Monthly Archives: July 2014

Finding Your Five

This past week I had several conversations with people, from clients to strangers to family and friends, all about how to find your five, and why it’s so important to do so, regularly.

What is “Finding your five?”

It’s about identifying what you can do and what works for you to find pause in only five minutes, thereby restoring some balance to your day. When I worked in corporate America, I stumbled upon this idea and quickly adopted it into my life and adapted it to other situations. Here’s what happened:

I worked at a high-stress luxury retailer for a number of years. Before that I was a fundraiser for a major medical school. Both of these jobs required a lot of management, interaction, and attention. And there were a lot of personalities moving about, mine included. At the fundraising job, I had an office with a door, so it became easy (i.e. not mindful) for me to close the door for 5-10 minutes, listen to a song or just read something not work-related. It was a mindless balm in the middle of a busy day.

At the retailer, I was in an office with two other women, so privacy was not an option. I learned quickly how to create my own privacy by going to the restroom. Specifically, I went to the restroom on a different floor. Whether or not I had to use the facilities, I went when I needed 5 minutes. I didn’t have a smartphone, so there was no email, music or internet to go through and busy myself, which was better for me. I would go to the restroom, go into a stall, close the door and sit on the edge of the toilet, and simply breathe. I’d think of things that made me happy, and quietly breathe until I felt a bit of balance and stress-alleviation return to my body. It usually took 5 minutes, sometimes less.

I have since taught clients, friends and family this little trick, and it works in every situation. Why? Because nobody can (or will) stop you from going to the bathroom. It’s almost an uncomfortable subject, so people just nod in acknowledgement when you say you have to go, and you leave. It’s always an option, and it’s the easiest way I know of to take five, without conflict.

Furthermore, the truth is there is really very little that can prevent you from taking five. If you’re a surgeon, perhaps it’s not the best idea to take a potty break in the middle of your work. Then again, if I’m ever being operated on (and it’s not life-threatening), if my surgeon really needs a 5-minute break for physical and/or emotional reasons, I’d much rather he/she take their 5 than push through it while working on me.

So, the question is: What’s your 5?

Here are some examples for you to consider that focus on the five senses:

  • Taste: food, specifically dark chocolate.If you like chocolate, test this out. Grab a piece, put it in your mouth, and set a stopwatch. Without chewing, see how long it takes to dissolve completely. Experience it melting, focusing on nothing else. My guess is it will be more than 5 minutes and you’ll feel quite relaxed afterward.
  • Listening: Music or a podcast, depending on what works for you, are a great way to take 5. Choose something uplifting that gets your head and heart moving. Pick a favorite song (or songs) that last about 5 minutes and keep them with you at the ready. Or do the same with a podcast or something from YouTube.
  • Seeing: Visual beauty, however you define it, inspires and brings us joy. If that’s a walk among flowers and trees, great! If it’s looking at a favorite painting or item, also wonderful. The key is to keep it readily available and easily accessible. It’s a visual cue you create to signal to your body that it’s time to pause, breathe and relax. (A caution here: if you choose an image with people you know in it, it may not have the same calming effect as it could stir up emotions. For example, a picture of your kids might make you smile, but then it might make you think of the errands you need to run for their school supplies, which may not be relaxing.)
  • Seeing, part 2: Reading is a great way to take 5. Anything supportive, inspirational, or uplifting can recharge you. Exploring positive words on a page enriches both your mind and your heart.
  • Smelling: Aromatherapy has been around for millennia, because it works. Whether or not it works for you is a matter of trial and error with different scents. For calming and stress-release, try lavender, sandalwood, ylang-ylang or chamomile. Invest in a small bottle of essential oil and carry it with you. When you take 5, open the bottle take a sniff and see how your body responds. You may be surprised.
  • Feeling: This is my favorite! Why? Because, for me, it encompasses all the others. When I touch or feel something that uplifts me, such as a favorite blanket or even item of clothing, it brings back memories of sounds, images, smells, and/or tastes from experiences in the past. A simple item can trigger some of the happiest most joy-filled memories, which enhances any mini-break. Petting my dog is similar. There’s a reason having pets in a nursing home helps to improve the morale of the residents.
  • Feeling, part 2: The best feeling I’ve found, however, is the sensation of breath. Breathing with attention is about feeling everything going on inside you. It’s not touch, per se, but it’s still feeling. With each breath, your skin becomes more alive and responsive to slight breezes, for example. Breathing consciously for 5 minutes is the best way I know to find my five.

Whatever your 5 is, find it, name it, and use it. Regularly and often. Not only will you become more adept at self-care and knowing yourself, but you’ll feel a lot better too!

[And remember: small changes, over time, lead to big results. Five minutes is perfectly sized to create something great!]

My “anything” looked like art.

Last week we talked about what you do when you don’t know what to do to get unstuck and moving again. And, in the Universe’s perfection, they gave me an opportunity to practice what I preach immediately after writing that piece. (lucky me!)

I got laryngitis. Bad. For most people this is frustrating (myself included), but as a Life Coach and Speaker, it meant I couldn’t do my job. My inability to speak gave me an unexpected 5 days of “not knowing what to do” with myself. I had to re-schedule workshops and clients, and I had to figure out how to communicate effectively with others – most specifically my doctor. (But silent communication is a post for another day. Oh boy, did I learn a lot!)

Today, we’re talking about walking the walk. I re-visited what I wrote last week, what I know about feeling stuck, and I applied my own teachings to my life… and I did anything. (As I mentioned last week, “anything” will get you going again when you’re feeling mired in frustration or indecision. You can re-read that post here.)

My “anything” looked like art.

take time - small

You see I started painting about 8 months ago. Art had always been in my toolbox, but more as a personal means to relax and meditate (something I’ve taught for years). But 8 months ago, art became a means of expression, a compulsion. I literally HAD to sit down and paint, never having done so before. From there I’ve expanded into drawing and designing. Again, something I always dabbled in, but never thought a great deal about until recently, when I decided art was another way to share my words with others (especially when I couldn’t talk.)

Art was something I could do while I couldn’t talk. Art was my anything – taking me out of my own head (and silent frustration!) and into feeling productive, even with having to change my entire work schedule.

So, as I said last week, anything that gets you moving in any direction is how you get unstuck when you don’t know what to do. And if, like me, you suddenly find yourself with an unexpected 5 days “off” anything can truly be any thing. And it’s even better when it makes you feel good and brings you joy. 🙂

P.S. If you want to see more of my art or feel inspired to bring it into your own home, please visit my page on FineArtAmerica, here. I’ve just started, and I will be adding new things, too, so check back often! Thank you.


What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

I’m asked this question, or some variation of it, a lot in my private practice. In fact, I’ve asked this question many (many!) times throughout my life, and the answer has always been the same, though it has come in various forms:

Do the next “right” thing.
Put one foot in front of the other.
Take small steps.
Decide only for today (this morning, the next hour, the next 5 minutes, etc)
Do one thing. Anything.

What do these all have in common?

They’re all about taking action. Each one of those statements is about moving out of thinking and into action. This is akin to moving from the limbic (or reptilian brain) into the frontal lobe. Let me explain…

When we’re mired in our reptilian brain, paralyzed by emotions, we’re limited to three options:


This is where we often get stuck and find ourselves frozen by fear, the unknown, emotional overload, and so much more. When we’re stuck in this place it often seems as if there’s no way out, mainly because we don’t know what to do. Often it’s because we fear doing the “wrong” thing, so we choose to do nothing, except stay in thought, and fear, and emotion. You get the point.

So, what do we do when we’re paralyzed by the unknown, mired in doubt and fear? Anything. That’s actually the answer. We do anything. We do anything that we can to propel ourselves out of that place and into another state.

For me, in the past, this has often looked like controlling my environment, also known as cleaning my home. Yup – it’s true. When I’ve been mired in indecision, fear, and doubt – you can usually find me soon thereafter tidying something up. If it was already tidy, I would rearrange furniture. I’m not kidding (ask my friends). There’s something about fixing, maintaining and nurturing my nest that frees me from that place of stagnation and allows me to begin flowing again.

What is it for you? I’m guessing if you think about it, you’ll find that you have a couple “go-to” solutions for getting yourself unstuck. Such as:

Take a walk.
Clean a room.
Paint a picture.
Bake something.
Call a friend.
Play a sport.

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? Anything. Anything that gets you moving in a different direction, actively involved, using your body as well as your mind will be enough. Anything.

From there, you’ll know what to do. 🙂

Labels, Limits, and Love – part 2

Last week I told you about my experience saying “I love you” to someone who isn’t categorized as lover, family or friend. I likened Love to a pasta sauce (yes, I did!), and shared that we would explore the idea of expectations and Love this week. So, let’s do it!

Here’s the thing: when I said “I love you” to that person, I had no expectation of a return. If we go back to the pasta sauce for a moment, ask yourself these questions:

Do you expect anything in return from your pasta sauce? Do you expect it to do something for you, validating you in some way? Or do you simply enjoy it for all it is in the moment?

That’s what happens when we love openly and honestly from our heart: we enjoy it for all it is in the moment. Some call it “being in the flow” others refer to it as “being in the now” – more labels. It simply is.

When we hold expectations for a return of our sentiments – our love – we are actually in a space of not-loving. We are in fear, or lack. Our energies are tied up in wanting. We are offering our love from a place of need, rather than a place of integrity, and that’s never good. It’s a false love, a caged love, a love that is bound and tied before it ever has a chance to be felt and shared.

There are many examples of this, but one I saw recently was a mother talking to her child. I was in a store and she put parameters on her love, saying something like, “How will I know that you love me, if you don’t do this for me?”

A quid pro quo for love is not Love. It’s enslavement to someone else’s needs, fears, and insecurities. It’s love as a possession, which isn’t love.

Expecting an “I love you, too” in return for your “I love you” is no different. Hollywood has hit on this as it’s a common theme among rom-coms. We’ve all done it – I’ve done it! (Many times.) So, this post is not about being perfect, but about raising awareness. Awareness invites change.

I experienced this myself most recently with the story I’ve shared. I said “I love you” because I did. I do. There is nothing more to it than that. Being able to convey my Love without strings, expectations or attachments was a gift I gave to the other person, but more so it was a gift I gave myself. It was liberating and empowering… and fully aligned with who I am.

It was the BEST pasta sauce I’ve ever had. 🙂

P.S. For more on how to communicate love effectively in existing relationships, I highly recommend the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (