10 Small Things


by NCNOCO Staff Therapist

10 Small Things

Do you ever feel like you wake up in the morning and begin the process of giving of yourself throughout the day only to return home feeling emotionally drained? Whether you are caring for loved ones, attending to the needs of others in your work, or pressing to meet deadlines on the next project, you are likely experiencing stress in your daily routine. We all have an emotional tank, and when we are stressed or anxious or busy it gets depleted. Even if you sleep well at night and wake up in the morning with a fresh attitude, most of the events throughout your day chip away at your emotional tank. Here are 10 small things you can do to keep your tank filled so that you can preserve some of your positive energy for yourself and your loved ones. We want to have something left at the end of the day for the people we care most about.

Breathe: Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest. While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps center your body, and clears your mind.

Exercise: (even for a minute) A short walk around the office or simply standing up to stretch during a break at work can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantaneously.

Listen to Music: In the car on the way to the next thing, turn on a favorite song and engage with it. Don’t just have it playing in the background, turn it up, pay attention to the notes or the lyrics, sing along and allow the music to move you. Doing this can shift your attention away from stress and lift your mood. Alternately, playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.

Call a friend or family member: Someone you know that wouldn’t mind a quick chat and who you know always boosts you up and cheers you on. That person may be able to give you the perspective you need or just make you laugh. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can put everything in perspective.

Laugh: Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy. Watch a funny you tube video or bust out your favorite old comedy to watch after work.

Eat Right: Processed foods make our bodies work harder to digest and don’t offer us the good stuff that whole, healthy foods naturally have. Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related.

Mindfulness: This means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

Get outside: Researchers are gathering a body of evidence, proving what we all know to be true: nature is good for us and has both long and short term mental and physical health benefits. Go for a hike or go walk by a body of water if you can. Even getting out of your office on your 15 minute break will do wonders for your mental state.

Have a warm comforting drink: During your morning coffee, take 2 minutes to sit and savor the smell, taste and warmth it brings you. Slowing down to enjoy the little things is a simple way to give back to yourself. Don’t drink coffee? Try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system.

Look at something that makes you smile: Keep a photo handy (in your pocket or on your phone) and look at it when you are waiting at the elevator or between meetings.  Does a picture of your baby, dog, or significant other make you smile?  Did you know that just looking at a picture of a loved one can help reduce pain? Looking at a picture of someone or something can make you smile, which in turn triggers neurotransmitters to fire. Smiles can raise your serotonin and dopamine levels, which are associated with calmness and happiness.

That’s it! 10 small things! Remember that you have some very simple tools within reach to combat the daily stress that often drains us. Start by choosing a few of these things to incorporate into your day and watch how your emotional tank still has some juice left in it when your day is done.



by NCNOCO Staff Therapist

When waking up this morning to a brisk fall breeze and dark cloudy skies, I started to notice my lack of motivation to do my normal morning workout routine. The season is changing, and I could already begin to feel the push I’ll have to give myself in the morning to get bundled up and head outside to begin my workout.  It’s a great way to start my day, and I feel so much better when I do, but my mind is already telling me that I’m going to want to stay snuggled in bed, or drink my hot coffee instead.

Staying motivated is a struggle for many of us. Not just when it comes to exercise, but work tasks, home tasks, personal goals, etc.  It’s important to evaluate what our goals are in life and what we need to do to accomplish them.  The more focused we are on our personal goals, the better we feel and the more we get done in general.  Here are some important steps to follow when making and striving for those goals. They were created by Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker and author of “Born to Win: Find Your Success Code.”

  1. Identify the Goal – Write a clear description of what you want to achieve.
  1. List the Benefits – Write out what reward, benefit or positive outcome you will achieve when you achieve your goal.
  1. List the Obstacles That Could Get in Your Way – Things like having enough time, limited resources or simply lack of.
  1. List the Skill and Knowledge You Need to Reach Your Goal – Even if it’s information you don’t yet have, write it down, then go to step 5.
  1. Identify the People and Groups to Work With – Don’t be afraid to ask for help, outsource an action item (or a few) and enlist people who can help you reach your goal.
  1. Develop a Plan of Action – Write out each step or task that you’ll need to complete in order to reach your goal as well as how you’ll achieve it.
  1. Set a Deadline – The great thing about actionable goals is there is an end in sight. Set a deadline based on your plan of action and list of obstacles and knowledge required. This means you may need to give yourself more time to complete certain milestones, but do your best to set a firm deadline to give yourself a date to work towards.

Zig Ziglar’s seven steps, give us a great outline to follow when setting goals.  And following these steps make it much easier to follow through and hold ourselves accountable. As the season is changing, take the time to evaluate what you’re going to do for YOU and how you’re going to accomplish it. Take control of your goals now.  Set your expectations high, and tell yourself, tell your brain; that you can and will do it!

The Other Side of Fear



by NCNOCO Staff Therapist

“Everything you want, is on the other side of fear” ~ Jack Confield

Fear is something that everyone has experienced and no one can avoid.  Nelson Mandela said “Fearlessness is stupidity. Courage is not letting that fear defeat you”.  This, coming from someone who some people view as one of the most courageous men of all time.  One whom you would assume had no fear.  It comes as somewhat of a relief that Nelson Mandela, a man of significant strength and courage, can admit that he had fears.  Thankfully, most of us will not need to find courage in the extremes that Mandela did.  But most of us have to find courage in small ways on a daily basis.  It takes courage to try something new, to show up for an interview, to start school, to join a gym, to raise children, to be single, and the list goes on and on.

In his book, Mandela’s Way, Richard Stengall writes; Mandela’s highest praise for someone he considers courageous is, He did very well.”  By that he does not mean that the fellow was a dramatic hero or that he risked his life in a great endeavor, but that, day in and day out, he remained steady under trying circumstances.  That day in and day out, he resisted giving in to fear and anxiety.

All of us are capable of that kind of bravery.  Most of us challenge fear every day, and that takes incredible strength and bravery. So it’s time to give ourselves credit for the courage we have to overcome and conquer the fears in our lives.  Because, Everything you want, is on the other side of fear.

Back To School


by NCNOCO Staff Therapist

If you are like me, back-to-school season is a mixed bag of emotions. The transition from summer to fall brings the excitement of new experiences and opportunities for my children to grow. It also brings nervous energy as I send my children into new places and hope that I’ve prepared them well for what they will face in the year ahead. But these are my concerns, my emotions. My children have their own set of emotions, worries and expectations as they think about school starting. In talking with some friends, the question came up, “How do we really prepare our children to go back-to-school?” This got me thinking, maybe the answer to this question (in a round-a-bout way) is by asking, “How do I prepare MYSELF for my kids to go back to school?” This may sound silly given that I already went to school and dealt with many (too many to count) years of first days and awkward moments and new friends, schedules, teachers, etc. But as a family, we feel each other’s emotions, be it joy, sadness, fear or aggravation.  We are a system after all and we respond to each other (often unconsciously) and play off of each other all the time. Dr. Laura Markham explains this process much better than I can. In her blog at Aha! Parenting she describes why changing ourselves ultimately results in changes in our children.

  1. Children learn emotional regulation from us. Kids won’t always do what we say, but they will always, eventually, do what we do. If we indulge in throwing things, slamming doors, and yelling, so will they. If we can stay calm, they learn that it’s not actually an emergency when they get upset, and they learn to calm themselves.
  2. The emotional safety we create for our children is exactly what allows them to heal, grow and thrive. Like us, children WANT to feel happy and connected, but sometimes their fear or anger overwhelms them.  Our calm gives them a path back to loving connection. When they feel better, they do better.
  3. When we provide a calm “holding environment” for our children, they feel safe enough to experience their emotions, which is what allows those big feelings to evaporate. Kids learn that feelings are just part of being human, and we don’t have to fear them–OR act on them.
  4. When children respect us and feel understood by us, they want to follow our lead.So they’re more open to our guidance, more likely to follow our rules.
  5. Children are sensitive barometers of our moods and tensions. If we have an unresolved issue, we can count on them to subconsciously pick up on it and act out. So very often, when we work on our own issues, we find that our child’s behavior changes–even without our directly addressing it!
  6. When we respond differently, so does our child. Remember, it’s always your child’s action + your response that = the outcome. When we get triggered and react without thinking, we escalate the storm. When we respond more mindfully, we settle the storm–and create more connection. Less drama, more love.

The good news is, even if our children have learned some counter-productive habits, it’s never too late for them to learn to manage themselves emotionally. The key is our role-modeling.


“It’s never too late…!” Thankfully, each day and each back-to school season is a new opportunity for us to work on ourselves and therefore help our children work through the challenging emotions that come with the various transitions they experience. An adult that can regulate their own emotions and exemplify emotional health to their children will raise kids that are likely more resilient and able to navigate life.

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