Category: <span>Stress</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.


Coping Skills to Help Reduce Stress in Difficult Times.

I know many are probably looking for coping skills that they can turn to in difficult times.
– Learning how to share your attention between work and your kids. – Staying focused on your work even though you have a lot on your plate – Financial stress -Health concerns- Relationship stressors.

These are all things that alone can cause a lot of stress. When you’re dealing with a few of them at the same time,  it’s a recipe for feeling overwhelmed.

It’s important to recognize your own signs. How do you know you’re starting to feel really stressed? For some, they get irritable quickly. For others, they shut down and don’t want to be around people.

Once you recognize your signs of stress, it’s important to be proactive and reduce stress levels in order to prevent feeling overwhelmed.

Chronic stress weakens the immune system, therefore being vulnerable to getting sick. These coping skills are not cures but instead help you reduce stress in order to think more clearly and help you focus on problem-solving and solutions, instead of staying stuck in feeling like you have no control.

Here are some common coping skills that have helped a lot of people:

Deep Breathing.

The first thing that usually changes with our emotions is our breath. Our breath is very powerful. When you’re feeling high stress, your body releases adrenaline, sugars, cortisol and other stress hormones that prepare your body to run, fight, or freeze because it thinks you’re in danger. But you’re most likely not in danger. All of that energy has nowhere to go. That’s when you begin to feel fidgety, shaking, your heart starts racing and other symptoms as a result of this stress response. To calm down this chemical reaction in your body, take 5-7 deep breaths, minimum, focusing on exhaling longer than your inhale. This floods your blood stream with oxygen and as you exhale, you release those stress hormones and reduce your heart rate.

Move your body.

For the same reason above, your body is flooded with stress hormones. You can release some of that stress and tension by moving your body. You can:


Go for a walk




Focus on what you want.

What we focus on grows. If you keep thinking about your problems you’re only going to be focused on the problem. Instead, focus on solutions by focusing on what you do want. Then break it down into small steps. What’s one little step you can take to work towards a solution?

What we focus on grows, like a snow ball effect. Ask yourself, what am I focusing on?

Focus on the good.

In a journal or just in your mind, make it a habit to everyday focus on what you’re grateful for.  Even during hard times, do you have supportive people, do you have a place to sleep, did you eat a meal, are your loved ones safe, etc.

If you only get your information from the media you would believe that the whole world is falling apart. As old ways of thinking and doing things are no longer working, the world is going through a transformation. There is always light and darkness, good and bad. Make sure what you’re observing is more balanced and not just one sided.

Change your environment.

Sometimes being stuck inside or stuck in a routine can put you in a funk. If you can get away for a change in scenarie, great. But if not, think small.

If you’re working from home, can you sit outside? Can you work from Barnes and Nobles or a local coffee shop?

Trying going to work and home a different way.

Plan something to do this week by looking up free or low cost local events.

Have friends over and cook/bake something for them.

The point is to change up your routine and do something different.

In life the only two things we truly have control over is HOW WE RESPOND to people and circumstances and the WAY WE LOOK AT THINGS. No matter what life is throwing at you, you have control of yourself. Recognize when you’re starting to get highly stressed, physically calm down in order to think clearly, and focus on the things you have control over.

About the Author.
Liza J Alvarado is a Bi-lingual professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents and Adults in Pennsylvania.


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.


Feeling Stressed Out?

With everything that’s going on in the world, on top of whatever you’re dealing with personally, it’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed.

Currently, everyone is talking about how to stay physically safe and healthy in order to not get sick.  But it’s just as important to stay emotionally healthy. When we’re under chronic stress, our immune system weakens, making you more prone to getting sick.

In this video, I give you three suggestions for ways to better manage your stress, now and for when you return to your normal routine.



Take Care,

Liza J. Alvarado, LPC




Talking With Your Kids About The Chaos In The World.

School shootings. Climate change. Poverty. Immigration issues. With all the chaos in the world, how do you explain it to kids when they come to you for answers?!

As parents, mentors and caregivers, kids look to us for answers. We would love to keep them in a bubble, protected from the negativity in the world. However, that is not preparing them for a life independent from you. It’s very important to explain to kids what is going on around them. After all, they’re the ones that will live on long after we’re gone.

But how do you begin to talk to your kids about the chaos in the world? Here are three suggestions to get the discussion started.

Actually talk to them about it. Especially if they’re bringing it up.

Many parents try to “protect” their kids by avoiding these uncomfortable conversations. But ignoring it is the worse thing to do because they’ll seek answers elsewhere.

Just because your child is home most of the time, does not mean that they don’t know what is going on in the world. Honestly, they’re probably more informed than us since they’re constantly connected to the world online. If you don’t address some of their concerns, they’ll most likely turn to Google or YouTube for answers, where you have no control.

I find that car rides are one of the best places to talk to your kids since there’s no direct eye contact, and they can’t go anywhere. Another good time is during walks.

You can start the conversation by asking “hey, did you hear about…. what do you think about that? Be curious about their point of view without judging.

How you explain things could make them either become more anxious, or feel secure. If you’re not sure how to answer a question, tell them that you don’t know and together you can do research.

Prepare them in case of an emergency.

Sadly, school shootings have become common in the United States. It’s important to have a plan in place as a family in case of a school shooting. Schools now have safety plans. But as a family, you should have a plan too. For example, I have told my teenaged son to keep his cell phone turned off but in his backpack, which he always has with him in school, not in his locker.

It’s also important to have an emergency plan in case you’re in a public place when something happens. is a website that helps you create a family plan.

It’s important to stress the importance of safety with your kids. You don’t want to be paranoid, but you want to be prepared. It’s like insurance. Hopefully you never have to use it, but you’ll be glad to have it when you need it.

Some parents have enrolled themselves and their kids in self-defense classes, in shooting ranges to learn how to safely handle a gun, and outdoor survival skills. Do what feels right for your family. The point is to be informed and prepared.

Have time to unplug.

Today’s kids were born into this technology. They don’t know a world without it. So it’s only natural that they’re going to want to always be on their phone or gaming system where they can play with friends without needing to leave home. Technology has it’s advantages, but it could also be scary as kids could seek out ANY information without you knowing.

It is our job as parents, ants/uncles and caretakers to provide breaks from technology. It could be as a simple house rules that NO ONE goes on their cell phones during dinner, for example. Or doing activities together that will keep kids busy. I hear from teens all the time that the main reason they are on their phone or other electronics is because they’re bored. Schedule time to take the food you cooked and eat it at a park, or have a movie night, or ask for their help with household projects.

Unplugging from the constant information that’s online is not only good for their mental health, but it’s an opportunity to connect with your kids.

I also recommend that you read your news instead of watching it on television where it’s repeated and has graphic visuals. If you’re constantly watching negative stories everyday, you can unconsciously pass on your anxieties to your kids. Unplugging from TV news is just as important as unplugging from the internet.

Remember, you are the adult in the relationship and kids are looking to you for guidance. Although you can’t control what’s online and what’s going on in the world, you can control what values and education you want to instill in your kids. Talking to your kids and providing reassurance helps them feel more secure in a chaotic 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.


Thinking of Starting Therapy? Here are 5 tips.

Seeking help when you’re going through a difficult time in your life can be hard. You might feel embarrassed, intimidated, …

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 …

Coping Skills to Help Reduce Stress in Difficult Times.

I know many are probably looking for coping skills that they can turn to in difficult times. – Learning how to share …