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  • Hey, This Is A Blog, Not A Therapy Session!

    I post insights that I have here about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and various techniques that I've used to help people. Cool as that is, you gotta make your own choices. Its no replacement for professional advice or counseling, so just bear that in mind before you go taking my advice.
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Bottle Up Your Feelings

Bottling things up. When you hear someone say this, its usually perceived negatively. After all, you can’t bottle up your emotions, right?

Well, to make this a little easier to understand, and less boring, I’ll tell you a little story that I learned from therapy school.

In order to listen to people’s problems every day, and not go insane, you have to set some sort of boundaries with your emotions. Sometimes you have to do this on the fly, because you might get a phone call from a family member or something that could throw you off your game. If you have to work with someone in the next few minutes, and you don’t have time to manage your issues at the time, you gotta figure out a way to put those problems aside and help someone.

So I created the Bottle. But its not like your usual bottle…its a special bottle.

See, this bottle allows you to manage the boloney you’re dealing with in a way that encourages you to deal with the problem before you go to sleep. It takes a bit of discipline, but if you do the technique right, it should work for you too.

So without further ado, and so you know what the heck I’m talking about, I’ll share this simple technique with you:

1. Take the issue you’re dealing with and put them in an imaginary bottle. After I wrote that, I think I sound a little crazy, but just humor me for a moment. Whatever it is you’re dealing with in the moment, take that issue and throw it in the bottle. Don’t worry, its not going to stay there too long.

2. Put it on a shelf. You’re putting the issue aside temporarily, with the purpose of going back to it when you don’t have to save the world or something. Visualizing the shelf allows you to recognize that bottling the problem is temporary. Most people skip this step, bottle the problem, and try not to think about it or try to forget it. This doesn’t work, as you need time to process the issue.

3. When you have time, take the bottle down. Take the bottle down off the shelf, open it up, and deal with the issue before it gets buried with all the other nasty stuff you may have buried in your life. If you don’t have the time, make the time to deal with these things before they affect the other areas of your life.

See! Bottling things up isn’t as bad, so long as you take whatever’s in the bottle out, and manage it at a later time. Keeping it bottled up is usually a bad idea, so you have to find time to let the issues out of the bottle.

What do you think? Can you put the issue aside and take the time to manage it? Talk to me people.


Battle Plan For Holiday Stress

The holidays are coming, and for some of us, that means a lot of fun with family we haven’t seen in a while. It means spending time and sharing stories and eating food til we burst. 

But for some of us, that means a lot of stress and frustration around spending time with people that we may not like, and for some of us, really secretly despise.  I’ve realized that I haven’t put up something about holiday stress on this thing, so I figure now is as good a time as any. After all, if you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to get through the upcoming Thanksgiving, and forthcoming Christmas insanity.

Well, that’s what I’m here for. So let’s focus on the usual issues that people have to deal with over the holidays, shall we? Mostly this involves interacting with your family, right? You know what I’m talking about: Overbearing parents; aunts and uncles that make stupid comments about what you should and should be doing; grandparents that pinch your cheeks; and that one relative that always says insensitive things about your life and no one has the stones to say anything to them about it.

So what do you do about all this insanity? It can be really overhwelming even thinking about dealing with all these personalities in one room, not to mention adding in there all the food and drink that goes along with it.

Well, the good news is that large amounts of family only come to these events once in a blue moon. So at the very least you can deal with them in small doses. However, if things get especially stressful around these times, we need to have a battle plan in place.

OK, so here’s the Battle Plan. Simple, but Powerful.

1. Set Boundaries. If there are issues that are off limits, be very clear to your family that these issues are off limits. You can do this very calmly, and matter of factly. If you’re worried about what others will think about your boundary setting, remember that you are not in control of other people’s Emotions, but you are in control of how others treat you.

2. Manage the stress appropriately. The last thing you want on your holiday is a big argument about something foolish and ridiculous. So find ways to take a break throughout the day. Find little breaks in the action to relieve some of the stress. If you have to, put the stress aside for the moment, manage the situation at hand, and after the family leaves, do something to relax at the end of your day.

3. Remember that you can change your Emotions, not other people’s. Decide what you want to feel and be prepared for the usual barrage of nonsense that comes from some of these family members. Also, allow other people to feel whatever they want to, and separate yourself from their feelings. Pretend there’s a bubble around you, and that’s where everyone else’s Emotions stop and your Emotions begin. By setting that boundary with yourself and others, you can then keep your Emotions in check without allowing anyone elses Emotions to affect you.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all seen family get togethers go wrong. The key is whether or not you’re going to let it get to you.

The Known and the Unknown

My approach to problems is very simple, as you probably know from reading this blog. Still, life gets complicated, and sometimes we tend to make our problems out to be more than what they actually could be.

One of my clients told me a story about a person who annoyed her a lot. It seemed everything about this person was annoying: clothing, hair, what this person said and did….all of it seemed to frustrate my client to no end.

We thought about how to handle this person. After all, other people’s WATER is all stuff we can’t change, right?

Then, as it tends to happen, we came to a remarkable conclusion.

What makes this annoying person any different than anyone else?

Moreover, we thought about all the people in the world, and all the information in the world, and how we really don’t care about it, because we don’t know a lot of it; those people and that information is meaningless to us.

So how could we put the annoying person’s WATER into the realm of the Unknown? How could we make that person’s WATER meaningless?

It then seemed clear that all we had to do was make that choice in our minds, that the annoying person’s WATER was meaningless, and it removed all the power that person had from the client’s life.

Anywho, I figured I would share this story to help you with stuff that annoys you. Maybe you need to put some of that stuff from the Known into the Unknown meaningless sea of information that has no bearing on your life. Couldn’t hurt, right?

Processing vs. Stuffing


More often than not when I work with men, a common theme that I run into with them is that they have tried hard to manage their problems by “not thinking about it.” This is a pretty common idea for guys, because hey, if we don’t have to think about stuff, then we don’t have to feel any of the other girly emotions, like fear or sadness. We can just be angry, because that’s really the only Emotion we’re supposed to feel, right?

This choosing not to think about problems is what I affectionately refer to as “stuffing.”

So when guys come to me, and tell me that this is how they’ve tried stuffing their problems, they are surprised when they tell me it doesn’t work.

But why doesn’t it work? After all, thinking positively is the way to go, right? If you control your Thoughts, and choose not to think about stuff that hurts you, then it only makes sense to just stuff it so you don’t have to bother feeling that way.

Sounds good in theory, but you know what I’ve found? That most of the time, when people do this, it turns into unresolved conflict. Sometimes that unresolved conflict turns into addiction, or other negative behaviors designed to keep the negative feelings at bay. You try so hard to stuff your emotions, that eventually you run out of room.

Its as if you have a soda bottle, and you start putting cotton balls in it. You figure, “What’s one cotton ball?”, right? So then you keep putting cotton balls in there, hoping that the bottle will continue to have room for them. But eventually, you run out of room, and now you have to figure out what to do with all those cotton balls, and the ones that are coming your way.

So what can you do instead? Just a couple extra steps.

1. Decide if the issue in question is something you can change. If you can change it, great! Take initiative and do what you can to change it. Done deal.

2. If its something you can’t change, resolve that its OK that you can’t change it. Sometimes we have to let ourselves realize that we can’t change the world, and that really is OK.

3. Accept this resolution, and come to terms with it. Make the fact that you can’t change it part of your belief system. Its OK to resolve that the weather is beyond your control. Its OK to accept that you can’t control what your mother-in-law says to you about your soul patch. Accept this. Embrace it.

4. Once you’ve resolved these things, let it go. By letting the issue go, you effectively give yourself a way to let the stress of the issue loose, rather than hanging onto it, and bottling it in.

This is how I teach people to process issues. It really is better than choosing not to think about it, and even though its just a few more steps in the mix, it makes a world of difference, merely due to the choices made.

Does this sound like you? Let me know what you think.

Simple and Powerful

I’ve recently realized that in the process of blogging, I’ve had to revisit the purpose and title of said blog. One of the things that hit me was that everyone manages stress differently, and some of you may not even have an effective way to manage your stressors.

So as a result, I’ve decided to throw a few stress management pointers out there. This may seem a bit redundant, but if you don’t know what you need to do to relax, stress can seem overwhelming at times. So here’s some basic stuff that has worked for me and for the awesome people u’ve worked with.

1. Take Deep Breaths. This sounds so lame, and yet its probably the most powerful technique you could use. By taking a moment to put the stressor out of your mind and take some deep breaths, and I’m talkin’ really deep here, you tell your body to be at a state of relaxation. Your body can’t be stressed an relaxed at the same time. By breathing deeply you give your heart the oxygen it needs to slow down your heart rate. This can reduce your chances of an Anxiety Attack.

2. Exercise. This is yet another no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people know this, and make excuses as to why they can’t or won’t exercise. 5-15 minutes of exercise can help with both anxiety an depression, and more than that its natural.

3. Find a Creative Hobby. Doing something creative, social and constructive can have some really positive effects on you. I had one client who picked up a creative hobby, and as a result, gained not only relaxation, but assertiveness as well. Getting you thinking in a creative way can not only distract you away from the stress inducing problem, but it can also get you problem solving as well.

Those are just 3 of many ways you can manage stress in a positive way. They seem simple, but Tony Robbins once said that the definition of profound knowledge is knowledge that is simple and yet powerful. You probably know that these can help, but maybe you haven’t applied them before. What about you? Do you have something better or different?

Your Impatience Could Kill You

Remember how I can’t stand big box stores because I allow them to make me sleepy? Well, yesterday I went to one, but this post isn’t about that. Its about what happened on my way over to the store.

See, I parked my car and as I crossed the lanes in the parking lot to get to the door, I saw a truck heading my way. It was going slow, mind you, and stopped for me to cross the road.

So I crossed, but I noticed something about the way I did it. I scurried over to the other side as fast as I could. You know what I realized?

I presumed that the person behind the truck was impatient.

This got me thinking: Are we really this impatient? Have we accepted impatience as part of our culture?

Take a look around you. Everyone everywhere is trying to do things faster. We have faster internet, but even that isn’t fast enough, so we upgrade to the next fastest speed (Wireless G to Wireless N and so on). We want our mobile phone internet to be faster (EDGE to 3G). We want our food to be brought to us within a certain amount of time, because waiting too long for food is unacceptable. People get impatient with their children so they yell at them. And traffic, well let’s not go there, shall we?

So what the heck happened? How did we get so caught up on being impatient?

Because somebody somewhere said that time is money. That somebody was Benjamin Franklin.

So from the inception of this great nation, our culture has been told to be impatient.

And you know what? It shows.

Take a look at relationships. People are impatient about sex, so they have it with whoever they’re interested in as soon as they can. They rush into relationships as a result, and pick up the pieces to figure out how to work through the relationship after they’ve already moved physically into an act that can both give life and death simultaneously.

Yes that’s right, sex can kill you. Oh, the odds are probably in your favor, maybe. You could get an STD, but hey, that’s not going to happen to you, right? You’re smarter than that.

It can also give life. Children are created by “accident” all the time. But hey, don’t let me tell you how to run your life. You already know how to do that, don’t you?

So people impatiently get into relationships, and then when things don’t work out so well, they impatiently get out.

You see, we as a culture expect things to go quickly and correctly the first time. How can things go well when you rush into them without thinking about them and taking your time to figure things out?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people have realized that life is too short and that its best to be as efficient as possible in order to get the most out of it.

Maybe, or maybe we’re just selfish.

So what, Jim? Another rant? Fabulous.

Here’s my point: Sit down and think about your life. Think about the time you waste watching other people’s lives on TV, and then speed your way to work to get there on time. Think about how you’re using your time, and if stressing out about being impatient is really worth it to you.

To quote Larry Winget from Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life (this is me paraphrasing), “Losers speed. Winners make enough time to get there without having to rush.”

What I’m trying to say is, being impatient gains you nothing. Stuff takes time. Deal with it. Its in the Outside World; stuff you can’t control. What you can control is how you spend your time, which is part of your WATER. If you’re sitting in traffic honking your horn at people because they don’t go the millisecond the light turns green, then you’re not controlling your time well enough. Or you’re making bad choices about your time.

Oh, and by the way, impatience leads to health risks like Hypertension and High Blood Pressure according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Apparently Hypertension is a big factor in heart disease, kidney disease, and heart failure.

So yeah, impatience can kill you.

If things aren’t going fast enough for you, then maybe you need to slow down to appreciate life and recognize where you are right now.

To quote Ferris Bueler: “Life Moves Pretty Fast. If You Don’t Stop and Look Around Once in a While, You Could Miss It.”

Am I wrong? Talk to me people.

Life Going By Too Fast? Take Time To Slow Down!


I recently had a surprise birthday party for my sister where I invited all her nearest and dearest friends. We were super stealthy about it, and kept it top secret! We even had a friend of hers kidnap her for the day and bring her to our home! Sure enough, we pulled off the surprise hook, line and sinker.

During the planning phase of the party, I was not sure how to manage my dog. See, my dog Arwen (Lord of the Rings Elf, in case you were wondering) is very….how do I put this…fast. She’s friendly and fast all at the same time. So the minute she saw all the people at the house, it took her all of two seconds to sniff each and every new person. She ran through the house at an alarming rate, and I tried to get her out the door and in the back yard before she jumped from chair to chair, pouncing on every guest in the house!

The group of partiers commented on how crazy she seemed, and one person got a picture of her. She posted the picture on Facebook, and said “I’m surprised I didn’t get motion blur, because the dog was going so fast (or something like that).”

It got me thinking: How often do we speed through our lives, saying quick hellos to the people that we meet; not really making strong enough connections with them before they’re wisked away and moving on to their own lives?

When we get into our routine, days seem to blitz by, don’t they? Get up, get the kids up, go to work, come home, have dinner, get some chores done (if you’re lucky), help the kids with their homework (during school) , and maybe have some downtime before you head off to sleep and do it all over again.

How much of our lives are really meaningful? How much time do you spend actually doing what you want to do? Don’t we all, to some degree, speed through our lives, and before we know it, months and years have passed, and things are not the way we wanted them to be?

So what do we do about it? Well you can complain, which I don’t suggest…or you can use the WATER Method.

You Can Change: What you do every day. Take a little time to just take it slow and realize that there’s more to life than your routine. Maybe take a moment to kiss your spouse, spend quality time with your children or take up a fulfilling hobby. This comes down to time management. You can decide how to spend your time, and use it wisely.

You Can’t Change: How much time you have. You get 24 hours a day, and that’s it. You also can’t change everyone else’s pace, how they see their world, and how they spend their time. You also can’t change how they see you. Its OK; don’t feel like you have to change these things, because you couldn’t if you wanted to. So accept and resolve that you can’t change them.

See, my dog tends to go a million miles an hour when people are around. After a while, she slows down, hits the floor or her favorite papasan chair, and enjoys just laying there, watching us live our lives. Before long, she’ll take a nap and be much like the picture you see above. Maybe people don’t see that side of her, but that doesn’t mean its not there. Maybe others need to see the side of you that wants to slow down and take a moment to breathe life in.

This comes back to the “R” in WATER, Results! You have the results you have because you’ve continued to do, feel and think the way you have over the course of your life. Change just one of those things, and your results can be dramatically different!

Too anxious to change? Can’t slow down? If you have a similar experience, share it here. I respond to every comment made!