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Be Patient: Learning to Wait For Perspective in Life

As a counselor, one of the things I deal with daily is working with people who are experiencing negative life events, crisis, grief, or any other thing that is causing them emotional discomfort and pain. These events can be extremely traumatic – dealing with loss, death, divorce, long-buried trauma. As a counselor, my role is to help people understand, reframe, and cope with these feelings.

When I found this video, I felt like it wasn’t just an inspirational story – it really described the frame of mind that is most helpful for those who show enormous resilience in the face of adversity and strength when times aren’t going as well as they might like. Take a look below:

The lesson of this video, which I think is beautifully put, is this: It doesn’t benefit us to place judgement on any situation we experience by naming something as “good” or “bad.” Does that mean we shouldn’t have feelings about the things we experience? Absolutely not! When something painful occurs in your life, it’s normal to feel grief, sadness, and anger. When something positive happens, we should feel joy, pride, and relief.

But when we start naming these events as “good” or “bad,” when we place a fundamental value of the event within the trajectory of our life, we start internalizing. Instead of things that happen to us, these events become part of the story of who we are. And when we feel like many “bad” things are happening, it can be easy to start turning the blame for that onto ourselves or the people around us, instead of recognizing these as simply things we are living through.

That’s the power of “maybe” – having the wisdom to know that the tides of life are ever-changing, that the things that happen to us are just that – passing moments. Without the ability to predict how an event might actually shape the course of our life, how can we assign value to it? Everything we experience, both positive and painful, sends us down a journey that we cannot know. Peace is understanding that we will not understand our path until we complete it, and being open to the twists and turns as they appear before us.

As you reflect on this video and article, I encourage you to think about and journal on the following:

  • What would you say were the best and worst moments of your life? Why do you feel this way?
  • From these moments, how did the path of your life change?
  • What lessons did these moments teach you?
  • Were there “bad” moments that ended up changing your life for the better? Were there “good” moments that had unforeseen consequences?
  • How can you hold yourself accountable to sticking with “maybe” in your moments moving forward? How would this benefit you and your loved ones?

As a final exercise, journal for a few days on your initial reactions to events in your life. Note how often you are placing a value judgement on these events. Once you’re done, reflect on this list and consider what impact placing value had on your mood and attitude the remaining part of the day. Then, for a few more days, do the same journaling, but force yourself to stay in the “maybe” mind frame. How does this change your mood and attitude? See what works for you in maintaining this approach versus assigning judgement in the long-term.

The Gifts Imparted from Fathers

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Happy Father’s Day from me to you! As I was reflecting on this day and considering the special role of fathers in children’s lives, I found myself circling back to the idea of the gifts fathers impart. No matter who served the father role for us, whether that was a biological parent, a step-parent, or other friend or family member, I think we all know the moments of most importance from childhood: The ones in which that person, our father, took the time to make us feel loved, to teach us a skill or lesson that we still carry with us, or to ensure we had the self-confidence to march proudly through life.

When I work with fathers, I sometimes hear this discomfort about their role – with all of the pressures and stress of life, it can be easy to feel guilty or worry that we’re not spending enough of our time or giving enough to our children. That’s why I love this video – what a simple but impactful way to spend a few minutes with a child and give them a solid foundation of values and self-esteem without hardly any investment. Take a look below:

I’ve written on the power of affirmations before and the ways in which we can use them as adults to boost our own feelings of self-worth and confidence. But what an amazing tool – to use affirmations as a bonding experience between father and child, to instill confidence, to teach values. I love this video because it illustrates how the simple presence of a father, or either parent, spent in ways that builds children up, not only benefits them, but allows us to feel a more complete connection to our role as parent.

To those reading this who are parents, or are planning on becoming parents, consider the following:

  • Who was your own father figure? What sort of impacts did they have on your life?
  • What lessons from your father do you wish to instill with your own children?
  • What are the times you feel the strongest connection with your children? How often do you make this activity part of your routine with your children?
  • What are the values you feel are most important to pass along to your children? How have or will you work to embed these in your children?

By thinking about the role of the father and how you fill it, it becomes much easier to feel confident in successfully parenting children (and reducing relationship tension with a partner along the way). I hope that you have had a wonderful Father’s day, and know that your role as a father, while it may seem intimidating, is one that leaves immeasurable impacts on your child for years to come and a layer of self-fulfillment that is unknowable until you’ve achieved this.

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Self-Worth: What is This and What Power Does it Have?

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

One of the most essentials keys to happiness and having the ability to have introspection into ourselves is having a solid foundation of self-worth. This is the idea that no matter what we are experiencing or what trials we face in life, that there is within us a clear understanding of who we are. Further, not only do we know who we are, but we also value who we are – we believe ourselves worthy, good, and deserving.

When someone has a healthy level of self-worth, it means they are capable of staying resilient when times are tough; that they don’t allow the opinions or ideas of others to negatively influence their behaviors or beliefs about who they are; and, they can feel safe in thinking critically about who they are and what motivates their own choices, forgiving themselves for mistakes, and believing they are capable of change if this is needed. Take a look at this video from Meir Kay for a great visual of this in action:

Consider the following – what is your own understanding and acceptance of your self-worth? Is this something you feel is a strength, or something that you are struggling with? If you are struggling with this, what might be the reasons why you lack self-worth?

To accept that we are fully deserving of love, we must first love ourselves. That is why having self-worth is so important – it isn’t just about getting through the hard times. It’s about welcoming the good and being able to allow a connection between ourselves and our partners. Without this essential trait, we are left vulnerable and isolated. If a lack of self-worth is something that you’re struggling with, this should certainly be explored in a therapeutic setting so that you can safely examine the causes of this issue and learn techniques for learning to love who you are again.

 

 

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Bringing Home Baby: Easing This Transition for Couples

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

It’s hard to describe what bringing home a baby means to new parents – until you’ve experienced this transition, it seems impossible to really understand the changes your life undergoes, from long-term plans to the daily routines you’ve had. When parents bring home a baby for the first time, it can be a time of overwhelming joy – but with any new change, stress and feelings of disconnection can also be present. Without understanding what a new baby can do to a relationship, this can be an especially vulnerable time for marital discord. We love this article from Women’s Health Mag – it’s such an honest look at the most common relationship troubles during this transition. Take a look – when you come back, we’ll explore some questions to ask before you bring baby home that can help avoid these issues.

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The good news is that these issues can mitigated with some honest and thoughtful conversations with your partner. Ideally these would happen before discussing having a baby (or at least before the baby is born), but if these are things you are struggling with in your own relationship, start the conversation as soon as possible.

  • What role expectations do you both have regarding child-rearing, especially at the newborn phase? How do you expect your partner to support you? How will you communicate when you need more help or when you are feeling overwhelmed? If you are planning on returning to work, how will these roles shift at that time? What additional supports would you consider to help mitigate the stress of working and raising a child?
  • How prepared do you both feel to provide daily care to a newborn? How can you communicate with one another if you are concerned about the care provided by your partner to the baby? What are your expectations for care and are these realistic things to expect from your partner all of the time?
  • Your body will need time to recover after child-birth, regardless of yours or his sex drive. How can you embed intimacy during this time? How will you make time for this even after your body is healed? How would you prefer to communicate about feeling dissatisfied with the amount of intimacy during this time if it becomes an issue?
  • Do you and your partner spend quality time together now? How will you hold yourselves accountable to scheduling this time after the baby comes? What supports do you have that will allow one-on-one time without bringing baby along?
  • What are each of your parenting styles and philosophies? How were each of you raised, and how is that influencing how you intend to parent your child? When baby comes, how will you discuss parenting differences as they arise in a respectful way?

While these are a lot of things to consider before having a baby, they are essential to making this transition successful. Without having a conversation around these issues, problems like resentment, stress, and isolation can arise – things that quickly drive deep wedges in relationships. Above all, remember that effective communication, the willingness to be flexible and insightful, and placing your commitment to your family above all else is what powers couples through the new baby stage.

 

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The Miracle Morning: Lessons For Creating a Better Life

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

I recently stumbled upon this video describing some of the concepts from the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. I was immediately drawn in by the story of what happened to Elrod, the choice he made to live a happy life, and how he was successful in this. Elrod writes this book from a place of healing and believes passionately that the key to success and fulfillment is in the choices we make. As you watch the below, pay attention to Elrod’s story and the major keys to what helped him through this time. When you’re done, we’ll review some of these ideas and consider how they can be applied in our own lives.

There’s so much wonderful advice and guidance in this video in such a short period of time, so let’s break down some of they key points:

We have the power to transform our day by starting our morning with a joyous and hopeful awakening; or, when we leave our bed looking forward to what the day will bring. Consider – when is the last time you left bed quickly and happily? What motivated you then to do so? Is this motivation something you have the power to create each day? 19347840292_7b2ac2cb42_b

There are acts we can engage in (SAVERS) before we try the miracle morning, things we can do the day before:

  • Silence: Are you giving yourself the time in your schedule to sit and reflect on the things you are grateful for each day? Time where you are alone and aren’t distracted by a phone, television, traffic? How can you work to embed this time, even a few minutes, into each day?
  • Affirmations: What mantras are you repeating in your mind? Are they ones of hope and self-gratitude? If not, can you push out the negative mantras and refocus on creating positive ones?
  • Visualizations: What are your hopes for the future? What do you want each day to look like moving forward? Are you creating the time to see this image in your mind?
  • Exercise: Are you moving your body every day, at least a little bit? If not, what’s an activity you enjoy? Can you commit to doing this for a few minutes a day to start?
  • Reading: How often do you read literature that fulfills you or helps you to meet your goals? Even 10 pages a day is enough.
  • Scribing: Do you reflect on and record the days events before you go to bed? Do you create and maintain to-do lists? 2986910735_a886018bed_z

In order for the SAVERS to work, they must become habits, things that we do on auto-pilot. Elrod recommends keeping the following in mind as you start on a path of embedding new habits:

  • Find someone to be your accountability partner who can ideally go through the steps with you.
  • Recognize and move past “rear view mirror syndrome”: Has something happened to you in the past that is holding you back from your goals? If so, what was it? Can you commit to trying again, understanding that just because something happened before does not mean it will happen again?
  • Recognize and avoid “isolating incidents”: Don’t treat any action or inaction you do as something that is “one-time” or “just today.” Every choice we make, big or small, starts us down a path of habit-forming. This means we need to constantly hold ourselves accountable and treat every choice as an opportunity to move further down our path of self-actualization.

Making the Habit: How We Can Effectively Embed New Habits Into Our Lives

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

We’re nearly midway though 2017, so let’s do a quick check in on something that a few of us may have long forgotten about – our New Year’s Resolutions. A little awkward, right? For some of us, these goals may no longer be goals because we’ve achieved them – we’ve started and maintained a regular gym schedule, we’ve quit an unhealthy habit, or we’ve dived into a new hobby we enjoy. But for many of us, well, these resolutions may have fallen away from our daily lives months ago. Why is that? Why is goal setting and habit formation such a hard thing for so many people? Here are some ideas around this:

  • We’re not designed to change easily: As human beings, we are naturally prone to stay within our comfort zone. It’s what our body is used to, it is what our mind can accept. When we introduce a new habit, when we try to make change, our body and mind naturally rebel against this. It takes a lot of willpower and planning to make a habit stick.
  • We try to do too much at once: The entire idea of setting New Year goals is already not helpful, simply because most of us don’t pick just one. I can think of years where I made a goal list an entire sheet of paper long, each goal more lofty and idealistic than the last. If we are naturally inclined to reject change, what does an attempt to change everything at once do? It puts our systems into shock. And when that happens, even the smaller and more attainable goals become more difficult; giving up on everything just seems easier.
  • There’s an elephant in the room named “Shame” that no one wants to talk about: Even though every person, no matter how successful they are, shares the reality that they have experienced failure, no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to admit when they’ve given up, no one shares a status update about forgoing a goal that meant so much to them. But in this secrecy lies shame, and shame is the kindling that fuels our inability to bring positive habits into our lives. When we can accept ourselves as fallible, it means looking shame in the face and moving past it. It means accepting that it is okay to fail, thereby losing the fear of trying so many of us hold onto.

So how can we invite habit formation back into our lives? I love this video (although, a warning – the humor is a bit quirky and there is some adult language used). Once you’ve finished, we can take a look at some other lessons from this.

Now that we’ve been informed of some great, evidence-based tips for how to make habits stick, let’s spend a few moments exploring some additional things to consider before you proceed with introducing a habit.

  • What’s your plan for holding yourself accountable? While the video above has some great ideas, make sure you’ve picked one that works for you before you get started. This accountability is especially important to make sure you get through those first 66 days, and to ensure you don’t go more than one day without engaging in your new habit.
  • What habit are you going prioritize? Just pick one to start, and don’t feel obligated to introduce new habits every 30 days – choose a time frame that works for you, where you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  • What’s your motivation for change? Why are you making the change? Why is this habit a priority for you? This is the kind of question that shouldn’t be answered quickly. When you think about the why behind your habit, take the time to meditate on this, journal about it, or talk with someone about. Dig down deep and go underneath the surface responses – there you’ll not just learn the why, but also the how behind keeping the habit you choose.
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Embedding Acceptance Into Your Partnership

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Of the many things we hear about making a marriage happy, the goal of accepting our partners for who they are is often listed as a necessity. But what does this actually mean? And how will we know when we’ve reached acceptance? In this article, we explore what acceptance actually is and how it can shift the direction and nature of our partnerships to a more positive and healthy place.

Acceptance is defined as the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered; of being received as adequate or suitable. In the couple’s relationship, acceptance means inclusion, approval, security, safety, and being happy with one’s flaws. One of the biggest shifts offered by acceptance versus other partnership traits is the idea that we must be accepting of others as they are. This can be a challenge, because in order to do this effectively, it requires that we also admit that we are flawed and less than perfect. From this, we must be willing to take on our partner’s perspective and understand where they are coming from, realizing that we are not going to change our partners, that they are a different person that we are, and that those differences are okay.

The above video shares a fantastic example of building acceptance into the way you communicate with your partner. By approaching your partner with an attitude of “they are who they are,” without interjecting judgment or disapproval, it allows you to work together towards a more joyous and equitable relationship. Once we’ve achieved acceptance, we can establish togetherness, commit to agreed goals, improve communication, and feel calmer and worthier in the presence of our partner.

To move to achieving acceptance, consider the following questions:

  • What might be motivating the values that your partner holds?
  • How do the differences between you and your partner create struggles in your relationship?
  • How do the differences between you are your partner create strength in your relationship?

Remember, acceptance doesn’t mean always seeing eye to eye; it means approaching arguments with accepting that your partner is and always will be different from you, that they hold their own perspective, and that there is nothing wrong with how they think or feel. To truly move forward together, we must accept that our partner is a different person from us and that those differences are what give our relationship the balance and fortitude to last in the long-term.

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Conflict: Use It, Don’t Diffuse It

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

When you hear the word “conflict,” what are some of the images that come to mind? Fighting? Arguing? Anger? While conflict may not be most comfortable thing to deal with in a relationship, the truth is that it happens. Every couple will experience moments of conflict, of disagreement, of different perspectives. Conflict in itself isn’t a bad thing – it is how we deal with conflict that can make a situation positive or negative. Before diving into some self-assessment, take a look at the following video to learn more about conflict and how we can re-purpose this issue to work in our favor.

Now that we have a better understanding of conflict, let’s consider the following questions. This exercise can be done individually or in a conversation with your partner. The purpose is to learn more about your personal conflict styles and how these can be used to make conflict work for your relationship.

  • Reflect on your childhood and earliest experiences of conflict. How was conflict modeled for you growing up? What happened when you engaged in conflict as a child?
  • Think about a recent conflict you’ve experienced. What feelings arose in you during this?
  • What is your approach to dealing with conflict day to day? Do you prefer to avoid it, escalate it, or engage with it?
  • What are your personal triggers for the fight, flight, or freeze response? What kinds of situations cause these, and do you react in different ways in different circumstances?
  • In your relationship, do you or your partner actively avoid or diffuse conflict frequently? Has this resulted in disengagement from the relationship?
  • In what ways do you and your partner commit to being vulnerable and curious when experiencing conflict? How can you embed these strategies into future conflicts and hold each other accountable to trying them more often?

By taking the time to reflect and have an open conversation about conflict, you and your partner are already engaging in curiosity and vulnerability. What does that feel like for each of you? It probably isn’t as bad as you’d expect! Next time you see conflict rising, remember to keep your mind and heart open, communicate your feelings and needs, and be ready to hear a different perspective (and share yours as well).

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How Do You Invite Stress into Your Life? Let’s Work to Rescind This

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

In our last two articles, we’ve covered a few issues surrounding stress management – first, why it is so important to eliminate chronic stress and what we can do in the moment to address it. In this article, we’re shifting our focus a bit deeper: Looking carefully at the stressors we hold in our lives consistently, how we can work to reduce these, and how we can devise and implement a self-care routine that meets our needs.

Analyzing Stressors: Journaling

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The thing about stress is that it is both a shared human feeling, yet one that varies wildly between each person. What causes our stress and how we feel it will be different for each of us, so one of the most important steps you can take to start assessing your stress is by journaling each day about it. This doesn’t have to be an overly time-consuming process – just a simple notebook and pen is all you need to start. Each night, spend five minutes reflecting on those moments in your day that elevated your stress levels. Note what caused the event, what impact it had on your stress, and any techniques that were effective in mitigating this. Focus on being specific and descriptive. For example, instead of saying, “Traffic,” try saying, “Stuck in traffic when already late for work with an immediate phone appointment I’ll be late for.” This level of detail will help tremendously when you start analyzing your entries later.

Analyzing Stressors: Reflecting

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Once you’ve completed journaling for about two weeks, set aside about an hour to reflect on your entries (try to resist the urge to do this before completing two weeks of journaling!). As you analyze your entries, note the themes that emerge. What stressors occur most frequently? Which stressors had the greatest impact on your well-being? Are there patterns in the time of days (for example, are mornings consistently stressful? Or the after-work rush?). How about the people involved (spouse, family members, co-workers, etc.)? Through this analysis, some clear themes should start emerging as to what is actually causing your stress. The next step is to address them.

Identifying the Lifestyle Changes Needed to Reduce Stress

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This is the point in your journey where carefully identifying the changes needed is key. I think one of the best approaches to starting this is to ask yourself honestly, “If my life had minimal stress, what would need to be different? How would my day look? What kinds of relationships would I have? How would I spend my time?” Once you’ve reflected on and answered these questions, consider the differences and similarities between your life NOW and your life of minimal stress. What things would remain the same? What things would need to change? Just note – this is not an easy process. Through this work, you’ll likely identify choices you are unhappy with, toxic relationships, and things about yourself that you may feel compelled to alter. You’ll also find the need to embed a daily self-care ritual that will need time and require the giving up of other things you do with that same time currently. It’s an excellent idea to have a trusted confidant that can help support you during this work.

Committing to the Change: What It Means to Engage in Self-Care

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At this point, you should have the workings of an action plan – the ways you’ll remove unneeded stress from your days, what you’ll be doing to accomplish this, and how you’ll be embedding self-care techniques. Every person’s plan will look different, but let’s take a look at my own from years past as an example:

Biggest stressors:

  • Running late for work in the mornings due to long commute, getting children ready, and not having help to get out the door; Health anxiety; Feeling isolated from friends and family due to relocation.

Changes needed:

  • Request later start time and hiring a morning mother’s helper; Making and keeping needed doctor’s appointments and engaging in mindfulness meditation around health symptoms when feeling anxious; Setting aside scheduled time for phone dates with friends and family.

Seems simple, right? Unfortunately, this is where many of us stop this work. Why? Because it requires action on our part – it requires sacrifices. Hiring a mother’s helper was an incredible help for me… but it was also costly. It required weighing these costs with what I needed to make it through this challenging time. For each of us, our commitment to self-care will force us to make similar choices, create new routines, and make decisions around what we are willing to give up for our own self-preservation. What works for you will be individualized and necessary – for ideas, check out this video:

As you move through this work, find ways to hold yourself accountable to the changes you’ve committed to. Talk to someone you trust. Continue to journal. Forgive yourself for regression and remember every moment is a new start – there’s no better time for making the change than the one you are living in right now.

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I’m Stressed Out. So What Can I Do About It?

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

If you’re at the point of understanding that you are facing problems with stress and are ready to make a change, this is the article for you. So many of us go through life unaware of the high levels of chronic stress we experience. Even more people have this awareness, but are so used to living “under pressure” that making a commitment to eliminating stress seems impossible. In this post, we will explore a few simple things that you can do to help mitigate the negative impacts of stress.

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You Might Be Feeling Stress, But Stress Isn’t Who You Are

One of the most important things we can do when faced with a stressor is to remember that whatever is happening, it is happening outside of us. This doesn’t mean that everything that stresses us will literally be outside of our control – in fact, many stressors are the result of choices we make or may be caused by internal issues, such as health.

When we say that stress is external, it means that whatever is happening in our lives, we don’t allow that to change our personhood. Stress might squeeze us, mold us, and impact us, but we can refuse to let it alter who we fundamentally are. By keeping this mindset, we empower ourselves to fight back against stress.

We All Feel Stress in Different Ways and I Know Mine

I once had a teacher who explained how he felt stress – as a tightening of muscles from his toes to his knees. He shared this because it seemed like such a strange place to “hold tension,” but for myself, this was an awakening – the first time anyone had articulated the impacts of stress on the body. I realized that I was holding stress in my body without any awareness of it. By paying attention to my body and watching for my personal signs of stress, I could actually do something about it, in the moment.

Where do you hold your stress? Is it in the neck, head, or shoulders? Lower-back? Do you feel the impacts of stress on your internal functions (digestion, leg cramps); or, does it appear outside as well (such as through sweating)? If you’re not sure, the first step is to pay attention to your body when you are experiencing a stressful moment. How does your body feel? How does your functioning change? Once you have this knowledge, use it! When you feel the indicators of stress in yourself, take a moment to step away from that feeling, acknowledge it, and intervene.

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I’m Stressed! How Do I Feel Better?

Now we’re at the fun part of stress management – what to do when we are experiencing this feeling. Everyone feels stress differently, so it makes sense that we all need different ways to cope with it. Below are some general tips for “in-the-moment” stress reduction:

  • Take a time out: A tried and true method for children that works for adults too. When stress starts to feel overwhelming, take a moment for yourself. Breathe, meditate, and rest until you feel a bit more in control.
  • Exercise: Research has shown again and again the positive benefits of exercise on stress levels and mental functioning. A great technique is to go for a brisk walk while clearing your mind of the stressor.
  • Analyze and understand the stressor: This is one of my favorite techniques. For many of us, we may suddenly feel stress for no apparent reason, or there may be multiple things going on that are causing this feeling. One extremely effective technique is to take a moment to reflect on what is actually causing the feeling. Was this an event? A memory? A fear about the future? Once you’ve identified the stressor, analyze it: What about this stressor is in your control? What isn’t? What can you do about the issue today, tomorrow, next week? For the things out of your control, can you let that worry go?

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As discussed in our prior article, chronic stress has the potential to create a multitude of negative impacts on our health and functioning. The above outlines some of the basics of starting a stress management plan. While this is a great start, truly effective stress management entails a bit more – working to make the lifestyle changes necessary that minimize as-needed stress reduction techniques. As you start on this journey, consider journaling or noting how frequently you find it necessary to intervene with your stress. This will help identify patterns and frequency of stress for further work down the road. In the meantime, focus on starting this work. For a great summary of this article, check out the video below!