Category: Anxiety & Stress Management

Posts that help you take charge of your body and your thoughts and deal with your anxiety more effectively.

Risky Business: Some Risks Lead to Big Gains

risky businessMany of us have seen that iconic scene where Tom Cruise slides across the floor in Risky Business. It gives a pretty solid picture of taking advantage of the moment, doing something risky and legendary and worrying about the consequences later. Ferris Bueller did the same thing. If only I had been as skilled in faking sick 101.

Please don’t think I am commending these guys for breaking a lot of rules and doing things they shouldn’t have been doing. What I want to highlight is how the risks they took lead to once in a lifetime experiences and a years worth of interesting stories. Had they played it safe two things would have happened.

  1. We would have had to watch a really boring movie
  2. They would have missed out on those experiences that I would venture to say were impactful on their lives

We don’t need to do anything illegal or sneak around to take risks and have life-changing experiences. But we do need to get a little uncomfortable. If you are someone who plays it safe you probably always know what to expect, you can plan for it and life feels safe. Maybe you play it safe because you worry about what would happen if you deviated from the norm. You lack the support or confidence to step outside the box. And as a result you are comfortable, but maybe you are also predictable and left a little wanting. You know there is more to life than this – that you can be more and that you can do more. 

Taking the plunge, taking a risk can be one of the most terrifying things you do. But it also has the potential to be very rewarding, the possibilities for you double when you decide to get a little uncomfortable and take a risk.

What is your risk? Where do you see your life becoming stale? Where you are left comfortable and safe but without room to grow and become the more that you know you can be?

Risks are uncomfortable because risks lead to change which is the golden opportunity for growth and that doesn’t always feel good. Anybody heard of growing pains? It is an uncomfortable process but when you come out on the other side you are more than you were when you went in. If you choose the risks you will take with care and execute them with support you will have achieved something very exciting – you will have stepped out of your comfort zone successfully and the world will present more opportunities for you.  It’s all about the first step. Are you ready for some risky business?1


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Oooh – You Feel Tense!

tenseHave you noticed that more and more often we feel uncomfortable? Sometimes that is due to natural aging (you know bodies weren’t meant to last forever) and sometimes that is due to stress. Because anxiety takes a physical toll on our bodies the more we are mentally tense the more we are physically tense too.

If your body is very tense and sore with uncomfortable muscles then you might be experiencing anxiety and you didn’t even realize it. You might be clenching your jaw or tightening your shoulders and neck. Often we notice our physical symptoms before we realize there is something to be done about our mental wellbeing.

Take an inventory of your body. Do you have chronic tightness or soreness in any area of your body? Focus on your chest, shoulders, neck, and jaw. Did you find anything? Can you attribute that discomfort to anything else? If you work on a computer all day you probably have tight shoulders and a sore back, so work conditions may be contributing to your physical discomfort without any mental discomfort underlying that.

If or when you notice that you are carrying tension in your body as a result of anxiety or stress then make note of that and bring that to your attention. Work to relax the area of your body that you are tensing (you’ll find that your whole body will relax too!).

Do some shoulder rolls, forward and back moving your shoulder blades around and over the socket where your arm meets your shoulder.

Do slow head rolls tilting your right ear to right shoulder and then rolling your head around to the front where your chin is to your chest then continue rolling to the left side, ear to shoulder again. When you have moved from right to left move from left to right, rotating forward and around until you feel a release. If there is any tight space move slower and slower in that area to give it extra attention.

When you catch yourself clenching release your jaw muscles so your teeth are not resting on each other. Take your hands and massage the joint at the back of your jaw where the jaw bone connects to the rest of your face (just in front of the ear). Feel free to move your jaw from side to side with your hands, gently and slowly.

Find a place where you can lay on the floor and spread your arms out in a big T or out to goal post arms (some people call them cactus arms – just make a T and bend at the elbow). Spend a few good minutes breathing into your chest. Take the tension out of that space and let it melt down through your arms.

These tricks are great for relaxing a specific muscle group on the spot when you feel tension. In order to really relax and keep your body more comfortable and in control when you feel very stressed try progressive muscle relaxation (more on that later!) or anything else that you find very relaxing. Massage anyone!?1


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Manage your Anxiety by Managing your Time

I find that when I encounter someone who is type A, or high strung, that they always seem to be on the go. There is always something to do or somewhere they need to be. Regardless as to how they use their time and how many things they knock off their to-do list there is always sometime more on there.

We have been talking a lot recently on how rework your priority list, examining habits to see how they serve you and contribute to your day to day functioning. I want to spend today looking a bit more specifically on time management. How are you using your time? Are the things you do on a daily basis serving you well, contributing to your day or are they nervous habits? Things you do because you are anxious or stressed out?


  • Look at your calendar, check out your day’s schedule and see how much you do each day.
  • On a scale of 1-10 rate how frantic you feel during the day – 1 being relaxed and 10 being VERY frantic.
  • List the accomplishments you have each day. What things did you get done today?
  • Compare how well your level of frantic matches your level of productivity.

Now please be realistic. If you feel very stressed or anxious (putting yourself at a 8 or higher) then it is completely appropriate for you to give yourself permission to cool off a bit and relax.

A level of activity between a 5-7 is fairly healthy when you are accomplishing a lot of things. When you are feeling like a 5 or 7 and you have a small list of little accomplishments then you might need to rethink how you are spending your time. Cut out some of the nervous habits and do something that will serve you better.

When you feel like you are below a 5 then you have reached a level of relaxation or calm that most people don’t reach on a regular basis.  Enjoy that! If this is you and you aren’t getting the things you need to get done accomplished then consider the benefit of not addressing your responsibilities. Maybe you really don’t need to get much done and you are able to relax. But that isn’t the case for most of us. If you are below a 5 and you are accomplishing all or most of your goals please share with us how you make that happen – that is a huge success!

This is all to help you do what you need to do everyday without feeling overwhelmed or worn out. In order to do that you need to start with a clear baseline picture of how you spend your time, what you can say you get done during your day, and how you feel at the end of it all.1


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To Panic or Not to Panic

Here’s the scenario:

Woman has been running to and from meetings all morning and as she drives halfway across town to make it to all of them. As she is finishing up lunch at home and on her way back out for meeting #5 of the day she realizes that she can’t find her wallet in her bag. Or her coat pocket. Or her car. She scours the house and the car, looking everywhere it could possibly be and she cannot find it anywhere. Wallets have important things in them like driver’s licenses, health insurance cards, credit cards, etc. An identity essentially. So in a last ditch effort she calls her supervisor to see if he sees it around the office. He checks and puts the word out for co-workers to look as well but the wallet hasn’t turned up.

There are two ways to respond to this situation. She can panic – total melt down and freak out. Cancel her afternoon/evening appointments and look all over town to see if she can find the missing wallet. While driving frantically she can call and cancel all of the cards and start requesting duplicate cards for the health insurance.

OR she can collect herself, make it through the rest of the day and hope that someone either locates the wallet and turns it in, or she can begin to cancel things and work on replacing the licenses and other cards later that evening/tomorrow morning.

That is a hard place to be, to have to decide if you are going to let your natural instinct to panic take control or if you are going to keep it together long enough to make it through the task at hand. What is more important and needs your full attention? There isn’t a right or a wrong answer when you are faced with a crisis situation. What matters is how you handle yourself and whether or not you are able to keep some shard of logic or reason while you work through the crisis.

  • Evaluate what is truly within your control and what steps you can actually take at the moment.
  • When you know what you can reasonably do, do that and handle the rest when the current task is completed.
  • Do something that helps keep you calm – keeping your mind busy with something productive, taking deep breaths, talking to someone, etc.

Crises come up at the most inconvenient times but when we can maintain control over ourselves we can handle the situations well and effectively – and you’ll know what to do next time incase the situation presents itself again.1


AND I found my wallet! This was definitely me yesterday – hot tip: check your email. A co-worker who didn’t have my phone number emailed me to let me know she had it.


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No Time Like the Present

save-the-dayThere is never any better time to start doing something than right now. That saying “No time like the present” is especially targeted to the things that wind up on our priority list but never quite make it to the top. You know what I mean, the diet you will start on Monday (until Monday arrives and then it is postponed another week), the pile of bills you need to sort through that isn’t addressed until the final seconds, the paper you have known about all semester and are just now thinking about. We all have our own version of putting things off and waiting just a little bit longer to get up and do whatever it is that needs our attention.

With this time of year there are many things that are on their way to winding down and tons of others that are ramping up. School is getting ready for the finals season, plans for family gatherings are in the works and ready to reach a frenzy, and if you are in any kind of marketing or retail you know that January and February deadlines are near or already past.

So what gets prioritized and what gets pushed back a week or two?

Is there something that you have been wanting to do for yourself to help manage all of this commotion? Is there something you can’t put at the top of your “to-do” list because it just doesn’t contribute to the mountain of things you feel you need to do?

Here is a new spin for you if you aren’t able to operate at 100% then it is impossible for you to be able to give your best to the things that you label high priority.  When you are stressed it is important to put yourself on a priority list and give yourself the attention you need. If you aren’t stressed yet then there is not better time to get a head start at helping your body and mind work at 100%.

Do something great for yourself and be able to work more productively and sustainably. When we are stressed or anxious about the mountain of things we have to do then we aren’t able to work as efficiently or as expertly as we are able. So, there is no time like the present. And you can run with this in one of two ways. You can seize the moment to be proactive in taking care of your self OR you can get a move on that low priority thing that has been looming over you for the past few weeks.1


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Habits – How Do They Serve You?

coffeeMy most prized kitchen appliance is my Keurig, I have 2 different French press systems and I refer to coffee as the “elixir of life.” You can imagine how devastated I was upon reading an article yesterday about how drinking coffee before 9:30 in the morning is not ideal for your body’s alertness and is less effective in keeping you awake during the day. I was mortified and slightly angry, the author obviously didn’t know that coffee transforms me from the bleary-eyes sleep monster that crawls from the depths of my covers to the radiant human being that sits before the general public. I will have my coffee when I wake up. And I’ll drink it too!

But my response to this new information on my most prized morning ritual opens a door to other habits in my life that I have let go unaccounted for and uncheck for a very long time. We all have habits that at one time served a function. At one time they were beneficial to our everyday life, were protective from some threat, or maybe the habit was just a point of comfort.

So here is a challenge for you:

Examine your habits.
From as small as you put the toothpaste on the toothbrush before getting it wet to as big as You scope out the corners of a restaurant to make sure there is an open table before agreeing to eat there.

Pick one that you want to focus on.
Choose wisely, you might find that the habit needs some altering or to end all together.

Discover the source of your habit.
Why do you map out all of the emergency clinics/emergency rooms in the area before going to an unfamiliar place. Does that come from your experience of panic? Were you in need of a hospital at one time and were far away from help?

Reevaluate the habit.
Is this still a necessary part of your life? Do you need to let go of this habit for a lifestyle that better serves you or do you need to alter the existing habit so that it is more appropriate for your current situation?

While you practice your challenge I am going to do mine to! I have multiple habits – a lot actually – that go back years that I have no good reason for engaging in right now but I still do it. Time to shake this off and live better. This is a moment to live more efficiently and comfortably. Give yourself a chance to improve a small area of your life and see how that impacts everything else!1


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mantraHave you ever heard of mantras? When I hear that word I think of some weird pep talk I need to give myself in order to get the confidence I need to be able to do something. Honestly I think the word sounds a little cheesy and I get this picture in my head of someone sitting cross-legged on the floor in some meditation pose, eyes closed, muttering the same sentence over and over again in some singsong voice. If this is you – own it! If I sit on the floor with my eyes closed for more that 2 seconds I am prime target for a dog-tackle, so I have to find a safer way to use my mantra.

I’m off topic. Mantras are all about finding one or two simple sentences that define you. Not necessarily the “you” you are now but the “you” you are trying to become. The person you are striving to be everyday. Maybe this is the beginning of this journey for you; you haven’t started changing your actions, your thoughts, your everyday patterns but you kind of want to. You know there is something more for you. So find a mantra!

This is an activity that takes some time and some thought. Find what it is that you want for yourself. The kind of person you want to wake up and be every day. If you struggle with compassion towards other you might say something like:

I am cultivating a kind heart; I am looking for opportunities to be gracious and compassionate to others around me.

Or if you are trying to reduce your anxiety and level or stress you might say:

I am moving towards peace and calmness in my everyday life, I am relaxed in moments of stress and I am able to work through my worry.

Mantras don’t need to be fancy or eloquent. It is however it will speak to you. If it needs to be a simple as:

I am not a worrywart, and I don’t let stress get the better of me.

The idea here is to have a positive intention or focus to your mantra. This is something you are moving toward or trying to increase in your life, not what you are moving away from or trying to decrease. It is completely appropriate to look at the things you don’t like about your life to get a base for what you want to increase but don’t dwell there – you are in the process of moving toward something more positive, not just bashing the negative you see in your life.


This is excessive but you get the idea.

After you have your mantra say it to yourself every day at least once. You can write it on a card and put it on your bathroom mirror. Put it on a piece of paper in your car or your wallet. Where ever you will see it everyday and every time you see it read it out loud to yourself. Own it! This is you! And if you can sit on the floor and meditation style repeat it to yourself more power to you!

Enjoy this process. Not only are you working on getting to know the person you are working to become but you are also giving yourself the tools to get there.1


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Masking Your Nervous Self

maskLast night was Halloween and of course everyone gets dressed up and pretends to be someone else. It is so fun to see how excited kids get when they decide on a costume and even more excited when they get to put it on! One little boy I know dressed up as a ninja and he owned his new identity. As soon as he put on his suit he stopped talking (and this kiddo is a chatter box!) and went into stealth mode. He was rolling from room to room and slipping into doorways without a sound. He slipped on his costume and he truly became another person.

We all do that sometimes. We wear masks to help us get through different situations. Sometimes the “mask” is as literal as putting on your pair of power shoes to give you the confidence to get through a presentation or a meeting. It can be a new identity you try to take on as you go into a social event that regular Harold wouldn’t be able to get through but “Harry,” the life of the party has no problem.

  • How many different versions of yourself to you have?
  • How do they serve you?
  • What do they help you accomplish?

Different triggers and situations demand new kinds of action from us and pull from different areas of our strengths. Sometimes the “everyday” version of us can rise to the occasion and sometimes that doesn’t seem like enough. We need to pull in someone else that can carry us through, so we put on our mask and assume some other identity. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to take care of business on your own, after all the mask is really just another side of you. It is simply shifting your skills and strengths to accomplish a task and also serves a protective function to preserve the you that feels vulnerable.

Examine what situations or events require you to put on a mask – or what situations you might be able to get through more gracefully if you started using a mask. What strength do you need to pull from and who do you need to become in order to be the best you that can get through the moment. This is an exciting moment where you can discover how to best take care of you in uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking situations. And it can be as simple and putting on a pair of shoes or becoming Harry instead of Harold for a few minutes.1


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Slumps and Silver Linings

Sometimes your day just sucks and there doesn’t seem to be anything good about it. One thing happens after another and a day that seemed to just get off on the wrong foot is suddenly ruined. Bad days can turn into bad weeks and there you go. You are in a slump.


Slumps (or funks as my dad likes to call them) are hard to get out of and uncomfortable to explain to others. Family and friends notice you are “off” and ask you about it – and then what do you say? Some will explain it away as not getting outside enough; some will say they have been under the weather. Whatever your explanation or the thing that got you in your slump, the best way to get out of the slump is to intentionally find your sliver lining.

Throughout your day, as terrible as your slump day may feel, I will be bold and say that not everything IS terrible and that there are a few shining moments where things are not as bad as all that. Find those moments. Give your attention to them – highlight what that means to your day. I think you will find that the more you look for silver lining moments, the more you will find. The more you find, the less terrible your slump (day, week, month, etc.) will feel.

When we focus our attention on the things that are going wrong or the places in our life where we are dissatisfied we breed an attitude of discontent and negativity. If all you see in your work is one deadline after another, one more productivity requirement without additional compensation, then you won’t be able to appreciate the moments where you are praised for the work you have accomplished this quarter, you won’t really enjoy the coffee your co-worker picked up for you on the way to work.

How different could your perspective and attitude be if instead of letting the kids stress you out with the million different activities they are in you took time to intentionally enjoy them making pancakes with you on Saturday. Or intentionally enjoyed catching your kids joyfully playing a game together. Things look different very quickly when we are intentional about what we give our focus to and the importance we place on the things that are good in our lives.

I’m not saying that slumps aren’t miserable and difficult to get out of. The situation that lead to your slump might be something that needs to change to keep you from burning out or being in an extended slump. But in the moment, the day to day in between that change and right now, you have the opportunity to look for something better that is already present in your life. Enjoy the positive things that already exist around you.1


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Keeping Your Cool when Life Happens

Life has so many changes and times when you really can’t control what happens. When life happens you can do one of two things.

  1. You can totally loose your cool, call people colorful names, and steam for the rest of the day.
  2. You can take a minute to process and decide on a course of action that is both positive and productive.

I am a strong believer in continuums and reactions like this often happen on some sort of scale. The most frequent outcome of things gone haywire is some combination of angry outbursts and then problem solving.

Where do you fall on that continuum? How much of a freak out do you need to go through before you can problem solve and come to a productive rational conclusion?

Sometimes your ability to keep your cool is related to the kind of situation. When the situation is related to something that is very important to you, something that you are really invested, in it is easier to go off the handle than it is to calmly recalculate and adjust for what needs to happen next. What are you invested in or passionate about? Maybe it is related to work, family, or a significant other. You melt down when you aren’t able to meet productivity requirements or when a staff meeting doesn’t go the way you had hoped. When your family changes their plans (for the 15th time) and you are stuck to make dinner for 4 extra guests with little time to prepare. When your partner decides to go hang out with friends instead of checking out a new class you were both going to attend.

fly-off-the-handleSometimes small things really rub our raw spots and to others they seem trivial. The things that cause us to loose our cool have such an effect on us because they are important to us. So what is the difference between the times where you can just adjust your plans or your approach and get things done vs. the situations where we feel like we are left high and dry? The difference is how important they are to you and the more important a situation is to you the more you need to plan for how to manage any shifts in advance.

  • Identify areas of your life where you tend to loose your cool, feel very anxious or angry.
  • Once you know where you struggle make a plan B for those moments. A little cheat sheet for yourself as to what you can do next or what you can say to yourself that will be comforting.
  • Find the situations that you are able to adjust to with little difficulty.
  • Explore how you are able to be successful in those situations vs. others. Why are you able to adjust and how to you do your adjusting? Why don’t you go off the handle and how can you translate those feelings into situations that are more difficult to remain calm?

To recap: Plan B for when you might loose it and find out where you are successful in working through life’s curve balls. You are already successfully keeping it together in some areas of your life, now we just need to move that success to the areas where it is harder to adjust.1


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