Three Steps for Times of Stress

In the past month, I’ve launched my first two mental fitness groups (using the researched-based, acclaimed Positive Intelligence program and app that I’ve been studying for more than six months), conducted a performance of “O Canada” for a Canadian citizenship ceremony, completed an anti-anxiety program, completed a three month Enneagram group, been interviewed on a podcast, performed professionally as a member of Luminos Ensemble, written most of a book, coached childfree women (and people who aren’t raising children) on ways to create a life they love, and done writing and editing for clients. I’ve also dealt with the Hurricane Fiona aftermath, attended to a variety of personal and professional tasks, and made some time for fun fall activities, including getting together with friends.

One of the brilliant things about my work in the mental fitness realm has been realizing that I turn less and less things into stress in my life now. I’ve realized that rather than let all of the things in my busy life feel like things I “must” do, AKA things that cause me stress and need to be dealt with, I can instead focus on curiosity, on navigating my to-dos with joy or at least without the extra emotional weight I had a tendency to add to them. 

My mantra, which I developed in my first Enneagram group and continue to find exceptionally helpful, is this: “Breathe. Prioritize. Do what’s mine to do.” 

This mantra won’t work for everyone. You may in fact be one of those people who don’t take on other people’s tasks. Or you may need a mantra that’s more about doing and less about stopping and prioritizing for you personally to find balance in your life. But if my mantra strikes a chord, read on.

If you’re feeling stressed, unsure how to juggle all the responsibilities, both spoken and unspoken, in your life, try my three steps on for size. 

  1. Breathe: Realizing your breathing is getting more shallow? Starting to feel overwhelmed or anxious? As soon as you recognize it, stop that thought train. Focus on your breath. In, and out. Again. Stop the “what-if” and the “must-do” and tune into your breathing. 
  2. Prioritize: Once you’re feeling a bit calmer, whether from breathing or doing other mindfulness exercises, NOW you’re in a healthy space. You’re now using the part of your brain that’s capable of navigating challenges and getting curious about what’s possible. So it’s time to prioritize. What’s the one thing that you could get done today that would make your week, or even your year? What are the deadlines that will really screw you up if you miss them? Who is more important, and what are they expecting of you? Prioritize. 
  3. Do what’s mine to do: Now, and only now, it’s time to return to doing. Since you’ve stopped the auto-pilot and tuned into what matters, you can now do what’s truly yours to do. Most things I think are mine to do are, it turns out, actually not. I make a whole lot of responsibilities up. Sometimes I think I need to do work for other people. So don’t blindly do: make sure you do what’s YOURS to do today. And always, or at least whenever you can remember to stop, consider what matters, and then move forward. 

Keep swimming, my friends. You are wonderful just as you are, truly, right now. And I believe in you.

P.S. If you want support in how to follow these steps, that’s what I’m here for. Let’s hop on a free call where you can learn more about mental fitness and how to handle life’s challenges with more efficiency and joy.

You’re Not Alone (Acknowledging Anxiety)

Three weeks back, I did something I’d been wanting to do for many months – I started seeing a therapist.

If I had my way, we’d all have affordable (for us) access to a therapist. A good one, who listens and knows the types of therapy that would be most helpful for us. Someone who gives us a safe space to work through the crap in our minds and helps us sort out our stuff.

If you’re reading this and you’re feeling like you’re in a great place right now, I am thrilled for you! I can tell you that from what I’m seeing on my social media feeds and hearing about through news outlets, it sure seems like most of the world has moved on from COVID-19 and is getting back to “normal”, or close to it. And it that’s you, I’m thrilled for you, and I truly hope you’re enjoying every minute of freedom and “normalcy”.

But honestly, even though I am sick of wearing masks, and miss seeing people’s faces, and I miss eating out at a restaurant in the winter, I’m just not there yet. It feels too soon, to me, to return to normal.

Lifting a mask mandate is all well and good (for most) when there’s a mild variant on the loose. But what if a new, more dangerous variant catches us off guard? One contagious enough to spread under the radar, when we’re least expecting it?

I’d love to say I’m embracing the now and taking it day by day and not worrying about what might come next. But that wouldn’t be accurate.

So these are the kinds of thoughts that are on my mind. I’m carrying a lot of stress and anxiety around COVID. Like a lot of us are.

Add to that the stressors of getting settled in a new country and the pressures and fears of a world at war, not to mention the anger and frustration at seeing so many people’s rights being taken away in the US (including New Hampshire, where I grew up, and Florida, our adopted home state), and I’m even more thankful to have a therapist.

I’m not sharing this for praise, or for pity.

I want you to know you aren’t alone. I want you to know that whether you wear a mask or not, and whether you’re “moving on” or not, it’s okay to experience anxiety.

And I want you to know that it’s okay to have some days, some weeks, even some months or years, where you’re not okay. Where you’re going through the motions, or phoning it in. Maybe you’ve had to take some time off, or add a nap into your routine. Maybe you’re tired of saying no to social plans out of fear.

Wherever you are, I want to encourage you.

Reach out to loved ones. They’ll probably relate, maybe even more than you realize.

Get a therapist if you can, and if not, seek out a trusted mentor or spiritual leader, or find an online support group aligned with where you are. Look for sliding scale therapy or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, or many of the other free resouces that may exist in your country, state, or city.

I’ve been digging deeper into the Enneagram for the past several months, and that means I’m doing a lot of work on getting to myself – who I am, how I became that person, and how I can become an even healthier, better version of me.

I also rely on journaling, exercising, getting outside, and all of my other existing coping mechanisms for when things get tough or feel overwhelming.

Whatever method(s) you use, and wherever you’re at, I’m wishing you all the best. You’re not alone.

And if you’re reading this, you’re here now, and I’m so glad.

Thanks for reading, and take care.

P.S. I’d like to get a group together to read The Road Back To You and do some Enneagram explorations. No previous experience required, just a copy of the book. If this journey of self-reflection (in a group setting) appeals to you, please leave a comment and let me know!


Supporting This Blog

Thank you for your support of this blog and our work! You can help further by doing any or all of the following:

  • Purchase one of Ross’ albums! 
  • Take Ross’ online ukulele course!
  • Become a patron of our work!
  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links. There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds can support our travels. Begin your Amazon search here.
  • Make other purchases using our affiliate links. Signing up with Dosh is a great way for everyone with a smartphone to support us, and we also have options for aspiring virtual assistants as well as occasional and full-time RVers to save money.
  • Subscribe to our blog, as well as perhaps, and recommend our work to your friends and family.
  • Take music or theater lessons (group or private) from us, either in person or via Skype at