New Year.......A New You

Reality is perception. How do you perceive yourself? What would be some new "upgrades" that would benefit your relationships, work, fun or purpose & meaning in life? I love looking at each new year with optimism and adventure. Since we can only control ourselves, what do you need to take charge of to make your life happier? How are you holding yourself back? All of us have blind spots about our shortcomings, so it may be time to get curious and ask your closest friends or colleagues about how to update your self awareness to be keep in tune and in touch with enhancing your most treasured relationships. Like the poem states, "Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets........" Today is the day to take charge of your life. Living in the moment, being mindful and present is a gift. Embrace the gifts in your life, acknowledge them & then most likely you won't be accumulating more regrets. 

Stress Management Talk


Recently, I gave a talk at Halliburton on stress. The entire talk is available to watch on a link to YouTube. If you want to know about life balance, symptoms of stress, long-term or chronic stress issues, this presentation is jam packed.  This overview of problems related to stress along with remedies for your life is covered.  Sit back, relax and de-stress. This presentation is designed to help you address how to change that puts you back in control. 
Just click on this link to watch.
Stress Management Talk

Pleasing People--Upside and Downside

Let's start with the downside of pleasing. What is the cost to you to always please others? Do a bit of self-analysis on the test. Are you....
  • Always putting everyone else's needs before your own?
  • Always saying yes?
  • Only feel important contributing to others?
  • Worry how others will view you?
  • Going out of your way for others & depending on their approval for your self-worth & self-esteem?
  • Fear being disliked?
  • Not being included in the group?
  • Exhausted helping others?
  • Not taking time for yourself?
  • Not happy with your own life?
It may be time for a "Selfie Makeover". What do I mean? Well, the remedy may have to do with taking care of yourself first. Make sure some of the following considerations are on your personal list of wants and needs.
  • Your needs are being met
  • Have good boundaries
  • Say no
  • Speak up for yourself
  • Be assertive
  • Be expressive
  • Feel & act empowered
  • An internal locus of control matters more that approval from others
  • Affirm myself for my accomplishments
  • Proud of yourself
  • Able to value yourself
  • Feeling a sense of purpose & meaning in your life

Confidence means you can "do something", self-esteem means you feel good about what you do. Plan to spend more time building your self-esteem by acknowledging yourself and taking compliments sincerely. Why a Selfie? Because, Self matters!!!!

Beating the Blues: Creating Positive Holiday Rituals

Any holiday season can bring joy or sadness depending upon your perspective & history. So, how do you avoid the "blues" this holiday. A few simple tips may help you turn this holiday into a good memory. 

  • Stay off of Facebook--this can be more depressing viewing what you feel you are missing out on.
  • See support from friends (call or visit loving friends)
  • Reframe your thinking to positive memories
  • Create replacement rituals for new memories
  • Invite new opportunities to volunteer and give of yourself during the holiday season.  
Some people may actually think they have holiday blues but may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This condition occurs with the change of seasons, beginning in the fall staying with you throughout the cold, dark, rainy, cold, snowy winter months. Signs to look for include a drop in energy and mood swing. SAD is influenced by lack of sunlight, age, family history and where you live. One of the main recommended treatments is phototherapy, which is a form of light therapy designed to help your brain produce chemicals like serotonin, which is needed to feel healthier and happier.  "Talk therapy",especially CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy can help you identify negative thoughts, reframe them and teach you to learn to cope with stress and anxiety during the holidays. In addition, antidepressants have been found to be helpful to get your brain chemistry back in balance. You don't have to suffer. Go for help!!!!

Growing New Neurons is Possible: Helping Your Brain & Mood

Your brain can do amazing things depending on how you focus your thoughts and attention. The more you engage yourself into a state of calm and confidence, the better you will feel. Imagination is a key component in generating new neurons to reinforce or reward whatever you think about. How is this accomplished? Well, consider that essentially we have circuits in our brain. Wherever we focus our thoughts, or use our imagination, we are building or strengthening those circuits. Now, the crux of the matter.........we develop circuits for fear, pain or worry in the same way we do for joy, fun or happiness. The Hippocampus is the seat of memory. Memories that you hold can reinforce trauma or gratitude.  Emotion wires our learning into our memory circuits. For these reasons, CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is very effective in reshaping our experience. If you focus on anger, hurt or pain, the Hippocampus accesses and brings up that circuit. By breaking the cycles of negative thinking and replacing them with positive thoughts, we are growing neurons.
Therefore, take time to focus on forgiveness, gratitude and finding your deeper purpose, then pursue it. Engagement is necessary in providing you with the emotional reward of accomplishment, fun and love. Practice using your imagination, thoughts and feelings as tools to help rewire your brain, create new memories and improve your mood. This process is call; Neurogenesis. 

Are you looking for an Elixir?

On a recent trip to a Farmer's Market in Asheville, NC, I I saw this bottle of "Pain Relieving Liniment."  I began to think about how often many of us are looking for the magic elixir to cure us from our ailments. Managing pain can take many forms. There are "pain doctors" who provide painkillers, injections, blocks and much more to manage acute symptoms of pain. Once you run the gamut of medical procedures, including surgery without relief, it may be time to consider the plethora of mind body techniques available. Cognitive behavioral psychology can offer ways to manage pain from the inside out. Techniques such as Biofeedback, Mental Imagery, Relaxation, Hypnosis, Yoga, Stress Management and specialized diaphragmatic breathing and now Virtual Reality (VR) have proven to  be extremely effective in providing relief. Conditions of chronic pain, phobias, PTSD, burn victims and anxiety disorders are now being managed without opiate or narcotic medications. If you are continuing to look for the "magic pill" to manage your problems, it may be time to change your approach. 
Take a look at this fMRI brain scan showing what happens in the mind when using VR to treat a burn victim. What this shows is that refocusing the mind, changes the circuits in the brain. Therefore, these mind/body techniques actually make changes in the brain by "growing neurons." These circuits become stronger with practice. Once you become adept at using these tools, they even work better. Take charge of your own recovery from your condition by utilizing a combination of these techniques that work for you. 

What happens when you complain?

Complaining comes at a cost. When we complain, our brains release stress hormones that harm neural connections in areas used for problem solving and other cognitive functions. (click on the blue section to review the article). So, actually, complaining is harmful to our health. Once you go negative, it is hard to recover because emotions get triggered, which then strengthen the neural connections in your brain to increase distress and release of powerful stress hormones. This also happens when we listen to someone else moan and groan. Jon Gordon, author of The No Complaining Rule states that complaining, "It’s as bad as secondhand smoke," "It’s secondhand complaining." Just as smoking is banned in most offices, complaining should be banned.
What is a possible remedy? Don't listen, don't engage and leave when gossip or toxic language begins to appear. So, the residual feelings DO NOT magically disappear. Finding a good friend that looks for the good in people, shows positivity, expresses gratitude is the best way to keep ensure you do get caught up in conversation that can be harmful to you. It is difficult avoid negativity with the world conflict that is so present in our lives. If you find yourself whining, pay attention to the impact on your emotions and the reactions from others. There is a fine line between getting something off of your chest and perseverating on it. Consider how you feel when someone drones on and on about fears and problems. It is very draining and destructive. 

Virtual Reality & Psychology: The Future?

Recently, a team from the Pain Recovery Program  (PRP) at Memorial Hermann Hospital appeared on the Deborah Duncan morning show to discuss a new treatment implemented in the program--VR or Virtual Reality to help with pain management. A great deal of research is now being done on using this modality with burn victims, veterans returning from the wars, addictions, and phobias. Utilizing the latest technology of VR goggles, a voice over script, special binaural music tracks, and a visual journey, patients are able to gain relief from their conditions.  Diane Jooris, shown here with Deborah Duncan Great Day Houston morning show demonstrating the  VR system. Dr. Christie Taylor, the program director is leading this and other innovative processes to help people suffering from chronic pain and addiction to prescription narcotics. Painkillers have been prescribed in increasingly problematic ways to help patients get relief from their pain. Unfortunately, the painkillers prescriptions end up in creating an addiction. We had a lively panel discussion about how to begin to manage these problems. 
Some data below illustrates what is happening with chronic pain in the US---an epidemic!!!!
  • 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain
  • 25.8 million have pain due to diabetes
  • 23 million have pain due to heart disease and stroke
  • 11.9 million have pain due to cancer
  • 26 million between ages 20 and 64 have frequent back pain
  • In 2010, 400,000 emergency room visits related to prescription pain relievers
  • Nonmedical use of prescription painkillers costs health insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct healthcare costs
There is help from chronic pain and painkiller addiction. If you are interested, please give a call. There is hope and ways to teach you to manage chronic pain without painkillers.  I know, this is difficult to grasp, but you can get relief.



Is it Safe to Fly?

Let's find out if it is safe to fly. This may be hard to believe, but each day in the world, according to Travel and Media, there are approximately 102,465 flights per day. Take a look at the graphic of the US on the number of flights happening daily. Astounding!!!!! Especially when you consider how few accidents actually happen to those who fly. Are you grounded when it comes to enjoying your life due to fear of flying? With the recent lost planes and crashes, it is hard to escape some worry and anticipation about the safety of flight. Anxiety can make your world smaller and smaller because you begin to avoid vacations, business trips and now develop anticipatory anxiety about even thinking abut something bad happening. So you avoid what seems like too great a risk or fear laden. Last week a client came in saying, "I don't want to fly because ,I am afraid to die." Fear of death is only one of many reasons people become phobic of flying. My contention is that the real fear is of really living or letting go. What is there to do?
What many people do is avoid flying or use alcohol to self-medicate away the anxiety. There are much better methods. Logic and understanding the engineering of how a airplane flies doesn't typically provide much comfort, because flying phobia is an emotional problem. The Amygdala in the brain, an almond sized organ in the middle of your brain is actually the "fight or flight" center releasing stress hormones causing dizziness, nausea, sweating, shaking and typical stress response reactions. The good news is, anxiety and panic are very fixable. problems with Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT) of thought stopping, reframing, relaxation, proper diaphragmatic techniques, mental imagery and relaxation training. These techniques can minimally create calm, confidence and comfort with practice. Desensitization to the fear triggers helps minimize the anxiety. You can learn to relax and fly comfortably. Retraining your brain is possible to open up your life to feel free again.

4 Agreements to Live By

These Four Agreements are meant to be taken as guidelines to live by for a life of integrity to do your best, no matter what happens. If you can learn to stop the negative self-talk, quit being self-critical and hard on yourself, you stand a much better chance of being happy and enjoying your life. This is a "practical guide to personal freedom," according to the author, Don Miguel Ruiz.

Ruiz states that the agreements you tell yourself determines who you are, what you feel, what you believe and how to behave. This becomes your personality. In these agreements, you say, "This is what I am. This is what I believe, I can do certain things and some things I cannot do. This is reality, that is fantasy; This is possible, that is impossible. " Open your mind to becoming more than you imagined by internalizing the Four Agreements into your daily life. As you practice these principles, monitor your happiness, mindfulness and ability to feel good about yourself. In Positive Psychology, one of the main tenets is to focus on a person's strengths and build upon them. However, many people focus on their failures, mistakes, weaknesses which only makes you feel worse. Leave behind negativity and find the optimist within. Stay in the moment, focus on strengths and have more fun.
Link to the Book

Casualties of Bad Bosses

In my coaching and psychotherapy practice, I frequently see employees that are demoralized by their working environment. Particularly, by their manager or supervisor. Typically, the feelings of lack of worth, value, recognition and validation are the most common complaints. So, what is really the problem? What is going on that many employees feel so bad about their workplace? It may be time to take a look at your current situation. A manager that doesn't have boundaries expects you to be available to work nights and weekends, is a micromanager, has such high expectations that you can't possibly meet them creates dissatisfaction in the workplace. Consequently, you can become so stressed, feel so disenchanted that your productivity falls. Once you psychologically disconnect, it may be difficult to get up in the morning to go to work, enjoy the workplace or even eventually cause you to quit. Take a look at the qualities described on the Good Boss/Bad Boss list. Once you better understand what you are up against, you can plan some strategies to manage your situation. 
These statistics are rather unsettling. Nearly half of employees believe their boss is unreasonable. What not to do? 
  1. Be passive
  2. Be defensive
  3. Be quiet about your unhappiness
  4. Gossip
  5. Complain
What to do!
  1. Be positive
  2. Focus on alignment with your boss
  3. Communicate your needs
  4. Ask for feedback
  5. Get a mentor
  6. Do not tolerate Bullying
  7. Keep incident records of problem behavior
  8. Get coaching
  9. Talk with your EAP
If the situation is impossible, you are miserable, you will have to find a way to leave the department or the company. Some corporate cultures are better than others. Change is difficult, but inevitable, so embrace it. Take change of yourself by getting more training, certifications, education to help improve the quality of your life.

Chronic Pain & Painkiller Addiction in the Workplace


On Tuesday June 9th, I will be conducting a presentation on problems of pain & addiction in the workplace at the Houston Chapter of the Employee Assistance Professionals monthly meeting. The problem of prescription painkillers has grown to become the most prominent addiction problem in the United States. As you would expect, the source is from complications associated with controlling chronic pain. If you would like to attend, just show up at 303 Jackson Hill at The Council on Recovery. 
Click on this link for details.  Houston Chapter of EAPA

Emotional Flooding---How to Self-Soothe

Nothing much good happens when you are emotionally flooded during a relationship conflict. Flooding consists of stress hormones surging through you, which makes it very difficult to resolve conflict rationally.  As adrenalin and cortisol floods the nervous system, you will feel the ‘fight or flight' response. When you are in this state, not much good can happen or be resolved. Emotional Flooding is a Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) response to stress that was originally designed to alert us to danger and enables us to react quickly in self-defense. Stress hormones of cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline are very powerful. Once triggered, it takes time to regain your emotional balance and control. The best strategy to manage these feelings is to take a time out until the fear (stress hormones) diminish to the point that you can have a rational discussion. After the incident of emotional flooding, the first casualty is communication. Dr. Gottman has some very excellent strategies to manage these very difficult and probably regrettable moments. The goal becomes to repair the relationship and reestablish emotional intimacy, perhaps even grow from the conflict.
Some tips to manage those difficult moments. 
Be empathetic
Be open
Breathe
Calm yourself
Apologize or say......
“I can understand the way you feel . . .”
“What you’re saying makes a lot of sense.  I can see why you’d feel . . .”
“I’d like to hear more about this. . . .”
Call for a 20-minute time out.  Agree when and where you will resume the discussion. Then, resume the communication in a calm manner. 

Climbing Mount Everest & Your Personal Journey

Just the thought of climbing Mount Everest is a daunting notion that takes planning, preparation, physical conditioning, financial resources and amazing fortitude at the very least. In your life, what are the challenges you are contemplating in your life? What mountains do you need to consider climbing in your life today? Do you want to improve or advance your marriage, career, education, fun, health, retirement plans or social life? What do you need to do to prepare yourself to be happier and a better leader for your your own life? To start with, you will need to take time to dream, imagine and contemplate your next area for personal and professional growth. Talk to friends, look toward friends and colleagues you admire, explore best practices for advancing your area of interest. I highly recommend checking out TED Talks as a resource to see what thought leaders are saying. Just go to TED.com and do a search for your area of adventure to feel more in control of your life and trajectory toward purpose, meaning, and happiness. This is a live link to TED talks. www.ted.com

Beauty & You

Where do you find beauty?
What does ibeauty do for you emotionally? 
How will you find more beauty in your life? 
The photo on the left just grabbed me. The calm, clear water and colors gave me a sense of peace. Being mindful in your daily life may bring a sense of gratitude and comfort as you notice the beauty around you. This beauty moment could be a smile, a flower, a cloud in the sky or a memory. Taking time to notice and acknowledge beauty in your life will affirm the moment. Valuing self or others generates self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. Beauty is a gift that is all around us.  Take it in then spread the joy.

Are You a Leader or Boss?

So, take a look at the differences between being a boss vs. being a leader in the graphic on the right. If you are a manager  or supervisor of employees, take time to consider how you approach the precious commodity of human capital in your organization. It is not easy to know our blind spots or even how we are viewed.....unless we ask. There are tools for leaders to understand how they are perceived. One of these is the 360 evaluation.
360-questionnaire includes direct feedback from all stakeholders under your management including subordinates, peers (colleagues), and supervisor(s), as well as a self-evaluation. The results from self and others are scored and compared to look at the match between self-perception and other perception of leadership, communication, carrying the mission, values, administrative, creativity and general sense of trust and leadership. Finding the blind spots, closing the gap on the problem areas is a benefit of the 360. This can be a scary for some managers and a difficult process to risk negative or unwanted feedback. The 360 evaluation is contrasted with "upward feedback," where managers are given feedback only by their direct reports, or a "traditional performance appraisals" where the employees are most often reviewed only by their managers for an end of the year evaluation related to meeting performance goals.
A 360 needs to be strictly confidential, offer constructive feedback, have a follow-up plan for improvement, provide an accountability system with coaching to address identify "gaps" in awareness. Conducting a pre and then post 360 evaluation with a structured improvement plan after a three month period is a great way to stay focused on specific goals. The 360 evaluation can be a valuable tool to help you be the a better, more effective leader.