Category Archives: Mental Health

Strategies for achieving greater mental health and wellness while adding peace, harmony, and balance to your everyday life.

Guided Meditation and Relaxation

Are You “T’wired?” Self-Care in a Fast-Paced, Digital World

Can you relate to the following description? It’s been a long, fast-paced, and stressful day and you’re exhausted. It’s bedtime and you want to go to sleep, but your mind is racing, thinking of all the things on your to-do list for tomorrow. You scroll through social media in order to wind down, but it leaves you feeling even more agitated. You’re exhausted (tired) and overstimulated (wired) all at once: you’re t’wired!

In my psychology practice, my clients— tweens, teens, and adults— describe their “t’wiredness” every day. So, why are we so t’wired? First, our culture tells us that productivity and achievement equals success: we should be going, doing, and achieving ‘round the clock. We should be making money, earning stellar grades, exercising daily, keeping our house “Pinterest-worthy,” and parenting our kids perfectly. Naps are for the lazy! So, day in and day out, we push ourselves to the limit physically, mentally, and emotionally. We’re TIRED.  

The second contributor to the “t’wired” epidemic is that we’re a plugged-in, over-caffeinated, overstimulated culture. This state of hyper-arousal is fueled by technology (Email! Facebook! Instagram! Text messages! Netflix!) and sustained by repetitive anxious thoughts (Did that email sound okay? Why can’t I afford a vacation like the one that Chris shared on Facebook? Why didn’t Jay text me back?). No wonder we can’t get a good night’s sleep! We’re WIRED.  

From a physiological perspective, this combination of physical exhaustion and mental overstimulation causes the following: racing brain waves, increased heart rate, overheated core body temperature, and hormonal disruption. If the pattern is not broken, we can be left with insomnia, severe anxiety, depression, and other mental and physical health challenges.  

So how do we break the pattern? Genuine rest is the key. Genuine rest involves intentionally cultivating a state of physical and mental peace. What does that look like in practice? Here are some specific strategies:

Give yourself a digital detox

  1. On average, Americans check their phones 96 times per day. That’s approximately once every ten minutes! Make a conscious decision to check your devices only at certain points in the day, such as on the hour, or at mealtimes. While this might feel very challenging at first (your brain craves that shot of Dopamine from Facebook “likes!”), you will quickly notice that you feel more calm and focused.  
  2. Take a break from your electronic devices for one full day each week—or even all weekend! When you’re not distracted by the constant buzzes, beeps, and vibrations, you can reclaim your time and spend your energy on what really matters— your relationships, meaningful activities, and your spiritual life. You’ll quickly be shocked at how much these devices have been (a) distracting you and (b) robbing you of meaningful experiences.  

Practice conscious relaxation

Conscious relaxation practices are truly the antidote to t’wiredness. They relieve stress, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, promote quality sleep, and are associated with improved overall well-being. Specific examples of conscious relaxation strategies include:

  1. Taking a walk in nature (or simply sitting!) and mindfully noticing your surroundings.  
  2. Doing a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. Progressive muscle relaxation involves gently tensing and releasing the major muscle groups. It’s incredibly relaxing!  Guided practices can easily be found online and via various apps.
  3. Doing a guided meditation or imagery exercise. These practices give us a break from the “noise” of the outside world.  Meditation allows us to tune into our five senses, while imagery takes us somewhere else (like the beach!) in our minds.  Guided meditations and imagery exercises can also be found easily online and via various apps.
  4. Simply breathe. Sit comfortably and take a few moments to simply notice your breath. Feel it moving in and out, rhythmically. Place your hands on your belly and feel it rising and falling.  
  5. Pray. Find a comfortable, quiet place and spend time in prayer. Reciting a favorite, calming verse or prayer can promote feelings of peace (e.g., The Lord’s Prayer, The Apostles’ Creed, Psalm 23).


Journaling is another great antidote to t’wiredness. Turn off all of your devices, find a comfortable spot, and take a few minutes to put all of your thoughts and feelings down on paper. Recent research has shown that this simple practice reduces activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for controlling the intensity of emotions. Journaling also allows us to “sort out” our experiences and emotions, promoting a sense of clarity and control.

The world isn’t going to slow down anytime soon— but we can! I genuinely hope that these calming practices bring you rest, peace, and renewal.

Achieve Wellness by Doing Less

wellness and balanceAchieve Wellness by Doing Less

I recently had a session with “Kate,” a new mother, wife, and ICU nurse.  Kate expressed a feeling that people share with me frequently:  “I feel like I’m not doing enough.”  Kate shared feelings of guilt for “not working enough” (she works 24 hours per week in the ICU), “not losing the baby weight,” (her son is 10 weeks old), “not working out enough,” and “not cooking nice meals like I used to.”  To provide some context, Kate’s baby has feeding difficulties, has her up three or four times per night, and wants to be carried all day long.  Kate is exhausted and overwhelmed, juggling the responsibilities of parenting with the pressures of ICU nursing (and doing an amazing job, by the way), but she still she feels guilty for not doing “more.”

Unfortunately, I hear this message from my patients almost everyday:  that they’re not doing “enough.”  Not working enough, not cooking enough, not exercising enough, not making enough money, not enrolling their kids in enough activities, not spending enough time with their kids, not keeping the house clean enough, etc., etc., etc.  We live in a culture that subtly says, “Do it all and do it all perfectly!” “Achieve, achieve, achieve!” and “Do more, do more, do more!”  Well, I’m here with a completely different message:  DO LESS.  If your body is exhausted or hurting, listen to it.  Give yourself permission to skip the work out and simply rest.  If it’s time to make dinner and you feel tired and overwhelmed, give yourself permission to order take-out:  and enjoy every bite. If you need a break from your children, don’t try to push through another craft:  give yourself permission to put them in front of a video while you take a relaxing bath, do a meditation, or call a friend.  If going for that promotion will bring added stress to you and your household system, give yourself permission to take yourself out of the running.  When you make conscious choices to take care of yourself (through rest, relaxation, connecting with others, and “doing less”), you’re bringing balance to your family system; promoting your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health; and modeling healthy behavior for your loved ones!

I’m working hard to help Kate be more gentle and compassionate with herself.  Specifically, we’re working to replace her culturally-based “do more” mentality with conscious choices that promote health, harmony, and balance.  Each time she is faced with a decision, she asks herself this question:  “What choice will lead to greater balance, peace, harmony, and health for me and my family?”  If you struggle with that nagging feeling of pressure to do more (as I do sometimes), I hope you’ll consider using this question as a guide too.

Take care,


Don’t Believe Everything You Think


Don’t Believe Everything You Think

A few years ago, when I was practicing in the Washington D.C. area, I had the pleasure of working with a young woman whom I’ll call Kate.  Kate used to sit in my office wearing baggy clothes to “hide” her body, talking at length about how she felt “so fat and ugly.”  She avoided walking past mirrors or store windows because, “I just look so disgusting, I can’t stand to see myself.”  Kate avoided parties and other college social events because, “I feel like people are staring at me all the time, judging me.” Here’s the shocking thing:  Kate was a model.  She showed me her photo in several magazines and catalogs.  She was absolutely beautiful, inside and out.

Anyone looking at Kate would be dumbfounded by her self-perception.  How could she see herself this way?  The answer lies in the messages that she received from important people in her life.  Throughout her youth, Kate’s mother was extremely critical of her appearance.  I recall Kate saying, “My mom was always staring at me, picking me apart, finding anything she could that was wrong with me, right down to my eyebrows.”  When she developed some acne as an adolescent, Kate’s mother took her to a dermatologist, pointed at Kate’s face and said, “This is unacceptable.  Fix it.”  Kate’s mother closely monitored Kate’s weight and became angry if she exceeded a size two.  Kate also recalled her father bragging about her modeling appearances and “giving me the silent treatment” when she was not chosen for a shoot. Basically, the messages that Kate received from her parents were, “People are scrutinizing you,” “Your appearance isn’t good enough,” and “Our  approval is conditional and based on your appearance.” Unfortunately, Kate came to believe these messages; they slowly but surely became the basis of her self-perception and the way that she navigated through the world.

Be Body Positive

I worked with Kate to identify and begin questioning these messages. Could it have been that her parents were wrong?  Perhaps she was always a beautiful person, inside and out, who deserved unconditional love and acceptance.  Perhaps the healthy people in her life (such as her favorite teacher, who was caring and supportive) were right.  Perhaps her parents’ messages were all about their own “issues” rather than any flaw or mistake on her part.

Over time, Kate came to believe that my suggestions might be true- that she shouldn’t believe the negative, self-critical thoughts that popped into her head so automatically.  She began to actively notice and question her harsh inner voice.  Slowly, Kate came to accept that her self-critical thoughts had been ingrained by influential people who had her all wrong.

Now let me ask you this:  Have you simply accepted certain messages that were sent to you by influential people in your life, such as parents, coaches, teachers, or peers?  Did you accept the content of criticism or teasing as fact?   How have these messages affected your self-perception and self-talk?

Today I encourage you to do this:  Don’t believe everything that you think.  Starting right now, begin to notice and question any negative message that you have received.  It’s very likely that those messages were- and are- all wrong.

Take care,


Start Now


Start Now

A few days ago, I read a very wise quote by Mark Victor Hansen:

“Don’t wait until everything is just right to build the life that you want. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what?  Get started now. With each small step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.”

As Mr. Hansen points out, we often don’t pursue our authentic desires because of perceived obstacles and less than perfect conditions- we tell ourselves that we’re too busy, too overwhelmed, too short on funds, not smart enough, not creative enough, not motivated enough, etc., etc.  This sets a spiral of negative thoughts and inaction in motion, and our authentic desires go unrealized.

Self Motivation

I have personal experience with this phenomenon.  It took me years to start my book, The Weight Loss Surgery Coping Companion, because I told myself that I was too busy, too tired, and surely unable to simultaneously write a book and take care of a toddler.  Then one day when my daughter was taking a nap, I had the “So what?” moment mentioned by Mr. Hansen.  I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote the first paragraph of my book.  It was that simple.  Then I wrote another, and another, and another, and as the quote says, I grew stronger, more skilled, and more confident with each one.  When I finished writing that first day, I recall thinking, “Why didn’t I start this a long time ago?  This wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d built it up to be!”  I just needed to START.

Today I encourage you to identify one of your authentic desires (e.g., writing a book, learning a language, starting your own business, learning an instrument, changing careers, adopting an exercise practice) and commit yourself to taking one small step towards its realization this week.  Brainstorm the title of your book, order a Rosetta Stone language program, arrange to speak with someone who has started his or her own business, research local music teachers, make an appointment with a career counselor, exercise for just five minutes.  Putting aside negative thoughts and just starting the process is the key.  From there, you will become stronger, more skilled, more confident, and ultimately more successful.  I hope that you will accept this challenge- a richer life awaits you!

Please feel free to write to me about your experience – I would love to hear from you.

Take care,