Category: <span>Coping skills</span>

A Beginners Guide on How to Meditate

I’m sure you’ve heard about the benefits of meditation and how it’s such a wonderful thing. Meditating regularly has been shown to decrease stress, slow down a racing mind, improves your memory, gives you a feeling of inner calm, improves sleep and lowers stress hormones, just to name a few benefits.

Many people don’t meditate because they feel that it’s impossible to stop thinking. When you meditate you don’t stop thinking, you slow it down. You completely focus (still thinking) on one thing, instead of a bunch of different things back to back.

There are different types of meditations. But I wanted to teach you a simple, basic mediation to get started.

It does take practice, but the more often you meditate, the easier it gets. I recommend practicing it at night when you’re in bed. Then whenever you have time alone, it’s good to practice.

Step 1: Find a comfortable place where you can physically relax and have some privacy. It could be laying down on your bed or sitting in a chair.

Step 2: Close your eyes to block any visual distractions.

Step3: Take a long deep breath in through your nose and hold for one second.

Step 4: Slowly release your breath through your mouth.

Step 5: Continue to take a few deep breaths until you physically feel more calm.

Now that you’re physically more calm, every time you exhale, relax your muscles. Relax your facial muscles, relax your shoulders, arms, relax your back and hips. And slowly work your way down to your toes.

If thoughts enter your mind it’s ok, let the thoughts float out and bring your attention back to your body. Notice the way your chest and belly rise and sink as you inhale and exhale. Use your body to keep your attention on NOW, not what happened earlier or what may or may not happen later. Try to do this for as long as you’re able to.

That’s it! This is a basic Meditation technique. You can do this for 3 minutes or 30 minutes. The whole point is to bring your thoughts to your body. We can’t think two thoughts at the same exact time. Therefore as you’re thinking about breathing and relaxing your body, there’s no room for other thoughts.

At first your mind might wonder and thats ok. Don’t fight your thoughts and intead let them be. It’s also ok if there’s noise around you. The noise is also part of the now. As I said, with practice it gets easier and easier to do.

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and the Spanish speaking individuals in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.


5 Ways to Block the Negativity of the World.

Choose to see all media on your terms.

We all know everything in the news is fear-based.  With stories on violence, poverty, crimes, war, and now the elections. It can get overwhelming if you’re constantly watching and reading the news.

Pick a specific time to browse different websites, apps, or TV channels in order to stay informed, but don’t get stuck there to the point where you become overwhelmed.

This also goes for social media. Try not to constantly go to social media whenever you have some downtime. Be in the present moment instead of mentally escaping by distracting yourself with social media.

Another suggestion is to turn off notifications on your phone. If your phone is always going off with alerts, that can be mentally over stimulating. Instead, manually go into your apps whenever you want, instead of being sucked into the apps by these notifications.

Expose your mind to productive information.

Everything your mind sees, hears, and feels are seeds. If your mind is mostly exposed to negative things, you’re going to feel negative. Instead, purposely listen to music that makes you feel good. Watch shows and movies that teach you something. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts on your commute.

Sometimes we can’t help but be around things that don’t make us feel good. Even more reason to add healthy things to your mind. I like to look at it as “watering down” the negativity.

We are surrounded by many unhealthy things by default. It is your responsibility to take control of what your mind is exposed to.

Set limits with people that make you feel stressed.

Learning to set boundaries is very important. Boundaries are just limits you have for yourself and others in order to protect your emotional well being. Check out a previous post on dealing with negative people.

If there are people that you have to deal with on a regular basis and they tend to put you in a bad mood or test your patience, you have to set a time limit of how much time you will spend around them.

If you deal with these negative people on a daily basis, set a limit on the topics of conversation, or keeping it strictly about whatever thing you have to talk about.

Surround your mind with higher minds.

Now that you’re cleaning up your social space and setting limits with negative people, you have to fill that space with people who think differently. If you personally know someone who is healthy, happy, and successful, learn from them. Try spending more time with them.

But most likely you don’t know anyone personally to spend time with them. Instead, surround your mind with these people through books, videos, podcasts, etc. You don’t have to be physically around positive influences. You can surround yourself with them through the products they put out. I have many mentors that have taught me about business and healing, that I have never personally met.

Even if you can’t get rid of the negative people in your life, you can water it down by filling up a lot of your downtime listening to these better influences.

We live in the information age. Anything you want to learn is online. Including ways to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing. What better way than to learn from people who have already done the work.

Focus on what you can control.

When feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, “can I control this?” “What can I control?”

Focusing on things you have no control over is a waste of energy and time. It only frustrates you even more. You have to find a way to let it go. You can’t change it.

If you do have control, focus on finding a solution and problem-solving. When you focus on what you can control, it gives you a sense of empowerment. Stress and anxiety decrease since you’re taking action.

Remember, your health and wellbeing is your job. Be the guard of your own mind. With practice, you’ll make it a habit to protect yourself from the negativities of the world.

About the Author.
Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, adults and Spanish-speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA.



If you’re always the one  taking care of responsibilities, taking care of others and doing everything for everyone else, you really need to do something just for you. Doing something for yourself is not selfish, it’s practicing self-care.

Self-care is supposed to be a relaxing and fun activity, just for you. A great way to practice self-care is by engaging in a hobby. A hobby should not be work related or something that is asked of you.

Here is  a list of hobby ideas to get you started.

  1. Making music
  2. Playing an instrument
  3. Dancing
  4. Running
  5. Going for walks
  6. Yoga
  7. Meditation
  8. Hiking
  9. Biking
  10. Surfing
  11. Camping
  12. Being part of a sport team
  13. Fantasy Sports
  14. Crafts
  15. Scrapbooking
  16. Making jewelry
  17. Fashion
  18. Making candles
  19. Knitting
  20. Painting
  21. Drawing
  22. Reading
  23. Start or join a Book Club
  24. Learning
  25. Writing
  26. Practice Calligraphy
  27. Photography
  28. Cooking/Baking
  29. Barbecuing
  30. Brain games
  31. Word searches
  32. Crossword puzzles
  33. Model cars/planes, etc.
  34. Woodworking/Metalworking
  35. Fishing
  36. Boating
  37. Gardening
  38. Doing nails, hair styles and makeup for fun
  39. Playing games
  40. Working on cars
  41. Going for scenic long drives
  42. Going to poetry readings
  43. Star gazing
  44. Collecting things (coins, antiques, comic books, autographs, souvenirs, etc.)
  45. Theater
  46. Podcasting/online radio show
  47. Building computers/Electronics
  48. Graphic designing
  49. Watching movies
  50. Give things just laying around in the house new life. Such as remodeling a coffee table or dresser.

Try practicing at least one activity every day. BONUS (Although hobbies are for relaxing, you can actually make side money doing a lot of these activities)

About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, Adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.






6 Stretches to Relieve Stress and Tension

If you’re not motivated enough to exercise I have good news. You can do several moves right from your chair, bed, and even your car when you’re at a red light.

It won’t have the same effects as exercise does, but stretching does help with relieving stress. Stretching gets the blood flowing, so it improves circulation and relieves muscle tension. Combine stretching with deep breathing and you’ll notice that it could also help to release mental, emotional, and psychological stress. Here are some simple but effective moves to try.


Grab one hand with the other, take a deep breath in, and lift your arms as high as you could. When you feel the stretch down your arms, hold it there for at least 10 seconds. Try to reach as high as you could. Breath out slowly. You can do this while sitting or standing  up. Like this lady…

stretching up

Take a deep breath in. Stretch out your arms as if your making a “T” or trying to tell someone how long something is. Stretch it as far as you can until you feel the stretch in your chest. Breath out slowly. Repeat 2-3 times.

stretch T

Sit up straight. Keeping your body straight, take a deep breath in,  try looking down until your chin touches you chest. Breath out slowly. You should feel your neck and shoulders stretching. Now do the opposite and look all the way up by only moving your neck. Now move your head so the your right ear almost touches your right shoulder. Do the same on your left ear and left shoulder.


While sitting on your bed or couch, sit up straight, take a deep breath in and reach to touch your toes. Breath out. You’ll feel the back of your legs and your back stretching.

reaching for toes

While sitting down. Place your left leg over right right leg where the left ankle is touching the right knee. Usually how a lot of men sit. With your hands hold your left knee and ankle. Keeping your back straight, take a deep breath in, and try leaning forward as far as you can. You will feel your hip stretching. Now repeat on the other side.

hip stretch

Stand up straight with legs shoulder width apart. Take a deep breath in. Pretend you’re going to sit down. Hold your body in a squat position. Breath out slowly. Hold it for as long as you can.


About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.





Simple Activities To Boost “Happiness Chemicals”

How we feel in life basically has to do with our  “brain chemicals” These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Although we don’t have a way to measure how much you have when giving diagnosis, scientist do know that certain chemicals create specific feelings. Sadness, anxiety, excitement…all these feelings are produced by neurotransmitters.

How much or how little of these chemicals are produced depends on a lot of different things. Genetics, environment, past experiences, and diet to name a few.

The good news is that we can do things, on purpose, to help our body out in creating some of these chemicals. Try to do at least one of the following suggestions, everyday.

Eat organic yogurt. We’re talking about “brain chemicals” but the truth is that most of these hormones are in the lining of our stomach. The health of our stomach greatly affects our mood. Think about it. When you have  a “bad” feeling, or feel nervous, what part of your body do you feel it most? It’s usually the stomach.

Probiotics and prebiotics help keep our gut healthy. Drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in fiber to keep your gut healthy.

Give or get a hug. When you give a long hug to someone that you really care about, and you get that warm loving feeling, the neurotransmitter oxytocin is released. Basically, physically intimate moments releases this hormone. This chemical calms down the amygdala, the part of our brain that acts like an alarm when we think we’re in danger. Oxytocin has been called the “bonding hormone”  or “love hormone” because it makes you feel closer to people.

For women, oxytocin helps in contractions when giving birth and it’s released during breast feeding.

Shock yourself with cold water. Either splash your face with cold water if you’re at school or work, or turn the water to cold at the end of your shower. The cold water stimulates the vagus nerve, a nerve that goes from our head all the way down to the gut. It helps regulate a bunch of bodily functions like the heart, lungs, upper digestive tract, and other organs of the chest and abdomen.

Reminisce about happy times. Remembering happy memories helps increase serotonin. Serotonin does a bunch of things like helping neurons communicate with each other, improve memory, and most popularly known for increasing our mood. Anti-depressants (SSRI, which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) is supposed to help our brain “lock in” the serotonin that we already have by preventing it from “fading away” (This is my explanation of it, not the scientific explanation.)

Watch a comedy. There’s a reason for the saying “laughter is the best medicine”. I completely agree with this. When we laugh we release several hormones responsible for releasing stress and tension and making us feel good, including serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.

Create small, challenging goals for yourself. Remember when you finished up a presentation you worked hard to prepare for, graduated from school after all those years, or completed a challenge you set for yourself? That small rush of pleasure was your brain releasing dopamine, the chemical responsible for reward and pleasure.

Try setting goals that challenge you in some way. It could be something as simple as cleaning up a messy room, or bigger goals like getting a new job, or getting fit.

Write down how you feel. Writing doesn’t necessarily release hormones, but it does calm down the mind. You could journal, or write short stories. A study done at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that writing calms down amygdala activity. As I said before, the amygdala is the part of our brain that acts like an alarm when it thinks we’re in danger. Our brain can’t tell if something is real or you’re imagining it. That’s why just thinking about certain things will cause you to feel stressed and activates the amygdala.

None of us can feel happy all of the time. But staying positive and healthy will help you feel more satisfied with your life. And when you feel satisfied with your life, everyone around you benefits.

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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.






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