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? 

Beyond the Comfort Zone


Wading through the bay and trying not to think about all of the creatures I might step on, I feel the paddle sliding through my sunscreen-greased, sweaty hand. I grip the paddle board and slowly hoist myself onto the board and up on my knees. I can’t tell if the board is shaking from my quivering limbs or from the tiny ripples of the water. Either way,  I have to stand up. It’s time.


As someone who usually errs on the side of caution and has a genetic predisposition for anxiety, my “comfort zone” is a pretty big space. I like knowing what I’m getting myself into and plan for a variety of outcomes in a given scenario. When it comes to physically challenging activities in unknown places, I feel especially timid. In the past few months I have done some soul-searching about why I have these boundaries and small ways I could push them. Have you ever noticed how doing something really small to challenge your normal boundaries can actually translate into feeling more confident and capable (insert self care siren here)?

During the yearly beach vacation with my extended family, I happily observe my cousins and their kids dive through the crashing waves and paddle board along the shore of the bay. It’s not that I’m afraid to engage, per se, it’s just that I’m comfortable where I am, with my toes planted firmly in the sand. When my sister told me that she and my cousins were taking the kids paddle boarding, I told her to count me in.

As you can probably tell from the triumphant pose the mystery paddle boarder is striking in the picture above, I did it! I won’t go into all of the details about the before and during–the most important takeaway for me was the after. Even though most people would probably paddle board without a second thought (basically everyone I was with and their five year old kids), to me, the feat of actually standing up on the board and meandering my way through the ripples of the bay was like completing a marathon. Beyond the adrenaline and pride coursing through me, my family was SO proud of me. They know me and accept me for who I am, and wouldn’t have been disappointed or even said anything to me if I didn’t end up paddle boarding. But let me tell you, when I stood up and paddled away, I heard my cousin Peter yelling to my sister “MAEVE! She did it! Take a picture!” Paddling outside of my comfort zone not only fostered self-confidence, it reminded me of what an amazing support system I have.

I found these articles really interesting about one’s comfort zone and how there is a level of “optimal anxiety” which leads to all sorts of positive outcomes like increased productivity and creativity. There also is a point at which pushing oneself too far outside of the zone can be detrimental. Check them out and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

The science of breaking out of your comfort zone

10 ways to step outside of your comfort zone

Journal Prompt: How can you push yourself out of your comfort zone this week? Write about how you feel before and after this experience.