Splash Into Calm: 3 Steps to Ease into Change




It is mid-January and we have set some goals for the upcoming year. Our calendars are already filled with all sorts of plans and many of them create new beginnings; however, there is one significant element that we seem to overlook: feelings. The familiar feelings of stress and anxiety crop up when we least expect them, even during happy times. In fact, they can accompany all of our other emotions and distract us from fully experiencing what is in front of us.

The following quote by Leo Buscaglia sheds light on this concept: Change is life. Without change there would be no growth, no understanding, no relating, and no surprises. We are by nature changing beings. Still we seem to fear and resist it more than any other aspect of life.”

We undergo many changes: graduations, weddings, anniversaries, new jobs, divorces, deaths, illnesses, and more. Each phase of life-change brings growth, discomfort, and opportunity. Yet, we resist these changes because we are creatures of habit. We are comfortable with how things are. We want our children to stay adorable, looking up to us like we are perfect in every way. (Oops, my mistake—this is not a fantasy book!)

So it is with every aspect of living, not only the big events. There will always be an ending and a new beginning, and every change impacts everyone involved. Since nothing stays stagnant and we should not get too attached to anything. But we do; we continue to resist the changes and when we finally let go we leave claw marks behind. No matter how tightly we hold on, change is guaranteed.

Many situations in life do not go as planned, and the struggle is painful. When the familiar ends and the new has not yet emerged, we are in the hallway in between, and it is not comfortable. At times it feels as if we will remain there forever.

Our minds’ reaction to this discomfort wreaks havoc on our physical and emotional state. We see no end in sight because we have convinced ourselves that it will never change. But in the course of life, change happens, both positive and negative.

When things are going well, we want life to remain as it is. When things aren’t going well, we want them to shift. Just like in Dr. Seuss’ classic book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, the path is filled with constant changes and it is helpful to remember that even the good things will ebb and flow.

Each moment brings change; as the moment passes a new moment emerges. Each and every breath is a new breath. Everything has a beginning, a crest, and an end—emotions, thoughts, sensations, events, breaths, and life itself. All of these things are constantly changing in a wavelike movement. We tend to focus on the most intense part and often get stuck there. When you look at an ocean wave, it begins with a calm assent and slowly climbs until it crests, then loses momentum and disappears.

We have the ability to observe this wavelike movement when our attention is in the present moment. This will reduce our judgment about whether what is happening is good or bad, right or wrong—it is simply a moment-to-moment experience. Observing the waves of change inherent in life is an exquisite process and to resist it might keep you from seeing new opportunities.

Let’s begin to cultivate the awareness of the changes within the wave with something simple, such as transportation.

  • Focus on the movement of your car, bicycle, bus, subway, skates, boat, or any other vehicle you are in. Each movement begins, accelerates, slows, and stops. Notice the wavelike motion contained in the entire process.
  • As you practice, notice if your mind is drifting away from what is happening. If so, become aware of your thoughts and bring your attention back to the moment-to-moment movement.
  • This is an invitation to begin to cultivate the concept of a wave. Have fun with this exploration and keep an open mind.

The constant nature of change can offer us comfort because it represents something certain in life. When you really digest this fact, you will have an easier time rolling with the ups and downs inherent in your day. Whether it is traffic, a hot flash, a celebration, an illness, or loss, you can count on this simple phrase: This too shall pass . . . I guarantee you, it will.

Let me know in the comments below how you deal with change.  Can you begin to notice the wave in change?


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Splash Into Calm: Enjoy the Holiday Season

The holiday’s are upon us and whether you celebrate the holidays or not, your comfortable, well-paced routine is thrown by the wayside. Stress is a fact of life and during this time of year it is magnified by the increase in commitments both at home and work. We find that even the fun and exciting times in life are stressful. The question is: How do we experience it all and diminish the symptoms of anxiety and fatigue that surface? Let’s look at a two common issues and how you can intervene and throw yourself a life preserver.


Unless you sit in your house and order every gift and grocery item on the Internet (a good thought, but not practical), you will have to venture out and spend time shopping. Let’s begin with the mall or any department store. (In case of emergency overwhelm, check for the nearest exit when you arrive!) You walk in and are inundated with decorations and crowds, which can feel quite intense. With it all, there is an opportunity to participate in the holiday spirit and your success will be determined by where your attention lies. You have a few options: You can either try to muscle you way through and get your shopping over with (this imparts a Grinch-like attitude), or you can slow down and enjoy the process. The reality is, resistance is futile—you will wait in line or bump into others whether you want to or not, so why not go with the flow? Let me be clear, slowing down does not mean passing up partaking in holiday events. What it means is that while you are participating, you are present.

Last month one of the topics discussed was mindful eating. Now let’s focus on mindful shopping. Rather than rushing through your shopping, take a moment to stand still and look at the decorations, people, colors, and designs. You can take a minute to consider the process of making the products, the abundance of the earth, the talent of creative minds, and the intelligence of business people and logisticians to get the products to us. There is so much happening around us that can be uplifting if we allow ourselves to become immersed in the experience.


When you finish your shopping, you go to meet a friend for lunch. In the frenzy of the crowded parking lot, you have forgotten where you left your vehicle. Even the wreath and reindeer antlers you attached to your car are of no help! You try your key fob but you are too far away to hear the gentle beep you are listening for. Your enjoyable outing ends with frustration and frenzy as you look for a security guard to help you out. Sound familiar? I was watching a show on memory and the host said that anyone’s memory can improve. As they showed one technique, I realized that a lot of what they were talking about was paying close attention. Only in the moment can you stay aware of what is happening around you. (Okay, writing it down helps too.) When you park the car, you are already thinking about what you need to do next and you are on your way, before even looking at markers that will tell you where your car is.

The following practice helps me when I am out and about:

• Get out of the car.

• Stand still and take a breath.

• Look around and find something that will remind you where you are parked (another car would not be a good idea) and bring your focus to that reminder for a few seconds.

• Walk toward you destination and notice where you are and what you are passing as you do this.

• If you are taking an elevator from a parking deck, notice which side the elevators are on, which direction you turned and where you are entering.     You can use this technique throughout your day.

The key is to stay present with what you are doing at that moment. It takes time to make this shift, so start with easy things, like your coffee mug or cell phone. (These are my top two.)

This season will go so much smoother when you take pleasure in shopping, you easily locate your car, and indulge in some down time. My wish for you is to embody the themes of Christmas and Hanukah (as well as the chocolate). Give birth to a relaxed way of being and enjoy the miracle inherent in sharing your inner light with everyone around you. It is the gift that keeps giving. Happy Holidays!

Let me know in the comments below if you had the opportunity to try these simple changes. Were you able to try some mindful shopping? If so, did it make a difference?

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Splash Into Calm: Procrastination

Procrastination is one of the most common issues many of us struggle with on a daily basis.

We cannot be great at everything and often use our weaknesses as excuses to quit, rather than cultivate our strong points. Let me give you an example. When I began to write my book Splash Into Calm, I knew that my strength is not writing. My children and husband have a sophisticated command of the English language that I lack. I almost quit before I began, until my wise advisor reminded me that there are trained professionals who can fill in where I lack skill. What I do possess is knowledge and experience of the practices and philosophies contained in the book. I also have my own style of effectively communicating concepts that stay true to my voice and those I want to reach. As I continue to forge forward, I dive in deeper and hone the skills that are already inherent within.

There are always options available to us. We can get help or hire someone to do the parts that either we do not want to do or are incapable of accomplishing, so the only thing that holds us back is fear.

Life is meant to be enjoyed and taking baby steps will transform your procrastination to momentum, and replace fear and anxiety with a sense of inner freedom.

Let me know in the comments below how you deal with procrastination.  If you procrastinate, what do you think is the cause?

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Progress not Perfection

I find that no matter how much we work on improving ourselves, we will still have ups and downs.  This is the natural progression of life.  What becomes problematic is when we expect ourselves not to get off track. We tell ourselves we must do more or work harder at the first sign of backsliding. 

Julia Cameron, in her book The Artists Way, says: "Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead.  It is a loop–an obsessive, debilitation closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details…"

To expect perfection is counterproductive; causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

I wonder why we do this?  I am sure some of this has been instilled in childhood, but even those who did not have this experience get caught in this web. 

There is a saying in Twelve Step Recovery programs that reminds us to ease up:  Progress, not Perfection.  Even a honing device must realign its path, and so do we.

Let me know in the comments below how you deal with sliding back from progress.  Are you able to more forward or do you get stuck in perfection?

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Article: Executive Jobs Can Hurt Their Health

The article from the Atlanta -Journal Constitution focuses on the consequences of stress for top executives.  The demands of their jobs create anxiety and depression, forcing some to resign.   Without coping skills work demands create problems. 

At Custom Calm we offer complimentary medicine, which enhances traditional medicine.  The article sites a top executive from Aaron’s Corporation having to leave his job and was able to return “with relaxation and medicine.”  His work was outstanding with the changes he made.

Medicine can help with the illness caused by stress, but coping strategies are needed to get to the root of how to effectively lower or eliminate the consequences of stress.

Life is stressful, whether you are a top executive or a retiree.  Learning the skills needed to help yourself get centered and calm are vital to healthy and joyful living.

What has been your experience with high stress situations?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Psychological Benefits: Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers

Study:  Psychological benefits for Cancer Patients and their partners of Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).   Authors: Birnie, K.,Garland, S.N. & Carlson, L.E. (2010)

Cancer patients experience many negative psychological symptoms including stress, anxiety and depression.   The patients loved ones also experience these challenges.

Objective:  To measure the impact of and 8-week MBSR program for 21 couples.

Results:  Significant reductions for both patients and partners in mood disturbance and the Calgary Symptoms of Stress Inventory sub-scales of muscle tension, neurological and upper respiratory symptoms were observed after program participation.

Conclusions: Significant increases in mindfulness were reported in both groups.  

Overall, the MBSR program was helpful for improving psychological functioning and mindfulness for both members of the couples.

Custom Calm founder, Ellen Sichel has trained with the originators of Mindful Based Stress Reduction and incorporates many of the techniques used into Custom Calm programs.  The practices are non-invasive and easy to learn, offering lifelong support for both patients and their loved ones. 

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Worry or Grace: Which is it Today?

In his book, The sacred art of Lovingkindness, Rabbi Rami Shapiro explores worry and grace.

He says that all that matters is this moment and how you engage it.  There are two ways to engage this moment: with grace or with worry.  He goes on to say that the opposite of grace is your own anxiety.

  • Grace is defined as:  Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.
  • Anxiety is defined as:  A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties.

You experience anxiety when your mind is worried about the future or regret over the past.

When you are in the present moment, you open the door for grace.

Living in grace is effortless, having movement and form.  The struggle is not there and an ease and calm replaces it.  That is an exquisite way to live.

Breath, meditation, and other mindfulness practices bring you back to the present moment and they are accessible and easy to do.

Let me know in the comments below how you feel when you are in the moment and what happens to your state when you are in worry.

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Wall Street Journal: Your Problem is Stress

The Wall Street Journal's March, 2009 article in new Health Journal addressed the effects of stress.

L. Edwards, director of the Behavioral Chronic Pain Management program at Duke University Medical Center:  "Now, we recognize that what happens in the brain affects the body and what happens in the body affects the brain. 

The article address:

Pain:  Psychological stress can turn into physical pain and illness in a number of ways. The muscles tense up, the digestive tract slow down, blood vessels constrict and the heart beat faster.

Digestion:  The digestive tract has its own extensive system of nerve cells lining the esophagus, stomach and intestines. When anxiety persists, it can set off heartburn, indigestion and irritable-bowel syndrome, in which the normal movement of the colon gets out of rhythm, traps painful gas and alternates between diarrhea and constipation.

Immune System:  Stress also creates biochemical changes that can affect the immune system, making it underreact to viruses and bacterial infections, or overreact, which can set off allergies, asthma and skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema. And stress can raise the level of inflammation in the body, which has been associated with heart disease.

The article supports: "tools to try to manage the situation" and this is the focus of Custom Calm.  The practices are life changing.

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Research to Help Depression and Anxiety

A research article from 2007 focused on The World Health Organization’s reports that depression and anxiety disorders are associated with low GABA levels, which are the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter.

Studies done by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and McLean Hospital have found that practicing yoga elevated GABA levels.  They measured subjects prior to and after one hour of yoga and found a 27% increase in GABA levels.  

“The development of an inexpensive, widely available intervention such as yoga that has no side effects but is effective in alleviating the symptoms of disorders associated with low GABA levels has clear public health advantage”  Perry Renshaw MD, PhD, director of the Brain Imaging Center at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital.

The implementation of practices that lower symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety bring tremendous hope to the individual suffering. They are empowered to participate in their health and that is the focus on Custom Calm practices.

Participation in yoga compliments and supports medical treatment, and the medical community continues to provide evidence that yoga has a significant impact on brain function.

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Judy Feels Overwhelmed with Life

Judy’s Challenges

I was feeling very lost and could not put my finger on what was wrong. I work in a high pressure job, where others depend on me. I am a wife and mother and my children have grown up and have moved on with their lives.

What Judy Tried

I  did not do anything specific but try to calm down and relax, which was not effective.   I had no idea where to turn.

What Worked

A friend suggested coming to a Custom Calm class. It was the best thing I have done for myself.  When I go to yoga, I feel like I can handle anything life tosses my way.  Sometimes I go off the yoga wagon but always there is a driving force to find my place again.

When I practice at home it gives me a sense of serenity and calmness.  I must convince my mind that I need to practice every.  The instructor lets me go at my own pace and I am very comfortable.

I now find myself doing little yoga things, standing in line in yoga, breathing when I feel myself getting anxious and simple yoga pose after standing too often at work.  I love yoga and gave up other activities to join this class.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my back also!!!

What you can learn from Judy’s Expereinces

The practices are very powerful and relieve physical and emotional stress and pain.  The Custom Calm techniques are so practical that they can be practiced anywhere at any time.  The entire experience supports a happier, healing more peaceful life..


*Last name has been left off for anonymity.

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