Tuesday Tip: Two Lessons Learned From Flying That Can Change Your Life

The truth is that life is rarely traveled on a well-lit, smooth paved road. Life is bumpy and full of up and downs. Traveling by flying is no different. You can’t predict the wind or the weather and turbulence can happen at any time. It would seem that in life, the “fasten seat belt” sign is almost permanently lit. There are two lessons that I specifically learned from flying that can make a huge difference in how we navigate this life.

The first lesson I learned was actually before boarding the aircraft.
I once dated a guy who was working on getting his pilot license and I watched him complete a flight plan. Mind you, I had traveled by plane many times but I had never considered that creating a flight plan would be any different than mapquesting a destination in a car. You choose where you start and and where you want to end up and then figure out the roads and highways that will get you there. I figured it would be even simpler to do a flight plan since you wouldn’t have to figure out the roads to get there but could literally fly from point A to point B. That flight plan was one of the most intricate things I had ever seen. Using a map which has a million different circles on it that represent airways, you have to figure out all of the circles that you plan on passing through from one airport to your final airport. Then, while navigating in flight, you are constantly using your flight instruments and checking in to make sure you are on your desired path as you pass through those airways. Even with the detailed flight plan, you are constantly veering off course and having to correct your course. This is how life is. It is essential to have a flight plan–to know you are and where you want to go but even more essential that the flight plan is being able to use your ability to check yourself to be able to correct your course. The way to measure how you are doing in life is not how many times you get off course, but how fast you return to the flight path or in other words, how fast you are able to recenter yourself when life becomes unbalanced.

The second essential life skill I learned from flying is given during those long and monotonous emergency instructions you listen to once you are boarded on the flight. (I realize that I should probably pay more attention to safety instructions that are there for my own benefit but man it is rough to listen to sometimes!) During those lovely instructions though, they give one of the most insightful rules that is an absolute mental health game changer. In case of loss of air cabin pressure, they tell you that an oxygen mask will fall from the ceiling above you. Then they give you this admonition: Before you assist someone else, you need to put your own oxygen mask first. This is an essential skill that many caregivers or parents often overlook. They, (many times out of concern and love) attempt to address the needs of those they care for without having addressed their own. This can lead to burnout. The skill is to identify and provide self-care for yourself and then to be able to provide assistance to those in your life who may need it. What does self-care look like? Self care is simple acts that show that you are taking care of yourself and recognizing your own needs. Below I included a list of a few self-care items, but in reality your list will be just as unique are you are and may not include the stash of chocolate in the pantry. 😉 It is not selfish, but in fact will allow you to show more love to those around you just like putting your oxygen mask on first before you assist others to put on theirs.

So, take a moment to create your own flight plan for yourself. Who are you, and where are you headed? Write out that goal and then you can check yourself periodically to see what course changes you may need to make in order to stay on your path.

Second, create a self-care plan for you. What would be on your list of self-care items? Create that list. Check in and monitor yourself and if you know that you are going to be needed whether it is emotionally or physically– start by making sure you have first put on your own oxygen mask. Taking care of yourself matters and allows you to then assist others which in turn brings joy to your life.

While these tips will not change the turbulence that we experience in this life, it will help you to more successfully navigate your flight and reach your desired destination. Have a safe flight!

Truth or Myth: We are Born to Need Each Other

Truth! One of my husband’s favorite songs is “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In case you were curious or just wanted to listen to that song again, I included a clip below. {You’re welcome. ;)} Unfortunately, while my husband might love this song, the message of this song can perpetuate this false notion that we are meant to be ‘islands’ in a relationship and that being self-sufficient is what makes your relationships stronger. However, researchers will tell you that, in fact, close connections make us stronger and that we are born to need each other.

Dr. Susan Johnson, developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and 2016 Psychologist of the year noted that, “The human brain is wired for close connection with a few irreplaceable others. Accepting your need for this special kind of emotional connection is not a sign of weakness, but maturity and strength.” She emphasizes that self-sufficiency is just another word for loneliness and that we all long for a safe haven in our relationships.Strength, she argues, comes from close connections and we are born to need each other.


The need we have as children to be able to call to a special loved one and know that this person will respond with reassurance and comfort never goes away.

Connections in life are critical and are the source of both pain and joy. Dr. Naomi Eisenberger, a psychologist at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found during her brain imaging studies that rejection and exclusion trigger the same circuits in the same part of the brain (the anterior cingulate) as physical pain. In fact, this part of the brain turns on anytime we are emotionally separated from those around us. On the other hand, close connections with others turn on reward centers in the brain and flood us with calm and happiness chemicals like dopamine and turn off stress hormones like cortisol. We have an innate need to connect. It is a basic primary need– like oxygen and water. We truly are born to need each other– so do not be afraid or feel ashamed of this need for connection. No man is an island–not even Kenny Rogers.

Making Things ‘Slightly Smaller’: A Functional Tip When You are Feeling Overwhelmed

Who hasn’t felt the feeling of being overwhelmed? You know that feeling when things were already pretty stressful and then one more thing happens and threatens to capsize the whole boat. When you are in the midst of the storm it can be difficult to be able to come up with a plan that will deal with the storm and rightly so. When your brain is flooded, it no longer processes things the same way as many functions are ‘offline’ not allowing you to process thoughts as you usually would. So, when you are feeling overwhelmed there is a tip that will help jumpstart your mind into staying engaged and being able to assist in coming up with a plan to address your state of mind. It’s called “Slightly Smaller”.

After taking a deep breath, you can tell your brain to assign your current state into a number. For instance, if I am really stressed out I might assign myself an 8. Instead of trying to solve and figure out the whole amount of stressful 8, I would make it slightly smaller by subtracting it by 1. Then, I would ask my mind, “What would make it a 7?” This allows your mind to be able to stay engaged and come up with a plan to address your stress in a smaller, more manageable portion. You don’t need to try and solve everything at the moment. Storms will come and go as they do, but the ‘Slightly Smaller’ tip will allow you to be able to use your mind to be able to stay in and process, problem solve and survive the state of feeling overwhelmed. Don’t let the simpleness of the tip fool you–try this the next time you recognize feeling overwhelmed and see for yourself if your mind doesn’t play a more active role in being able to get your ship to the shore. Happy Sailing!

Looking for more ways to deal with feeling overwhelmed? Check out:

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/28/top-9-proven-strategies-to-manage-stress-including-the-science-behind-how-they-work/

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/06/9-proven-strategies-to-change-your-thoughts-and-change-your-world/

Top 9 Proven Strategies to Manage Stress {Including the Science Behind How They Work!}

Managing stress is a life skill that we all need to learn. These are 9 top strategies that are scientifically proven to help alleviate and manage stress.

#1: Meditation (Prayer): Research suggests that daily meditation or prayer may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress. A study conducted by Harvard Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that meditation rebuilds the grey matter in our brains in just 8 weeks. It is important to remember that mediation does not mean to ’empty your mind’ but rather is the process of letting your thoughts and feelings flow without judgment. You do not need to be in any particular position (standing, sitting or kneeling etc), but it is a state of peace and self-awareness.

#2: LOL! A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten the load mentally, it lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood.

#3: Deep Breathing: Deep Breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. It also allows more oxygen to go to the brain which slows down the amygdala and allows the prefrontal cortex to return to functioning.
Basically you can break your brain into two parts with two distinct functions- a part that feels and a part that is logical and makes plans. When the one side of your brain gets overwhelmed or flooded, the logical side that calms and creates a plan on how to address being overwhelmed stops working. By simple just breathing you allow necessary oxygen to the logical side of your brain allowing yourself to come up with a plan. Try it out- before you make a big decision or begin to get mad at your children or upset at a coworker, take a deep breath and notice how much better you are able to think and thus make more logical, thoughtful choices rather than reacting to the emotions. There is true power in the deep breath, so just breathe!!

#4 Music: Listening to soothing music has been proven to lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. Test this one out for yourself: Listen to 30 seconds of each song and see if you notice a difference in your heart rate and mood.

#5: Get Active: All forms of exercise can ease stress by helping the brain to release feel-good chemicals including endorphins, domamine and seratonin.
A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology revealed that regular exercise increases the level of tryptophan in the brain (an amino acid used to manufacture serotonin). While the research differs on how long to exercise in order for the body to release the chemicals, studies suggest it varies between 10 -30 minutes.

#6: Be Grateful: Gratitude has been shown to activate the hypothalamus in the brain which is responsible for regulating all kinds of bodily functions- including hunger, sleep, body temperature, metabolism, and how the body grows. Studies done by researchers at Indiana University and at Harvard have discovered that these neurological benefits experienced by their study participants were shown to be longer lasting. Something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months.  Journaling about gratitude can be a fantastic way of being able to focus on things in your life which bring joy and that you should be grateful for. Cultivating gratitude is a game changer.

#7: Sense of Smell: This one is bound to raise some eyebrows, but your nose can become a powerful ally and can transport your thoughts quicker than almost anything. It highlights a different area of your brain and can highlight positive memories and the feelings associated with those memories instantaneously. Lotions, chapsticks, gum, cookies, flowers-really anything with a fragrance can change your mood in a split second. If you haven’t tried it, this is one that might just surprise you.

#8: Get Outdoors: A change of scene also forces your brain to be able to reboot as it has to process new visuals, hearing, even sense of touch from the difference in the weather. Being outside in the sun allows your body to absorb vitamins that also affect your brains ability to function.

#9: Holding Your Loved Ones (Even Animals!): “Cuddle” Hormones (oxytocin) can actually turn off stress hormones. So go cuddle with a loved one and watch a movie or spend time with a loved pet. Connection is a powerful way to alleviate stress.

Learning to manage stress is an important tool that everyone needs to learn in order to be successful. These 9 strategies are scientifically proven to help you manage the stress you experience as a part of life- test them out and see what impact they make in your stress level. Remember, practically speaking:



How to Find a Good Therapist: Five Tips to Finding the Right Therapist For You

Question: I’m looking into finding a therapist. How do I find a good therapist?

Research over the past 60 years has demonstrated that there is one factor—more than any other—that is associated with successful therapy: the quality of the relationship between the client and the therapist.

Sadly, the mental health field is saturated with therapists, and like most professions, there are therapists that are good and those that are not.

Finding the right therapist is a daunting task especially when you are entering into a world you are unfamiliar with.  So how do you find a good therapist and how do you know if they are a good fit for you? There are a few good tips for finding a good therapist.

Tip #1: Know that it might take more time to find the therapist that is right for you. Similar to the advice from the weatherman during a winter storm advisory, (or the advice from a traffic report) it is helpful to remember to plan ahead and give yourself more time to reach your destination– in this case more time to find the right therapist for you.  Although it is difficult to be patient when you or a loved one are in the angst of making the decision to seek out a therapist, it is worth finding a good therapist and is essential for success. Getting an appointment can take time. Many good therapists have wait lists-which can actually be a positive indicator. Therapists with a high client turn over (an indicator they are not very good) often have more appointments available, so know that patience might be required.

Tip #2: Reach out to trusted friends and family members for referrals. Anyone who has completed or started their journey in mental health has had to begin walking the same path in finding a therapist. Their recommendations for therapists can be a useful starting point as you can learn from their experiences (positive or negative) and can help lead you to find a therapist that is right for your situation.

Tip #3: Online Research. All therapists should have an online bio which will tell you several  key pieces of information.

First, it will tell you their gender, which can be a determining factor for a good fit for you. Although this may not be a factor for everyone, some people feel more comfortable discussing their thoughts and feelings with a particular gender.

Another thing you can learn from their bio is their education. Where did the therapist go to school? While the best schools don’t necessarily make for the best therapists, you are going to want to make sure they went to an accredited school and not an online coaching certificate. You will want to know that they have invested in their education, as you will be the beneficiary of that investment.

The online bio will also tell you whether or not they are licensed. If they are an associate, (an intern who has graduated with their required educational requirements and is working on hours towards their licensure), that doesn’t mean you should discount them. The benefit of working with an intern or associate is that they would need to be working under their supervisor’s license and so you would be getting a potential two for one deal. If they do not disclose that they are an associate, or what being an associate means, then that is a good indicator that you should continue your search to find a therapist. Honesty is key in a working therapeutic relationship.

You should also be able to find online information regarding cost. When it comes to therapy, there is no set industry standard. The cost of therapy can vary widely depending on a number of factors including experience, level of education, degree of expertise and specialized training. The average session is between $80-$150 per 50 minute session.  Some therapists will work with a sliding scale fee schedule, which means their fee will depend on your income level. You cannot take cost out of the equation, but it also is not the best idea to bargain shop for your mental health.

If you would like to use your insurance to help cover the cost of therapy you are going to want to make sure you consult with your insurance. Insurance companies will often have a list of in network therapists for you to select from.  While the coverage with each insurance plan varies, the industry standard is between 6 and 8 sessions. Some other factors to consider if you are going through insurance is that the insurance will require information including a ‘covered’ diagnosis to be shared by your therapist with your insurance. Some insurance companies will also only provide coverage if a certain modality is used, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Finally, the online bio will also tell you about their training, experience, specialities, additional certifications and their modality or their method of therapy. The more you know about what you are looking for in your personal journey, the easier it will be for you to identify therapists with the experience and training that will most help you. Seek out a specialist in that area where possible.

Tip #4 : Call for a Consultation. After evaluating the information you found online, the final key step in finding a good therapist would be to call and consult with the therapist. Consultations are free and are a great way of being able to get a sense of whether or not they would be a good fit for you. Share a little about your presenting issue and see how the therapist responds. Have they worked with anyone else with similar issues? If after consulting with the therapist you do not think it will be a good fit for you and your situation, you can always ask them for a referral for someone they would recommend to address your specific issues.  I often would refer out to other colleagues that would better meet their needs.

Tip #5: Trust Your Feelings. Searching for the key information online and consulting with potential therapists are key steps in finding a good therapist, but how can you know if you have found the right therapist fit for you?  The key to knowing if you have aligned with someone who can assist you in your journey really is a feeling that only you can recognize during your first couple sessions. It is not that you feel necessarily feel comfortable- therapy can often bring up uncomfortable feelings- but you should feel safe to be able to share your thoughts and feelings in a place that you can process them. Do you feel heard when you speak? Do you feel like they are invested in you? Do you feel like they have a plan that meets your goals?  The latest research indicates that this feeling, called ‘joining’ in the mental health world, should occur by the third session but the feelings often start during the second and can begin during the first session.  If you do not feel this by the 3rd session, you should seek a different therapist as this is not likely to be the right fit for you.