Making a Change

Making a change

Stress is not a bad thing. In the right amounts it can motivate us to take action, accomplish tasks, and even improve performance. When stress is chronic or to a degree that interferes with functioning, though, it may be a sign that change is needed.

I frequently help my clients to better manage their stress, and I have found the model of  the “Four As” of stress management to be very useful: Avoid, Alter, Accept, and Adapt. When acceptance will simply prolong and increase the stress, when altering the situation hasn’t worked, and when adapting will change you in ways that are in conflict with your values and fulfillment, avoiding or removing yourself from the stressor may be the best option. Make a change!

Avoidance usually gets a bad reputation. And, to be fair, avoidance of stress often leads to stunted growth and development. If you never get up in front of a group of people to give a presentation just because it is stressful, you may not be advancing in your career. On the other hand, staying in an unrewarding and even punishing situation can lead to negative health effects, stress disorders, and even depression. Avoidance used excessively may be the easy out and counterproductive, but when removing yourself from a stressor is the best option, it takes courage to belly-up and make the change.

Know when to make a change!

My own example of making a change came several months ago when I found myself in a job that was unfulfilling, restricting, and did not support my values. I had been unhappy for years, but I had reasons for staying – mostly financial. Finally, after many discussions with my wife and a long period of planning, I began taking steps toward making a change and leaving the position.

How did I know it was time to make a change? The position no longer aligned with my values and priorities. I did not have the flexibility I needed to nurture and attend to my family relationships, nor did I have the time, opportunity, or freedom to pursue my own personal interests or professional development. I found myself so consumed with stress that it took all of my free time just to unwind from it. In short, my values and priorities were being challenged and my growth was being stunted.

Resigning from a secure, full-time position for a more flexible private practice was far from easy. It took careful planning, lots of support, and an abundance of courage. In the end, making a change was not the simplest judgement to make,  but since that crucial decision, it has led to less stress, greater life balance, and more opportunity for success.

My challenge to you is to reflect on your own life stresses and ask yourself, “Is it time to make a change?”


Journal Prompt: Pick one source of stress in your life right now and review the Four A’s of stress management. Which approaches will lead to the best outcome for you? What values or priorities are being threatened by this source of stress, and what values and priorities will be nurtured by taking the approach you’ve decided on?


52 New Things

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By January 2019, I may be french braiding hair while baking bread from scratch, researching self defense tactics, and identifying regional bird calls.

Now let’s go back to 2018 for a minute. Instead of making the usual New Years’ resolution that I end up abandoning midway through January, I decided to make a list of 52 things that I’d like to learn this year. I’m not looking to be an expert at everything or to try to conquer the impossible…it’s more of an exercise in stimulating curiosity and reminding myself of how capable I am.

Some gems from my list:

#2: Brew Coffee
It’s easy to rely on our loved ones to do simple tasks rather than learning how to do them ourselves. One thing that is slightly embarrassing that I still don’t know how to do on my own is to brew the perfect pot of coffee. I don’t drink much caffeine (it makes me bounce off of the walls), so Alex is the one to brew this morning elixir. When his parents stayed with us over Thanksgiving, I realized how nice it would be have fresh coffee waiting for my beloved in-laws.

#18: Learn the basics of coding
In a world where two year olds know more about the iPhone features and my high school students are creating apps, I often find myself wanting to know more about the world of programming and computer science. I’ve had an account on CodeAcademy for a few months but have yet to dive into this mysterious world.

#32: Memorize a poem
A good chunk of my list has to do with creativity and culture. Do you remember when you memorized “I never saw a purple cow…” as a child and thought you were a genius? Imagine having a beautiful composition committed to memory. Do you have any favorite poems? The poem recited at the end of the Netflix show Godless is absolutely breathtaking.

#45: Attend Body Pump
Many items on my list include things that I will need to rely on others for. My friend Dana is a fitness enthusiast and raves about her Body Pump class. We used to joke about me (the girl who is proud of 30 minutes on the treadmill at an incline of 5) joining her for a class. Guess what? In 2018, I will be joining and completing a Body Pump class with Dana. Love or hate it, I’m making myself get out of my comfort zone, which is an important part of growth and self care.

I’ll keep you posted as I continue my journey of 52. Whether or not I check everything off my list is not the point….it’s about the process of expanding upon what I already know and experience. A month in, I already see a difference in my motivation to learn, see, do, hear, and seek. Bring on 2018!



Journal Prompt: Make a list of 10 things you would like to learn this year. What’s on your list? How do you connect attaining knowledge to self care? 

A Return to Gratitude

Bourne Pond 3.JPGSometimes we need a reminder to return to the things we’ve done in the past to take care of ourselves emotionally now. This week I had planned to post a follow-up to Get Outside! following an amazing backpacking trip with my brother in the Lye Brook Wilderness of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest – we had a great time bonding over some of the things we love to do outdoors like hiking, fly-fishing, and just being out in nature. A few days following our return, though, my brother experienced an acute medical condition that proved challenging to treat and ultimately required surgery. While waiting anxiously for updates as he went through the process of diagnosis and treatment, I was reminded of the need to fall back on a perspective of gratitude when life throws something difficult and unexpected your way. Rather than attempting to push myself through writing something about our time outdoors, then, I decided that I would instead post about the benefits of gratitude. This decision to share openly about my own story and what I have been actively doing to manage it feels like a more authentic expression of myself.

On gratitude, a couple of years ago I accepted a challenge to track my gratitude daily for 7-10 days. Each day I listed three (3) things for which I was grateful that day. At first it felt a little awkward. I felt silly when my source of thankfulness came from something as trivial as, for example, getting to eat my favorite food. Other days my reflections felt more meaningful. For example, when I listed a family member’s words of encouragement as a source of gratitude, I felt supported and cared about by others. Ultimately, carrying the practice of gratitude forward over a full week helped me to establish the habit of looking for and noticing things to be grateful for, and has given me the confidence to always be able to find something positive in my life when things are tough.

Plenty of research on the benefits of gratitude can be found by doing a simple google search, including research on the psychological health benefits of gratitude by Dr. Robert A. Emmons Ph.D. But many people do not need convincing; the health benefits of gratitude have become so accepted that phone app developers have been working to make it more convenient and easily integrated into daily life.
If you feel the need for any more evidence or explanation, try the challenge for yourself!
Journal Prompt: List three things for which you are grateful each day for 7-10 days. As an alternative, try journaling about any of these 5 questions from Dr. Alice Boyes.

Staycation = Self Care

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It’s mid-August. Summer is winding down, the kids are getting ready to go back to school, and we’re all left with some feelings of regret for how we could have spent our time. If you, like most of us, can’t jet off to Aruba right now but are pining for one last summer hurrah, may we suggest a staycation?

Self care means giving yourself a break from the monotony of everyday life once in awhile–when you change your routine you can change your perspective and gain newfound appreciation for the little things. Taking a day to explore somewhere nearby allows for leisure and relaxation without the time, money, or planning associated with traditional vacations. Staycations also mean an opportunity for spontaneity–opening yourself up to new and unexpected experiences.

Ask yourself this question: “If I was visiting [insert where you live here] on vacation, what would I do?”

When Alex and I visit a new place, we love to explore by visiting local markets, spending time outside, people-watching, and eating and drinking local fare. I’m going back to work tomorrow after six weeks off, so a staycation felt like the perfect way for us to connect and refresh before routine sets in.

Some tips for a fantastic staycation: 

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Breaux Vineyards in Hillsboro, VA.

Choose your location. We are fortunate to live near Virginia wine country and decided to check out a winery we had never been to before. Bonus: 35 minute drive through the countryside and very little planning involved.

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Baguette, brie, anchovy, purple basil, cherry tomato. Wash down with wine. Repeat.

Pack a picnic basket. We went to our local Farmer’s Market and grocery store to procure some of the deliciousness you see here. Not pictured: dark chocolate for dessert and coconut water for rehydration.

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Stimulate conversation through games or activities. This is our favorite picnic game and we always learn something new about each other. I learned that Alex cannot wait to be an old man and plans to continue fly fishing for the rest of his life.

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Relax, people-watch, and enjoy your surroundings. Remember when we talked about how staycations can lead to unexpected experiences? It just so happens that the winery we went to was also hosting a bluegrass festival! We loved sitting on our blanket listening to banjo-picking, bearded musicians and watching little kids run around in circles dancing to the sweet tunes.

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Be in the moment. When you’re on a real vacation, you’re not thinking about all of the things you have to do when you get home. Same rules apply for a staycation. We spent some time walking through the vineyards, feeling the warmth of the sun, and reconnecting with each other. Oh, and that mountain view? Pretty spectacular.

Journal Prompt: If you were visiting where you live on vacation, what would you do? 

Moira & Alex









Nice to Meet You

File Jul 19, 7 05 06 PMHi, and welcome! We are Alex and Moira, married 30-somethings living in Virginia with our two tuxedo cats, Clarence and Zeus. We both work in the helping professions–Alex as an LCSW therapist and Moira as a High School Counselor. 

Life coaches work with you on asking the questions “What do I want?” and “How do I get there?” We ask another important and often-forgotten question… “How do I take care of myself along the way?” Think of us as your informal self care coaches. 

In helping individuals cope with day to day struggles, one of our favorite things is to talk to them about their “toolbox.” What tools do they have available to them to help them care for themselves when things get tough? Do they love music? Is yoga something that centers them? We love helping people identify the tools they already have, as well as adding new things to their toolbox. We know, the whole toolbox analogy sounds kind of cheesy, but it actually works!

Here’s what to expect from each blog post:

  • Self Care Tool: Each post will explore a subject related to self care. We hope to provide resources in the way of websites, podcasts, articles, book recommendations, music playlists, and more to broaden the scope.
  • Reflection: At the end of each post, we will have an optional journal prompt designed to help you reflect on what you read. We also encourage you to use the Comments section to discuss the post and your takeaways.
  • Honesty, candor, and even some humor. We are not experts on every subject area but look forward to sharing what we know and learning from you along the way. We’re all in this crazy adventure called life together.

Thanks for visiting our blog–we hope to build a community of people who care about caring for themselves. For a few more details about who we are and our interests, see The Pair

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Moira & Alex