Relieve Stress

Best Way To Relieve Stress Immediately

There’s a method I’ve discovered as the best way to relieve stress immediately. I’ve shared it with my clients and use it in my home every day. It’s called the seven-minute rule. What is the seven-minute rule? I’m glad you asked. Before I tell you how it works can you relate to these scenarios?

You Can Relieve Stress Immediately if. . .

  • You come home from work after a stressful day expecting to relax. When you walk in the house, it’s a wreck. No one cared to pick up after themselves. They must be lazy, you think.
  • Piled up bills are laying on the kitchen counter. The TV is blaring. The children don’t notice you because they’re on their iPads. They haven’t done their chores or homework. Or, they could at least be outside.
  • Your spouse is stressed and gives you the crying baby. And also expects you to change the dirty diaper. In an irritated tone, you ask, “what have you done all day?”
  • Your voice is firm with aggravation. The family accuses you of being mean. But it’s the only way you can get your point across.

As a result, we end up with an “I-work-so-hard-all-day-and-no-one-cares” attitude. Whatever our story, we find ways to escape the stress. Some do it by working late. Others do it by spending hours on social media. Those methods and others provide an immediate reward: dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical.

But, it doesn’t take long before our relationships become more distant. Those who matter most seem like strangers. And in some cases, enemies. Then we make up stories in our minds about their intentions to make our lives miserable. The results produce no teamwork in the family. Nor do we have partnership in the marriage.

Don't let mismanaged stress make relationships distant. Otherwise, those who matter most seem like strangers. Click To Tweet

Here’s how to change that cycle.

Relieve Stress Immediately —The Seven Minute Rule

The seven-minute rule is a technique that transforms stressful situations. With consistent use, we can create relaxing and peaceful connections in family relationships. What we create in a family environment can benefit in other ways. It also gives us skills to create more productive work environments.

Here’s how it works:

  • Consider seven minutes before or after any transition as sacred space. What do I mean by sacred space? It’s the place in-between a relationship that holds only gratitude and heart-to-heart connection. Nothing else. There’s no irritability, demands, criticisms or other negative interactions. That includes confrontations, stern looks, sarcasm, and cynicism.
  • The seven minutes of sacred space and time is taking deep breaths. That sacred space means slowing down to be loving and respectful. It’s focusing on being compassionate and tender with our loved ones. Also, it’s being kind and gentle regardless of the environment. It’s having an attitude of curiosity rather than judgement.
  • Let the children know you’re happy to be with them. You love them just as they are. You might say to your spouse with light-hearted honor, “I can’t believe I’m married to you! I am SO blessed.”
  • It’s your choice to love unconditionally in that seven minutes of sacred space. You take time to connect and value your relationships.

Examples of the 7-Minute Rule to Relieve Stress

  • Set the timer on your smart phone for seven minutes after pulling up in the driveway.
  • Put a reminder on your dashboard with a 3” x 5” card that reads “7-minute rule”.
  • Take deep breaths in and out with a mantra such as this. Breathe in thankfulness. Breath out stress. Or say, “I breathe in appreciation and I breathe out criticism.” Take about three or four deep breaths with the same mantra. Use that attitude for the following seven minutes of sacred time.

As you enter your home, leave your stress behind. Use deep breathing and then look into the eyes of your children and spouse. Be interested in their world.

It’s as if you’ll be walking onto “holy ground” in those seven minutes. Use it to connect, appreciate, and see the world through the eyes of your loved ones. Be willing to live in the present.

Use the 7-minute rule to connect, appreciate, & see through the eyes of your loved ones. Make transitions sacred. Click To Tweet

Relieve Stress through these 7-minutes:

  • Before bed
  • When you wake up
  • Right before leaving the home
  • After you arrive at your destination
  • While sitting down for a meal
  • As you finish your meal

Any transition is seven minutes of sacred and holy space.

Try it out for a week, (7 days) and see how it works for you. I challenge you to try it for 30 days. And I’d love to hear your comments.

Here’s Your next step.

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Unsplash photo by John Sekutowski


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3 Empowering Reasons to Be in a Group

I was full of fear and uncertainty leaving the familiarity of the place I worked for ten years. It was time to branch out on my own in private practice as a licensed counselor. Up until that time, I hadn’t concerned myself with marketing or setting up my business. It wasn’t natural for me to think like a business owner. . . or that’s what I thought. That’s when I learned three empowering reasons to be in a group.

While learning to rebrand my practice, I began to hang out with entrepreneurial-minded therapists and like-minded professionals beyond my mental health colleagues. We became mirrors to each other’s blind spots. We experienced light-bulb moments as we grew in trust and relationship with each other.

Three different focus groups have impacted me in the last year. One is the Peer Therapist Group which met face to face in my office on Main Street. The other was a Focus Group of women writers whom I met through Jeff Goin’s Tribe Conference. The third was Andy Traub’s online coaching group. All three groups have given me feedback and confidence to grow beyond my comfort zone. They’ve influenced me to write and make a difference beyond the four walls of my counseling office.

We became mirrors to each other's blind spots. Click To Tweet

Consider three empowering reasons to be in a group.

Group Reason # 1 – Energy

Each group provided different energy for me. Some were directive and while others zoned into certain topics. With each group, I learned more about myself and felt connected with others.

Especially with the Women’s Focus group, we each felt so energized after being together during our monthly meetings. It can be tempting to talk ourselves out of something we previously agreed to. When we made the effort to follow through, we heard comments like:

“I almost didn’t make it, but my heart needed to be with you all. . .” or “I’m so glad I came. I always feel better after our meetings.”

Group Reason # 2 – Creativity

When I realize what I’ve learned through participating in groups, I’m thankful for the ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise. It was Andy Traub’s coaching group who encouraged me to do Live Facebook videos. As you can see on my Facebook page, I have several “Ask a Therapist” Live Facebook Videos.

Group Reason # 3 – Courage

Especially with our Women’s Focus Group, we’ve felt like energetic cheerleaders as we encouraged Caroline Depalatis to write her book Jumping Out Of The Mainstream. Who wouldn’t be excited about Anne Peterson authoring 14 books in three years? And rejoice with Sohma Rae Hathaway as her Memoir, Finding Diamonds in Dungeons is now out in the world.

Being part of these groups have made it possible for me to move from fear and uncertainty into courage and creativity.

I can’t brag enough about the value of being part of a focus group.

Group Energy, Creativity, Courage

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a counselor like me, or a writer, or an entrepreneur, or an employee. You may be a stay-at-home mom or dad. Whatever your background and experiences, consider these three empowering reasons to be in a group.

Energy, Creativity, Courage. Don’t miss out. Find the group that’s right for you.

What to do next:

Share this article.

Check out Professional Women’s Focus Group. If you’re outside the Chattanooga area, ask about online support.

Join me for “Ask a Therapist” Live Facebook Videos every Thursday at 6:30 PM EST


How to Improve Mental Health From Gratitude

We all need to know how to improve mental health from gratitude. Years ago, my children decorated a cardboard shoe box with gold wrapping paper. They cut a slit on the box top to deposit folded papers with their gratitude for that day. On Thanksgiving, we opened the box full of gratitudes and read them aloud.

It’s become a habit to write what I’m thankful for in a journal. The most recent is the Five Minute Journal. If you balk at the idea of writing in a journal, this one is designed to be a five minute daily practice. The method aligns with improving mental health from a practice of gratitude.

Whatever method we use, there’s benefits from the practice of thinking, writing, and verbalizing what we appreciate.

Practice of Thinking Gratitudes

The practice of thinking gratitudes are more powerful than you might imagine. In his book, Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hansen illustrates that negativity clings to brain cells like Velcro. He compares how positive thinking on those same cells slide off like Teflon, unless we ponder those thoughts for more than 15 seconds.

No wonder we struggle with depression and anxiety! Is it a surprise to know that meditation is good for us? This finding with neuroscience reminds me of one of my favorite Bible verses in Philippians 4:8 which lists positive ways to meditate. Even from ancient times, truth about our well-being depends on thinking things that are:

  • Just
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Good
  • Virtuous
  • Praiseworthy

We have control over our thoughts and can choose to focus on gratitude. It’s easy to ruminate on negative thoughts. Positive thinking requires time and practice.

If you have a family history of depression or anxiety or you struggle with negativity, here’s what to do. Begin a  ratio of twenty positive thoughts to every one negative. The twenty to one ratio gets brain chemistry to balance from the lopsided negative patterns.

How can you possibly count and keep track of such a ratio? The idea is to be continually on the look out for the pure, lovely, beautiful, and thankful moments in life. You will find what you’re looking for.

You have the power to develop, practice, and master positive thinking that increases your mental wellness. Just like any other skill, it takes repetitious behaviors.

Practice of Writing Gratitudes

When you write daily gratitudes you’re doing your brain a favor. Hand-writing alone is an amazing and intricate task of the mind. The dexterity of intangible ideas are formed from hand to pen and paper. Many writers have aha moments while writing. It’s in the ahas that we become clear in our thoughts. Hand-writing slows us down enough to pay attention to what we normally wouldn’t notice.

Our attention to gratitude help us establish healthy neuropathways. When we’re intentionally grateful, we become more aware.

The Five Minute Journal is a daily morning and evening entry of two and a half minutes each. It’s as quick as brushing and flossing your teeth. You begin each morning writing a short list from three areas of focus:

Three things you’re thankful for

Three things that would make today great

An affirmation about yourself

Evening questions from the journal include:

Three amazing things that happened that day

One way you could have made the day better

The questions remind me of the Daily Examine prayer which is an ancient practice from Christendom. Writing down appreciations train your neurons toward life-giving positivity.

If you want to become an optimistic person with resilience against depression, write down what you’re thankful for each day.

When you write daily gratitudes you're doing your brain a favor. Click To Tweet

Practice of Verbal Gratitudes

The practice of verbal gratitudes are powerful. Without being intentional, my husband and I have naturally asked each other right before going to bed, “What are your three amazing things today?” We’ll take a moment to ponder before answering. Many times I’ll quickly say, “Oh, I almost forgot to write it down.” We’ve become accountability partners to look for those appreciations and gratitudes.

When we verbalize appreciations and amazing things to our spouse and others we care about, we feel more connected. It breaks through barriers of silence. We learn to treasure our relationships.

In summary, thinking, writing, and verbalizing gratitude not only changes brain chemistry, but it restores relationships. Whether you use a box, jar, or journal, begin the practice of gratitude.

Verbalizing gratitude makes your relationships healthy. Click To Tweet

Your Next Gratitude Steps:

1. Write down something you’re thankful for today and post on Facebook.

2. Sign up for pre-orders and free resources for my memoir “Beyond Messy Relationships: Divine Invitations To Your Authentic Self.”

Professional Counseling

What Kind Of Professional Counseling Do I need?


What kind of professional counseling do I need? If I wrote a letter to my younger self, I would say, Don’t hesitate.

Don’t just lolly-gag & wait for change. Make that counseling appointment now. Click To Tweet

We can be so confused about our needs. And even more confused about what kind of professional counseling we need. Now that I’ve been practicing for over a decade, I’m convinced the public needs clarity about who’s who when it comes to professional counseling.

Why it’s important to know about professional counseling

The professional mental health and wellness field can be so mysterious. What do all those initials behind a person’s name mean anyway?

We’ll cover the differences between those in unlicensed professions in another post: life coaching, business coaching, and spiritual direction. For now, let’s address those who are licensed counselors.

Why look for those who are licensed in their field?

It assures us of their training, education, expertise, continuing education, and accountability.

Just as we don’t trust an unlicensed surgeon to do a kidney transplant, we shouldn’t trust an unlicensed counselor with the tender organs of our souls.

Now that may be a dramatic example for some. But would you even want to consider a tooth extraction by an unlicensed dentist?

On the other hand, you may only need your son-in-law to change a light fixture rather than hiring a certified electrician. In that case, we only need a counseling intern, life coach, spiritual director, or a wise friend.

Our relationship and mental health needs can be mysterious. We don’t know whether our issues are like an old light fixture or a decayed tooth. A first appointment with a licensed professional counselor can help you sort that out. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t assume medication is the only treatment

It’s the high-dollar TV commercials who promote antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. We automatically go to our primary care physicians or OB/GYN’s even before considering professional counseling.

Most are unaware that talk therapy from a licensed counselor is a better first line of treatment before considering medication. Click To Tweet

When medication is necessary, it’s always wise to combine it with counseling.

Psychotropic medication is just a small portion of treatment. A combination of medication and talk therapy is many times more effective for wellness than medication alone.

Who’s who when it comes to professional counseling? 

Here’s an overview of non-medical professional counselors. Psychiatrists are not on the list because they are medical doctors trained to prescribe psychotropic medications. They rely on non-medically trained professional counselors to help their patients. A few may also counsel their patients.

Here’s another confusing fact. Each state in the United States has their own laws around licensure. Each profession has their own code of ethics. Titles may vary slightly from state to state. For the sake of simplicity, this list pertains to Tennessee.

A basic understanding of professional counseling differences

This is not a comprehensive list. It’s a simple overview of those trained to diagnose and treat mental illness through non-medical therapies. All are required to continue their education. Many have additional certifications in specialized therapies such as Imago therapy, Gottman, EMDR, or Emotion Focused Therapy.

You’ll find the following professions through private practices, agencies, or counseling centers. All of these professions are Master’s degrees or higher. They are trained to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders through non-medical treatments.

Licensed Professional Counselor with Mental Health Service Provider Status (LPC-MHSP)

Many LPC-MHSP’s focus on individual therapy. Many have additional training in relationship counseling or group therapy.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

LMFT’s have a family systems point of view.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker. (LCSW) 

LCSW’s have a broader social and systems perspective.

Licensed Pastoral Counselor

Pastoral counselors generally are ministers, rabbis or, priests with a spiritual focus.

Licensed Clinical Psychologists – (Psy.D) 

Licensed clinical psychologists are the only ones on the list who are rightly called Doctor. They’re also trained trained to administer psychological testing for Attention Deficit Disorder and other diagnosis.

With this clarity, please tell yourself, Don’t just lolly-gag and wait for change. Make that counseling appointment now.  

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How To Find The Right Counselor

With a splotchy red face and tears dripping down my cheeks, I had just shared intimate details of my life. An hour later, having used lots of tissue and now less money in my purse I wasn’t going back. The therapist was competent and reputable. But the chemistry wasn’t there for me. It’s important to know how to find the right counselor before your first counseling appointment.

Before you bare your soul to a counselor, it's important to find the right fit for you. Click To Tweet

Some clients feel cheated paying counseling fees at their first session if it’s not a good fit.

Here’s things to consider before you hire your mental health counselor or relationship therapist. Some may be more important to you than others. These items will help you get clarity for the therapist that’s right for you.

Do your research before contacting a licensed professional counselor.

Of course, it’s always helpful to get recommendations from your friends, family, or doctor. But do your own research as well. What may be a good fit for your sister’s marriage, may not be a good fit for yours. Each individual and relationship is different.

Many therapists advertise on Psychology Today, Theravive, or other counseling platforms. Start with a google search in your area. If you’re looking for marriage counseling, just type in marriage counseling in or near your city.

  • Read counselors profiles, specialties, and blog posts. Some even have introductory videos.
  • Find out how long they’ve been in practice.
  • Discover whether they’re “general practitioners” or if they specialize.

Make an initial connection with a counselor through their online presence or profile.

If you’re just too anxious to make that initial phone call, send a short email. You can say something like this:

I’m interested in counseling. Do you offer free consultations? 

Or you can say this:

I’m interested in counseling. Would you please call me at (your phone number) on Monday afternoon? I have a few questions to ask. 

Don’t assume you’re obligated to schedule a counseling appointment with that first connection by phone or email. It’s OK to shop around.

Here’s things to consider at a first encounter with a counselor:

  • How long does it take to receive an email reply? You should hear back within 24 hours.
  • The counselor may not offer free office consultations, but may spend 15 minutes on the phone with you. If so, pay attention to how you feel on the phone with them.
    • Do they sound rushed?
    • Is their voice warm and inviting?
    • Is it fast or slow?
    • Abrupt or calm?

Some counselors choose not to have contact with clients before meeting them at their first appointments. Their assistants may be the only initial connection. Decide if that’s acceptable to you. You are the one who decides what’s best for you. Your preferences matter.

It’s proper and necessary to interview two or three before hiring the right counselor for you.

Whether you’re choosing a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, or a mental health therapist, you’re the one doing the hiring for their expertise. Just as you would hire a contractor or mechanic, mental health professionals are providing you services.

View yourself as a client or patient who is making an informed choice. It’s easy to be intimidated by a person’s title or initials after their name. You are just as important as your provider. They just have issues you don’t know about. We are all human beings worthy of respect, dignity and worth.

Avoid anyone who makes you feel “less than.” Whether you’re struggling with substance addiction or a mood disorder, you’re no less than the doctor or therapist who is treating you.

Don’t leave your first counseling appointment feeling cheated. Save your tears for the right one.

Sign up for a free 20 minute consultation.