Category Archives: Happiness

4 Ways To Navigate Life’s Transitions With Ease

Posted on October 4, 2015 in Happiness, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

Change happens. Be prepared with a resilient mindset.

Our lives are a series of transitions. The weekend eventually ends and Monday comes. We get married. Summer becomes fall. Vacation ends and we have to go back to work. We happily anticipate milestones such as graduating from college, getting a job or buying a new house. But once an experience ends, our mood can take a dip.

Is it possible to navigate change with a sense of resilience while remaining happy? The experts weigh in:

1. Realize transitions are a matter of perspective

“There is no such thing as positive or negative transition; it fully depends on the way you think,” says Michael Mantell, Ph.D., a San-Diego based psychologist and the author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: P.S. It’s All Small Stuff.

“If it weren’t for transitions, we wouldn’t move, change, be agile or face new opportunities … So I never, ever regret having to return to work. Instead, I always think, ‘Wow, what a great vacation this work gave me the opportunity to take, and how grateful I am for the vacation and the job.’ ” If you dread coming back to work, you are setting yourself up for depression and anxiety, he says.

Susan Fletcher, Ph.D., a Dallas-based psychologist, says accepting life’s inevitable ups and downs can make transitions easier. “Peaks and valleys are to be expected,” the Working in the Smart Zone author says. “That doesn’t mean the good times are always vacation and the bad times are everything else. Even on vacation, we can have the same kind of stress we have in our ordinary life.”

The key, Susan says, is knowing what works for you. “I need one full day to power down to go on vacation, so I don’t ever take a 6 a.m. flight to get the most out of vacation because then I am worthless when I get there.” Instead, she schedules midday flights and makes the journey part of the experience, stopping for lunch with her kids, playing cards on the plane and preparing to have fun when they arrive.

The same is true at the end of the trip: If you need to, take a day to decompress and do laundry, buy groceries and open mail instead of returning the night before you go back to work.

Read the rest of this article on Live Happy: 4 Ways To Navigate Life’s Transitions With Ease 

How you can navigate life's transitions with ease.

Celebrate International Day of Happiness with a Happy Act

Posted on March 19, 2015 in Happiness by Sandra Bienkowski

Did you wake up happy today? It’s the first day of spring, and the International Day of Happiness! Join the celebration!

Here are 15 Acts You Can Do Today! Use hashtag #HappyActs on social media!

If there is a one-word answer to the secret of happiness it is GRATITUDE. Here are some ways to practice gratitude daily and welcome more happiness into your life.

I hope you smile today … it’s contagious!

P.S. Follow Live Happy on Pinterest to get an instant happiness boost!

Happy Homework

Posted on February 3, 2015 in Happiness by Sandra Bienkowski

About half of your happiness is genetically determined, but the other half is in your hands. Want to be happier? Live Happy can help! We put together the Ultimate Happiness Hot List with 54 things to help you become happier today.

Need more happiness to savor with your morning coffee? Check out Live Happy’s Wake Up Happy Tips from the experts!

Do you love to pin or peruse Pinterest? Follow Live Happy! If you want a big delivery of happy to arrive in your mailbox, subscribe here to the magazine.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ― Dalai Lama

It’s up to you! Do your happy homework!

Choose Happy.

Choose Happy.

Why We Should Share Our Stories

Posted on August 26, 2014 in Adoption, Fulfillment, Happiness, Relationships by Sandra Bienkowski

“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”  – Robin Williams

Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite movies. I love all of its messages …

Seize the day.

Live deliberately.

Constantly look at things in a different way.

Find your own voice.

It’s not easy to find your own voice–especially on a stage. Now keeping journals? That’s easy. My thoughts flood out on paper and it’s how I think and process. (Ever since I got married I journal a lot less because my husband is now my journal–poor soul.) Keeping a journal is such freedom. Blank pages. Space to write and think. And no one judges what you have to say or how well you write it. Writing for a big audience is an entirely different story. People aren’t always kind in the comments section, and as much as I can pull up my big girl panties, I can’t always let go of what people think. Even though it can be difficult to write the truth and serve it up for public consumption, I feel compelled.

I know our stories can change the world.

Lately, I’ve received a lot of kind emails from strangers about my stories. Strangers thanking me for writing openly about finding my birth mom or overcoming my battle with my weight. Recently a woman said my story about seeking counseling in my twenties to overcome depression led her to seek professional help so can have a chance at a happy life. I felt so grateful to read that email. To know we can even help one person is the greatest gift. Helping just one person makes the vulnerability of writing and sharing our stories so worth it …

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”   Brene Brown

Here are some of  my latest stories . . .

5 Ways To Dig Yourself Out Of Depression





This Is The Biggest Relationship Mistake You Can Make





Why You Really, REALLY Shouldn’t Date Someone You Want to Fix





What Happened When I Tried To Find My Birth Mom





What I Wish Every Adopted Kid Knew







Make your life extraordinary.

Carpe Diem.



I Have Not Disappeared (Completely) into Mommyhood

Posted on June 14, 2014 in Happiness, Relationships, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

Yes, you might just find me in the morning picking up Cheerios off the floor and smashed banana pieces off my clothes. I turn my back for two seconds and my 17-month girls have found a way to dump water out of their sippy cups or make each other giggle by throwing food on the floor. Life is fun chaos … for sure.

With twins, my hubby, working from home, exercise, sleep (what’s that?) and all the usual life-maintenance stuff, I finally squeezed in a moment to share a bit of news with you! I recently started writing for MindBodyGreen. If you haven’t heard of MBG (say what?) it’s an awesome personal growth and wellness site! Check out my three latest articles below!


And thanks in advance for reading/commenting/sharing!

Gotta go now, I think I hear a baby waking up from an afternoon nap.



The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist in My 20s

When I saw a psychologist for depression in my 20s, he told me I could win the hurt Olympics. My butt landed in that recliner chair across from him every Wednesday for an hour so I could stop the cycle of hurt. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: The 4 Best Lessons I Learned From Seeing A Therapist In My 20s

5 Signs You Are With the Wrong Person

Before I met my prince of a husband, I dated this guy I can’t even think about for two seconds without cringing. READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE: 5 Signs You’re With The Wrong Person

9 Tips to Save Your Marriage From Being Totally Boring

I heard once that people spend more time planning their wedding than their marriage. It stuck with me because it defies logic. Why spend more time planning a single day than the decades of marriage to follow? READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE:  9 Tips To Save Your Marriage From Being Totally Boring

Thanks for reading! Talk to you on the next send! – Sandra


Confessions: Our First Year with Twins

Posted on January 13, 2014 in Fulfillment, Happiness, mom blog, Relationships, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

Our twin girls just turned one. I am not sure if we should jump for joy or collapse on the couch. We’ve become masters of “your turn” middle of the night baby handoffs. Tired is no longer a temporary condition, but something you live with like your right arm. I am not a whiner, but I wish I counted how many times I’ve picked up and redirected two babies speed crawling opposite directions toward outlets, cat food, and the fireplace. My lower back knows. And, BTW, two new tiny people live in our house. OMG. No pressure! We are only responsible for how they turn out.

Anywho, it was a magical year of twin baby firsts, emotional firsts for me, and some pretty hilarious moments. Here’s a look back …

My water broke at 6 a.m. January 11, 2013 and I said, “Uh, Reed, we have a problem.” He jumped out of bed thinking something happened to our old cat.

My baby shower was the next day. Oops.

I felt compelled to shower and put make up on after my water broke.

As we dashed around grabbing things for the hospital, I told Reed to grab the car seats. At 33 weeks to the day, he knew we wouldn’t need the car seats anytime soon. He also knew he didn’t want to have that conversation with his wife in labor.

Pre-epidural felt like some kind of hell. Post-epidural felt like a day at a very cold spa.

January 11, 2013, late Friday afternoon, we welcomed Sydney at 4:43 p.m. and Riley at 5:07 p.m. Each weighed four pounds.

Two days later, discharge day from the hospital for me, I returned home no longer pregnant and with empty arms. It felt like the worst kind of emptiness.

A NICU nurse said, “Think of it like this … you have a team of the most expensive babysitters.”

Sara, my sister, made the transition home easier by using her key to fill our house with baby shower gifts, cards, balloons, homemade veggie soup and bread, and champagne on ice.

Knowing the benefits of breast milk I started pumping because the girls were too premature to breastfeed. The breast pump is a ridiculous-looking contraption (like something Lady Gaga would wear) that’s been attached to me six to seven times a day, around the clock, for a year. As one mom put it, “Now I know what it feels like to be a human food truck.”

My mom planned to live with us for three months to help out with the girls. The pre-scheduled day of her flight? The day the girls were born! Thank you universe.

The first three weeks I learned terms and things I didn’t want to know … baby bilirubin levels, apnea episodes, feeding tubes, wires, beeping monitors, caffeine in IV and isolettes.

Every morning and evening, weaving our way through a large NICU, we saw couples huddled around teensy babies. Some were praying and hoping their babies make it. Doctors told us it was just about “feeding and growing” for Sydney and Riley. We never forgot to be grateful.

My appetite was so ravenous from being a human milk factory that I was disappointed when we no longer lived at the hospital with the daily access to a buffet of food–from pizza to sushi.

As preemies, the girls had to pass a car seat test in order to be discharged home. It was scary to see how tiny they were in their car seats.

On February 2, 2013 the girls came home, both on apnea monitors.

We all took turns doing middle of the night feedings, Reed, my mom, me. We all were so sleep deprived my mom put on her glasses in the middle of the night only to discover they were her sunglasses.

Another time, Reed told my mom to wake him up in ten minutes when the bottles were warm so he could help. Reed woke up three hours later and asked my mom if the bottles were ready.

We are forever grateful to my mom for those first not-so-easy months. Who volunteers to wake up at all hours of the night to help with crying babies on a three-month leave of absence from work? My mom!

With my hormones pinging off the walls post-birth, and with little sleep, I had a few moments wondering if I ruined our fun lives.

Smiley Riley dances on her own, has radar for where her daddy is in the house and loves snuggles and cuddles. She is the messiest eater, putting baby food in her hair.

Sydney is so chill, except when she is shrieking because Riley took one of her toys. She loves to figure toys out and is so ticklish. She is so gentle petting the cat.

Everyone always told me you don’t know what it feels like to love like a mom until you are a mom. I finally get it. As they sleep, I stare into their cribs and feel immeasurable love. Author Elizabeth Stone said it best: Deciding to have a baby is “to forever have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

I love Reed’s face as the he holds or plays with the girls.

I love it when the girls make each other giggle.

Waking up in the morning to two girls who smile ear-to-ear and dance side-to-side in their cribs has to be one of the best ways to start the day ever.

Having the most kind and loving friend/nanny/neighbor to watch the girls at our home while we work is something we are thankful for daily.

Having the girls taught me so much:
Wake up every day happy.
It’s not about me.
Get ready for unsolicited input.
Read baby books before you give birth. You won’t have time after.
Take time to play.
Hugs are the best.
Love is limitless.
A nap can solve a lot.
Never again will you take silence for granted.
Strangers are friendlier when babies are present.
Trust your instincts.
I love sleep.
Never will you be more motivated to be your best self and live your best life so you can be the best example for your children.
Nothing matters as much as family.

And lastly, it isn’t double the trouble, it’s double the blessings.

How to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Posted on January 6, 2014 in Fulfillment, Happiness, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

There is a saying that people change for one of two reasons … they either learn enough that they want to, or they hurt enough so they have to. Many times I’ve made the decision to deliberately change—for both reasons. When life sucks, it’s a teacher and a motivator.

At the time, the guy I was dating was a dud. He had all the warning signs. He bragged about his bachelor status, he thought the ladies loved him, and he owned like two pieces of furniture. Oh, and my friends disliked him immensely.

Then there was my job. I was a health care editor with cool perks (like lots of travel—Vegas Baby!), but the company I worked for in Dallas was bought out by a company in California. Coworkers/friends walked by my office with their careers in a box. My job was safe (so they said), but I also was spending too much money. Job insecurity and over-spending? Not a brilliant combo for my future.

I was overweight. Self-medicating with Ben & Jerry’s and Lifetime movies in my solo apartment wasn’t doing a lot for my waistline. Eating to ease the 30-something, life-isn’t-going-as-I-thought-it-would blues, made me more blue.

In short, my life was kind of messy. So, I did what I always do in times of mini-crisis. I grabbed my journal. I jotted down the current state of things. I wasn’t wimpy about it. I gave my life a review like a movie critic. I didn’t gloss over the unattractive parts. I knew yours truly was responsible.

Then I sketched out my ideal life on a piece of paper. What would my life look like if I loved it? I was determined to shove my life from My Life Sucks to My Life Rocks … and fast. Soon I learned a lesson that stuck: We all have incredible influence over our lives with the decisions we make, and don’t make, each day.

Today, life is much different. I am married to the man of my dreams. We have beautiful twin daughters. I love being an entrepreneur with my own biz, and the freedom of working from home with a flexible schedule is divine. Oh, and we live in a town where people take vacations—so it’s no accident that sometimes our life feels like one.

Life changes when we change. There is power in knowing you can rewrite your life script. For me, I had to stop living for fun in the moment and map out my next steps. I had to wake myself up from the denial that happens when you choose the comfort of familiarity over what you really want. I got clear and brutally honest with myself on the life I desired. (I turned what I wanted into a list I read each morning over coffee.) It worked. Here are some more tips that worked …

Be willing to take a hard look. Be willing to step outside of your life and give it your best critique. Change won’t happen if you deny or ignore those little whispers that tell you something isn’t right. “Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change,” as Iyanla Vanzant says. The uncomfortable part of change is short-lived—and the benefits are long-lasting.

Know everything can change. Don’t get so used to the way things currently are that you forget things can be completely different. Life doesn’t have to be about getting by, getting through or plodding along. It can be about thriving. Sketch out your ideal life. Is your current life close to your ideal vision? If not, what decisions do you have to make to get there? Formulate your action plan. Don’t choose familiarity over risk at the expense of your own happiness.

Forget the wait for the weekend mentality. If you are waiting for the weekend, something in your life needs to change. Why dread five days of the week and only look forward to two? Design your life so you don’t dread a day of the week. Life shouldn’t be spent waiting for the two days that begin with the letter S.

Get a job you don’t dread. Sure, you may have to drag your butt to a job you dread to pay the bills, but if that’s how you feel, devote some time to changing your job. I don’t care if the job market is tough, reinvention is possible. Don’t get stuck doing what you’ve always done if it wipes the smile off your face five days a week. Find something you are more passionate about. Consider entrepreneurship and positioning your strengths to work for yourself. Own your own time. No more depressing Monday Facebook posts for you!

Set your life up like a vacation. Oh, I’m big on this one. I love Seth Godin’s quote: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Okay, I may not be sitting around under a palm tree, sipping Pina Coladas, and flipping through a favorite magazine, but I do LOVE my life. I love our ordinary days. I deliberately do things to make life more like a vacation.

Purposefully choose where you live. I grew up in the snowbelt outside Syracuse and that’s why I moved South. Warm temps and sunshine make me happy. I like climates where people can dine outside almost year round.

Be in the right relationship. Finding the right person may not be easy, but knowing you have the right person is easy. Just ask yourself one question: Does your significant other make your life better?

Improve your ratio of excitement to dread. How can you get more exciting moments on your day and how can you reduce the dread? Make a dread list if you have to and make it your mission to make the list shorter. A great way to get more excitement is to fill your calendar with events and plans that make you excited with anticipation—a big contributor to happiness.

Connect to what you love doing. Don’t get so busy living life that you forget to do the things you love most. When is the last time you checked to see if the things you love doing the most are showing up on your monthly, weekly and daily calendar? Notice what resonates with you. On the days you are the happiest, what are you doing?

Don’t defer your happiness by waiting for vacation, waiting for the weekend or waiting for your life to change. You can change your life dramatically when you change the one thing you control—YOU.

The Best Gift You Can Give to Your Children

Posted on September 14, 2013 in Happiness, Relationships, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

The best gift you can give to your children is not your time. It is not books. It is not college funds. It is not the best private school. It is not the biggest Pinterest-themed Birthday parties. It is not your amazing cooking. It is not your immaculate house. It is not your crazy-good multitasking skills. It is not putting your kids first. The best gift you can give to your kids is your own happiness. I know because I grew up with a mom who was sad.

My mom couldn’t have kids so she adopted my sister and me, but that didn’t heal her sadness. She never fixed herself from her own devastatingly crappy childhood so she repeated the pattern with us. Most of my memories of my mom involve her sitting at the kitchen table, smoking, complaining, drinking, and yelling at us. She didn’t act like she liked us. The most devastating part for me—now that she’s gone—is to think of what could have been. This is a woman who looked beautiful when she dressed up. She had a bubbly, quirky personality that would sometimes emerge from the sadness. When she was kind, she was really kind. But that side of her didn’t show up often enough.

She never got over not being able to get pregnant and have babies. She never got over not finishing college like my dad did. She never talked about, processed or fixed her childhood that involved violence and secrets. Secrets she said she’d tell my sister and me about one day. That day never arrived. She had a father and a brother I never met. I finally saw some glimmers of true happiness in her late 60s and 70s. My sister’s boys—her grandsons—brought her happiness. My dad, retired, brought her happiness. Then she got cancer. She didn’t want to die. Death took her anyway.

Sometimes now I wish I knew—as a child—how to change things for her, even if it wasn’t my job. Back then I was only consumed with navigating my own survival in the crazy chaos that went on inside our postcard-looking home. It’s hard to console yourself with your mom’s death when you can’t tell yourself that your mom had a great life.

I watched my mom cry more times than I can count. I watched her take naps during the day. I listened to her rants. I heard her crying upstairs in her bedroom. I watched her quit numerous jobs. I watched her argue with my dad. I told myself early that it was bullshit and the cycle would stop with me.

I knew as a kid that there was no way I’d come out of that childhood intact so I sought counseling in my early twenties. I was in talk therapy weekly to dig myself out of depression’s grip and to end the pattern of craziness and sadness. I told myself I’d do it without medicating. I watched my mom medicate with alcohol and I wanted to fix myself without any type of pill or substance. Plus, I learned the difference between feeling better and getting better, and I wanted to get better. I did it with talk therapy, writing and processing. And it worked.

Now that I am a mom, I think my number one job to create a happy home and lead by example. I think it’s my job to be a happy person so I can be a healthy mom. I think it’s my job to have a happy relationship with my husband so we can be healthy parents. I think it’s my job to be happy, create happy moments, smile, laugh and exude positivity that fills up our house. It’s my job to live authentically happy—no matter what it takes.

I think it’s my job because I know my girls will be watching.

A Month of Mini Miracles

Posted on February 12, 2013 in Adoption, Fulfillment, Gratitude, Happiness by Sandra Bienkowski

I’ve always thought there are no coincidences. And while my husband and I love to plan our days, it amazes me how life can toss your To Do list out the window and show you what’s truly important. Any day you wake up, everything can change.

When I woke up on January 11th at 6:30 a.m. my first thought was: I’m so tired. Waking up every 10 minutes isn’t an ideal way to sleep. Giving up, I got out of bed and decided to look for a maternity dress to wear to my baby shower the next day. After rummaging through my closet, I found one. I stepped into the bathroom to try it on and suddenly my water broke all over me and the bathroom floor. I stared down at my feet in disbelief.

So the day began as I called out to my husband Reed and said, “I think we have a problem,” and the day ended for us as a new family.

Our twins are here. We had our minds set on February 1st. That was our plan, make it to February 1st. It was the magical safe zone in our heads … 36 weeks pregnant with twins. But there we were, on a rainy January 11th morning, making our way to the hospital at 33 weeks pregnant. Less than 12 hours later, our girls entered the world, their tiny bodies lifted into the air, born 20 minutes apart—our two mini miracles.

Call it intuition. My mom was going to fly or drive to stay with us and help for three months starting on February 1st. She really didn’t want to miss the birth of our girls, so I called her up one day and asked if she’d come earlier, just in case. The date she chose to fly out? January 11th—the day we welcomed our girls into the world. As we made our way to the hospital, she was making her way to the airport. She had no idea I was in labor until my husband called her at the airport. What makes the story more special is that it’s my birth mom, who I searched and found when I was 26. She never thought she’d recover from having to give me up for adoption when she was a teenager, and here she was arriving just in time to meet her new granddaughters and be a part of their lives from the beginning.

The little things. Going home from the hospital without your babies is awful. Chalk it up to one of my least favorite emotions experienced ever. I knew our girls received stellar care in the NICU (or as one nurse told me: “Think of it as the most expensive babysitters you will ever have.”) and it was just a matter of time before they’d be discharged, but our painfully quiet house filled with all things baby, was difficult to endure. It gave me a brief insight into the pain of what my birth mom must have experienced, going home without a baby, but her pain wasn’t temporary.

My sister made our homecoming better. With her extra set of keys to our house, she decorated our house for a celebration. Pink girl balloons tied to our mailbox, yummy groceries, flower arrangements, homemade soup, and champagne chilled on ice awaited our return. The love from my sister made the first night tolerable. Her touches made me feel hopeful.

While NICU nurses might have a serious job to do, the small touches meant so much as our girls spent three weeks in the NICU before coming home. I was given little bits of cloth to put my scent on as I slept, to place next to the girls tiny faces in their isolettes the next day. The NICU nurses took time to do baby footprints and a volunteer dropped by with homemade guardian angels to hang above their isolettes. Strangers made us blankets for the girls.

Grandparents were already spoiling our new girls. Other family and friends flooded us with baby gifts. Friends stopped by our house with cookies. Love kept showing up in tiny ways to carry us through.

My friend went into labor too. My husband and I went to a Marvelous Multiples class where we met another couple, Alicia and Mike. We both were carrying twins due the same week. Two boys on the way for them, two girls for us. We both went into early labor just days apart and ended up next to them in the NICU. While lots of moms carrying multiples experience preterm labor, there were so many similarities in our stories and we were able to talk, share and support each other through the process. Now they are new and lasting friends and we can’t wait to get together with them for some twin outings.

The name Marie. To pay tribute to my birth mom and explain my adoption story to our girls someday, we used the middle name my birth mom gave me at birth, Marie, as the middle name for our new daughter Riley … Riley Marie.

Two birthdays and two birthday gifts. On my Birthday, Jan. 21, 10 days after the girls entered the world, they were removed from enclosed separate isolettes and moved into one open crib—together. Ever since they were reunited, they turn toward one another. They may start out on their backs, but they always turn to face each other and reach out to touch each other’s hands. And on my husband’s Birthday, coming up March 1, our girls will officially be full-term … a day I consider to be their second Birthday. A day we can all celebrate life’s mini-miracles.

What was originally on my To Do list for January 11th? Writing work for clients, get groceries, get my nails done, call the vet, write a blog … but a different plan was in store for us. A plan of welcoming two new precious lives into the world—surrounded with the love from family, friends, new friends and strangers. In 24 hours, everything can change.

Cool as a Cucumber: How to Develop Coping Skills

Posted on December 20, 2012 in Fulfillment, Gratitude, Happiness, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski

“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass—get up, get up, get up! Happiness is not the absence of problems; it’s the ability to deal with them.” – Steve Maraboli

I was reading an article in a parenting magazine that said there are two types of parents—frenzied/stressed or calm. I immediately thought, “That can’t be true. People are complex and don’t fall into such concrete categories.” (I also thought that statement might infuriate a lot of moms … particularly of the stressed out variety.) So I quickly thought about a handful of moms I know, and was surprised to discover I could immediately categorize them into one of the two camps—frazzled or serene. And then it made sense to me, whether you are a stress monster or the queen of tranquility is really a matter of choice. It’s a choice for everyone—regardless of whether you have kids.

When I was in my early twenties, I was in the stressed category, but I wanted out. I was an expert at creating drama in my life. I was depressed. If you named an aspect of my life—money, love, work, health, family, friendships—I could tell you what was wrong with it. When you are in depression’s grip, each aspect of your life has a tendency to spiral downward. Toss in a little denial and you don’t connect the dots that you are the common denominator of your problems. Fortunately, I knew I needed help. Talk therapy with a blunt (and funny) psychologist helped me transition to a more peaceful state of existence. He said I needed to learn some coping skills. (I didn’t even know the term … coping skills.) Some of the fundamentals he taught me, I still rely on today. Here are a few …

Set boundaries. This was a big one. Setting boundaries is about curing the disease to please. It’s about standing up for yourself, letting people know your limits and teaching people how to treat you. It’s about saying No or telling people when they have crossed a line.

I realized through counseling, that every time you cross a boundary, blur a boundary or fail to set any, life goes downhill—fast. I entered therapy not even being able to recognize boundaries, and came out seeing where they were needed left and right. Setting boundaries is about expressing your needs, preventing others from exploiting you, protecting your time and energy, and honoring how you really feel by being genuine.

Recognizing boundaries is about paying attention to those times and events that give you a sinking feeling because it’s a sign that your self-respect or personal power is being compromised. Your boundaries define and draw an invisible line around what’s acceptable to you and what’s not.

Best-selling author and personal development expert Cheryl Richardson has a great quote on boundaries … “Too often women neglect to stand up for themselves by avoiding confrontation and end up weakening their internal shield, making it harder to set boundaries at all. So, if someone offends you, it may be necessary to let them know in order to protect and strengthen your internal boundaries.”

Shatter your mirrors. Stop looking to other people to determine how you should feel about yourself. Shattering your mirrors means you go internal to determine your self-worth instead of letting it be determined or shaped by other people and experiences. Other ways to shatter your mirrors …

See yourself through your own eyes, not someone else’s.

Own your own thoughts and trust your perceptions.

Make decisions for yourself and not to simply please others so they will like you.

Realize you have as many answers as anyone else.

Know you are resilient. Effectively coping with life’s ups and downs is at the heart of resilience. Living with gratitude fosters resilience because you stay focused on the positives even through adversity. Resilience is about how you respond to situations. You don’t define your existence by fleeting experiences or temporary emotions. Resilience begins by telling yourself you are strong and reminding yourself of it when you need to hear it.

Resilience is so important because it builds a barrier from anxiety and depression because you have built up your internal and external resources to cope and you walk around with that strength.

Internally resilience is built by taking care of your needs and not neglecting them for the sake of others. It’s about facing experiences head on instead of burying your head in the sand. When you choose hope over helplessness or have faith in yourself to handle all situations you are being resilient.

Externally, being able to reach out to others for support or help when you need it is actually a form of resilience.

Discover the art of comforting yourself. When it comes to managing stress, being able to comfort yourself is crucial. Comforting yourself is actually a skill you can practice. Be on your own side. Show compassion to yourself when you make mistakes. Realize no one is perfect. Build up your internal support system with a stream of positive internal thoughts. Sounds cliché, but comforting yourself is really about treating yourself just as you would treat a best friend.

I share some of these coping essentials because they changed my life. Implementing them can slowly shift your life from chaos to fulfillment. While a certain amount of stress is a normal occurrence in life and can’t be avoided, being a living embodiment of stress is not healthy. With the right coping skills, you can choose to live in a state of calmness, instead of in a state of continual stress.