Tag Archives: counseling

LENT: Look to the Positives

What if you rephrased the question of “What will I give up?” to “What will I gain?”

This short blog will utilize the counseling paradigm of the BIOPSYCHOSOCIOSPIRITUAL Model that focuses on the premise that each person is a unique and complex human who is composed of a physical being, an emotional being, a relational being, and a spiritual being.

What if you decided during this Lenten season to focus on one particular area of your life – based on the above concept – and focused on what is to be gained instead of lost?

BIO = Your body

What one thing can you do each day to better your physical health?

Take note that by doing something better, you’re actually giving up something that is of much lesser quality that may be harmful for your physical health.

How would this change your view of what you eat, drink, or improve self care since you are created in the image of God and your body is a “living sacrifice?” [Romans 12:1,2]

PSYCHO = Your mind

What can you do each day to take ownership of your thoughts and choose to think on things that are “true, noble, right, pure, admirable, and honorable?” [Philippians 4:8]

Do you need to “crucify” an attitude of entitlement and, instead, focus on gratitude for 40 days?

Take note that by choosing better things to think about, you’re actually giving up thoughts of much lesser quality that may be harmful for your emotional health.

(Are you starting to see a pattern? ūüôā

SOCIO = Your relationships

What can you do each day to improve the relationships in your life? No, not what OTHERS should do, but what YOU decide to do to improve your marriage, friendships, relationships with your children, etc.

Do you need to start focusing on what the people in your life are doing well as opposed to what they aren’t? Does your attitude of harshness or selfishness¬†need to be “crucified?”

Take note that by choosing to improve the relationships in your life, you’re actually giving up the right to only seeing things from your perspective.

SPIRITUAL = Your relationship with God

How can you choose to intentionally meet with Him each day?

Take note that by choosing to improve your relationship with your Creator, you’re giving up something of much lesser quality that demands your energy and time.

Side note: ¬†You may say you don’t worship God. ¬†Well, okay. ¬†But look at WHAT or WHOM you DO worship, because we all worship something or someone. ¬†And misdirected¬†worship never satisfies. Never has, never will.

Focus on what you’re gaining this Lenten season as opposed to what you’re giving up. ¬†It pales in comparison.

This is Hope Unveiled!



Relationship Tips as You Gather

“The Heritage of the Past is the Seed That Brings Forth the Harvest of the Future.”

This quote from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. is dense with meaning and application.

Gathering Together…

The first gathering for thanks most likely occurred in 1621 even though it wasn’t officially recorded until two years later. As you learned early in your academic studies, the settlers had had many obstacles¬†in the heritage of their past that posed challenges unlike any other. ¬†Let’s face it. ¬†The majority of us will never know what kind of hardship and trials they faced.

These families focused on what they DID have, not what they had lost.  Unlike the photos and popular belief, they wore clothes of bright colors and enjoyed song, dance, and outdoor activities. In fact, this tradition began after they had experienced a two month drought. Gratitude.

As You Gather Together….

These are the “seeds” that you plant in the present:

  • Refuse to react. ¬†If someone “pushes your buttons,” you make the choice that it will not bother you. Take a deep breath, leave the room, or let it roll off your shoulders. Learning the skill to de-escalate will take you a long way.
  • Find common denominators. There tends to be a focus on what divides in relationships. ¬†I encourage you to intentionally find what unites. This could be as simple as watching a movie, playing board games, cooking, sports, etc.
  • Focus on the people. Focus on the people who are present. ¬†What do they enjoy? What are their interests? ¬†What are their hobbies or career interests? What current challenges do they face? How can you encourage them?
  • Don’t “go there” with hot topic issues. Decide ahead of time that if you know people at the same gathering have different philosophical ideas, a boundary should¬†be erected before the conversation begins to snowball. ¬†If someone tries to push buttons among the group, kindly respond that it’s not the time or place. Use appropriate body language, words, and tone. Shift the focus on an idea or topic for all to contribute.
  • Ask open-ended questions. ¬†Nothing will diffuse a potential argument than incorporating this technique. ¬†If someone offers an opinion, ¬†ask the following: “Tell me why that’s important to you,” and then leave it at that. ¬†Don’t offer your own side of looking at things. You won’t change someone’s belief system while gobbling down turkey.
  • Ask each other what you are thankful for. ¬†This is an especially useful “tool” if you’ve experienced hardship or grief this last year. ¬†Why? ¬†Science has proven that if you intentionally focus on what is going well, it balances out your cognitive thinking so the negatives don’t spiral you emotionally. The perfect ratio is >3 to 1 (listing at least 3 things you are thankful for even in the midst of the one negative event).
  • Be flexible. If families have changed, are blended, or experienced loss, be flexible and forgiving with the traditions of the past (what to fix, when to meet, etc.). ¬†Remember: ¬†it’s not the tradition that you’ve held, it’s about creating memories with people you care about.
  • Forgive. This isn’t about the other person, it’s about you. ¬†Forgiveness is a process (much like grief), and must be “walked through” with a pastor, counselor, or life coach. ¬†Forgiveness is about letting yourself off the hook, not the offender. ¬†Life’s too short to hold to grudges and bitterness. ¬†Do something about it now. It’s about YOU moving ahead in life.
  • Grief. If you have experienced loss, somewhere along the line you’ve adopted a belief that says, “I must stay strong for the family.” ¬†You have permission to cry and acknowledge your loss among your gathering. Of course things are different. You are embarking on a “new normal” and right now you have no idea what that looks like. ¬†So, cry together, laugh together, and remember the person who is no longer there. ¬†It promotes the healing promotes and is the first step in the grief process. In holidays to come, you may want to remember their memory in a special way at family gatherings. ¬†Be creative and allow your idea to fully embrace the person who is no longer with you.
  • Dress colorfully. As simple or silly as this may sound, there’s psychological benefit to wearing something that positively affects your emotions and makes you feel good.
  • Hobbies. Between gatherings, be sure to build your resiliency “tool box” with things you enjoy – reading, resting, painting, etc. ¬†These hobbies and healthy coping skills make you resilient during times of stress.

Let this season of gathering be joyful – regardless of hardship and trial – and decide now to take ownership of what YOU bring to the table.

Life Coaching Tip:

Regardless of the “heritage” behind you, you decide what “seed” to plant TODAY that will reap a future “harvest” in your life.





Anxious Living: “Y” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y.

This is the last blog in my series on stress management.


You wake to another day of stress. ¬†Instead of a “new beginning,” it seems more like “here I go again.” Chronos time instead of kairos time. ¬†The former indicates the time ticking off the clock, while the latter connotes time that is “pregnant with purpose.” ¬†Keep reading.

The “Y” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y. implies leaning in and saying “yes” to whatever the particular life challenge may be that is causing stress. ¬†Let me make a clear distinction here….

This is not permission to continue with a frantic lifestyle. ¬†If your schedule is stressing you because your problem IS¬†saying “yes” to too many things, this is an issue of boundary setting. ¬†Your life needs margin on every level: physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

These are things that you ultimately have control over, whether or not you believe it to be so.

What I’m specifically referring to in this blog are the stressors that you have no control over.¬†Examples would include, but are not limited to, grief; family crisis due to another’s actions; caregiving; conflicts in relationships; marital difficulties.

These are things that you ultimately don’t have control over, but are affected by.

Neurobiology is currently clear about the psychological and physiological benefits of tackling issues instead of avoiding them. ¬†And here we have the concept of “fight or flight” coming into play as well as one’s interpretation of the stressor itself:

“I can do this. It’s not an easy time, but I can handle this” ¬† rather than ¬† ¬†“This is the worst thing that can happen,” or “Why is this happening? I don’t deserve this.”

For instance, grieving people need to clean out their loved one’s belongings, dine at frequently visited restaurants, etc. ¬†In other words, saying “yes” to those things they wish they didn’t have to deal with. The process of doing so, however, is not only healing, but also allows them to grow in confidence as they journey toward a new normal.

You are actually more resilient than you believe you are, but how you interpret an unexpected life stressor is crucial to your ability to maneuver through it.

Here are some additional coaching tips for a season of stress:

  • DAILY GRATITUDE. ¬†Yes, gratitude. ¬†Be intentionally thankful and focus on what is going well¬†(e.g. physical wellbeing, healthy relationships, what you’re thankful for, etc.). Be grateful for the smallest, often taken for granted, things.

The Positivity Ratio¬†(>3 to 1) postulates that learning to incorporate gratitude as a habit when life is going well will be psychologically beneficial when things aren’t. ¬†It help you cognitively balance out the negative (the “1”).

  • DAILY RECOVERY TIME. ¬†If you are in daily chronic stress, have daily recovery time (e.g. listening to music, reading a book, a favorite hobby, etc.).
  • DAILY INQUIRY FOR GROWTH. ¬†Viktor Frankl, author of¬†Man’s Search for Meaning,¬†encouraged his post WWII patients to look for the “bigger picture” perspective (e.g. “How can I allow this event to not be wasted in my life?” or “How can I help others later on?,” or “What can I now contribute to society [mankind] because I have gone through this experience?”

Lean in. Say yes. Be proactive as possible.  Seek professional help if needed.  Practice self care.  Set boundaries (either for self care or relationally).  Allow margin.

Each day has an ending.   One day you will awake to a new beginning where you find yourself to be stronger, wiser, and better able to encourage others.

This is Hope Unveiled!


Anxious Living: “L” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y.


The “L” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y. represents three concepts:

  • Lean
  • Learn
  • Limit


The first concept, LEAN, encourages you to lean in to that of which you are fearful or stressed. ¬†For instance, if a grieving spouse refuses to return to a restaurant where he/she dined frequently with their mate because they are fearful or stressed about the emotions that will be evoked, it is recommended that the person lean in and “tackle” the challenge. ¬†The scientific reasoning? Because if they don’t, they are easily setting themselves up for what is called “avoidance reinforcement.” ¬†This occurs when the act of avoiding is actually reinforcing, or rewarding, staying away.

Ask yourself this question:  What are you avoiding that causing stress?


Second, LEARN a new hobby (see above).  Chalk painting is relatively new for me!  These projects were therapeutic, fun, and added a touch of refreshment to a traditional style. What would you like to learn?  How to play piano? Take ballroom dancing?  All of these things are stress relievers.

In addition, if you’re in a time of stress, make the choice¬†to pay it forward in the future for a friend. ¬†Drop the pride and resolve to be authentic with those it can help! The whole world doesn’t need to know what you may consider sensitive information about yourself or family, but just remember, it’s only for those to whom God has brought your way that your words of encouragement will mean more than what anyone else could possibly tender. ¬†Why? Because you’ve traveled the same path they are on now!

Ask yourself this question: What hobby can you learn? Who can you encourage?


The last concept, LIMIT, is simple but hard to implement, especially in American culture. ¬†Here it is: ¬†LEARN to say NO. ¬†You can’t do everything (pride), and neither can your children. ¬†Limit your responsibilities and theirs as well.

I’ve commented to Millennials – my own, my clients, my friends’ kids – that they struggle with boundaries because they have grown up in a world where they are almost nonexistent. ¬†To say “no” is much harder for them than it sometimes is for us. ¬†And technology doesn’t help the cause – for anyone.

Ask yourself this question: What do you need to say “no” to today?

Start being a personal manager of the stress in your life. ¬†Yes, you DO have a choice. Lean, Learn, and Limit. ¬†And when you do, you’ll have time to pick up that new hobby and relax!

This is Hope Unveiled!


Anxious Living: Cultivating Resiliency




A new day is coming if you learn to cultivate resiliency. And that’s great news! ¬†Therein lies HOPE. ¬†You can learn new techniques for becoming more resilient in the midst of seasons of life when you are stressed.

This easy acrostic will assist in remembering these tools. ¬†Today I will share the “R” for ¬†R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y.

  • RISE
    • Begin the morning with a prayer of gratitude. ¬†Give the day to God. ¬†How easy it is to take a new day for granted. ¬†Remember, He goes before you in your day and the details that will be in it. ¬†You are not alone!
    • Choose to release worry and regret (an earlier post gives practical tools for worry).
    • I’m not trying to be blunt or harsh, but if you walk through your day with worry and regret,¬†how is it working for you?¬†You do it, and I’ve done it. ¬†The good news is that we each make the choice to stay chained or released.
    • As simplistic as it sounds, developing daily and bedtime routines are crucial in combatting stress.
    • If you are going through a time of grief or loss, (e.g. divorce, relationship, etc.), recapture the positive memories and “delete” the negative ones. ¬†This is intentional disengaging¬†from the unpleasant memories that cloud thinking and keep you stuck in the past.

How you interpret, reflect, and evaluate what you’re going through is crucial to emotional well being (or not). ¬†So make the choice to put yourself in a better place. ¬†You’re worth it!


**The techniques listed above are from various sources for stress management, neurobiology, counseling, and coaching.