What Physicians Call Burnout, Others Call PTSD A Guest Post by Edwin Leap, MD

Stethoscope and broken heart concept for heart disease or illness
Stethoscope and broken heart concept for heart disease or illness


“Gunshot wound to chest, pulseless, 20 minute ETA.”

When that’s the EMS report, it gets your attention.  Despite the wonderful theatrics of modern medical shows, and the best efforts of real-world, sweat-drenched paramedics, those of us who have done this long enough can translate that report.  For the layperson it means:  “Dead.”

I saw that last week. And the week before I saw another tragic, unexpected death in a man not much older than me. Twice I walked into a small room, looked into someone’s face and said, “I’m sorry, but he died.”  Twice there was weeping and moaning, and a woman sliding to the side of the chair as someone else tried to hold her up.  A woman suddenly contemplating life without a person of inestimable value to her happiness.

I have this theory about what happens to those who see such things and give such news. Let’s say you send a young man or woman in the armed forces to Afghanistan.  He or she is there for a year and sees combat. Or doesn’t, but witnesses the consequences; victims of IEDs, for instance. The young soldier treats those wounds, or prepares those bodies. They live with the constant threat of their own grave injury or death.  When they return, if they come to our emergency department and say, “I have PTSD,” we say, “I understand.”  We believe them.  And why not? Who are we, who am I, to say what event or set of events is sufficient to cause nightmares, anxiety, horrible memories, paralyzing fear?

On the other hand, what if we send a physician or nurse to a civilian emergency department for 10 years, 20 years?  A physician myself, I can say that while we admit that it’s difficult to care for the dying, the broken, the shattered; while we admit that it’s horrible to give “the news,” we just press on.  After all, we get paid well, right?  And to admit the emotional consequences seems a little soft, doesn’t it?  I mean, we can power through can’t we?  It was only a dead child, it’s only a hallway full of grief, it’s only self-reflection and self-doubt. There are patients to see.  It’s only 2 a.m., or 2 p.m.  There are five or eight or 12 more hours to go!

Later, after work, sometimes for weeks or months (or years), it’s the repeating loop in the middle of the night, as we ask, “What else could I have done?” It’s only the question, as we kiss our families, “What if that were my child? What if that were my spouse?” We hold them closer for a while.

So, to avoid weakness, or the general disregard of our professional organizations, we call it “burnout.”  “I can’t do this anymore,” we say. “It’s the administrators!  It’s the electronic medical records!  It’s the falling revenue! It’s the drug seekers or the shift work or the patient satisfaction …” or any number of very real reasons to be frustrated and reconsider our careers. But not the real reason.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s drinking 200 proof pain and suffering for a very long time.  What’s the toxic threshold? What’s the number of shattered humans, the number of death notifications before half of us want to quit? How much blood must we bathe in to be excused?

My theory is just this; perhaps what we call burnout is our own PTSD.  Our own brain (our own soul even) saying, “enough.” And it applies to more than physicians.  It applies to nurses and to PAs and nurse practitioners.  It goes for police officers, who are often the first to see the lifeless or gasping form in the savaged car, or the bloody floor of a hotel or bar.  It goes for the first responders, paramedics and fire-fighters who jump into the fray fearlessly trying to snatch life from death.  They burn out too.

If so, it’s OK.

To everyone who sees and intervenes in life and death situations, I say this: You’ve done more good than you can ever imagine.  If you tell me it hurts too much to go back, then there’s no shame. Go in peace.

Because that 200-proof pain is bitter stuff. And you don’t have to go to combat to get a bottle full of it.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

8 Success Lessons Richard Branson Didn’t Learn in Business School A Guest Post by Lolly Daskal

Resilience sign with a road background
Resilience sign with a road background


Success comes in many forms. For Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, the path to success was not the conventional one. He went on to build eight separate billion-dollar companies in eight different industries, but business school was difficult–especially because he suffered from an acute combination of dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.

He says, “Had I pursued my education long enough to learn all the conventional dos and don’ts of starting a business, I often wonder how different my life and career might have been.”

The success that Branson has experienced comes from the way he thinks and what he believes. Let’s look at some of his secrets, taken from his book Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School:

1. “You never know with these things when you’re trying something new what can happen. This is all experimental.” The first time for anything is always an enormous challenge, and there are no guarantees for success. But Branson has made a career of taking risks and daring to enter uncharted seas. He sets his goals and does not rest until he has left his mark.

2. “When people are placed in positions slightly above what they expect, they are apt to excel.” Branson believes if he had said, “Oh, I am a businessman,” he would never have gone into the airline business. His interest in life comes from setting challenges and rising to meet them.

3. “As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation.” Branson believes in bestowing trust. You don’t have to give up complete control, but you should allow people to feel that you trust them with the responsibility you have given them.

4. “Do not be embarrassed by your failures–learn from them and start again.”Branson believes that we learn more from our failures than our successes, and that only in understanding where you have failed can you have success in the future. Understanding where things have gone wrong is a sure-fire way to succeed the next time.

5. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Branson believes in ownership, and he understands that people will take much greater ownership of their jobs when they have more room to either succeed or fail.

6. The best way to learn about anything is by doing.” Branson believes in investing in people so they learn how to do things well. Once you invest in them, they will most often repay that investment many times over with their hard work, loyalty, and admiration.

7. “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” Branson believes that his employees should never feel that they are just hired help collecting a paycheck. He wants people to come to work to contribute and to contribute passionately, and he knows it’s always important to have fun.

8. “Good people are not just crucial to a business. They are the business!” Branson believes that the real engine behind every business is its people. He looks at businesses as nothing more than a group of people, and he considers people far and away the biggest assets of any business.

No one can argue with Richard Branson’s great success–maybe the real secret is to create something that stands out and have fun doing it, to do something that will leave your mark, whatever it may be. It sounds like the most important things we need to learn don’t come from business school after all.


Causes of Conflict Between Siblings Caring for Elderly Parents A Guest Post by Jeff Anderson

Respect Ethics Honest Integrity Signpost Meaning Good Qualities
Respect Ethics Honest Integrity Signpost Meaning Good Qualities


Family dynamics are infinitely complex, but two underlying themes run through most sibling disputes about their parent’s care: injustice and inheritance.

1. Injustice

When one sibling shoulders a disproportionate burden of Mom or Dad’s care, that sense of unfairness can foster resentment. Often, by virtue of distance, the siblings who live further away are “off the hook” when it comes to caring for an aging parent, while the nearest siblings are obliged to take on a caregiving role. When the caregiving sibling asks for help from other siblings, the other siblings often don’t fully appreciate, or choose to ignore, how much help their parent needs, and how much work one sibling is doing.

2. Inheritance

Many siblings clash over parent’s finances. With the average American household’s net worth declining since 2007, siblings must divide an even smaller inheritance, naturally increasing the likelihood of conflict. In a perfect world, each of us is selfless and not motivated by money, but we live in a far from perfect world where money is indispensable, so it remains a problem within families.

Caregiving is stressful on its own, but when injustice and inheritance are added to a situation, they can create animosity between siblings. When family dynamics are already tense because one sibling feels unjustly overburdened with a parent’s care, money can compound the conflict.

A sibling who provides most of a parent’s care may feel entitled to a greater share of an inheritance. Or, siblings who are more distant or not involved may believe that the caregiving sibling is spending too much money on a parent’s care. Sometimes, the children of aging parents will even resist plans for professional care in order to “protect” an inheritance.

Tips for Improving Communication with Your Siblings During a Family Disagreement

There are no easy answers to settle disputes between siblings who are butting heads over a parent’s care, but maintaining communication is crucial. Consider using these tips for improving communication with your siblings during a family disagreement:

A Family Meeting

Ideally, siblings can identify and correct issues before they become irreconcilable. The key is good communication, and a tried and true strategy to facilitate the exchange of ideas is the family meeting. At a family meeting, there should be frank and open discussion about a parent’s care needs. Each sibling’s role and obligations should be established, and future plans should be made. But if the question of where to hold a family meeting leads to a bitter argument in and of itself, the friction may have gotten past the point when a family meeting can help.

Advisors, Counsels and Mediators

Sometimes a neutral third-party can calm feuding siblings. A Place for Mom Senior Living Advisers, who work directly with families as they plan a parent’s care, have defused many disputes between siblings over lengthy conference calls. Family counselors can also help to bridge the differences between siblings, assuming they still talk to one another. If things have become really heated, a family mediator specializing in senior care issues may be able to break through the ill will and help build consensus and find middle-ground.

The High Road

Ultimately, the only person we can change is ourselves. No matter how much we try to reason with a disagreeable sibling, we may not succeed.

While advocating for what’s best for our parent, it’s wise to let go of anger or resentment toward a sibling who has been unhelpful or hurtful, and to strive for the undeniable peace that comes from acceptance and forgiveness; neither stifling our impulse to  call out an uncooperative brother or sister, nor allowing ourselves to be consumed with anger.

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8 Powerful Questions We Should Ask Ourselves A Guest Post by Alex Myles


“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

~ Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay

For much of my life, I struggled to discover who I actually was.

I lost myself in relationships, in family and in friends. Instead of living the life that suited me, I became a chameleon, constantly changing to suit each environment and desperately trying to sit on each high pedestal that others had placed out for me.

I compared, compromised, blended and sold my soul time and again.

I frantically searched for answers to unlock the secret to my unhappiness and in doing so I accused, blamed, demanded and found replies in all the wrong places.

So, I turned it around on myself. If others weren’t at fault, was it I? I had choices. Everything that was in front of me was there because I, and I alone, had put it there. It was time to call myself out and to face up to myself.

Looking in the mirror I had no idea who I was. How could I possibly expect anyone else to value me when I was a confused and distorted mess, a mixture of everyone I had allowed to penetrate me, along with all the negative self-beliefs I had somehow inflicted on myself.

My insides ached with under-nourishment and I realized the reason for this was that I was not living the life intended for me, I was living for everyone else and was doing a pretty bad job of it.

I needed to change and in doing so, I needed to figure out how. I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight—I had taken a long time to become who I was and to change, was going to be a process. Although I didn’t expect miracles, when I asked myself each of the following questions, I noticed immediate changes taking place on the inside.

1. Where do I want to be in five years time?

I looked at my relationships, my career, the area I lived in, my health and education. I thought about places I wanted to visit and all the things I wanted to experience. I realised that although some of these changes were not possible immediately, there were so many things I could work on one small step at a time.

I enlisted in courses, changed my eating habits, found new hobbies, read the books that I needed and focused more on cultivating important relationships. I didn’t set a destination for the outcome; instead I set a feeling.

2. How did I want to feel on the inside in five years time? Where would I be emotionally, physically, mentally?

I considered all the things in my life that weren’t healthy and how I could make the changes needed. I realised that nothing was out of reach and it was up to me to take control of my life and that anything was possible. When I didn’t add to much pressure by expecting instant gratification for the changes, I allowed everything take a natural pace so it sunk in. Instead of crashing and burning I slowly absorbed each new thing.

3. What bad habits do I need to stop?

I made a list and didn’t expect an overnight miracle. Instead I worked on them one by one. With some, I went cold turkey and others I phased out over time. For each one accomplished, I rewarded myself with something that was good for me instead. Alongside the list I added a replacement for each one. Something to look forward to at the end of each achievement.

4. What mistakes have I made today?

Instead of excusing or blaming my behaviour, I took responsibility. I made the decision to turn every negative into a positive. Each time I messed up, I confronted it face on. Why, what and how had these things happened? What would I do differently in the future? What have I learned?

I realized that I was stumbling over the same problems over and again and I would keep coming face to face with them until I accepted where I was going wrong. Whenever I made errors, bad judgement or was careless, I thought about what part I had played in allowing the mistake to happen.

I discovered that when I lived in the present moment, I was far less likely to keep tripping up. Although I still would, I would rectify things sooner and understand the reasons behind the mistakes. I also have learned that I will always, always make mistakes, regardless of how much I learn, and so I forgive myself each time and vow to try harder in future.

5. Who do I envy or admire? What qualities do these people have? In what way can I learn from them? What is it about them that inspires me?

I wrote down a list of the people that have the je ne sais quoi that strongly resonated with me. What elements was I drawn to? I wrote down all the characteristics that made those people what they were. I read their autobiographies and learned how they had succeeded and what steps they took to get where they were. I used the admiration to motivate me and to help me reach my own life goals.

I found that it was shared similarities that had drawn me to those people and I realized that I could set the bar however high I chose and then just take whatever necessary steps needed to get there. I learned so much through others from animal activists to successful entrepreneurs. Although I may not reach the same high levels with everything, I realised that my destiny was it my own hands, just as it had been in theirs, it was up to my how hard I was willing to work.

6. What stories have I told myself?

So much of my self-belief was bad conditioning. I had convinced myself that I was worthy of this and not worthy of that. In doing so I attracted all kinds of wrong people and rubbish into my life. I immediately made a conscious decision to stop filling my head with negativity about myself. I was unique, different and worthy of the very best life had to offer me. I just needed to keep telling myself this until it finally sank in and I believed it.

As soon as I unlearned all of the rubbish and relearned how magical I was, I began to attract exactly what I believed. My soul was a mirror and whatever was going on in the inside, was radiating out and attracting similar reflections. The more love I gave to myself, the more love I received back—I discovered that like attracts like.

7. Who do I love and who loves me?

I thought long and hard about those that I loved and those that loved me. Did I let them know what they meant to me? Was I making them a priority in my life? How could I spend more quality time with them and show them how valued and important they were? I realized that often I would take people for granted and assume they already knew their place in my life. I made a conscious decision to appreciate each one of them more and let know regularly with actions rather than just words.

8. If no one judged me, who would I be?

This is probably the most powerful question I asked myself.

It made me realize how much I was living a lie, living according to society’s expectations of me. So much of what I said and did on a daily basis was done to fit in line with high standards placed on me by people I didn’t even know. I realized my life was limitless. I could be whoever and do whatever I chose to be. Those that truly loved me would accept me all the same and those were the only ones that really mattered.

I realized that to live free from judgement, I also had to stop judging myself. I stopped caring about what people thought about me and started caring about what I thought about myself, about what I needed to do to be fulfilled and also what made me happy on the inside. When I went places, I stopped caring if people liked how I dressed, what I said, or valued my opinions.

We are all different and we are never going to be accepted by everyone.

Someone, somewhere will always disapprove regardless of how hard we try. I stopped trying to please the masses and instead worked on pleasing the only person that really mattered—myself.

Violence in the Emergency Department is on the Rise: We Need a Better Plan for the Emergency Treatment of the Mentally Challenged

ER Nurse Recounts Being ‘Slapped, Pinched, Spat On’ By Patients


LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As an emergency room nurse, Elizabeth Hawkins has seen it all.

“I have been slapped, pinched, spat on,” said Hawkins. “I want to make sure that I’m coming home to my family every night. That the other nurses go home to their family.”

In 2013, Hawkins suffered a concussion and severe injuries when she was attacked by a mentally ill patient.

“It took four grown men to hold him down,” she said.

Hawkins didn’t return to work for three months. The patient was never charged.

Elizabeth’s story sounds horrifying, but it’s not unusual.

Hospital attacks in California are up, and now medical personnel – especially in the ER – worry each night that their lives are at risk.

Four years ago, ER nurse Maria Gaytan suffered severe neck injuries when she was attacked by an intoxicated patient who tried to choke her with a stethoscope.

Gaytan was out of work for six weeks, and today she chooses not to work weekend nights when substance abuse cases in the ER are at their highest.

Both she and Hawkins are joining other nurses to demand better protection for hospital personnel.

Nurses union executive Denise Duncan says she has seen the increase of violence – including reports of nurses “being pummeled to the ground, assaulted in the emergency room, cold-cocked by patients” – and points to one key reason why.

“Mental health patients are being boarded in our facilities because of lack of mental health beds,” said Duncan. “Our registered nurses are health care workers nurses. They are not prepared to take care of that population of patients.”

In California, it is not a felony to assault a health care worker, so hospitals are many times left to monitor themselves. Law enforcement, meanwhile, is reluctant to get involved, as both nurses found out when they insisted on filing a police report.

By July 2016, every hospital facility in California will be required to have in place procedures and training to prevent and report these violent incidents.

But nurses worry the regulations won’t go nearly far enough if more health care professionals don’t come forward with their testimony before Cal/OSHA.

For now, for nurses like Gaytan and Hawkins, they say this is not the career they signed up for.

“Nobody takes a job thinking they are not going to go home and it’s not right. It’s not OK,” said Hawkins.

7 Ways to Stay Strong When Everything Goes Wrong A Guest Post by Marc Chernoff

Healer's outstretched open hand surrounded by random wise healing words on a rustic stone effect background
Healer’s outstretched open hand surrounded by random wise healing words on a rustic stone effect background


When life is “falling apart,” it could actually be falling together… for the very first time.  Which is why it feels so darn uncomfortable.  Consider that what’s in front of you may be serving you in valuable ways you don’t even understand right now.

“Today, on my 47th birthday, I re-read the suicide letter I wrote on my 27th birthday about two minutes before my girlfriend showed up at my apartment and told me, ‘I’m pregnant.’  She was honestly the only reason I didn’t follow through with it.  Suddenly I felt I had something to live for.  Today she’s my wife, and we’ve been happily married for 19 years.  And my daughter, who is now a 21-year-old college student, has two younger brothers.  I re-read my suicide letter every year on my birthday as a reminder to be thankful – I am thankful I got a second chance at life.”

That’s the opening paragraph of an email I received last night from a reader named Kevin.  His words remind me that sometimes you have to die a little on the inside first in order to be reborn and rise again as a stronger, smarter version of yourself.

People and circumstances will occasionally break you down.  But if you keep your mind focused, your heart open to love, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, you can recover the pieces, rebuild, and come back much stronger and happier than you ever would have been otherwise.

Angel and I have dealt with our fair share of adversity over the years too – losing loved ones to illness, financial and business turmoil, etc. – and we’ve written a lot about it.  But today, in light of Kevin’s email and a dozen other emails I’ve received this past week from readers who are struggling with hard times, I want to revisit and discuss seven key actions Angel and I take to find strength when everything seems to be going wrong.

1.  Fully accept the reality of what is.

You cannot find peace by avoiding life.  Life spins with unexpected changes every hour; so instead of avoiding it, take every change and experience as a challenge for growth.  Either it will give you what you want or it will teach you what the next step is.

Finding peace and happiness in life does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, no challenges, and no hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those things while remaining calm in your heart.  It’s about letting go of the pictures in your head about how things were “supposed to be.”

Of course, this isn’t easy – it will be an ongoing struggle.  But it’s infinitely easier than continuing to fight to conform your life to some antiquated delusion.  It’s an infinitely more satisfying journey as well.  When it’s working, when you can detach from those old images, there is peace, there is beauty, and there is happiness.

Honestly, life is too short to spend at war with yourself.  The biggest disappointments in our lives are often the result of misplaced expectations.  Letting go of needless expectations is your first step to happiness.  Come from a mindset of peace and acceptance, and you can deal with almost anything and grow beyond it.

2.  Remind yourself that everything in life is temporary.

Every time it rains, it stops raining.  Every time you get hurt, you heal.  After darkness there is always light – you are reminded of this every morning, but still you often forget, and instead choose to believe that the night will go on forever.  It won’t.  Nothing lasts.

So if things are good right now, enjoy it.  It won’t last forever.  If things are bad, don’t worry because it won’t last forever either.  Just because life isn’t easy at the moment, doesn’t mean you can’t laugh.  Just because something is bothering you, doesn’t mean you can’t smile.  Every moment gives you a new beginning and a new ending.  You get a second chance, every second.  You just have to take it and make the best of it.

3.  Push yourself to take another step, and another, no matter what.

After studying the lives of many successful people, I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful people from everyone else is pure perseverance.  In a culture that seeks quick results, we must learn the beauty of effort, patience and perseverance.  Be strong, present and steadfast.

The most beautiful smiles are usually the ones that struggled through the tears. Because breakdowns often lead to breakthroughs in the end.  Every mistake, heartbreak and loss contains its own solution, its own subtle lesson on how to improve your performance and outcome next time.  Thus, the most reliable way to predict the future is to create it yourself.  Participate in life today instead of just watching it pass you by.  Don’t let the few things that are out of your control interfere with the infinite assortment of things you can control.

The truth is we all lose sometimes.  The greater truth is that no single loss ever defines us.  Learn from your trials.  Grow wiser.  Press on.

In the end, good things don’t come to those who wait; good things come to those who are patient… while working hard, through good times and bad, for what they want most in life.  It’s about courage.  It’s about being scared to death and then taking the next step anyway.

4.  Use positivity, rather than letting negativity use you.

There may not be an obvious reason to be positive today, but you don’t need a reason.  Being positive is a strategy, not a response.  The most powerful time to be positive is precisely when everything around you is not so positive.

Happiness in the long run is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.  Raise your awareness to your own inner strength and positivity.  You are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life.  You can either give negativity power over your life, or you can choose to be positive instead by focusing on the great things that are truly important.  So talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems today.

In other words, don’t wait for a reason to be positive.  Choose to be positive about your situation, about your possibilities, and about what you can do to move forward from here.  Instead of looking for reasons to be positive, look for ways to express your positive vision.  Work to make your life resonate with that vision, and enjoy all the rewarding outcomes you create.

5.  Focus on making tiny fixes.

Don’t build mountains in your mind.  Don’t try to conquer the world all at once.  When you seek instant gratification (big, quick fixes) you make life unnecessarily painful and frustrating.  When you choose instead to treat each moment as an opportunity to make a tiny, positive investment in yourself, the rewards come naturally.

When everything is broken, it’s easy to find plenty of little things you can fix.  When nothing seems to be going right, even the most fundamental positive effort can make a significant difference.  Times of great adversity are also times of great opportunity.  When there are problems in every direction, there is also great value waiting to be created.  When everything is going well, it’s easy to get lulled into a routine of complacency.  It’s easy to forget how incredibly capable and resourceful you can be.  Resolve to persevere by making tiny fixes every day.  It’s these minor tweaks that take you from where you are to where you want to be in the long run.

Small steps, little leaps, and tiny fixes (very small repetitive changes) every day will get you there, through thick and thin.

6.  Look for something small to appreciate.

You may not have what you want, and you may be very hurt, but you still have more than enough to appreciate right now.  Epicurus once said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”  Meditate on this quote when life seems unfair.

Remember that being positive in a negative situation is not naive; it’s a sign of leadership and strength.  You’re doing it right when you have so much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to smile and appreciate your life instead.  So don’t pray for the big miracles and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, simple, and yet not-so-small gifts in your life.  It may seem strange to feel thankful for those events in your life that appear to be ordinary, yet it’s precisely by being thankful that you can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Think about it: What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today?

Think of all the beauty that still remains around you, notice it and smile.

At the end of the day, it’s not happiness that makes us thankful, but thankfulness that makes us happy.  Showing appreciation for the good things you have is the most powerful happiness boosting activity there is.

7.  Give yourself the extra attention you need and deserve.

Resisting and ignoring your own feelings and emotions does not serve you.  It leads to stress, illness, confusion, broken relationships, fits of anger and bouts of deep, dark depression.  Anyone who’s experienced any of the above knows that these states of mind are horrifically unhealthy… and when you’re in the habit of self-neglect, it’s near impossible to escape.

You have to admit, to a certain extent, you have spent too much of your life trying to shrink yourself.  Trying to become smaller.  Quieter.  Less sensitive.  Less opinionated.  Less needy.  Less YOU.  Because you didn’t want to be too much or push people away.  You wanted to fit in.  You wanted people to like you.  You wanted to make a good impression.  You wanted to be wanted.

So for years, you sacrificed yourself for the sake of making other people happy.  And for years, you suffered.

But you’re tired of suffering, and you’re done shrinking.  Right?  Good!

It’s not your job to change who you are in order to become someone else’s idea of a worthwhile human being.  You are worthwhile.  Not because other people think you are, but because you are breathing your own air, and therefore you matter.  Your thoughts matter.  Your feelings matter.  Your voice matters.  And with or without anyone’s approval or permission, you must be who you are and live your truth.  Even if it makes people turn their heads.  Even if it makes them uncomfortable.  Even if they choose to leave.

Refuse to shrink.  Choose to take up lot of space in your own life.  Choose to give yourself permission to meet your own needs.  Choose to honor your feelings and emotions.  Choose to make self-care a top priority…

Choose yourself!


I can tell you from my own life experience that life is a wild ride.  I’ve found happiness, lost it, found it, lost it and then I found it once again.

But each time what I found was more incredible than the last.

So remember that everyone suffers in life at some point.  Everyone feels lost sometimes.  The key is using your experiences to grow, inch by inch.  When you apply what you’re learning to your future choices and actions, you move forward not backward.  You become stronger and wiser.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it in the end.

A Geriatric Psychologist’s Perspective on Aging Parents: 5 Steps to Take When You Are Home for the Holidays A Guest Post by Dr. Melissa Henston, Geriatric Psychologist

care for the caregiver


Going home for the holidays brings many visions to mind. From a crisp climate and festive music to comfort food and conversations by the fireplace – spending quality time with loved ones for the holidays is usually something you look forward to. But when you have aging parents or loved ones, going home for the holidays can sometimes signify a rather different, and at times, stressful experience.

You may already have an inkling that Mom, Dad or a favorite aunt or uncle is having trouble with everyday life, but sometimes seeing changes in family members after months – or maybe years – of not seeing them can be disquieting. People change in their later years, and sometimes they can decline in health and spirit faster than you expect.

A Place for Mom expert and geriatric psychologist Dr. Melissa Henston provides some guidance on how to not only spot common problems, but tips on how to deal with any issues to get your elderly loved one the help they need.


You can spot problems the minute you drive up to your loved one’s house, Henston says.

“There are a whole bunch of warning signs that are easy to spot. For example, the exterior of the house has peeling paint, or the driveway isn’t shoveled or the walkway isn’t treated. Once you enter the home, newspapers are still in plastic wrap and mail is piled up. Maybe the house isn’t as clean as normal or has an odor. You can usually tell when something is ‘off’.”

Having a grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s in tandem with working in the nursing home practice in her ‘previous life’ (during college), Dr. Henston has a personal connection to the elderly. She decided from a young age that her primary focus in psychology would be issues in aging, and she has devoted her practice to improving the lives of the elderly, informing families about the signs that their loved ones need help, and helping find the right care options for each unique situation.

Since a health crisis in the elderly can escalate quickly and catch everyone involved off guard, it’s important to not ignore signs that something may be wrong. Ideally, families will have conversations with their children or loved ones about getting their affairs in order and end of life care well in advance of having any issues, but here are some signs to be cognizant of when visiting aging loved ones for the holidays:

  • House and yard need care / maintenance
  • Disheveled clothing
  • Broken appliances
  • Spoiled / expired groceries
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Cluttered / disorganized house
  • Depressed or low energy temperament

Henston emphasizes the importance to noting anything out of character or outside of normal behavior. She remembers personally having the discussion of green eggs and ham with her own father. “I told my dad, ‘Dad, you can’t eat this stuff. Ham isn’t supposed to be green.'”

If health or happiness seems to be compromised, it’s time to have a conversation and address problems.


Tread delicately when it comes to discussing retirement plans or end-of-life care. Henston comments, “Typically you need to look for the opening and opportunity, rather than just jumping in. Don’t try to take control. Try to get a natural conversation going.”

Remember that parents still consider you their child. You need to respect this relationship. Here are a few tips for setting the right ambiance for a positive and effective talk:

  • Sit in a comfortable location, such as over coffee.
  • Start with a normal, conversational tone.
  • Ask open-ended questions, such as “How is it around the house?” or “How is driving going?” or “What have you and Dad been doing for fun lately?” to get the conversation flowing.

Henston relays that guilt is one of the biggest problems for family members. Many families make promises to their loved ones that they will care for them, but sometimes this just isn’t feasible. Senior living is often the best option for expert care, socializing and good quality of life. She notes:

“Mom, Dad, aunts and uncles — even spouses — feel a tremendous amount of guilt about putting their loved ones in senior living. But the most important thing is to overcome the guilt and assess the situation. Look at the logistics and whether caring for your loved one is accommodating to everyone’s life. If there is a single parent, finances may be a problem. But the biggest problem is often that caring for them can be a huge disruption to your life and their life. In reality it doesn’t work out well.”

It’s important to also remember that the role of caregiver may fall solely on the elderly partner — who may have physical limitations. In many cases, caregiving is passed to family members who may or may not have the time, finances or necessary skills to provide the best care for their aging loved one. Families need to re-evaluate their initial promise and determine what is truly the best choice for their loved one.

So much goes into the decision of caring for an older relative. Here are some questions Henston notes are important to consider:

  • Can I take time off from work?
  • Can I afford to stop work for an extended period of time?
  • Can my children and older relative co-exist in harmony?
  • Will my children be able to tolerate not always coming first?
  • How will this impact my relationship?
  • How will this impact my relationship with my older relative?
  • How will my siblings and I manage this as a team?
  • How will any of this be paid for?

This line of questioning is totally realistic and an important part of the process of making informed decisions. It’s important to consider these questions before having the ‘tough conversation’ with your loved one. Henston comments,

“The ‘promise’ is often made during an emotional time in which we do not feel we have many options. There are common emotional roadblocks when making difficult choices about caregiving, and families might want to consider seeking practical guidance to help all parties feel more confident during the transition.”


Elderly loved ones usually appreciate an honest conversation. If you discuss that it’s important to communicate their wishes for retirement and end-of-life care, you’ll go farther than if you are condescending or dishonest.

Include them in the decision-making as it helps them feel as though they’re not being “put out to pasture.” Talk to them about their options; whether they include staying in their family home and what that entails, or if they want to explore and tour senior living and retirement communities to see if any seem to be the right ‘fit.’ Many people still have a stereotypical image of what assisted living and nursing homes look like. Today communities offer anything from comfortable and intimate settings to large, almost resort-like communities that offer social activities and amenities. Does your loved one like fancy, intimate, or down-home and cozy? If they help you find one that is appealing, they may be able to get over the stigma and stereotypical view.


Henston discusses that it’s important to think of the risks involved if seniors live alone if they’re no longer capable. “There are many risks to consider if someone is truly living alone and shouldn’t be,” she relays. “For example, if there’s a physical issue where the senior has trouble getting around and they fall or get hurt it can be very scary. There was an elderly lady sitting on her bathroom floor who had fallen and couldn’t get up for 18 hours. Finally a neighbor noticed she hadn’t picked up the paper and checked on her to discover the problem.”

Here are some other issues to consider:

  • Elder Fraud
  • Isolation
  • Physical Constraints
  • Mental Constraints

If your loved one suffers from any of the above, there could be many consequences. From economical problems to depression and health problems; there are many things to think about.“If an elderly person can’t drive and get out easily, they can become depressed – it can become a situation of being imprisoned,” Henston candidly notes.

Above all else, approach the conversation as though it is a gift. You are concerned about their wellbeing and welfare. Henston reminds us, “Treat your aging loved one with love, respect, kindness and compassion. Consider what is truly the best decision for everyone involved.”

About Dr. Melissa Henston, Geriatric Psychologist

Dr. Melissa Henston is a geriatric psychologist in private practice with Colorado NeuroBehavioral Health, where she helps seniors and caregivers understand and navigate physical, cognitive and mental health changes. Additionally, Dr. Henston is a professor at the University at Denver, Graduate School of Psychology, where she teaches “Aging and Geriatric Psychology” to doctoral students.

Dr. Henston’s philosophy is that getting older is a unique process that requires self-acceptance and awareness to life values in order to achieve successful aging. She has worked with the Alzheimer’s Association, presented at conferences on aging, and lectured at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She diligently works with families who are facing problems that may develop as parents transition into needing more care and performs neuropsychological evaluations on older clients to help them understand cognitive issues that can arise with aging.


7 Strategies for Dealing With Negative People A guest Post by Jacqueline Whitmore



We’ve all experienced the side effects of a negative friend, colleague or co-worker. Perhaps you work with someone who complains endlessly about his job but never offers any solutions. Or, a good friend speaks unfavorably about others in your circle and creates drama.

These negative people are markedly pessimistic and will exhaust anyone. Destructive energy and drama follow them everywhere. If you’re not careful, they can pull you into their chaos — disrupting your focus and sidelining your goals.

Use these seven strategies to better deal with negative people in your life.

1. Set boundaries.

Don’t feel pressured to sit and listen to a negative person. Their negative energy will seep into your own life and affect your attitude. Set limits and put some distance between yourself and this individual. If you must be around a negative person, try to keep your interactions short. You can’t control the negative behavior, but you can control whether or not you engage.

2. Avoid complainers.

People who complain about everything will never enhance your life. They don’t offer solutions, only point out problems. They will knock your ideas and suck you into their emotional pity party. If a friend, family member or colleague displays the classic symptoms of a complainer, stop socializing. Only deal with him or her if you absolutely must.

3. Weed out negative employees.

Your company culture is a critical part of your brand. One toxic staff member can affect the entire culture of your business. Formerly positive employees may show signs of dissatisfaction, or worse, they may begin to adopt the behavior habits of their negative co-worker. The quicker you deal with a negative co-worker, the quicker you will be able to resolve the situation. Have a meeting, convey your concerns and give the person a chance to change. If his toxic behavior continues, it might be time to let him go.

4. Choose your battles.

Don’t engage every time someone irritates you. Not only will you be seen as argumentative, you’ll be welcoming the toxicity into your own life. Rather than argue, try to ignore any negative comments. Control your emotions and prevent the situation from escalating. Walk away from unnecessary conflict. You’ll be respected for taking the high road.

5. Don’t over analyze the situation.

Negative people can sometimes behave irrationally. You will waste valuable time and energy if you try to make sense of their actions. Do whatever you can to prevent yourself from becoming emotionally invested in their issues.

6. Develop a support system.

Build a network of positive friends, acquaintances and professional contacts. If someone knows exactly how to get under your skin, you may not be able to manage the situation by yourself. Have the emotional intelligence to recognize when you need help. When you find yourself becoming overly emotional, call a friend or mentor and calmly explain the situation. Oftentimes an objective person can provide you with a different perspective or a new approach.

7. Embody positivity.

Your happiness and wellbeing are too important to let anyone’s negative opinion or rude comments bring you down or affect how you view yourself. Remain positive and begin to limit your time with the negative individuals in your life. With any luck, your positivity will be repugnant to toxic people and they will gradually fall away naturally.

13 Habits of Exceptionally Likable People A Guest Post by Travis Bradberry

business strategy concept infographic diagram illustration of emotional intelligence components
business strategy concept infographic diagram illustration of emotional intelligence components


Too many people succumb to the mistaken belief that being likable comes from natural, unteachable traits that belong only to a lucky few—the good looking, the fiercely social, and the incredibly talented. It’s easy to fall prey to this misconception. In reality, being likable is under your control, and it’s a matter of emotional intelligence (EQ).

In a study conducted at UCLA, subjects rated over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likeability. The top-rated adjectives had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive (innate characteristics). Instead, the top adjectives were sincerity, transparency, and capacity for understanding (another person).

These adjectives, and others like them, describe people who are skilled in the social side of emotional intelligence. Talent Smart research data from more than a million people shows that people who possess these skills aren’t just highly likable, they outperform those who don’t by a large margin.

We did some digging to uncover the key behaviors that emotionally intelligent people engage in that make them so likable. Here are 13 of the best:

1. They Ask Questions

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to listening is they’re so focused on what they’re going to say next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect them that they fail to hear what’s being said. The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost.

A simple way to avoid this is to ask a lot of questions. People like to know you’re listening, and something as simple as a clarification question shows that not only are you listening, you also care about what they’re saying. You’ll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking questions.

2. They Put Away Their Phones

Nothing will turn someone off to you like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a conversation, focus all of your energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.

3. They Are Genuine

Being genuine and honest is essential to being likable. No one likes a fake. People gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It is difficult to like someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel.

Likable people know who they are. They are confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin. By concentrating on what drives you and makes you happy as an individual, you become a much more interesting person than if you attempt to win people over by making choices that you think will make them like you.

4. They Don’t Pass Judgment

If you want to be likable you must be open-minded. Being open-minded makes you approachable and interesting to others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen.

Having an open mind is crucial in the workplace where approachability means access to new ideas and help. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. This doesn’t require you believe what they believe or condone their behavior, it simply means you quit passing judgment long enough to truly understand what makes them tick. Only then can you let them be who they are.

5. They Don’t Seek Attention

People are averse to those who are desperate for attention. You don’t need to develop a big, extroverted personality to be likable. Simply being friendly and considerate is all you need to win people over. When you speak in a friendly, confident, and concise manner, you will notice that people are much more attentive and persuadable than if you try to show them you’re important. People catch on to your attitude quickly and are more attracted to the right attitude than what—or how many people—you know.

When you’re being given attention, such as when you’re being recognized for an accomplishment, shift the focus to all the people who worked hard to help you get there. This may sound cliché, but if it’s genuine, the fact that you pay attention to others and appreciate their help will show that you’re appreciative and humble—two adjectives that are closely tied to likeability.

6. They Are Consistent

Few things make you more unlikable than when you’re all over the place. When people approach you, they like to know whom they’re dealing with and what sort of response they can expect. To be consistent you must be reliable, and you must ensure that even when your mood goes up and down it doesn’t affect how you treat other people.

7. They Use Positive Body Language

Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they’re positive) will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the person who’s speaking are all forms of positive body language that high-EQ people use to draw others in. Positive body language can make all the difference in a conversation.

It’s true that how you say something can be more important than what you say.

8. They Leave a Strong First Impression

Research shows most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction. This may sound terrifying, but by knowing this you can take advantage of it to make huge gains in your likeability. First impressions are tied intimately to positive body language. Strong posture, a firm handshake, smiling, and opening your shoulders to the person you are talking to will help ensure that your first impression is a good one.

9. They Greet People by Name

Your name is an essential part of your identity, and it feels terrific when people use it. Likable people make certain they use others’ names every time they see them. You shouldn’t use someone’s name only when you greet him. Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation.

If you’re great with faces but have trouble with names, have some fun with it and make remembering people’s names a brain exercise. When you meet someone, don’t be afraid to ask her name a second time if you forget it right after you hear it. You’ll need to keep her name handy if you’re going to remember it the next time you see her.

10. They Smile

People naturally (and unconsciously) mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. If you want people to like you, smile at them during a conversation and they will unconsciously return the favor and feel good as a result.

11. They Know When To Open Up

Be careful to avoid sharing personal problems and confessions too quickly, as this will get you labeled a complainer. Likable people let the other person guide when it’s the right time for them to open up.

12. They Know Who To Touch (and They Touch Them)

When you touch someone during a conversation, you release oxytocin in their brain, a neurotransmitter that makes their brain associate you with trust and a slew of other positive feelings. A simple touch on the shoulder, a hug, or a friendly handshake is all it takes to release oxytocin. Of course, you have to touch the right person in the right way to release oxytocin, as unwanted or inappropriate touching has the opposite effect. Just remember, relationships are built not just from words, but also from general feelings about each other. Touching someone appropriately is a great way to show you care.

13. They Balance Passion and Fun

People gravitate toward those who are passionate. That said, it’s easy for passionate people to come across as too serious or uninterested because they tend to get absorbed in their work. Likable people balance their passion with the ability to have fun. At work they are serious, yet friendly. They still get things done because they are socially effective in short amounts of time and they capitalize on valuable social moments. They minimize small talk and gossip and instead focus on having meaningful interactions with their coworkers. They remember what you said to them yesterday or last week, which shows that you’re just as important to them as their work.

Bringing It All Together

Likable people are invaluable and unique. They network with ease, promote harmony in the workplace, bring out the best in everyone around them, and generally seem to have the most fun. Add these skills to your repertoire and watch your likeability soar!