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???

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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 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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Stress Buster: Technique of the week: What??? That is too simple!

We hear it over and over, breathing is good for your health. I guess if you weren’t breathing you would not be among us–so we can all agree it is good for your health! I would think at this stage of life, we would know how to breathe, but alas, there is much to learn.

The recent Wall Street Journal article: Breathing for Your Better Health says: Controlling Your Breath Is an Easy Way to Improve Mental and Physical Health. Slow, deep and consistent breathing has been shown to have benefits in treating conditions ranging from migraines and irritable bowel syndrome to anxiety disorders and pain.

When I teach stress and pain solutions, I begin with breath. It is a tool for both body and mind, it is free, and with you everywhere you go (you do not have to go home to get your lungs).

The suggestions of controlling breath and breathing deeper feels a bit daunting to many. What I see is force and the mind wanting to get it right. Let’s begin with a simple practice to get you going. 

Technique of the week: Practice this three times morning and evening.

When first starting out I suggest you place your hand on your belly and notice without judgment if your belly is ballooning out. (If you are one of those people who suck in your belly to look thinner, for this practice–let it all hang out!) If your belly rises, you are getting breath into the lower lobes of your lungs. If not, no worries. Simply place your hands on your ribcage instead. If your ribcage expands you are getting breath into the middle lobes of your lungs.

Here is the practice:

  • Take an inhale without force, while having your hand either on your belly or ribcage.  This will help you direct the breath.
  • Slowly exhale and make your exhale slower than your inhale.
  • Notice how many counts it takes you to inhale, and then add two counts to your exhale. This will help you get in the habit of slowing down your breath.
  • Do this practice each morning to get your going and each evening to help settle you down for sleep. Throughout the day, when you feel stressed, do one or two.
  • My goal is to have you practice daily so it becomes natural.

You might be thinking, Ellen this is too simple. I know how to do this. If that is your reaction, then this will be easy for you. If you choose to not practice, then you might want to look at your resistance and in the world of Ellen, resistance is futile! I keep it simple because it works and is approachable for all.

From my own experience, I was a stressed out breath holder. When I was first taught to deepen my breath, like a good overachiever I tried hard, forced, and got dizzy. This is not a breathing contest, so ease up and make this an exploration. There is not good, bad, right, or wrong. It is what is more or less effective.

If you live in Atlanta and are thinking: Wow, I would love to learn more about simple breathing techniques–you are in luck. Sign up for my new workshop: Let’s Get Real about Stress & PainYou will be happy you did 🙂

I leave you with a request. Next week, practice daily and let me know what you noticed. Happy Breathing!

Warm Regards,


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No B.S Stress Buster Technique of the Week: Yikes! Who am I now?

This teaching is powerful and I would venture to say, the most important concept I teach.

I had the pleasure of speaking to at a training of Lupus support group leaders, who also had Lupus. After listening to a presentation about working with politicians to increase funding and awareness of Lupus, it reminded me that it is very easy to be pulled into reaction when we are personally affected by something–in this case, Lupus.

I am sure you are sitting at the edge of your seat waiting to hear my pearls of wisdom–I can only hope 🙂  I’m getting there.

First I want to share two personal experiences.

Experience 1:  My own Lupus diagnosis

When I was diagnosed, my focus was on how to help myself and minimize medications. Over time, I became attached to the struggle. It also gave me a few perks–being treated with kid gloves as people were concerned about my well-being. I started to forget who I was, not knowing what to do with myself as I improved.

Experience 2:  My daughter’s long illness (no worries, she is doing well)

When my younger daughter was diagnosed with a serious illness, my role in life changed. I was a mom to 2 awesome children (they will agree wholeheartedly), a wonderful wife (if I do say so myself), an employee, daughter, sibling, and more–now I was a caregiver as well. It seemed all I could talk about and was being asked about was what was happening with my younger daughter and how our family was coping. It began to consume me, even though I was still juggling all of my other responsibilities. It was strange, every time my daughter was doing well, I felt lost. This spiral lasted for years. One moment I was a caregiver and the next, I wasn’t needed as much. After she finally went into remission I felt lost. If I am not a caregiver, then who am I?

Solution:  You are so much more

When you feel lost, try this:

Visualize an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is covered with your identities—who you think yourself to be: a parent, child, employee, employer, friend, teacher, athlete, and so on.

Consider this: What happens when one of your identities changes? You were healthy and now you are ill, your child goes to college and now you have no one to nurture, you were fired from your job, or you move. Who are you now?

The tip is only one ninth of what you see (I love the Internet; I feel so knowledgeable), and if you only focus on that small fraction, you will miss most of the iceberg. Now, take a look beneath the water’s surface. What will you find there? The iceberg, and it is massive.

Remember, you are so much more than you identities. No matter what is going on in life, take a moment and look beneath the surface. Remember the things that you enjoyed, and pick something simple to incorporate into your day. You will begin to remember who you are. Enjoy the journey!

*Stay tuned–next week you will hear from a client who is living proof that You Are More than you imagine.

Warm Regards,

Ellen Sichel

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Technique of the Week: Love & Kindness- The good, bad, and the ugly! 

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but the message of the day is never-ending: Love and kindness (okay chocolate, cards, gourmet dinners, lingerie, and flowers too!)  Fear not, I am not going to get mushy- I am simply offering you another opportunity to stay calm and centered throughout your day.

Think about the last time you felt annoyed or put off by another.  When have you avoided someone or judged them?   If you are human, you have come up with a few instances.  If not, I venture to say, you are in denial- I invite you to dig a bit deeper.

In yoga class they end with the word Namaste. It means, “I acknowledge and bow to the divine within you.”  When we realize we are not separate from another, it is easier to treat them with kindness.  Namaste includes yourself as well.  You must first acknowledge the divine in yourself, so you can reap the benefits of this powerful practice.

In his book, Heal Thy Self, Saki Santorelli; director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, comments on the greeting ofNamaste: “I believe that the active remembrance of this reality is crucial to our lives, our work, and our well‐being.” He says: “Our willingness to relate with another in this way is fundamentally healing.”

I am not suggesting that you say Namaste to all you pass (although it would get some entertaining responses!)  I am inviting you to begin to cultivate love and kindness in your day, especially when you are not feeling loving or kind. This practice if not for the other person, it is for you. It gives you the ability to be free from the tension produced by judgement and avoidance. Give the following practice a try:

  • When you are in the presence of someone you already care about, look beyond your relationship and see the divine within them.
  • When you are interacting with a stranger, be present with them and see if you can see beyond who you think they are, and look for the divine within them. It helps to make eye contact. 
  • This one is the most challenging: The next time you pass someone that you find distasteful and want to avoid, understand that they too are human. If your first reaction is to turn away, look at them and as you do this, look beyond the externals. Acknowledge them in some way- make eye contact, a nod, a smile, and realize they too are divine.

Be gentle with yourself- this is a lifelong practice. Every day there will be new opportunities to deepen your connection to yourself and those around you.  Why not start today?

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Technique of the Week:  Dad- A Life Well Lived


Life has its ups and downs, both joyful times and sad times.  I recently experienced the loss of my father.  He was 96 years old and lived a full, wonderful life with his true love-72 years of marriage to my mom.  When I spoke at the funeral, I began with “I am here to celebrate a life well lived. “  I felt loss coupled with gratitude for his full life.  I was happy to see so many joining our family to honor my dad.  A plethora of feelings emerged throughout the funeral and subsequent days.

When I returned from a week with my mom, siblings, nieces, and nephews, the reality of what had happened finally set in.  I felt exhausted and sad, yet looked forward to teaching my stress reduction classes. The first class was an adult day program.  I allowed myself to feel exactly how I was feeling and used this as a teaching tool to the group.

The teaching is:
There is so much going on each and every moment.  While I was feeling sadness, I was feeling blessed to be teaching a community that made me cards, shared their condolences, and appreciated what I was teaching them.  I let them know that all we have is this moment, and while there is sadness, there is also connection, joy, playfulness, exhaustion, gratitude, and the full experience of all that is happening in the unfolding moment.  Life is lived to its fullest when we are able to stay present to all that is, rather than only focusing on one feeling or experience.

Giving myself permission to show up with no pretenses and share with my students, allowed us all to connect  and relate in a way that was nourishing.  As a professional, that is the best gift I can give my students and clients.  Letting them know that no matter what is happening in life, staying in the here and now is really all we have.  When we are able to do this, we learn that we are okay no matter what is happening in our lives.  We are all connected, and each and every one of us touches another.  After all, what more is there to life?

As I write this post, I think of my dad and feel teary and joyful that I can share this gift with you.  Allow your life to have its ups and downs, and be with all that is.

Thank you dad for showing me that life is meant to be lived to the fullest.  You will be missed.

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Technique of the Week:  Which Finger Are You Pointing?

Atlanta recently was in the headlines about how poorly the winter storm was handled.  Each time I checked my Facebook page, there are many comments about was to blame.

It seems finger pointing (no matter which finger!) is a national pastime, and I wonder why this is.  No matter what the issue, we are very quick to criticize and voice our opinions.  I for one, know nothing about how to prepare the city for inclement weather, so why point my finger?  On some level, I guess we feel better doing so, but do we really feel better when we get agitated?

Yes, there is a lot of room for improvement on how Atlanta handled the situation, and those issues will be addressed and improved by those who can do something about it, as long as they place their focus on the solution – rather than wasting time with continued finger pointing.  Give this a try:

  • Take a look at your hand and point a finger toward something.
  • Now, look at how many fingers are pointing back at you.
  • In case of uncertainty- the answer if four!

Most often, you will find that it is a shared responsibility.  In the case of the ice storm, there were many who had responsibility including the many individuals who were blocking the intersection or panicking.

There is one finger that will always point back at our attitude.  Yes, it is up to you to see how you are judging, and then you have a choice:  Do I want to focus on the one finger pointing at another, or the four pointing back at me?  Empowering to know we have a choice!

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Technique of the Week:  Pig Wrestling

I received an email from a friend who was quite angry at another person.  At the end of the email she quoted Abraham Lincoln: “If you wrestle with greased pigs, you both will get dirty but the pig will enjoy it.”  I thought about the truth of this statement, but I want to take it a step further.  If you continue to think about the greased pig, you are still getting dirty and the pig has already moved on!

Challenging people show up in our lives, and when we constantly think about the situation, we perpetuate the hurt or struggle. Even if you feel you are absolutely in the right, your mind is still in the pen with the pig, not where your feet are planted.  The answer is simple, but not so easy. Anchor yourself back to the present moment.

The next time you find yourself thinking about a challenging person:

  • Notice your thoughts.
  • Ask yourself- Do I really want to stay in the mud? Be honest with yourself and if your answer is yes, keep wrestling.
  • If your answer is no, wipe the mud off your feet.
  • Take a few slow, deep breaths.
  • Feel your feet on the floor and slowly walk out of the pen and as you walk continue to feel your feet connecting to the floor.

This is simple, but quite effective. Remember, what you wrestle with is your choice. Be patient with yourself- this takes practice and believe me, you will get plenty of opportunities!

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Splash Into Calm: Find joy in the mundane

There are so many tasks throughout our day we deem unimportant but necessary to accomplish.  Before we know it, a big portion of our day is spent “getting tasks over with”, and we miss out on many opportunities for enjoyment..

Eckhart Tolle, in his book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment says: “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love—even the most simple action.”

There are simple practices that will cultivate the moment-by-moment experience that both the yoga text and Tolle are speaking about. Give this a try next time you clean, wash the dishes, dust, iron, sweep, or do any other tedious task:

  • Take a few breaths and feel your feet on the floor.
  • Scope out what needs to be done.
  • Pick a place to begin.
  • With each movement, watch how the object you are cleaning changes.
  • Notice the state of your body. If you are uncomfortable, shift your alignment.
  • If you find your awareness drifting away, reset your attention to what you are doing.
  • Continue to notice each step of the process until you finish.
  • Now, look at the end result and notice the changes.
  • Check in and become aware of how you feel.

When you bring this deeper level of awareness to your activities, you will notice how much more there is to appreciate throughout your day. The smallest shift will open you to a variety of opportunities that enrich and uplift your life in a way that you could not imagine.

Let me know in the comments below how this simple technique shifted your experience accomplishing the task.

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