LifeTip

Pause, Breathe, Be

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In this fast-paced world, with all the expectations, deadlines, and responsibilities, how can we possibly find a spare second to stop and take a breath?  Between cramming for mid-terms, preparing our taxes for that dreaded date of April 15th, and making sure that all of our daily duties are complete - it can be rough trying to actually thrive, rather than merely survive.  How many of our daily interactions are missed because we become so focused on our to-do lists and “what if’s”? Ask yourself, when was the last time that you actually stopped to notice that little gecko scurrying across the sidewalk or that peach tree flowering it’s first bloom of the season?  I know someone out there is thinking, “give me 10 more hours in my day, then I could potentially think about paying attention to those little things.” In reality, though, would those 10 extra hours really give you the time to take in these things, or would you just find other tasks, worries, and duties to fill you time with?

Believe me, I get it!  Life is demanding and there are always things that need to get done – but at what sacrifice?  We run and run and run, hoping that all of our hard work pays off in the end yet we continue to struggle in even seeing a glimpse of that so-called “pay off.”  In turn, we develop resentment – resentment against ourselves, others, our jobs, our pets, our kids, our bills, and anything else that we can point a finger to.  All the while, we’re allowing ourselves to fall deeper and deeper into our own pit of yuck. I don’t know about you, but this is definitely a cycle that I don’t enjoy.

Even though we can’t always change our responsibilities or tasks, we can certainly alter they way in which we respond to them.  One question that I’ve found to be helpful is, “will the world stop spinning if I don’t get this done right now?” Unless the task at hand is cutting the wire on the nuclear explosive device, the answer is usually no.  There is always time for us to stop and take a breath. Breathe, re-center, and refocus our energies onto the here and now. Those 10 seconds could mean the difference between a good decision and a bad one, a healthy response and a malicious one, or a smile and a frown.    

Allowing yourself to pull away from the ‘yuck’ of yesterday and the angst of tomorrow will afford you the opportunity to see and experience that which is right in front of you.  Challenge yourself to stop and breathe; take in the beauty that is surrounding you right here and right now. In not taking advantage of the present, the gifts that are right in front of us will soon become the disappointment of yesterday.  Just breathe...


Glow, Grow, Glow: Befriending Your Inner Critic

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We are our own toughest critics” - This phrase is so widely used and understood, because we tend to be more judgmental of our own performance than others are of us. Whether or not this fact is true or the self-critique is accurate, it can feel true and accurate at times. The implications of self-criticism are unique to each individual... Perhaps self-criticism is a form of motivation or a preventative measure from becoming “lazy.” Perhaps self-criticism has become so much a part of our inner dialogue that it is automatically accepted as fact and prevents us from putting ourselves in seemingly anxiety-provoking situations. Maybe self-criticism falls somewhere in between (or outside) those areas. Whatever role your self-critic plays in your life, I invite you to draw attention to this part of your story and identify how it serves you.

Criticism is defined as the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes. The word criticism inherently has a negative connotation, noting that “disapproval, faults, and mistakes” often define this word. Rather than criticizing ourselves, I encourage you to experiment with using the term “feedback.” Feedback, rather, is defined as information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement. Feedback is inherently more neutral/positive and implies that there is opportunity for growth. By simply changing the word we choose to apply when reflecting on our own performances, we may be mentally and emotionally opening ourselves to the opportunity for growth and change.

When offering feedback to ourselves or others, I often encourage the “glow, grow, glow” method that I learned in my yoga teacher training. A glow is something we feel proud of and are able to acknowledge that we did well. A grow is an area we are able to identify that can benefit from improvement. The “glow, grow, glow” sandwich encourages us to begin our feedback with a positive self-affirmation and end with a positive self-affirmation. This supports a reworking of our inner critic to appreciate our strengths rather than focusing on our perceived shortcomings.

For example, I may judge myself on my performance in a social setting as awkward, shy, or unapproachable on the basis of my perceived lack of connection with others in that setting. True or not, my inner critic may be screaming self-judgments in my head. If I am to apply feedback through a “glow, grow, glow” sandwich, I might tell myself - “I am a good listener” (glow), “I can practice engaging more in the conversation, particularly on topics I can relate to” (grow), “I care about my relationship with others” (glow). The example above cultivates drawing attention to our strengths while offering areas for change.

Here are some helpful tips when giving yourself feedback using a “glow, grow, glow” sandwich:

  • Start small, practice often, and apply feedback to multiple diverse areas in your life

  • Practice mindfulness of disqualifying the positive when acknowledging a “glow” (it’s only a true glow when you maintain the idea that this is something you feel proud of)

  • Practice mindfulness of the emotional weight you place into your “grow” (your grow might feel more significant than your glows and that is OK - manage the amount of energy you focus on your grow and take your attempts for change one step at a time)

  • Be kind to yourself and practice self-care. Your inner critic might pop back up from time to time, perhaps you can give your inner critic a feedback glow, grow, glow sandwich

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

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Life can be hard, stressful, painful, and just downright unfair sometimes.  We all have so many pressures and expectations placed upon us as well as our own hopes and desires to be happy.  As we’ve all experienced, our day to day routines don’t always end in happiness and sometimes we just hurt.  Somehow, though, we’ve learned that we can’t show these signs of sadness and pain for fear of being seen as weak or dramatic.  So we add to our armor and spruce up our mask – getting our battle shields ready to protect us from further hurt while continuing to bury down our ‘yuck’ feelings. Why? Well because this is what we’ve learned, and this is what has been taught to us. I’d like to tell you all a different story and one that you may think odd coming from a therapist - sometimes it’s okay not to be okay.

Why do we work so darn hard to make sure that no one else knows that we’re hurting? What is it that we’re so afraid of? Vulnerability – the one magical word that can strike fear into the strongest of people.  When we take down our veil, we open our hearts to potential disapproval, dismissal, and invalidation. For some, it only takes one experience of this for them to tell themselves that vulnerability is unsafe and therefore, guards must always be up to protect them from the pain and ‘yuck.’  Others learn from society – men who show emotion are weak and women who cry are hysterical (not the funny kind). So the shields go up and the masks become fixed to our faces. We brace ourselves for the day and begin our inner monologue: “no one’s going to see how I’m feeling today so I’m safe.”  All the while, our hidden feelings and emotions pile up inside, eating away at our happiness and sense of self-appreciation. The days become weeks which turn into months which turn into years, all the while we sing the same song to ourselves - “Put On a Happy Face.” Of course the gray skies are gonna clear up, but they don’t stay clear forever.  

Boy that’s a downer, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, my purpose in writing this isn’t to put you all in a funk and pour salt into your wounds. I’m trying to highlight something that we all do and the cycle that we all get ourselves into. We wake up, start our day, put on our mask, and hope that nothing bad happens. When that something bad does happen we either react to it or we bury it down deep, adding it to the already immense pile of ‘yuck.’ Rarely, though, do we allow ourselves to embrace those icky feelings and authentically share with others that we’re not okay. What would it be like for you if you were to share those feelings and tell someone, “hey, that really hurt my feelings”? Pretty terrifying, huh? Do you think that this might change your cycle? Perhaps that one act of vulnerability could decrease the amount of armor that you put on and release some of that ‘yuck’ that is stored up inside.

Maybe sharing your feelings with others seems too scary right now.  I can appreciate that. What would it be like if you shared your feelings with someone who is less scary? What about that person that stares back at you in the bathroom mirror? I’ve written in previous blogs about my love of journaling. Now when I talk about writing in a journal, I’m not referring to that fluffy pink journal with the gold lock in which we write about our latest crush or the hottest song that’s on the radio. I’m talking about an outlet in which you write down whatever is on your mind – your innermost thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sources of anxiety/depression. This is a place where you can ‘dump your yuck’.  A place to get those feelings down on the page and remove them from your body.

One of the beautiful things about therapy is that we have an opportunity to ‘dump’ all of this hard stuff in the therapy office so that we can feel lighter and release the heaviness of our yuck. Journaling provides the same opportunity. Although a journal isn’t able to provide verbal feedback or validation of your feelings, it is able to capture the weight of your thoughts and trap them within the pages of your journal. This type of journaling isn’t meant to serve as a historical record in which you go back after a few months and re-read what you’ve written to reminisce about the memories captured. It’s a place to release the heaviness in your head and your heart. Once inside, the thoughts, feelings, and experiences are to be closed in and barricaded by the covers of the journal. It’s not necessary to go back and re-read previous passages, because you might run the risk of re-injecting this yuck into your head and heart. Write and close the book.

We all experience those heavy and painful emotions, and we all know what it’s like to be weighed down by the ‘yuck.’ By embracing those feelings for what they truly are, we take the first step in lightening their heavy load. Acknowledging and accepting the ‘yuck’ doesn’t make us weak. Much to the contrary, it’s empowering and tremendously strong to speak of and/or write about that heaviness. Removing our masks, barriers, and armor allows us to truly hear ourselves say, “sometimes it’s okay not to be okay.”

It Is What It Is: Acceptance as Empowerment, NOT Resignation

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Often times we are confronted with situations in our lives that we are forced to accept for one reason or another. For example, we do not have agency over who we are related to, the fact that we have to attend school, the age we are, or the way others behave and react… The list goes on and on. The idea of accepting these somewhat unpleasant realities is extremely challenging: we might even find ourselves resisting situations that we cannot change because they feel so intolerable. In reality, resisting the inevitable causes us more emotional pain and decreases our ability to be effective in the areas of our lives that we can implement change. So how do we accept these unpleasant, intolerable, and sometimes distressing circumstances?

Acceptance is a process rather than a single event. It is first important to acknowledge what it is that we find challenging to accept and furthermore identify our emotions toward our reality. Validate yourself for feeling the way you do about this situation. For example, “it makes sense that I feel disappointed that my family member is not supportive of my decision to switch schools, because I would like my family to feel proud of me.” Validation is a crucial part of accepting reality, as it allows us to feel and express our true emotions.

You might next look at this situation and identify what is “set-in-stone” and CANNOT be changed. From the example above, we cannot change how our family will react to our choices, nor can we change their opinions. Then, take a look at what is malleable and CAN be changed (even if in a very small way). Perhaps that means we can reframe our expectations, find another source of validation (from ourselves or other supports), and practice assertive communication strategies with family members. Rather than focusing our energy on what cannot be changed, challenge yourself to play around with the more flexible areas of your circumstance. This is the space that we can work with and experience change and growth.

It is important to note that acceptance does NOT mean that we are okay with our circumstance. We may go through the process of practicing acceptance and still experience distress around what cannot be changed. Implement strategies that help you to tolerate what emotions come up for you around this (i.e. self care, grounding techniques). Embrace the areas you can make change in to be most effective in your challenging circumstance and practice strategies that allow you to shift perspective, change, and grow.

I challenge you to experiment with the process of acceptance. Notice where you are resisting an unpleasant reality, and identify where you can can be effective in changing your circumstance. Remember, reality acceptance is not easy and takes practice. Be kind to yourself if it doesn’t work the first, second, or third time. Practice self care and come back to your intention with reality acceptance.

Accept what is, and embrace what can be!

5 Simple Ways to Practice Mindfulness Everyday

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We’ve all read the articles and heard our friends talk about mindfulness. Sometimes, it seems like a trend that will just pass. Hopefully, this is one trend that is here to stay. The benefits of a mindfulness practice are numerous - better sleep, reduced stress, increased positive emotions, improved attention, the list goes on. Who doesn’t want those benefits in their life?

So, what exactly is “mindfulness?” Brené Brown’s definition states mindfulness is “taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. Mindfulness requires that we not ‘over-identify’ with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity.”  Zen master Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Don’t those definitions sound lovely? Less attachment to negativity and less judgment… I’m in!

I often incorporate mindfulness practices with my clients to address anxiety and depression. However, I often hear clients reflect on how difficult it is to just sit and “be” in the present moment when they are feeling so low. Below are my recommendations for those of us who either struggle to sit still and empty our thoughts or those who have busy and/or hectic lives with constant distractions (anyone have a toddler at home??). Try incorporating one mindfulness practice each day. Even if it just takes 10 seconds, the consistency over time will have positive impacts, I promise!

  1. 5 Senses Pause: Take a moment and just name (silently in your mind) what each of your five senses is experiencing. This doesn’t take long and is a concrete way to check in with the moment. This is great for grounding when you are stressed or even solidifying a memory you wish to keep. I did this during my wedding ceremony (when my mind wanted to drift to the awkwardness of so many eyes on such an intimate moment), and to this day, I can remember how my husband’s hand felt in mine.

  2. Intentionally Brush Your Teeth:  The next time you brush your teeth, notice each sensation as you brush each tooth. Direct your thoughts only to the task at hand. If you mind drifts, be kind to yourself and simply bring your mind back to brushing. Notice the sensations you feel. Bonus benefit - a sparkling smile 😁

  3. Listen with Attention: Next time you step outside, pause and see if you can notice all the sounds around you, whether near or far. Try not to label the sounds but simply take in the sound.

  4. Box Breathing: This one is especially good when you feel your emotions rising to an unpleasant state. Take 5-10 box breaths. A box breath is simply inhaling for 4 seconds, holding that inhale for 4 seconds, exhaling slowly for 4 seconds and then holding the exhale for 4 seconds.

  5. Mindful transitions: On a busy day when you’re going from one task to another, take a couple of seconds to end one task and begin the next. Simply put, acknowledge to yourself where you’ve come from and where you’re going. An example might be to take mental note in between tasks, “Okay, email to my boss is sent;” take a pause and a deep breath to finalize the task, so to speak, and then give yourself permission to move on to the next task, leaving the last one behind, “…and now I will make dinner.” If you notice yourself ruminating on a task you’ve let go of, simply come back to the present moment with a gentle reminder: “I’ve finished that already, there is no more I can do; now I am ______.”

The most important thing to remember when beginning (or continuing) a mindfulness practice is to be kind to yourself. Even meditation teachers with decades of experience will tell you that their mind wanders. It is not an indication of your effort, your motivation, or your ability to have a wandering mind. That is simply your mind trying to take care of you and protect you from perceived danger. Though often unhelpful, the intention is good. We simply have to build the muscle of mindful attention to teach the mind we don’t need protection from danger most of the time.

Leave New Years Resolutions in the Past. This Year Reset with Intentions!

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Naturally at the start of the New Year we often think about our “New Year’s Resolutions.” Resolutions can vary from setting out to accomplish a specific goal or making a commitment to change in some way, shape, or form. The New Year seems to be an organic time to reflect on our past year and look forward to the next. We might take an inventory on what we accomplished (or didn’t), and assess how we might want to be different moving forward. While setting New Year’s resolutions can be a wonderful way to create personal and professional goals, it may also set precedents that can be unrealistic, sometimes difficult to measure, and hard to manage during the unexpected turbulence that life seems to throw at us. Because of this, I invite you to re-frame the idea of establishing your resolutions into intentions.

I first must credit a yoga instructor in the Austin community whose class I was fortunate enough to attend on December 31st. She spoke of intention setting in the New Year and inspired me to reflect on how setting an intention, rather than a resolution(s), can influence our mental and emotional well-being. An intention is a state of mind that symbolizes a dedication to following through with purpose. The idea of committing our year to purpose rather than tying ourselves to any particular goal, can be a liberating and intentional way to cultivate an open mind about changing goals throughout the year while maintaining the consistency of following through with our ambitions utilizing a mindset of intention.

I am not suggesting abandoning the process of taking inventory on the past year and creating meaningful, inspiring goals for the New Year. Goal setting and living with intention are not mutually exclusive; actually, the two ideas go hand-in-hand. For example, we might create a health goal that is rooted in intention (i.e. being active, practicing body kindness, getting outside, etc.). If we apply our intentional mindset to this goal, we consider the purpose of this goal and how it fits into our life. This allows us to create both structure and flexibility around this goal so that it can be something realistic based on our lifestyle and flexible enough to allow re-evaluation if the structure does not seem to work for us. If you feel lost or defeated about your goals, come back to intention and purpose. Perhaps there is a different avenue for you to pursue your intention without the limitations of your predetermined goals.

As you begin to incorporate intention into your everyday choices, you may notice that you are making decisions and creating goals that align with your values. Perhaps you begin to notice that not only are you following through with the goals you created at the New Year, but you are continuing to create additional goals that support your purpose and your values.

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year filled with intention!

LifeTip: Mind Over Matter

Photo by  Ben Sweet  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

Ever heard of the phrase “mind over matter”? This phrase refers to our mind’s ability to conquer infinite limitations brought on by external factors - our environment, the situations we are in, the challenges we face, our interactions with difficult people, and even mental/emotional barriers we experience. The idea of our mind being able to conquer the challenges we often experience throughout our lives, sounds quite appealing; however, as powerfully resilient as our minds can be, they can also be equally as self-destructive.

Our brains are an extremely unique organ in our body. In therapy, we often talk about the connection between our mind and our body. We draw attention to the way our body reacts to our emotions, thoughts, situations we are in, etc. to provide us more information on our experience and how to respond to such reactions. In considering the idea of “mind over matter” we may target our thoughts as a point of reference to the mind-body connection.

For example, perhaps I notice I’m having the thought, “I’m never going to get all of this work done.” If I sit on this thought I may have a second thought, “I should be able to do this” ...and so on. These thoughts may bring on emotions such as anxiety and distress. I notice that I experience anxiety and stress as tension in my shoulders or feeling a “pit” in my stomach. In this scenario, my distressing thoughts affected the way my body reacts (i.e. muscle tension and pit in my stomach). This is one example of simply how much power our thoughts have over our bodies and our emotional experiences. Maybe you have had a similar experience with unhelpful thoughts. Sounds unpleasant, right? The good news: while our minds can be extremely powerful (in this example in a self-destructive way), they can also be quite powerful in moving us forward when we learn how to manage our thoughts.

Life Tip: It’s helpful to first practice observing your thoughts. What thoughts come up for you? Are they encouraging, discouraging, neutral? Are they facts? Are they based in reality or in your emotional experience? Once we practice observing our thoughts with a nonjudgmental stance, we can begin practicing strategies to manage the thoughts that are unhelpful or do not seem to serve us. We might first notice the thought and ask ourselves, “is this a helpful thought?” We are not necessarily challenging the accuracy of that thought, because in the moment it might feel real. It is likely more realistic to evaluate the helpfulness of a thought rather than its accuracy. Another strategy might be to simply notice the thought you’re having and create distance between yourself and that thought. For example, I notice that I’m having the thought, “I’m not going to get my work done.” This allows me to take a step back, simply notice the thought, and let it pass; rather than becoming that thought or allowing it to impact my emotional experience.

Always remember: Thought challenging strategies take practice! They might not work the first time, the second time, or even the third time - so try not to feel discouraged if you struggle to challenge distressing thoughts. When in doubt, refer back to some simple thought challenging tips:

    • Practice observing your thoughts, without judgement!

    • Ask yourself, “is this a helpful thought for me to have?” If the answer is no, move onto another more helpful and productive thought

    • Create distance between yourself and the distressing thought you observe - call a thought just that, a thought, and do not let it define you or your experience

    • Practice grounding techniques (i.e. deep breathing, 5 senses) when your thoughts get ahead of you and attempt to bring yourself back to a more emotionally neutral headspace


Mind over matter works for those who work on it. Believe in your ability to change your inner dialogue to be more helpful and productive!


LifeTip: The Dance of the Changing Seasons: A Meditation for the New Year

leaf through snow.jpg

For a few years I lived in a tiny town in the mountains of Northwest Montana. It is one of my favorite chapters of my life. It was a time of great stillness, hard work, adventure, and learning of a vast wilderness both inside and out. One lesson I learned while in Montana has met me every year since, at about this time of year and again in the beginning of spring.

The change of the seasons in Austin is hard to notice - some say we skip a couple of seasons all together. In Montana, though, the seasons can change back and forth with such wild fierceness (before making the full transition), you’d have to be void of all the senses not to notice. Perhaps the strangest and most beautiful thing about the changing of the seasons in Montana is that it is more like a dance than a turning of a page. It wasn’t suddenly 12 degrees or suddenly 98. It went back and forth. The change from fall to winter for instance started with the changing and falling leaves. You’d notice the tops of the mountains capped with snow for a day, then back to rock or trees the next. The snow would gradually stay at the top of the mountain, forming a line that slowly crept its way down the mountain and into the towns in the valleys. One day you’d see the sun shine so bright and warm you from within - it would melt any snow that had accumulated, giving you the hope that you’d have a little bit longer to frolic outside, drive on clear roads, and listen to the birds. Eventually though, the snow would stay on the ground, building up and up. The world around would be white and the wilderness that had bustled with the sounds of birds and wildlife, and bursted with berries and flowing rivers would grow silent. A silence and a stillness so perfect you didn’t notice it until spring started to dance with winter and you realized you heard a bird chirp for the first time in weeks or months. The sounds of spring arriving could be deafening after so many months of hibernation.

As a native Texan, I impatiently awaited spring and would become frustrated when I thought we were moving in the direction of warmth, only to have to put on my snow boots, zip up my 300-fill coat, and scrape my windshield, yet again. My dear friend and colleague gently and lovingly observed just how beautiful it was that the seasons danced with each other - neither was in a rush to take over or in a rush to let go. Neither demanded the other end so it could begin. There was no harshness to the changes. It was gradual, it was forgiving, and it was in appreciation for the work the other had just done so that there was room for this new seasons’ gifts. We could not have the rare and fragile flowers of the tundra at the tops of the mountains in summer without the fertilization of the compost fallen in autumn packed in by the intense cold of the winter, which very slowly gave way to the waters of spring, eventually welcoming the heat of summer, allowing their blossoms.

As we are in the midst of the chaos of the holiday season, and beginning to think about New Year's resolutions and intentions, I am especially reminded of this dance. It is so tempting this time of year to set our sights to the future, dismissing the journey we’ve taken thus far. We set intentions or goals to make major changes, forgetting to honor the process, the foundation, the failures, and successes. We forget, at times, that we are human. While none of us are perfect at being human, that never needs to be the goal. I am not suggesting it is a bad thing to set goals - quite the contrary. I’m suggesting that before we set ambitious goals aiming to change something about ourselves or how we live our lives, we allow the change to be a dance. That we honor where we’ve come from as we move toward where we are going. That we give ourselves permission to dance with the past as we create our future. So, I offer you this meditation - maybe you’ll keep it at your bedside or in your journal next to your list of resolutions. Maybe not. Nevertheless, it is my offering to you, in honor of you and your brilliance.

May you set your intentions with gentleness over eagerness.

May you honor the foundation and roots you’ve set in place for new growth to arise.

May you practice forgiveness and appreciation for your faults and failings when things take longer than you wish.

And may you always honor and love the greatness you have become and continue to grow into.

You are ever-blooming.


LifeTip: The Power of Silence

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Often, when we think of silence it sounds like nothing, and it looks like nothing. On a superficial level this is certainly accurate; however, silence can be extremely powerful and meaningful. Silence provides us so much information about ourselves and about others. Our awareness of silence and what comes up during silence can be a helpful tool when used with intention. I have felt motivated by my therapeutic work to share how silence can be used in a beneficial and intentional way, specifically in relationships.

Both verbal and nonverbal communication offer us a means of sharing in addition to a means of understanding what is being shared. Silence falls in the category of nonverbal communication and in the silence there is significance to what is NOT being said. Allowing the space for silence in any interaction offers an opportunity for us to observe body language, facial expressions, physical distance between ourselves and others. Being mindful of how others present during silence can tell us a bit about how they are feeling, how the interaction seems to be going, and their comfort level in the current space/time. Silence also provides us an opportunity to notice what emotions stir up inside of us during silence. Maybe we feel uncomfortable, unsure, unsafe, self conscious, OR we may feel relaxed, relieved, neutral. We might also notice what is our “go to” response to silence in relationships: attempting to fill the space with words, avoidance, safety behaviors (i.e. playing with our phone, fidgeting). Rather than placing judgment on ourselves or others for what appears to come up during silence, I invite you to simply notice what happens both outside and inside of you when silence occurs.

Once we have practiced noticing silence and what comes up for us and others during silence, we are able to use it intentionally for a variety of purposes to enhance our relationships. Ever heard of the “silent treatment”? This is when we use silence to punish someone for doing us wrong. While this may or may not be an effective tool in any particular relationship, this is an example of how individuals may use silence with intention. Rather than using silence as a punishment, we can use silence in more assertive ways to promote understanding, safety, and mutual respect in relationships. See below for some strategies for using silence to enhance relationships:

  • Practice active listening in your relationships

  • Reflect on what you see and check in with others if your hunch on how they are feeling or what their experience is, is correct

  • Practice mindfulness of your emotions and mindfulness of others’ emotions

  • Practice sitting with and tolerating uncomfortable emotions

  • Demonstrate that you can not only sit with someone else’s silence but you can maintain the safety of that silent space without trying to change it

RECAP! Practice noticing the silence you experience in relationships, what comes up for you emotionally, what you observe in others, and reflect on how you can use silence as a means to deepen your connection with another person.


“Silence is the most powerful scream”


LifeTip: How to Have an Enjoyable, Stress-Free Holiday

Photo by  Simple Co.  on  Unsplash

Photo by Simple Co. on Unsplash

The holidays are upon us! Think back to past years... What do you remember the most? Is it the family time? The food? The presents? The movies? The traditions? The crippling anxiety and stress? Yep, you read that last one right. Like anything in life, many people tend to forget the negative parts of such happy celebrations, and in turn, risk suffering the same feelings of anxiety and frustration year after year. Have you ever experienced the “holiday blues” or found yourself dizzy with nerves and exhaustion while on your quest to find the perfect gift or prepare the perfect party/event?

Consider the tips below to help you manage stress and truly enjoy the holidays this year, so those happy memories can be an accurate picture of your experience!

  1. Plan ahead. Whenever possible, give yourself plenty of time to buy presents, prepare a special meal, or decorate your house. If you are not feeling the pressure of the clock, you will have more opportunities to step back and enjoy the process.

  2. Make a to-do list! Yes, I know, we often have a mental checklist of what we need to complete, but having a tangible list can help you organize your time, celebrate the tasks you have accomplished, and allow you to delegate specific jobs when you need an extra hand.

  3. Stressful family? Have an ally! Before attending (or hosting) a dinner, gathering or an event with friends or family, where you know there may be contentious conversations brewing, talk with a friend, spouse or family member about how you want to approach those situations. Knowing you have a game plan and someone who will help you carry out that plan, should you need it, will allow you to attend the social event with more confidence, and less apprehension and anxiety.  

  4. Be prepared when you shop. Make a list of items that you want to buy. Compare prices (Amazon’s “scan” feature makes this super easy to price-compare items in the store to online options), use cash (whenever possible) to avoid going over budget, and have a back-up plan for any “tough to find” items. Keep in mind that one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to be fully engaged and present with them. While that gift doesn’t cost anything, it can sometimes be tricky to do if you are hyper-focused on giving them the perfect physical gift and hoping that their reaction matches the effort you had to put in. Ease the gift buying process and enjoy some of the “untangibles” of the season by starting to shop early, create (and stick with!) a budget, and find time to connect with the recipient, whether that is in-person while they open the gift or afterwards over the phone.

  5. Engage in gratitude! Research shows that gratitude can help you maintain a positive outlook, and has benefits for your overall well-being. Throughout the season take moments to stop, take in your environment, and, with intention, consider the things you are most thankful for, in that moment. Also, write thank you notes! This not only showers other people with appreciation, but it gives you a few moments to reflect on the people and the details that make the season so special.

  6. Consider your closet! One of the most unexpected stressors of the holidays can be finding appropriate outfits for holiday parties, luncheons, tacky sweater contests, and family pictures. If you have a few “go to” pieces, that you know you look and feel good in, you will spend less time agonizing over what you are going to wear, and more time looking forward to the event itself. Don’t have anything in your closet? Choose an “off time” to hit the mall/store, such as later in the evening (an hour or two before stores close) or first thing on a Saturday or Sunday. With fewer people in the store, you will feel like you have more time and space to clearly choose something that suits your taste and budget.

  7. Nourish yourself. By all means, enjoy the festive food and drinks of the season, however, be sure to replenish your system with healthy options, whenever possible. Not only will this help you avoid the stress and anxiety associated with holiday weight gain (can you say anxiety in January, when your clothes no longer fit?), but can also help prevent you from exhibiting food-induced symptoms that mimic anxiety (low blood sugar, dehydration, etc). Instead of forgoing the cookies, try to mix up what you are eating by throwing in a few vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots, that are rich in magnesium and probiotics.

  8. Practice Mindfulness! Using an app such as “Headspace” or “MINDBODY” can help calm your nerves, and allow you to remain present and in the moment. These apps make it really easy to choose a time length (some as short as 2-5 minutes) and follow a guided meditation. Don’t have time to stop and fully engage in a mindfulness script? Take a moment to practice 5-2-7 breathing. In order to do this, breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, and release the air completely for 7 seconds. Repeat 4-5 times. Focusing on your breathing can be done anywhere (can you say Black Friday shopping lines?), and is a quick and easy way to de-escalate in times of stress and anxiety.

  9. Talk to someone. While we are often surrounded by people during the holiday season, it can be difficult to talk about feelings of anxiety or stress, for fear of “bringing down someone else’s cheery mood.” Keep in mind that many people struggle at this time of year, so you are not alone! If you don’t have a family or friend that you feel like you can talk to, or your anxiety and stress has become overwhelming, consider calling a professional.

While the holiday season can present challenges that can leave you feeling anxious and stressed, keep in mind that it is a temporary time. By the 2nd week in January, your “regular” life will resume, and all you will have left is the memories of the season. Be sure to check in with yourself regularly to manage your stress and anxiety levels so that the memories you are creating are ones worth repeating!