Give Up My Heels? Have you lost your mind?

Years ago I hosted a yoga class for a group of attorneys attending a weekend conference. (For those of you who do not know, I am an advanced gentle & prenatal yoga instructor in addition to my stress and pain solution expertise).

We began chatting about back pain. I mentioned that high heels can contribute to back pain. They looked at me as if I had just asked them to cut off their arm! Their heels make them look professional and they needed them. REALLY? I get it–we want to look our part, but the question is: Could they be a rocking effective attorney with lower heels? Absolutely.

Some of you might be cringing at this most revolutionary thought: You are more than your shoes. For those who just held their breath at this epiphany, relax your belly and take a full gentle breath. It’s okay, you can keep your collection of heels, but know that you do have a choice.

High heels create low back compression–there is no way around this reality.

Here is the low down of other ways we compress our spine form the book Rehabilitation of the Spine: A Practitioner’s Manual. You might find this very eye opening–I did.

  • Sitting hunched over a desk: 200 lbs.
  • Sitting leaning back on chair with low back rounded: 150 lbs.
  • Standing with leaning forward posture: 200 lbs.
  • Standing in proper alignment: 100 lbs.
  • Lying flat on back: 55 lbs.
  • Lying flat on back with knees elevated: 25 lbs.

When I teach yoga, I have all students prop their knees in relaxation. It decreases spinal compression by over 50%. I also teach students how to hinge and lengthen their sacrum to lesson spinal compression. These simple alignments go along with the heart and soul of my work–Small changes, big results.

I remember when I was writing my book, my editor would often show up to our meetings in high heels, which exacerbated her existing back pain. I assured her that she will still be a fabulous editor wearing flats (okay, a low heel with a sole that bends) that will reduce compression on her spine. She began to notice the effect her shoes had on her body.

So, what is the point? To make a choice, you must first have knowledge and awareness of the reality. After that, you can make an informed decision. It takes the stressful guesswork out of decision making.

As I am finishing the article, my colleague just walked into my house to stay with me for a conference. The first words out of her mouth were: “I only brought flats because my knees are hurting me–heels make it worse.” I am not making this up. I thanked her for the perfect timing.

When I do wear heels to a party, you will see me with a patent pair of flip flops tucked away in my purse. I love to avoid pain if I can. How about you?

If you want more information on the gentle yoga and alignment component of my work, shoot me an email. Would love to chat with you!

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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Wow, Staggering Statistics about Autoimmune Disease!

Take a look at the following quotes from an article about autoimmune disease:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH estimates up to 23.5* million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease and that the prevalence is rising.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, autoimmune disease and disorders ranked #1 in a top ten list of most popular health topics requested by callers to the National Women’s Health Information Center.

As a person among the millions with autoimmune disease (I feel so honored to have 2), I understand how evasive effectively dealing with my illnesses can be.  The idea of managing a chronic illness is overwhelming and can easily take your life over. Why?

  • There is no one answer
  • The amount of information out there is daunting
  • Treatment is often a guessing game
  • We wait (and wait and wait…) to get better to get on with life
  • We fight our reality–tooth and nail
  • We forget who we were before our diagnosis
  • We become like a dog with a bone: obsessed with finding the answer

This goes for family members as well as patients.

Okay, I have not painted a pretty picture, so let me move on to the solution.  YOU!

Yes, you hold the key. Autoimmune disease is impacted by your stress level, and stress not only robs you of your day but it exacerbates your symptoms.  Think about it:  When you react, get angry, stay tense, fearful, frustrated, what do you think you do to your organs?  Yes, you implode upon yourself–everything compresses and both you and your organs are not happy campers.  Also if you have pain and you react to it, you make it worse because you have tightened every muscle and blood vessel surrounding the painful area.

I see it time and time again.  Your outlook, emotions, symptoms and many conditions improve as a direct result of learning how to live life on life’s terms.

I want to scream from the rooftop:  Your illness does not have to take you over!  You do not have to wait to live life until things get better There is no magic cure for you!  And yes, you can improve and enjoy life; autoimmune disease and all!  However, it’s up to you.  

So there you have it.  I say this because I live and breathe it. This is my work, my passion, and I love helping people take charge of their life.  I am one lucky lady!

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Sequel: Another Mistake? Just Another Day in the Life of Everyone!

My last newsletter highlighted the mistake I had made on my business cards.  For those who did not read it, check out my blog.  Below is the final section of the article:

The reality of the situation was:

  • I made a mistake–it was not a reflection on who I am. It’s okay.
  • I can easily order new cards.
  • No one looks at the phone number on my banner anyway–I can order a new one when I am ready.
  • I learned to have someone else do my final edits, even on a business card.
  • I am still alive and well.  This is not a life altering experience.

The morals of the story:

  1. It is clearly my reaction, not the event that shapes my experiences.
  2. It is good I do not make my living as a proof reader!

Remember, we have our strong and weak attributes.  Ease up on yourself and enjoy the ride.

P.S.  If you are checking this for mistakes, let me know if you find one!



This sequel to the article is; Watch out for what you ask for in your P.S.!  Below are a few comments I received:


“This was great! It happens to each & every one of us. A dear client/friend of mine simply puts it like this: we are human!” 

“TY yep no one is perfect Feel free to have me check anything for you. I only saw one typo here hahaha” 

“Were you serious? I highlighted errors I found; wasn’t searching for any, but I was the go-to person in my store, for proofing any important memos. (see below) Replace with who and were, respectively.” 

“Even if there are mistakes in this letter, it was perfect!  I need to hear this message and will keep it in my in-box because I need to hear this again and again!  Thanks, Ellen!” 

“Great article!  Third paragraph, first sentence, 9th word.  I’m a better proofreader for others than myself!” 

“Wonderful! thanks so much!” 

“I love this! I especially love” I made a mistake; it was not a reflection on who I am”. It’s okay.”

“Congratulations on being human and wonderful!”

I shared the comments (exactly as they were written, some imperfectly) to illustrate my point.  Almost everyone appreciated my vulnerability because what I shared was so relatable.

One of my favorite authors who writes on this topic is Brene Brown.  This quote from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection is spot on:  “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.  It’s about the choice to show up and be real.  The choice to be honest.  The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

For years, I tried to show up with my act totally together.  If anyone were to see my insecurities and mess-ups, what would they think?  Hiding behind “having it all together” was stressful and exhausting.  The moment I became more real with everyone, I was free to show you the crazy, imperfect, flawed, teacher that I am. I must admit, it is a lot more fun and much less stressful. I like being part of the human race (most of the time).

Now you know: I am not a good speller or proofreader, among other imperfections.  I am totally okay with that.

What about you?

P.S. Just got my new corrected business cards–all is well…

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Another Mistake? Just Another Day in the Life of Ellen!

I did it again!  I did not catch an error, and this was a biggie (or was it?) Back in January I rebranded.  I changed up my business cards and ordered a new banner.  My logo remained the same but my new No B.S. message was loud and clear–new design and colors.  After all, I was tired of my message being soft and socially acceptable.  I was finally being true to who I was.

I was rocking and rolling in my networking events, handing out cards and making connections.

Today I had given my card to someone what was going to call me with some information.  I received an email from him telling me that my phone number was no longer in service.  No longer in service???  You know that feeling in your body when you realize something is amiss?  Well, I got it. I slowly took out a card to check the information and low and behold, my phone number had one wrong number.

My first reaction was a resounding !%0&X@).  First I took a nice slow breath to clear my mind. The next thought was to wait until I got home and do what was necessary to fix the problem.  The thought of blame was not on the radar as I knew ultimately it was my responsibility to make sure the proof was correct.

Once again, I felt as if I was the Where’s Waldo of copy errors.  There is one hiding somewhere if you look hard enough.

My actions reminded me how far I have come.  I did not beat up on myself or point the finger at anyone. That avoided stress, frustration, judgment, blame, shame, and I would venture to say a headache.  It is that simple–live life in the solution. Action is the key.

When I got home, another thought occurred to me.  I had a new banner made and I got this feeling that I had best check the file.  Oops, the wrong number again and this was a more expensive mistake. In the next few months I will update the banner.  No big deal.  There is great freedom in knowing that an error is just that: an error.

The reality of the situation was:

  • I made a mistake; it was not a reflection on who I am. It’s okay.
  • I can easily order new cards.
  • No one looks at the phone number on my banner anyway. I can order a new one when I am ready.
  • I learned to have someone else do my final edits, even on a business card.
  • I am still alive and well.  This is not a life altering experience.

The morals of the story:

  1.  It is clearly my reaction, not the event that shapes my experiences.
  2.  It is good I do not make my living as a proof reader!

Remember, we have our strong and weak attributes.  Ease up on yourself and enjoy the ride.

P.S.  If you are checking this for mistakes, let me know if you find one!

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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This Stuff Works: Even In The Shower!

When I speak at events, keeping true to my style, I keep it real. I was recently speaking to the Georgia chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers about how to turn chaos into calm. The focus was on helping both themselves and clients stay calm so they could organize their thoughts. We also focused on how busy they are, going from one appointment to another. I talked about how to fill their well with mundane tasks, even though they had little time.

I shared the concepts from my book Splash Into Calm. This excerpt is on our mundane routines:


Routines are part of our daily lives. Often, we do not notice what we are doing, as the routine is deeply ingrained in our day. The daily shower is a great example of how much more there is to experience from the simple activity of getting clean.

Have you ever taken a shower and forgot how many times you have shampooed? Maybe you have showered and you were thinking about an upcoming meeting or reviewing the list of things you had to do for the family.

Whatever you were thinking about, it kept you from enjoying the feeling of the water on your body, the warmth when you rinse the lather of shampoo out of your hair (if you are bald this still applies), or even belting out your favorite tune. You were showering alone (yes, I am making this assumption), but there was an entire committee there with you!

When you pay attention and embrace the moment you will discover how much there is to relish in your everyday routines.


At the event, I used the shower as an example of how we do not stay present to what could be an uplifting experience. The next day, I received two remarks that went around their group. Thought I would share them with you.

“We had a great meeting on Tuesday. Our speaker, Ellen Sichel, owner of Custom Calm helped us all relax. I personally would benefit from hearing her speak 4 times a year.”

“I am wondering if anyone who attended on Tuesday had a similar experience on Wednesday morning. I was in the shower thinking about my day and all of a sudden Ellen Sichel’s voice spoke to me, ‘I want you in the shower!…naked…fully enjoying the shower, not thinking about your day.’ It was pretty funny.”

Another person reported:

“I breathed deep in the car on Wed. Fighting traffic and heading to my 3rd meeting that week”

Yes, simple but not as easy as one might think. I invite you to catch yourself “thinking” and not being aware of your mundane activities. Showers, walks, marketing, driving are just a few examples. Give it a try and let me know what you noticed. Enjoy!

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Perky or Calm? Your choice–give both a try!

I was in conversation with a new client and she shared how exhausted she felt, juggling everything she had on her plate.  Throughout the day, she would feel drained by the demands of her job with little down time to take care of herself.  She also told me that she felt anxious and up tight as times as well. Lastly, she reported that she felt better when she exercised, or got involved in other activities, but had little time.

Sound familiar?  Been there, done it, and got the t-shirt…

I am reminded of the old Saturday Night Live commercial for Puppy Uppers and Doggy Downers–Special doggy treats.  It was quite funny to watch the dog immediately perk up, and then conk out.  Hmmm, maybe that is why we love the energy drinks and wine too!

I have a less expensive options with more beneficial side effects.

Simplicity is my specialty: BREATHE.  Yes, I know this suggestion is overused and I realize you are breathing or you would not be reading this newsletter, but when you think about it breath is always available.  Let me entice you with a few benefits:

  • Breath eliminates toxins.
  • Breath massages your internal organs with blood and oxygen (and who doesn’t like a good organ massage?)
  • Breath is free.
  • You have your lungs with you everywhere you go.
  • Breath relaxes your body.
  • Breath will help you to anchor your mind back to the moment.
  • A regular breathing practice will stimulate the relaxation response–which lowers your blood pressure, regulates your heart rate and shunts blood to the digestive system by balancing the involuntary nervous system.

In a nutshell: The more breath, the more oxygen; the more oxygen, the more vitality.

Convinced?  Even if you are not, read on and give these simple practices a try:

To calm down (your Doggie Downer):

  • Relax your belly. If you tend to suck in your belly allow yourself to let it all hang out for a few moments–nobody will know, I promise!
  • Take a slow deep inhale through your nose, and count how long that took–it is usually somewhere around 3-6 beats of breath.
  • On the exhale, add two more beats, so the exhale is longer than the inhale. Slowly exhale through your mouth as if you were blowing out a candle.
  • Repeat three times while keeping your focus on the breath.

For a quick perk up (your Puppy Upper):

  • Take a slow deep inhale through your nose, and count how long that took- it is usually somewhere around 3-6 beats of breath.
  • Now, instead of making the exhale longer, make it shorter. It will be a faster exhale than inhale. Exhale through your mouth as if you were blowing out a candle. Repeat three times.
  • If you tend to be an over achiever, do not strain.

These simple practices will support you throughout your day.  Allow yourself to be a breathing machine and you will notice more energy, more focus, and calm.  It might not taste as great as coffee or wine, but it is less fattening and free. Enticed???

Posted in: Technique of the Week

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Spring, Chocolate Bunnies, & Matzo Brie: What Does It Mean?

Yea, springtime is finally here! The holidays of Passover and Easter are around the corner. When I think of both of these holidays, I think of emergence (okay, first I think of chocolate bunnies, matzo brie, and matzo ball soup.)

The theme of Passover is about release from the bondage of slavery into freedom. Easter marks a time of rebirth and renewal. Both embody the theme of transformation and new beginnings—a second chance at life.

We commonly think of bondage as being under the control or influence of something powerful. The power that keeps us bound and stuck is simple: We are slaves to our own thoughts. Our busy mind generates a fog over what we see, obscuring what is possible. We get trapped by our way of perceiving life and see no way out, stunting our capacity to grow and move in new directions.

Both holidays embody principles that we can integrate into our lives. The key principle is that we all have the innate capacity to live with inner peace and joy. Only when we let go of old thoughts and belief systems are we able to be receptive to something different. How liberating to know we can begin again at any time. 

The simple act of being willing to break old patterns will create space, and you will notice that things begin to shift. How do we begin to break old patterns? The first step is to be aware that they exist—you cannot change what you do not know about. Let’s start with something small:

  • Cultivate a mindset of being open and willing to change rather than using brute force. The process of simple awareness will jump-start the change.
  • To become aware, begin to notice the self-talk and language you use. This will help you get a glimpse into areas where you are stuck in old beliefs. Pick one word or phrase that is most glaring. Simply becoming aware will show you how often you repeat it. Yes, it will become annoyingly obvious! When you hear yourself, take a breath and feel the connection of your feet to the surface beneath you and then reframe what you just said (you do not have to believe it.)
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself, as it might not be comfortable to see what keeps you stuck. It is like the children’s arcade game “whack-a-mole” where one mole pops up and you hit it with a hammer; then another pops up. This will happen with your chosen behavior, and then one day a new mole will pop up. That is great progress.

Renewal is a natural process and when the shackles of your mind begin to fall away, freedom and clarity will take its place. It will bring new meaning to the holidays as you see the brilliance of spring through new eyes. Happy Spring!

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The Lesson I Learned From an Exploding Potato

m2vmTmS-GBM2dWiHay8165UOk1r-R5XJvRUTpVRRgWMThere are times that something mundane gives us the opportunity to lighten up, but it will only happen with a quick shift in perspective. Every once in a while the universe gives me a chance to practice, and last week I got the opportunity once again. My recent experience will help me explain the power of perspective and how to make a quick shift from reaction to laughter.

I was preparing dinner and was putting the finishing touches on my sweet potato in the microwave. I had poked holes and wrapped it in a paper towel and was working on my salad, when much to my dismay I heard a “poof.” I realized that my sweet potato had exploded. That was the last straw to a challenging day. My immediate reaction was *&^%$x?, but the moment I opened the door, I saw that most of the guts made it in one piece, leaving the skin split perfectly down the center and empty!

Now that was funny! I did not even mind cleaning up the mess. My perspective went from reacting to my potato exploding (on purpose of course with the intention make extra work for me and messing up my dinner), to one of seeing what was really in front of me. A perfectly split open potato mess, that was still eatable.

Our perspective is around 80% or our reality. It can easily cloud over what is really there, distorting what we see. We react and take it personally. The moment I paused, I could see the humor in it because I saw what was right in front of me and in that moment, I realized that my potato was not out to get me! My perspective made the difference in how I experienced the rest of the evening.

I think I even enjoyed the potato even more. Yes, it was cooked to perfection!

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Laughter or Frustration? You choose

Here is a story of my recent NY visit experience. I am a native New Yorker and think of myself as somewhat savvy. Wrong!

I visit my mom in Long Island, New York often. Most of the time, we hang around and do errands (I could be in Ten Buck Two since I do not really go anywhere). This recent trip I had plans to go to the city, lunch with a colleague before an appointment in another part of the city.

New Experience #1:

I began at the train station where I lived to buy a ticket. The old ticket booth I used when I grew up was, no longer used, so I asked someone where to get a ticket and was pointed to a new building, with only a ticket kiosk. I was unsure of which station I would return to, so played it safe and bought two one way tickets. I was beginning to feel a bit out of my comfort zone.

New Experience #2

After walking in the 25 degree weather to meet my colleague for lunch, I decided to get to the next appointment I would take the subway.

My friend had to go that way so she escorted me. I said to her, “Oh, I do not have a token” at which she smiled and replied, “We don’t use tokens anymore” and she slid her metro card in and treated me. I felt like Mike Myers in Austin Powers. For those of you who did not see this movie, he was frozen in space for many decades and when he came back, he was way out of date–and so was I!

New Experience #3:

At the end of the day I planned to take a taxi back to Penn station, but alas in the cold there were none with a lit up sign to indicate an empty taxi (I assumed that has not changed). I passed a subway and asked someone if it went to Penn Station and to my delight, it did. I went to purchase a one-way ticket and saw I had to first purchase a metro card. The person next to me and behind me, both saw my consternation at reading the machine and one gave me one of his cards and the other helped me pay. I could hear my mother in my mind–don’t talk to strangers or take money out either! Sorry mom, I needed help.

Again, I felt like I was very out to date and was grateful for the kindness of these NYC commuters.

Lessons Learned:

  • Even though I know how to buy a Breeze card in Atlanta it does not mean it is easy to navigate elsewhere. Know there is a learning curve to everything.
  • This is the stuff that can cause anxiety, fear, and frustration–if you allow it to.
  • Keep a big sense of humor–NY stopped using tokens in 2003!
  • I realize, I am getting old!
  • Do not generalize: Strangers in NYC can be awesome. Stay open and value difference.
  • Most importantly: Be okay with who you are! I am not a cool city girl anymore (okay, I never was cool, and never lived in the city). I am simply, Awesome Me!

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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The Half Day That Will Ripple For Years!

I chose to write this as a newsletter rather than a promotional email because I felt it important to share. It is much more than a promotion. It is a rare opportunity to learn how to take care of yourself, especially if you have chronic illness or pain of any kind.

What I see happening with stress and pain management is dependence on professionals to feel better, and taking breaks from life. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for hiring professionals who can help. I also love taking a break from life (the ocean sounds great right now), but often it is not practical.

The reason I teach quick useful solutions is so you have the skill to help yourself, no matter where you are.

I had been running a 4 week program and it was requested that I offer a half day workshop and include the gentle yoga that only those who work privately learn how to do. Since I only teach one yoga class and it is at the cancer center, there is no public opportunity to experience the gentle decompression of spinal tension that is my specialty. I thought about this for some time and decided to include yoga in with a full workshop and include handouts for a home practice. For those of you who do not know me well, I am an advanced yoga instructor specializing in pain and stress solutions. Years ago, I owned a yoga studio.

The second reason I am offering this workshop is to give those wanting an affordable way to learn the basics of taking charge of their stress and pain. As someone who has Lupus, it is imperative for me to live what I will teach you at this workshop. It helps me on a daily basis.

If you do not live in Atlanta and want this in your home town, that too can be arranged (especially if you live in a warm, sunny location!) Just let me know and we will make it happen.

So here is your one time opportunity to invest in yourself for a half day.

I am so excited about this that the first 6 who sign up from this newsletter will get a free 45 minute group Q & A call with me. It will be an extremely valuable experience.

I scheduled the workshop on a Sunday to avoid traffic, and allow you to fill up, learn, and engage in community sharing. What better way to spend the afternoon?

If you have questions, I am available. My purpose is to help you, help yourself–mind, emotions, and body.

Hope to see you there!

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