10 Day Thankfulness Challenge



10 Day Thankfulness Challenge

With Thanksgiving two weeks away, it's the perfect time to up your gratitude quotient. After all, it's proven to change your brain for the better!

Attitude of Gratitude Changes your Brain

It's not just a nice thing to do, but actually changes your brain.  It reduces your stress level, improves your mental outlook, your mood, your physical The alternative of focusing on what you don't have and what doesn't go right also changes your brain negatively and increases toxins. CHOOSE to start the holidays off in a better way and less stress. Take the THANKFULNESS CHALLENGE. (Maybe even keep it going through December!).

Here's an easy print out of the 10 day challenge to get started on the Thrive through the Holidays.

Forbes came out with an article last year with proven benefits of gratitude. Gratitude improves emotional wellbeing. It reduces emotional toxins, decreases depression, and increases happiness. Gratitude improves mental abilities and reduces stress. Physically, gratitude helps have better sleep,  fewer aches and pains and improves overall physical health. 

Start the 10 Day Thankfulness Challenge now for emotional health and wellness - body, mind spirit.

10 Day Thankfulness Challenge



Posted on November 10, 2017 and filed under thanksgiving.

Fatherless Father's Day - 5 Tips to Help

What do I do? How do I handle a day set apart for celebrating “Fathers” when my Father and husband (father of my 3 children) died 8 months apart from each other. Dreaded? Painful? There are no words to desribe the void. I couldn’t avoid it, reminders were everyone . . . . advertisements for Father’s Day gifts in the mail, on the TV, in shopping malls, radio . . . .special recognition anticipated at church (to be honest I avoided church on Father’s Day for several years after my husband and father died). 

The first Father’s Day with both of these men out of my life, I came up with the brainy idea to take my 14, 12 and 8 year old on a backpack trip(first time by myself) . . . . after all, their dad loved to backpack so it would be honoring to him and we could somewhat avoid the “in your face reminders” of our fathers not being present.

With all gear in tow including a back pack stove(our means for cooked food that I had just learned how to use a couple days prior), we set out for a short backpack to Twin Lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This journey of grief I was on was like this back pack trip, I had to learn to do things differently on the adventure called “life”. 

Tip #1  Do things differently  

Of course things are different!  I’m talking about to be intentional about doing something different coupled with something familiar. We had been to this same place a several times but not without their father. It helps to make some plans. It doesn’t have to be as intense as week-end backpack. Maybe this Father’s Day you can intentionally do something different and that’s also honoring to your children’s father. 

After arriving at the place where we parked our cars, put the back packs on (heavier than I wanted) . . . a stark reminder that my husband had always carried the bulk of the weight, but not today . . . today we would trudge ahead not knowing what was around the bend but looking for the good. I looked at our 3 children and was  proud  - all decked for the hike, hauling their own heavier than usual backpacks, none the less, ready to go. 

I was doing these things “solo” now and didn’t like it but I had no choice so I trudged ahead one step at a time. Our youngest started to complain about the weight of his pack and wanted someone to carry it for him. Not an option for this trip. My pack was already heavier than it had ever been. Instead I encouraged him to put one foot in front of the other, slow and steady.

Tip #2  Take one step at a time  

The load gets heavy. It may feel like you can’t go on.  We would like the rule book . . . .you know the  the abc’s of how to walk through grief and face days like Father’s Day. It doesn’t exist.  I encourage you to take one step at a time, put one foot in front of the other, face one moment as you walk through Father’s Day. 

Walking along the trail, I was struck with a fear of being the only one responsible for these precious children. I had to face the fear to keep from getting paralyzed in my own thoughts. Praying as I walked, I chose to focus on the present beauty around us. Dense forest of evergreen trees, colorful wildflowers in the meadow, my brave and beautiful children. Courageously we trudged along the trail, (luckily it was well marked), we came to the top of the first mountain and were met with the vast beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with snow covered tops. Breath-taking. 

Tip #3  Focus on the present  

There’s temptation to live in the past with constant reminders of “how life use to be.” I urge you to look right now . . .  yes this moment  . .  at who and what is right in front of you.  . . . your children, each with their own uniqueness, other people in your life, the beauty around you (may be hard to find, but it’s there if you look for it) and the blessings. Notice it and take if all in. 

 As we descended the mountain crossing along others, we came around a bend to find snow, not just a patch, the whole area was covered in snow!! I had to chuckle . . . my husband actually liked “snow camping” something I had never wanted to experience. Here I was with our 3 children trudging now through snow, a new experience and not so easy with full backpacks strapped to our backs. It was an adventure. Their dad use to say, "The adventure begins when you leave the house."

Tip #4 Be open to new experiences                       

Do something new, something that may be an adventure or bring a chuckle to you and your children. Open their eyes to realize . . although hard, . .  life can still be good. If you only focus on “what was”, you can get stuck, unable to move forward. Being open to “what’s around the bend” New experiences, build resilience, new memories. and give hope for a future.

Fortunately we did not have to pitch our tent in the snow. We did find dry ground, we spent two days and nights in the wilderness, caught trout for dinner in the stream, gazed at the starry night and remembered the wonderful memories we had made at this same exact site. We laughed, we were silly and we shared stories. Had my husband not chosen to include his wife and 3 little ones in his love of hiking outdoors, we would not have been there on the 1st Father’s Day without him. 

Tip #5 Remember the memories   

Tell your stories, the blessings of a father’s touch on your life. This is different than being “stuck in the past.” There’s a joy to remember memories  and live in the present.  Sometimes your children need a boost to get started. Start off a story with . .”remember when we or dad” . . . . As mom begins to remember, their memories kick in gear and the blessings begin. 

These tips are not without pain and struggle. It is hard. It's difficult. I urge you to trudge forward and face the difficulties. But you do not have to do it alone. I'd love to share some resources with you. Give me a call for a free phone consultation at 559-577-3994 or email me at patty@counselingfresno.org


Seasonal Affective Disorder

Cold, cloudy, rainy weather or, where I live, dense grey blankets of fog day after day!
The colder months can cause many of us to have low energy, lack motivation, seek comfort of the indoors, eat more carbs and feel down, “winter blues.”  However,  there is a condition that is beyond having the “winter blues” called Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD). 

 "Many people feel sluggish and down because of the weather, but Seasonal Affective Disorder is not the same as the 'winter blues,'" said Blake Casher, DO, psychiatrist and medical director of the geropsychiatric program at McLaren Greater Lansing. "The depression associated with SAD is often severe enough to require treatment."

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real condition that affects many people.  SAD is a biological and psychological condition caused by lack of sunlight, shorten days, and gloomy weather. The reduced light causes a lower production of “feel good” hormones in the brain, less serotonin, dopamine and  circadian rhythms are thrown off. It usually occurs during the winter months and subsides in the spring, although, fewer, there are some occurrences during other seasonal periods. It’s more prevalent the further away from the equator. More women than men are affected, however men are not immune to it. Telling someone with SAD to “Snap out of it” or “Be happy” doesn’t help. They can’t just turn it off.  Symptoms include excessive sleeping, avoidance of others, low self esteem, negative thinking, sadness. Women are diagnosed more with Seasonal Affective Disorder, 4 times as often as men. It is often seen in young adults, but can occur at any age. 


Light Therapy  Many have found relief from using special lights. Phototherapy treatment does require a one time purchase of special lights and having exposure to the light daily, usually 15 minutes to an hour. 

Go Outside    SAD is about the amount of light we take in daily. Even though it’s cold and cloudy, there are sun rays peaking through that are beneficial.Try to get outside for 10 - 20 minutes to get the benefits of natural light. Mornings are the best time for SAD; however any time will help.

Exercise  Better yet, exercise outside - double the benefit! This does not have to be an hour long exhaustive workout. Bundle up and go for a walk or bike ride. Exercise releases endorphins which are natural “feel good” hormones. 

Therapy   Speaking to a therapist can help you manage SAD. As with clinical depression, a therapist will listen to what you’re dealing with, design a individualized treatment plan and provide tools to help reduce the negative effects of SAD.

Socialize   The last thing you may want to do is be around people. However, adding a social activity or two around positive people or experiences during your week can help lift your mood. Meet with a friend for coffee, attend an event, join a small group. Check your local meetup.com to find an interest group that you may like.

Medication Some may need to go on medication or other supplements. See a doctor that has knowledge of SAD that will work with you to find the best medication/supplements to meet your needs. 

Vitamin D  Research has shown boosting our intake of Vitamin D has been helpful. Exposure to sunlight causes our body to produce Vitamin D. Naturally, lack of sunlight reduces our body’s ability to produce it. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked with depression.

Eat wisely  A unique symptom of SAD is you crave carbohydrates, sweets, starchy foods. Instead, eat complex carbs that will still satisfy the craving. Foods like beans, high fiber grains and brown rice. Add foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to boost serotonin (the chemical in the brain that regulates moods). 

You can get help with Seasonal Depression and feel better. Call me at 559-577-3994 for a free 15 minute consultation to talk further and decide if therapy might be right for you. 

Posted on January 30, 2017 and filed under depression, emotional health.

12 Days of Christmas to Survive and Thrive!

Click on the picture to have your own copy of Survive and Thrive through Christmas.

Click on the picture to have your own copy of Survive and Thrive through Christmas.

12 Days of Christmas!!!

Ahh! Only 12 more days until Christmas? It caught me off guard too. By now some of the events and holidays happenings are over. Count down is here. Crunch time. A great time to release, restore and remember! 

Release  You can't do it all. Let go of the those things that are "fluff", nice but unnecessary and spend your remaining days doing what matters. Make a"Have To" list, those things that mean the most. For me, that's being with family, having my home inviting (NOT PERFECT) for them and be present with them (NOT spending the majority of my time in the kitchen). Make an "Optional" list, those things that if you have time and feel like it you will do. They're not the most important and will not make or break your holiday time. Now make a  "Let Go" list, those things that you will not do this year. I let go of making a million different types of cookies several years back and have not missed it. 
Release expectations you have of yourself and the "perfect" Christmas. Seeking for perfection will keep you on a never ending cycle and exhausted before, during and after gatherings. Release and simplify. Be in the present, enjoy the moment and the people around you.

Restore  This is the time of season you have more tasks to do, more events and eat more food leaving you stressed and stuffed.
Right now, with 12 days left take a deep breath and plan "down time" to restore. Time at home relaxing, watching a movie, reading a book, eating healthy and getting enough sleep. No time. You can't afford to not take some time.
You're stress meter will be reduced and you will be able to enjoy the holidays.

Remember  You almost can't NOT, (I know double negative), remember memories of past holidays with all your sense being ignited with sights, sounds, smells, sensations and tastes. This can bring up grief for those no longer with you. You may want to try to ignore and push it away. I urge you to embrace the memories, the loved ones and the stories. It will not make your holidays sad; it will add a richness and relief. Some ideas are to tell younger ones stories, make a food that was grandma's tradition, light a candle in memory of loved ones or put special ornaments on a tree.                                                                                                              

Remember the meaning behind Christmas. The "fluff", presents, food and decorations do not really give lasting joy. It's the family, friends, new memories made and for me, it's the birth of Jesus, who came to this earth to overcome death and give us eternal life.

Merry Christmas and May Your Holidays be Filled with Blessings!

Watch for more Tips to Help You Survive & Thrive through the 12 Days of Christmas!

Grieving the Loss of a Loved One


Are you in the midst of grief?


Do you wonder if you’ll ever enjoy life again?


You may feel like you’re going "crazy" or "losing it." You’re not!  You’re grieving the death of special person you dearly love. 


```We grieve because we love and this is normal.

Normal grief throws ones life into chaos, mentally, emotionally physically and spiritually. It is painful and harder then you thought it would be. Finding out what is normal will help you hang on to hope and know that healing will come.

Here are some normal reactions to grief & loss:

  • mixed up bundle of emotions
  • forgetfulness
  • numbness
  • time distortion
  • hopelessness
  • deep ache in your soul
  • disorganization & confusion
  • trouble concentrating
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite
  • sleep disruption
  • anxious, sad, apathy, fearful, teary, angry
  • lack of motivation
  • little or no zest for life
  • questioning existence, life & death
  • physical pain
  • feeling like you're going "crazy"

This is a time to be gentle with yourselfTake one step at a time and allow yourself to heal. There is no “quick fix” or microwave solution. It takes time and effort to heal. 

The loss of a loved one is not an event it is a process, a journey. 

You do not have to do this journey alone and I don’t recommend that you do. Seek out help from others. Attend a grief support group. Maybe some counseling will be the route to take. I can come alongside you as your travel through your grief journey and offer resources along the way. Contact me at (559) 577-3994 to see if counseling might be right for you.

Posted on February 23, 2016 and filed under grief, suicide loss, loss.

5 Minutes Can Make a Difference

5 Minutes a Day Can Make A Huge Difference

You Can't Live Without This - 5 minutes a day can make a HUGE difference. 

Busy schedules, fast paced life, the unexpected  - keeps you in "ON" mode all the time. Stressed, distressed, living in survival mode,  just trying to make it through the day.  If that's you, you’re not alone and believe me, I can relate. There was a time (and to be truthful, there still are times) when I was in total survival mode, just trying to keep my head above water . . . sometimes not doing very well at that!  As a single mom, only parent(widowed), with 3 active children, I felt I was running from one event to the next, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, practices, games, meets, school, meetings, juggling a ton of things except the balls were all tumbling down. Costco became my best friend for food with their easy frozen prepared meals. Funny thing, I use to make almost everything by scratch wanting the best for my family. But that was before . . .

Then, one day, my body said stop. I felt physically ill, nauseated, all my joints screamed with pain and were swollen. I had little to no energy. I was sinking below the surface. It was time to make some changes.

It is possible for you to make changes that will help you right now. What I didn’t know back then, is you can train your brain to let go of the stresses, be calm and transform. 

Neuroplasticity is a fairly recent word in neuroscience. Basically it means the brain can change. Good news since not too many years ago, we were told the brain could not change. So what does that mean for you and I? We can change and get unstuck. Here’s  a technique called Quick Coherence from Heart Math that starts the positive change in motion. 

5 Minutes a Day Makes a Difference

  1. Set aside 5 minutes a day - right now put a time on your calendar or on your phone.
  2. Find a place a free of distractions (just for 5 minutes). Try your bedroom, your car, your yard, somewhere convenient with few distractions. It you don’t make it easy, it probably won’t happen.
  3. Place your hand over your heart (near the center of your chest/sternum). Picture your heart as you breathe into it and breathe out of it for the 5 minutes.
  4. Bonus Step Think of someone, something or an event that is positive. NO negative attachments to it. For me it's my dog, Nicky, who is always happy to great me.

This simple exercise allows your heart and brain to work congruently to gain calmness internally It has cumulative effects as you continue to do this exercise. Here’s a resource for further information. http://www.heartmath.com/quick-coherence-technique/   

For helpful tips

A Matter of Life and Death


I remember . . . as a senior in high school during lunch time, a classmate, (someone I had known since kindergarten) had come back drunk and upset.  He was mumbling and confronting some other guys. One couldn’t really understand what he was saying. The bell rang and we all went back to class, all except this classmate. We later learned he had gone home and taken his life not long after we saw him. Mind boggling - what was so bad that he would want to end it all? Why? Was there anything any of us could have said or done? We didn’t know. The questions lingered loudly within each of us.

How about you? What comes up for you? What memory or thought? Or maybe you don't linger on it and instead -  quickly toss it out of your thoughts. Most of us have close contacts to someone who has experienced a loved one’s death by suicide.


Sucide has become an epidemic.


Suicide has become an epidemic! There are 35,000 completed suicides per year in the United Stated  with known attempts numbering 650,000 per year. 90% of people who die by suicide have a treatable mental illness.  Most people give some indications that are thinking of taking their life. Although some people do keep it highly concealed giving no indication of their intent. 

We all need to be aware of signs and how to seek help. Severe major depression and bi-polar disorders are two of the main mental illnesses associated with suicide. Adding substance abuse to the mental illness increases chances of suicide. 

Many people who have attempted suicide state they were initially angry at loved ones for intervening but also state they were intent on carrying out their death and are now thankful the intervening took place. 


Be aware of signs that could indicate your loved one is having suicidal thoughts. Click here for list of signs.

riends and family can be hesitant to intervene or impose. Your friend or family member may get mad, but as long as they're breathing there is hope. Many people who have attempted suicide said they were initially angry at loved ones for intervening, but also state they were intent on carrying out their death and are now thankful the intervening took place. 


 Here's some tips for family and friends.

1. Be Open, Direct, Ask Questions.

Talk about suicide.Have a dialogue with the person. Ask the person if they're thinking of taking their life. Talking about suicide does not put the idea in a person's head. Instead, it creates an opportunity for your loved one to speak about what they're experiencing and opens the door for seeking help. 
       "Do you ever feel so badly you think about suicide?"
       "Have you ever thought you would be better off dead?"

2. Ask about a Plan

If a person has thought about the way they would take their life, the greater probability of them carrying it out. By asking these questions, you will be able to assess if the person is in immediate danger.
        "Have you thought about a way you would take your life?"
        "Have you thought about when and where you would do it?" 

3. Seek Help

Never keep a plan a secret. If you think a life is in danger, try to convince the person to go to the doctor, a professional counselor and tell the family to enlist a 24 hour watch on the person and call the police or 9-1-1. Do not leave the person alone. This is not the time to worry about losing the person's trust or friendship. It's better to lose a friendship and trust than attend a funeral.  Most of the time, they will thank you for saving their life. 

4. Educate Yourself

The more you know the better you'll be able to notice warning signs. There are multiple online sites with valuable information.  Go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org,  American Association of Suicidology,  suicidology.org andAssociation Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) for education and valuable resources. Contact a local survivors of suicide (SOS) organization, mental health professional or clinic for resources in your area.  

5. Be Aware.  

Notice if your loved one has shown any of the warning signs. Pay attention to their lifestyle, changes in mood and behavior, a renewed sense of happiness and calm after a period of distress.  A state of calm or happiness after distress may indicate the person has decided to carry out their plan to take their life. Educate yourself. Contact suicidepreventiononlifeline.org or Call 1-800-273-8255. This is a resource for you and the person you're concerned about. 

6.  LIsten with your Heart  

Do not try to talk someone out of their self hatred or hopeless thoughts. It will not work. Don't minimize their problems or shame them. Contradicting what someone feels does not change their feelings. Trying to convince someone with mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts that it's not that bad only increases their pain and prevents them from sharing what's going on inside them. Reassure them help is available, they can feel better and their thoughts are temporary.

7. Find Help Together

If loved one is not in immediate danger, assist the person in finding a professional counselor and a doctor. Help make the phone call or attend the first session. This is a time to follow through and not worry about being intrusive. Assure the person they can get help, heal, feel better.

Suicide is preventable. The majority of people with suicide attempts and completion gave some indications through statements, behavior or social media. YOUR ACTIONS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  if you would like to talk and receive additional information, contact me at  patty@counselingfresno.org or (559) 577 3994. 

Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Posted on October 1, 2015 and filed under loss, grief.