Wednesday, December 31, 2014


     I would keep in mind that most New Years resolutions last as long as the first time we get confronted with actually making the change.  So, maybe stop smoking, until you "really" need one.  Or start exercising, until you "just don't have the time".  But I do think that EVERYBODY can take a small first step towards changing their bad habits, or developing new good ones.  And the beginning of the year is as good a time as any to get started.

     So here we go.  Remember: baby steps.  Here's a few New Years resolutions for you to choose from.  At least one...
1.  I will be more conscious of my habits, and their consequences regarding my relationships, health, and work.

2.  I will proactively manage my stress better, and get help if I need it BEFORE it's too late.

3.  I will be sure to show the people who I love that I do, by how I treat them. 

4.  I will learn more about what I eat, and take steps to improve my diet.  To eat healthier.

5.  I will drink more water.

6.  I will exercise.

7.  I will control my anger, including apologizing to anyone who's been negatively impacted by it.

8.  I will consider forgiveness (even if I won't ever forget).

9.  I will worry less.

10.  I will make an ongoing effort to consider the POSITIVE possibilities  in all situations that I'm involved in.

I am sure that you've come up with some of your own.  If you have or haven't, consider the ones listed here.  Our goal is a happy, healthy, more compassionate 2015.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


As you know, stress effects us daily.  Job stress is different because we choose to go to work, usually because we have to, so we just get used to the personal demands of the job.  We expect it, anticipate it.  So sometimes it surprises us when we start having the ill effects of this daily grind.  It effects our health.  Our relationships.  Our overall happiness.  Here's a few more ways to control that stress.

6.  GET A LIFE OUTSIDE OF WORK. Our jobs often tend to  extend beyond the normal work hours.  In addition to taking work home, we can also think (or worry) about it when we're not there. Also (hopefully) taking time to recover from the exhaustion that's caused by a stressful job.  Our lives can tend to revolve around our work.  However, if our whole life is our job, and that job isn't very enjoyable, then our whole life isn't enjoyable.  Develop other interests.  Hang out with friends. Pay attention to your partner (date night?).  Go out with your family.  Exercise.  Then you have other things to think about, and to do.  Something to look forward to after work. This will help reduce your overall stress, including your work stress.

7.  LET A PICTURE MAKE YOU SMILE.  Either on your desk, or in your pocket (or in your phone), have a picture that's guaranteed to make you smile.  Baby pictures work well, or a pet, or a beautiful memory.  When your frustration is building at work, or disappointments are mounting up, take a look at the picture.  Let it make you feel good, as well as remind you of the REALLY important things in your life.

8.  DON'T BUY INTO THE NEGATIVITY OF OTHERS.  This is not always easy.  Especially if you are already stressed, not really happy at the time (for your own reasons).  You may readily engage in their negativity to help rationalize your distress.  Let toxic coworkers know not to bring you their drama, their complaints, their gossip.  It may be difficult at first to set boundaries for them, and you may lose them as work compadres (aka frienemies), but you'll be better off.

9.  STOP SEEING YOURSELF AS STUCK IN A "DEAD END" JOB.  Develop a different perspective of the job, and of yourself in the job. The way you characterize your job exists in your head.  You are in control of what goes on in there (though it may not feel like it sometimes).  If your job is getting you down, realize that you are allowing that to happen.  Take action.  Acknowledge it as the challenge that it is, then rise to meet the challenge.  Focus on the opportunities to be successful, and take pride in your ability to overcome obstacles even in the worst situations.  Even though you may not like the job, it's always better when you feel good about yourself.

10.  DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF.  And there is so much "small stuff" that if you aren't careful, it will build up and wear you out. That's called BURNOUT.  So be mindful that the big things, for example a possible layoff, poor work evaluation, or an impending promotion, deserve your attention.  The small stuff may require a certain amount of work to resolve, but does not deserve your sweat, or worry, or stress.  So deal with it and forget it.  Move on.  You will do a better job, and you will feel better.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

10 Tricks To Help You Manage Job Stress

          I'm sure you're wondering, "why does he call these 'tricks'"?  Well, our bodies/mind/spirit are designed to be healthy and happy.  Stress can interfere with that.  We've pretty much been trained to accept stress, because it ain't going nowhere. Especially job stress.  So we end up tolerating much more stress than we should, which negatively impacts our bodies, minds, and spirits.   So these tricks will help you take control of the stress (since much of the work stress is not under your control) that is beating you down.

1. BREATHE! I love to say to people, 'check your breathing'.  You do it now.  Notice that you're not breathing deeply (as we were designed).  As a result, you can't relax; you get tired or bored or distracted because you're not getting enough oxygen to your brain; and you start to get crabby.  When you are at work take a deep breath (or several) throughout the day. It will immediately help counter the effects of stress. It'll be 'like a breath of fresh air!'

2.  REWARD YOURSELF FOR SURVIVING MONDAY.  Mondays are tough for everyone. So much so that we start stressing about it on Sunday. Plan an activity, special lunch or dinner, outing with a friend, a date, after work massage, favorite dessert, something guaranteed to make you feel GREAT.  It gives you something to look forward to as you suffer through the day. You deserve it.

3.  IDENTIFY THE BIGGEST PROBLEM AT YOUR JOB. Pick a favorite song or tune to have available in your head to use when you encounter that situation, or person. Hum the tune (probably best if you hum to yourself) when you need it.  Smile, and allow yourself to enjoy the moment.

4.   ACKNOWLEDGE THE GOOD REASONS THAT YOU STAY AT THIS JOB.  Remember, you're CHOOSING to stay. Likely because the income helps support your family; health benefits; someone's going to college; you like to go out once in a while; you like to shop. Don't focus on the negatives about the job. You'll feel better, less stressed. 

5.  THE WEEK AIN'T OVER ON FRIDAY.  Our lives too often revolve around the job.  Get a life outside of work, and indulge yourself in that from Friday evening to Sunday night.  Don't work on the weekend, even if you usually do work from home. Even though your job is important, it is only a PART of your life. If you lose your job you will get another one. If you were to lose your health, your family, your friends, or your fun you'd be very unhappy. Remember: All work and no play makes for a dull (and stressed out) life. 

                              ~ TO BE CONTINUED ~

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Video Games, ... Good and Bad

In my opinion video games are good because they provide hours of enjoyment for people young and old. They can be bad (for young people) for the same reason, "hours of enjoyment," when some of those hours can be spent learning to enjoy activities that have some long term positive benefit. Physical exercise, reading, drawing, playing a musical instrument, cooking, social development (ie. friends), earning money (at home or in the community), conversation, museum visits, etc. But for children to sit and enjoy hours of violent, sometimes sexually provocative, escape from reality, these video games are not good for them. Now, of course we can all use some occasional escapism. But some of these games are just too much for young minds to be exposed to for hours at a time. It has to influence their thinking/feeling some. Anything that a child spends many hours focusing on daily, becoming emotionally involved with, not only influences their thinking, but their behavior. This also goes for the music they listen to, the movies they watch, and internet sites that they visit.

You do not have to cut it all out (unless you have to), but you should be aware of what they are being exposed to in your home and in the homes of their friends. A lot of parents don't think about what their kids may be getting at their friend's house. Figure out how to check that out. And add some balance to your kid's video time. For example, for each hour of video games, an hour of reading or studying. Maybe they earn video game time by doing chores, or by getting good grades. Expose them to other activities, and perhaps participate with them. I don't want to mention any specific games, but I heard this morning about a game that focuses on one person stabbing another, for some reason (?). In today's world, in which so many people have anger (and violence) problems, do we need our kids practicing stabbing (or shooting) vicariously over and over again, day in and day out? How does anyone WIN at that game?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How To Interpret Your Dreams

          I recently saw a tv interview on interpreting dreams, with the author of a new book on the topic. She seemed to use the typical approach, ie. applying general meanings to symbols in the dream. An example of this, and the one I was most annoyed with, is the dream of having your teeth fall out. She says that it means you're doing too much gossiping. That you should keep your (gossipy) words in your mouth, as you should your teeth. I'm not one to take things too literally, but I have had this dream, and I don't gossip (much).

          I use a different approach to dream interpretation. I think the symbols in dreams themselves have meaning specific to the dreamer. So everything, and everyone in the dream is an unconscious representation of some aspect of the dreamer. You are dreaming about it now to help resolve some important issue, propel you towards forward growth, and/or acknowledge a current obstacle in your life that you may not be aware of (or in denial about), like stress. Bad, or scary dreams, seem to me to be mostly stress related. If you can recall your dreams it helps to pay attention to them. Especially recurrent dreams. They seem to be a particularly meaningful message that your unconscious wants your conscious (daily awareness) mind to get. You'll find that once you figure these dreams out, your repeating dream will "move on" to deliver the next message.

          So I do believe that teeth falling out in dreams (or any dream symbols) are most successfully interpreted within the context of the individual's life, including their relationships, goals, stresses, culture, and day-to-day life circumstance. You may wonder, "Michael, why don't you write a book on dreams." Well, believe it or not, I didn't exactly come up with this on my own. Fritz Perls and other Gestalt Psychology theorists laid the groundwork for this type of dream interpretation. I like it. I use it often in my practice, and have had success with it. Try it. It works best when you have someone who knows you, and whom you trust (No, it doesn't have to be a therapist) to help you with it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


          Parents, spouses, and (believe it or not) even teachers sometimes refer to people they bring to counseling as 'lazy.' I have an immediate emotional response, but typically wait to hear their whole story before suggesting that "lazy," as a description of a person, is bogus. I mean, I interpret it as a description of their behavior. It is typically used as a demeaning label, a bad personality trait. To me it means that a person is not doing the work that's expected of them for one reason or another (including the possibility of unrealistic expectations). Those reasons are likely low motivation (ie. not a priority), anger (they don't want to do it because they're angry at you, and won't say why), not accepting of their responsibility to perform the task, or have been given the excuse that "you're lazy" and they want you to continue to take care of them. And that's your reward for allowing someone to get away with being "lazy." YOU have to do it. That's called enabling.

            Now if they come to me and are diagnosed with malingering (or labelled 'lazy'), I want to figure out why this person is not behaving responsibly and what the family or relationship dynamics are that help maintain this behavior. Sometimes it is part of a larger emotional issue, like depression. But often it is a form of communication in which the person (for example a child, or spouse) is passively expressing anger, and/or exerting some control over their life that feels controlled by someone else (like a parent, teacher, or partner). Stop giving them the excuse of laziness, and make some changes in the relationship. Listen more. Negotiate and compromise better. Offer some rewards. Often more loving attention is a valuable incentive. Becoming more controlling by trying to force them into action often has the opposite effect, that is, they get the attention (although it's negative ) but get more stuck in their noncompliant behavior. It's like you're rewarding their "laziness." Help them break this bad habit, and replace it with responsible action. You and they will be much happier.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Art of Parenting

Parenting is something that we are all capable of. Well, those of us who have kids. Initially it requires a focus on the wellbeing of our offspring, while guiding them to reach their potential. Our role changes as they get older. The amount of involvement parents have in their child's life when the child becomes a teen and then an adult depends on their needs, and yours. And if we don't change how we relate to our child as they age, you will possibly grow apart. Unconditional love is what motivates us to do the work required for good parenting. The parent's creativity, sustained energy, patience and motivation, and the beauty that results from communicating this love is what elevates parenting from 'just a job,' to an art form. That love needs to be communicated in EVERY interaction with our child. This not only includes expressing our joy about their successes, but showing your love by not degrading them when we are disappointed or angry at them. Even if they act like they don't need us.
You can create a loving, nurturing environment for your child by developing a strong bond with them early (or later) in life. This will help them trust and rely on your influence, and input in their life. Of course there's no handbook that tells you what to do to be the "perfect" parent. However, your unconditional love expressed through good communication (especially LISTENING), will go a long way in helping you master the art of (good) parenting.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Go Ahead, Be A Valentine! (reprinted)

As you know, I think relationships and the role of love in relationships are very important. Healthy happy relationships help keep you strong. They can actually help you live longer. A bad relationship, especially a close one, can kill ya. I've written a lot here over the past 2 years about this topic. So rather than repeat myself, I thought that I'd list the references to my previous discussions below, and encourage you to review them for Valentines Day.

1. "If You Were In Her Shoes" 1/18/09

2. "Consider Forgiveness" 5/22/08

3. " Love Is In The Air" 1/28/08

4. "Forgiveness, ... Easier Said Than Done?" 10/1/07

5. "All You Need Is Love" 9/22/07

6. "A Happy Marriage Helps Relieve Stress" 6/25/07

However for those of you who want the summarized version, I give you this (and enjoy the holiday):

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Today SHOW some love,
for a Happier, Healthier you.