Category Archives: Self-Growth and Self Improvement

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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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Dr. Laura Berman Shares The Three-Step Meditation to Manifesting Love

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

When we think about meditation, we might think about a very individualized activity – something that is intended to ground us as people, to guide our inner workings, and to calm a nervous soul. But meditation can accomplish so much more than that if we stretch our understanding to how it can apply in our relationships.

In this wonderful video, Dr. Laura Berman shares a few simple steps in how you can use the tool of meditation to invite love into your life. As you watch the video, consider how well you allow the following:

  • How often are you granting yourself the time to sit in a quiet space for effective meditation?
  • How comfortable are you with freeing yourself to remember the moments of happiness in your life and to imagine new ones?
  • How willing are you to let go of those feelings, to give yourself the space to create a new reality in your connections to others?

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Working Through the Negative Impacts of Facebook in 5 Simple Steps

By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Many of us, myself included, enjoy using social web sites such as Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends or get acquainted with new ones. But for some of my clients, who are avid users, Facebook also brings frustration and annoyance. Here is what I often hear:

I don’t want to see anymore engagement rings pictures posted

She is oh so perfect, I can never measure up

They are going on all those trips and having fun and I am stuck.

These reactions and similar ones often increase stress and elevate anxiety. Often, they have negative impacts and provoke uncomfortable feelings. You might feel that others are more successful and develop an obsession with the online details of their lives. You might be jealous of others’ accomplishments and dismiss or minimize yours. You might have unrealistic judgment of the importance of others by reading others’ comments or counting numbers of likes. This might even lead to developing physical reactions such tension, rapid heart rate, and headaches

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At times, you might become aware of such reactions and feel you need to change your attitude in order to protect yourself and be at peace with yourself.

So what are the benefits of taking action to change these negative feelings?

  • You take charge and feel responsible and in control of your destiny and feelings
  • You feel accomplished and proud
  • You feel important and not judged
  • You feel positive and not react to others’ actions
  • You learn to love and appreciate yourself
  • You practice setting boundaries and protecting self
  • You develop a better, more substantial, and real support network

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Here are five simple steps you can make to change your approach and gain these benefits:

Assess triggers: Review comments and likes in the past few months that triggered discomfort or other painful emotions. Talk with supportive family and friends about your feelings and assess your attitude. On a scale of 1-10 (0 being unhappy and reactive to comments and 10 being very happy and pleased), assess your level of feelings.

Develop a plan: Weigh options, pros and cons ,and strategies of change.

Act on your plan: Hide provocative, inflammatory comments; block intentional hurting comments; and, take a break from chatting or stay away from Facebook for a decided time.

Evaluate your success: Take a moment to look back and reassess the level of your discomfort on the same scale.

Repeat: Review your process every few months and make adjustments as needed.

Remember to always treat and protect yourself as if you are treating and protecting the most precious person in your life: your child, your significant other, family member or a dear friend.

For more inspiration on this subject, check out this video from Higher Perspective

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Mindfulness Takes On Anxiety

by Nicole Silverberg

Anxiety is one of those things that seems inexplicable at times, but the feelings can be very overwhelming. It always seems to come on right at the time where we need to be most attentive. We have all heard people say “just don’t worry about it”, “it’s not that big of a deal”, “just distract yourself”, “get over it”, and I am sure many other not so comforting statements come to mind. Unfortunately, the more attention we put on our anxiety, the bigger it gets until it reaches a point that feels so overwhelming that it just crashes onto us. Continue reading