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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!

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The Importance of Managing Chronic Stress

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

We’ve all heard the importance of managing our stress. For those of us who have experienced uncontrollable stress, we are intimately familiar with the impacts on our mental functioning. But chronic stress doesn’t just damage our mental and emotional health. Due to the bodies’ responses to this phenomena, stress destroys so much more than we might be aware of. Take a look below at this video that describes these impacts in a bit more detail:

So what does this mean for us? While the act of managing stress (or, as the video puts it, perceiving life’s challenges as things that can be overcome) may sound simple, this can be extremely difficult for some of us, especially those who are accustomed to high amounts of stress in our lives. For now, let’s just focus on awareness – how much stress do you have in your life? What impacts has stress had on your health?

First, consider what might be going on in your life that is causing stress. This may include a series of major things, or smaller, everyday stressors that accumulate over time. You can find a wonderful stress assessment here, but bear in mind this doesn’t account for daily stress. Take several minutes to write down those stressors and what might be causing them, whether or not you can see a way to control the issue.

Once you’ve completed this list, make a second one – what impact have these stressors had on your health? Consider the information in the video above and write down those things that you are currently experiencing, or have in the past. Include all health issues, even if you don’t see a direct correlation to stress as the cause.

At this point, you’ll take a break from this work. Review your lists and reflect on them. Can you see the links between your stress and health? What would this list look like if your stress were better managed? What will happen if stress continues to dominate your life? Once you’ve answered these questions, the ability to commit to a stress-management plan will be much more successful.

Harnessing the Power of Seduction Within

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Seduction as a skill often gets a bad reputation – some perceive it as manipulative, others as classless, and others as something we use strictly with our intimate partners. In this Ted Talk, Chen Lizra shares why she disagrees with these sentiments about seduction. As you watch the following video, consider your beliefs around seduction and challenge yourself to open your mind to this new perspective.

After watching the video, most people will have a new understanding and appreciation for the art of seduction and how we can use this in our everyday lives. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to successful seduction and how well you embrace these:

  • Desire: How in tune are you with the needs of your partner? How well do you communicate your desires to each other? How often do you pay attention to the triggers that activate desire in your partner?
  • Confidence: What messages did you receive about your body growing up? Are you comfortable and confident in your body? How can you work to challenge the beliefs you have about your appearance and sense of self?
  • Body language: How well do you project confidence in your daily interactions? How well do you tune into and read the body language of others?
  • Arousal: How often do you pay attention to the process of building desire in your partner? How well do you actively seduce your partner by engaging in the process and making adjustments as needed?

Through the use of seduction, we have an enormous power within ourselves to engage with all people, get what we want out of life, and build passion in our intimate relationships. Consider how often and how well you use seduction, and spend time every day working on this skill in your interactions with your partner.

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Making the Mind Body Connection Work For You

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

We often hear about something called the “mind-body connection,” the idea that we can use our body to influence our mind and vice versa. But what does this actually look like in practice? And what can using the “mind-body connection” help us with?

The mind-body connection is the idea that we can engage in certain actions, such as controlling our breathing, to influence how our mind and body react to certain stimuli. Have you ever heard that you should take a few deep breaths when you are feeling overwhelmed? That’s because the technique of deep breathing allows our mind to relax, which in turn relaxes our other bodily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and tension.

For more information on how this works, take a look at the following video:

Now that you’ve learned how this connection works, let’s consider some situations where using this knowledge can help us to gain control over how our mind and body reacts to situations:

  • Anxiety: Paced breathing for a few minutes can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, direct contributors to maintaining feelings of increased anxiety.
  • Anger: Paced breathing can help your perception of events to “slow down,” allowing you more time and clarity in making healthy choices in response to anger,
  • Tension: Paced breathing allows your mind the opportunity to relax. When you are feeling tension, try combining paced breathing with specific muscle relaxation over a ten minute period. When you start breathing, spend your first minute clearing your mind and scanning your body for any areas of tension. Over the next eight minutes, focus on relaxing each muscle group for one minute each, moving from your feet to legs, pelvis/hips, abdomen, lower back, hands/arms, upper back/shoulders, and neck/facial muscles. For the last minute, continue paced breathing while holding your relaxed muscles.

By utilizing paced breathing, you can gain control over how your body reacts to different stimuli, decrease stress, and help your body to cope in healthy ways. Try to make a commitment to practicing paced breathing for ten minutes a day for one week – what improvements do you see?

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How Do You Fight For Love?

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

How do you fight for love? The question might put some people off – when you’re in love, aren’t you supposed to get along? But fighting as we often think of it – the hurt feelings, the anger, the pain – doesn’t need to be unproductive. In fact, conflict – the times when we don’t get along well with our partners – is necessary for a partnership to grow and evolve toward long-term, sustained happiness.

In this video, Bruce Muzik from Love At First Fight shares with us the myth that conflict is something to be avoided in our relationships. The truth, we discover, is that conflict is simply a natural power struggle that happens in every relationship. Watch the video below to learn more about how we can shift our perception of conflict and use this experience to strengthen our relationships.

To really embrace the change needed to make conflict a positive experience in your relationship, it requires both partners to take ownership, have insight, and trust that the other partner is “in the fight” with them, not against them. Consider the following questions for yourself and your partner as you reflect on the message of the video:

  • What messages did you and your partner receive about conflict growing up? How was handling conflict modeled for you by the adults in your lives?
  • What are the typical triggers for the conflicts you engage in the most? What are the underlying fears associated with these triggers?
  • What is your fighting style? What is your partner’s? (You can view the pdf hand-out on the fighting styles here)
  • How can you and your partner work together to prevent reactive conflict?
  • Practice having a conscious fight – how is that experience different from a reactive fight? How can you keep these conflicts productive and meaningful?
  • How can you remind each other to focus on the principles of conscious fighting when a reactive fight is happening?

With these keys in mind, couples can work together to ease the pain of conflict and move past the power struggle stage. Use the hand-out from the Love at First Fight page to explore this concept further and practice these principles in your day-to-day interactions. And remember: