen had just had most of his savings stolen by a trusted member of his team.
Instead of asking for thousands – he asked for nothing.
I cannot begin to imagine the light that floods into that man.

– Louise Penny, How the Light Gets In

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

Progress Not Perfection

The US election has come and gone; many are sad, shocked, angry, fearful; others are relieved.  I will refrain from talking directly about it, not being an American, even though I am affected by the result.  Instead, I want to talk about progress, because life doesn’t stop even in hard and imperfect times.

I was reminded of this from a short video I saw the other day by Marie Forleo  in it, she focused on how perfectionism can kill our dreams.  Life and growth and even happiness doesn’t depend on getting it right; it depends more on our attitude of being open to experimenting, and even failing.

Perfectionism will kill your dreams.  None of us are immune to this – we can all slip into it when we are involved on something we care about. Why? Because seeking perfection comes from procrastination and fear … to grow and really move ahead in our lives we need to fail over and over again, with a willingness to get back up and try something different until we get it.

Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird , when speaking on learning to write, recommends the shitty first draft as an indispensable phase of literary creation – or any creation. Reid Hoffman, an American internet entrepreneur, was speaking about business when he said: ”If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you launched too late!” Business or otherwise, with everything we do, the crucial thing to remember and measure ourselves by is our willingness to go ahead regardless of our fears or failings. And this is true for the next project or life event, and the one after that, and the one after that, right up to the latest current one.

Getting back to the US election, many of us feel we failed personally in some way – yes, even us non-Americans; that we missed something crucial. And indeed we did.  So, take a moment to grieve, then get back up and try something different. It’s all part of living, growing, and progressing.

A voice of reason, applying to both inside and outside the United States – Robert Wright: Progress is not a zero-sum game.



Quote of the Day

Progress isn’t guaranteed. It’s not inevitable. It’s something that has to be fought for.
-President Obama


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



Holiday Depression; 3 Ways To Deal

Holiday depression is very common and that is sad. People who are battling depression have to deal with an abundance of financial pressure and holiday music – even overly cheery people. So, how do you deal with living in the real world and dealing with holiday depression? Well, I have come up with 3 way to help you cope- but I always recommend talking with a professional to see if added professional help may be needed.

First, check in with your own expectations.  By setting realistic goals and expectations, you can avoid disappoint and fueling further feeling of sadness. By reaching out to friends, sharing tasks with family members, finding inexpensive ways to enjoy yourself, and helping others are all ways to help beat holiday stress.

Second, turn on the lights. The winter time is normally dark and dreary. By upping the wattage n your light bulbs, you can take a small step to make things appear more brighter from your perspective. Make sure to remind yourself to put the lights on and shine them brightly so when you are home, you’re not sitting in the dark. This is a small step but it does help.

Finally, travel to a place with warm weather. Yes, warm weather and (again) more light. Your environment does impact you and if you already feel sad or blue, a dark and cold environment is only to to reinforce those feelings.  If you travel to the beach in a tropical environment, your perspective and feelings about the holidays may change – but remember, depression is a clinical condition. You may need further professional help in some cases of holiday depression.

Worry a little and be happy

These days, especially among mindfulness advocates and practitioners, worry is something we try not to do. Worry is always about the future, and if we’re worrying, we’re not in the present.  Since the only thing that really exists is the present, worry seems to be a fruitless waist of energy.

But, at the risk of confusing chronic worriers, one of whom used to be me, some worry is actually a good thing. Worry is good if we use it the way it was intended: as a way of checking out reality against expectations.  Here are some examples of how worry can facilitate well-being:

  • Checking our side mirror and then over our shoulder before changing lanes, instead of relying on not seeing anyone in my mirror;
  • Double-checking the address of a new person I’m about to meet, thinking I may not recall it exactly;
  • Making sure my daughter’s recital begins at 5 and not at 6;
  • Going through my checklist of what to take to an important meeting, thus assuring myself I’m prepared.

All of these examples have one thing in common: the worry acts as a signal to make sure all is well. Then once I’m satisfied, I can relax and enjoy the rest of the day.

Worry changes from tool to problem when we dwell in worry. Then we tend to use it as a talisman to stave off anxiety – when we feel that, deep down, if we worry constantly, then the thing we fear might happen won’t. We say to ourselves: I’m worrying; I’m alert to what might happen and therefore on guard against it.  Or: If I worry about the worst things that might happen, then whatever happens, I’ll be prepared for.

When we worry like this, the worry takes precedence over everything else.  We forget that all it was, was a “what if” and treat it as if it already happened – just like we worried it would. All we really do when we worry like this is stressing our bodies and building up resistance to insulin.

Worry isn’t a problem-solver. It’s simply a smart tool to use to double-check we have the facts right.

Jack Garratt – Worry

Quote of the Day
Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

Pointers for Holiday Depression

Holiday depression is pretty common. There are big expectations, there are let downs, there is usually family fighting or some sort of isolation. All these raw and real emotions usually are backed by long-lines in the grocery store, overly cheery people at work and countless amounts of buttery cookies and holiday music.  It isn’t easy to deal with depression in general, but then having to work through it when everyone is “up” for the holidays, well that can be too much to handle on your own. I highly suggest everyone take on at least a weekly mental health counseling session, even one online or self-guided, to help cope through the holidays and deal with depressive tendencies.

The good news here, however, is that you can reduce stress and manage your depression during the holidays. I have put together some tips, listed below, to help you keep things in perspective as we head into the holiday season this November 1st. Remember, asking for help is empowering to your being so if you feel these tips are falling short when it comes to your personal situation, please seek out resources or contact me for help!


  • Revisit your expectations
  • Modest expectations – vs what you think they’re supposed to be like
  • Do something different – change things up – Christmas at a restaurant, or in a cabin; thanksgiving with popcorn and a movie
  • Get support – line up friends and activities – volunteer
  • Support yourself emotionally
  • Don’t assume the worst
  • Forget the unimportant stuff
  • Volunteer
  • See your therapist, if you have one
  • Take a break from perfection
  • Family / friend matters
  • Head off anticipated issues by being proactive
  • Get spouse/partner/friend to help
  • Let go of what you can’t control
  • Make new family  traditions – no gifts for instance
  • Figure out positive ways to remember loved ones not present – go to Mom’s favorite restaurant and toast her
  • Parties – don’t overbook or stay longer than you want; and do bring a friend
  • Gifting – get what you can afford and stop fretting about what’s perfect; try shopping online
  • Physical Self-care
  • Stay on schedule
  • Exercise
  • Eat well,
  • Drink moderately
  • Get adequate sleep

Just as you prepare gifts and food for the holidays, it is important to prepare for a change in mood, too. The holidays can bring a lot of trauma and drama up.  If you prepare, follow the tips noted above, and seek out supportive mental health services, you can find yourself swimming through the holiday season with a smile on your face and a jingle in your step!