Mindfulness Can Help Young Kids Manage Emotions

-Rick Nauert, PhD

Mindfulness has been found beneficial for stress reduction, anxiety and depression, dietary challenges, addiction recovery, and many other conditions. Now it has found its way into a classroom where children as young as three are using its techniques to manage emotions and stay calm.

Using a strategy called Calm Classroom, Los Angles students, ranging from transitional kindergartners to fifth graders, are being guided by teachers three times during the school day through three-minute mindfulness exercises. The drills call on students to refocus their attention on deep breathing, relaxation, and body awareness.

Behind the move to bring mindfulness into the school day is the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Support (CARES), which sponsors this and other programs that support student resilience. And although it’s still early in the school year, it seems to be having an effect, said Principal Akida Kissane-Long.

“The children of Joyner Elementary have responded extremely well to the Calm Classroom training and practice they received since their first day of school,” she said. “Discipline referrals have admirably decreased in just three weeks of school.”

To implement Calm Classroom at their school, teachers at Joyner underwent training with the CARES staff last August.

In practicing mindful awareness, an individual focuses attention on being in the moment as it is, without judgment — and with openness and curiosity.

And while the concept of mindfulness might seem abstract for children, students in the lower grades seem to be most receptive, center staff members said.

Young children practice mindfulness by doing stretching, focused listening, guided breathing, and body awareness exercises.

To help students manage tough feelings and prevent the children from developing an anxiety disorder, depression, or other major concern, the UCLA CARES Center is implementing Calm Classroom in collaboration with the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

There are plans for the center to train additional schools starting in the spring. The program is in more than 200 schools nationwide, according to the Luster Learning Institute, and has been taught to more than 200,000 students and their families.

“Mindfulness has many benefits for students, including better sleep, increased focus, reduced stress, and reduced challenges related to depression and anxiety,” said Dr. Patricia Lester, co-director of the center.

“The transition back to school can be an especially difficult one for many children. We want to inform parents and teachers about noticing when students are feeling stressed or even anxious about the transition back. Helping students learn to manage these emotions is an important part of early prevention and also helps build resilience,” Lester said.

These mindfulness exercises are most effectively led by teachers during times of transition — after lunch, before a quiz, or at the beginning or end of the day.

“Introducing mindfulness to students is a great way to teach them about emotion management and regulation as a common everyday practice,” said John Piacentini, director of the center. “Research shows that mindfulness can improve our working memory and executive functioning.”

Mindfulness could be especially beneficial for underprivileged families living in neighborhoods such as Watts.

“The majority of families in the Watts community live below the poverty line, which can cause challenges in accessing important resources, especially those related to behavioral health,” continued Piacentini. Calm Classroom helps students build skills early on in strategies for managing their emotions and identifying when they might be having a difficult time.

Mindfulness skills can be used anytime, anywhere, so children who practice them at school can call on them throughout their day — whenever and wherever needed.

“Children at any age can experience feelings of anxiety; we even notice it in babies,” explained Kate Sheehan, managing director of the CARES Center.

“Since this program targets kids all the way down to kindergarten and transitionary kindergarten, we are able to start helping them understand, at a very early age, how their emotions affect the way they feel physically and their reactions to different situations while also teaching them that they can control their emotions rather than react to them.”

The CARES team piloted the Calm Classroom program during the last academic year at the UCLA Lab School, where teachers noticed that students became more attentive and calm after transition periods, Sheehan said.

Lab School students were even using mindfulness techniques outside the classroom to help manage stressful or frustrating events, like waiting to be picked up from school or when separated from their parents during a family vacation.

“It’s like floating on a cloud,” observed one mindful student at the UCLA Lab School.

Top 10 Traits of an Empath

Discover if you’re a highly sensitive person.

The trademark of an empath is that they feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. They filter the world through their intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing their feelings.

As a psychiatrist and empath myself, I know the challenges of being a highly sensitive person. When overwhelmed with the impact of stressful emotions, empaths can have panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue, food, sex and drug binges, and many physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis.

But an empath doesn’t have to feel too much and be overloaded once they learn how to center themselves. The first step is to acknowledge that you are an empath. Here are the top 10 traits of an empath from my book on how to achieve emotional freedom. See if you can relate to them.

10 Traits of an Empath

1. Empaths are highly sensitive
Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually open, and good listeners. If you want heart, empaths have got it. Through thick and thin, they’re there for you, world-class nurturers. But they can easily have their feelings hurt. Empaths are often told that they are “too sensitive” and need to toughen up.

2. Empaths absorb other people’s emotions
Empaths are highly attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme. They take on negativity such as anger or anxiety which is exhausting. If they are around peace and love, their bodies take these on and flourish.

3. Many empaths are introverted
Empaths become overwhelmed in crowds, which can amplify their empathy. They tend to be introverted and prefer one to one contact or small groups. Even if an empath is more extroverted they prefer limiting how much time they can be in a crowd or at a party.

4. Empaths are highly intuitive
Empaths experience the world through their intuition. It is important for them to develop their intuition and listen to their gut feelings about people. This will help empaths find positive relationships and avoid energy vampires. Read How to Develop Your Intuition to learn more.

5. Empaths need alone time
As super-responders, being around people can drain an empath so they periodically need alone time to recharge their batteries. Even a brief escape prevents emotionally overload. Empaths like to take their own cars when they go places so they can leave when they please.

6. Empaths can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships
Too much togetherness can be difficult for an empath so they may avoid intimate relationships. Deep down they are afraid of being engulfed and losing their identity. For empaths to be at ease in a relationship, the traditional paradigm for being a couple must be re-defined. For strategies see my article Secrets for Sensitive People: Why Empaths Stay Lonely.

7. Empaths are targets for energy vampires
An empath’s sensitivity makes them particularly easy marks for energy vampires, whose fear or rage can sap their energy and peace of mind. Vampires do more than drain an empath’s physical energy. The especially dangerous ones such as narcissists (they lack empathy and are only concerned with themselves) can make them believe they’re unworthy and unlovable. Other vampires include The Victim, The Chronic Talker, The Drama Queen and more. To help you deal with the drainers in your life read 4 Strategies to Survive Emotional Vampires.

8. Empaths become replenished in nature
The busyness of ever day life can be too much for an empath. The natural world nourishes and restores them. It helps them to release their burdens and they take refuge in the presence of green wild things, the ocean or other bodies of water.

9. Empaths have highly tuned senses
An empath’s nerves can get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talking.

10. Empaths have huge hearts but sometimes give too much
Empaths are big-hearted people and try to relieve the pain of others. A homeless person holding a cardboard sign, “I’m hungry” at a busy intersection; a hurt child; a distraught friend. It’s natural to want to reach out to them, ease their pain. But empaths don’t stop there. Instead, they take it on. Suddenly they’re the one feeling drained or upset when they felt fine before.

As an empath myself, I use many strategies to protect my sensitivities such as fierce time management, setting limits and boundaries with draining people, meditation to calm and center myself, and going out into nature. Being an empath is a gift in my life but I had to learn to take care of myself. Empaths have special needs. It’s important to honor yours and communicate them to loved ones.

-Judith Orloff, MD

Minimizing Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. What are your thoughts about how serious you consider the signs of emotional abuse within your relationship?

-Regina Tate, LPC

Anxious Thoughts, Anxious Feelings

For those of us with anxiety, our thoughts can really influence our feelings and behavior. To cope with and overcome anxiety, we need to learn to be mindful of the thoughts we have and how they impact the anxiety we feel.

Take this example. You made dinner plans with a friend, but she didn’t show up. You might have one of the following responses:

  • You may think your friend stood you up, causing you to feel hurt, angry, and/or embarrassed.
  • You may think she got into an accident, leading to concern or anxiety.
  • You may be distracted by something else you had planned and feel relief to have the time to get to that instead.

The thoughts and feelings are different in each of these examples even though the situation remained exactly the same. What kind of anxious thoughts have you been experiencing lately?

-Melissa Wildt, LMHC

How to Make Peace With Something You Cannot Control

Feeling safe when you’re not in control is a valuable skill

ibreakstock/Shutterstock
Source: ibreakstock/Shutterstock

Being in control feels safe, you can feel safe when you’re not in control too. The world is unpredictable and your power is limited, so feeling safe without control is a valuable skill.

When the world disappoints your expectations, your brain releases cortisol and it feels like an emergency. You can re-wire your brain to feel safe when you’re not in control. That doesn’t mean being out of control or giving up. It means building a new neural pathway to replace that old cortisol circuit.

Your brain will build a new pathway if you repeat a new thought or behavior for forty-five days. So give up control of something for the next six weeks and you will like the results!

Notice your usual strategy for feeling “on top of things,” and do the opposite. 
For example, if you are a person who tries to bake the perfect soufflé, spend forty-five days cooking without recipes. Conversely, if you are a person who likes to just throw things into a pot, spend forty-five days following recipes.

If you are a person who likes everything neat, let junk pile up for six weeks. But if you are a person who hates order and loves chaos, put things away as soon as you use them for six weeks.

Color outside the lines if that’s new for you, but if you already pride yourself on that, courageously stay inside the lines. It might feel awful on Day One, but forty-four days later it will feel curiously safe.

Don’t quit your day job to beg with a rice bowl. Just stop checking the weather report, buying lottery tickets, and expecting the world to work according to your rules. You will not like the cortisol at first, but you will train your brain to know that it doesn’t kill you. You will learn to feel safe in the world despite your inability to control it.

Getting rid of the clock is a great way to experiment with control, because you can’t control time.
We all have habits for managing the harsh reality of time. For some it’s chronic lateness and for others it’s constant clock-checking. You may think you can’t change your relationship with time, but here are three great ways to ignore the clock and make friends with the passage of time:

  1. Start an activity without having an exact time you need to stop. Finish the activity without ever checking the clock the whole time. It’s over when you feel like it’s over.
  2. Set aside a time each day to spend with no plan.
  3. Designate a day you can wake up without looking at the clock and continue through your day with no time-checking.

No matter how busy you are, you can find a way to relax your efforts to control time. You may be surprised at the bad feelings that come up, despite your abiding wish to escape time pressure. The bad feelings won’t kill you, however, and accepting them helps you accept the harsh realities of time.

Your mammal brain feels good about things it can control. Some people break traffic laws to enjoy a sense of control, while others feel their power by scolding those who break traffic laws. Whatever gives you a sense of power won’t work all the time, however. You will end up feeling weak and unimportant some of the time. That triggers cortisol, but you can learn to feel safe when you are not in control.

-Loretta G. Bruening, PhD

The Conveyor Belt

This is one of my favorite exercises to ease anxiety and start gaining control over emotions. Imagine a conveyor belt, and that your thoughts are coming down the belt. Name the thoughts and feelings to yourself as they come down the belt — “I am having a feeling of sadness. I am now having a feeling of fear that I will be alone. It’s a very intense feeling. Now I’m having a feeling of curiosity about what my brother said last night.” Recognize each thought as it comes down the belt, and then let it pass by and go on the next thought. Allow the thoughts and feelings to flow through you as you observe them.

You’ll do this for a few minutes at a time a couple of times a day to start with. Every day you’ll increase the amount of time you spend. For example, the first day try 3 minutes, the next day 5. I know this may sound strange, but it’s actually a lot more difficult than people realize. What will probably happen is as you’re trying to do the exercise, you will get distracted from it several times. When this happens, just gently turn your mind back to the exercise. It’s important to note that one of the things you’re trying to master here is being separate from your thoughts. You are observing your thoughts as they happen without judging them. So if the the thought “Why did he treat me that way?” comes into your mind, you observe it, make a note that it is painful and then go on to the next thought. This exercise is a powerful tool to start learning to control your attention rather than your attention controlling you.

-Alexa Thompson, LPC

4 Ways to Survive Unexpected Situations

Expert advice for maintaining your confidence and finding a positive outcome.

Life throws unexpected things at us all the time. Some we like—such as finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk—but many of them we don’t, such as missing a flight due to an extra long line at airport security. Sometimes unexpected events can be much more serious, such as an illness or a job loss. Needless to say, these kinds of events can be quite distressing.

What you need to rely on most during these difficult times is your ability to think creatively and solve problems. However, research shows that negative emotions such as fear, anger, and frustration can actually cause your brain’s executive network, which is responsible for problem solving, to constrict and work less effectively. On the other hand, positive emotions help your brain generate more creative solutions to problems.

How can you become more successful at dealing with life’s curve balls? Although you can’t control the occurrence of unexpected situations, you can control how you respond—and that can make all the difference in how you feel and how you deal with distressing issues. Following are four ways to survive unexpected stress, and maybe even come out ahead:

1. Pause before you act.

There is a huge difference between a reaction and a response. A reaction comes from an automatic part of the brain. It is almost like a reflex. Reactions are very quick, especially when we feel threatened in someway. On the other hand, a response is something you consciously choose to do based on a more thoughtful assessment of a situation. For example, when someone cuts you off in traffic your automatic reaction might be to get angry and assume the driver is deliberately being rude or thoughtless. This anger can cause you to want to retaliate in some way. By pausing and taking time to think, you give yourself a window of opportunity to pick a better option. You might decide that retaliating is not in your best interest or you may realize that the driver wasn’t deliberately trying to be disrespectful, but was simply not paying attention. For most people, practicing deep breathing and counting to 10 can help restrain a reaction long enough to choose a better response. If you are a very visual person you may even imagine yourself aiming a remote control at the situation and pushing the pause button. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is another great way to increase your ability to pause before acting.

2. Don’t assume that the things you don’t want are bad. 

Most people automatically assume that if something they don’t want happens to them, it’s a bad thing that will likely lead to an even worse outcome down the road. If you break up with your partner, you may think it is awful because you will never find anyone better and you will always be alone. If you don’t get a job you sought, you may think no one will ever hire you and you will be stuck living with your parents forever. Thinking this way inevitably makes you feel terrible.

For most of the things that happen to you, there’s no way of knowing whether they will be a bad thing or a good thing—and which one an event turns out to be often has a lot to do with how you respond. If you end a relationship, blame yourself, become despondent, and never leave the house, you increase the likelihood of not finding another relationship. However, if you accept that, for whatever reason, it was not the right relationship for you, maintain a positive attitude, believe that a better relationship is coming your way, and then get involved in fun activities, you significantly increase the likelihood of finding another great partner, possibly one who is an even better match.

Unexpected situations often have the potential to open the door to new events in our lives that we do want. If you miss your plane, you may end up meeting the love of your life on a different flight. If you lose your job and are forced to move to a new city, you may meet a great new set of friends, or find your dream home. You never know what will come of a situation, so rather than assuming a situation is bad, which only generates lots of unhelpful, negative emotions, practice saying to yourself, “We shall see.” Then make an effort to look ahead with hope.

3. Plan for everything to turn out well.

Many people hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The problem with this strategy is that we act on our expectations, yet our actions create our experiences. If you want a good outcome, you have to plan for one because that is what leads to the actions that create good experiences. An unexpected event is one you didn’t plan for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan to create the best possible outcome from the situation. We all have the ability to shift our attention from an unexpected event that seems like a big problem and focus instead on finding the solution. The minute you ask yourself what you can do to make something better, you have taken the first step in planning for events to go well. When you see a plan laid out in front of you for how to make something turn out well, your assessment of the situation starts to change. You regain your sense of control and as a result you start to feel better.

4. Trust in your ability to be OK.

Most people have been through more than one difficult thing in their life. You’ve probably already been through several significant challenges and quite a few smaller bumps in the road. No one likes them, but most of us survive them. When you are in the middle of a difficult situation, instead of assuming it won’t work out, think about the things you have already been through and ask yourself, “What did I do to get through those events?” Knowing your own strength is important for self-confidence. If focusing on your strong qualities doesn’t come naturally, ask someone who knows you well to give you a boost. When you redirect your attention from a problem to the knowledge that you’re able to handle it, you will start to feel better.

-Jennice Vilhauer, PhD

How to Support a Partner Dealing With Depression

As a mental health counselor and someone who has battled depression for most of her life, I’m no stranger to the toll it can take on relationships.

While it differs from person to person, at its core, the illness causes people to feel lonely, inadequate, and misunderstood—even isolated. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to inflict our pain on the people we love. Other times, it’s because we’ve been hurt by (even well-meaning) others and don’t want to risk feeling even worse than we already do.


When someone with depression withdraws from loved ones without communicating why, it leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. A partner may not understand why their S.O. is distant, distracted, or even angry. They may wonder what they did to offend the other person, or they may be frustrated that their partner is suddenly detached from them.

In addition to intense feelings of shame, sadness, and worthlessness, depression can manifest itself physically—including changes in sex drive, sleep; and appetite; energy loss; and even physical pain, such as headaches, stomach pains, and back or neck pain. This leads to more confusion for a partner, who may wonder why their loved one is often sick or generally disinterested in events and activities (including sex).

Expressing my feelings when I’m depressed has always been a challenge, especially in relationships. I’m afraid of coming across as whiny, ungrateful, or melodramatic. I have been blamed for the way I was feeling and told that I was a negative person. I have had a partner turn away from me as I was crying in bed, telling me he couldn’t tolerate me when I was “like that.” Mostly, I have been ignored, or told to take a pill or go see a therapist so I could “get fixed.”

We’ve been able to develop a course of action that works for both of us, resulting in communication, understanding, and support.

Two years ago, I began a new relationship. Because of my previous experiences, it was difficult not to repeat the same habits—I withdrew when I was feeling depressed, closing myself off completely, which took a toll on our relationship.

But eventually, we were able to talk openly about my depression and behaviors surrounding it. Over time, we’ve developed a course of action that works for both of us, resulting in communication, understanding, and support. What works for us may not work for everyone, but these are methods we have found to be helpful.

5 Tips That Worked for Us

1. Make communication your highest priority.

It can be as simple as switching your language from “Gosh, I’m so upset” to “I’m depressed” to let your partner know that it’s more than being annoyed about traffic or bills. Explaining your triggers, warning signs, and symptoms can help them better understand your illness and respond in a supportive and productive way.

2. Come up with code words.

For me, it can still be hard to say, “I’m depressed.” For some reason, those two words stick in my throat like cement. There are so many years of shame attached to them, and saying them sometimes feels like I’m giving in to the depression.

During times like this, my partner has worked out a way for us to continue communicating. He will ask, “Is it in the kitchen or the living room?”—meaning, how intensely are you feeling it right now? I’ll respond that it’s down the street, or at the door, or in bed with me.

Another way we increase communication is through more direct questions. When I say “I don’t feel well,” he will ask “Physically or emotionally?” This opens up the conversation for specifics, instead of one or both of us shutting down.

Accept that this is part of your relationship with your partner, instead of trying to change or cure them.

3. Don’t try to solve the problem.

Partners of those struggling with depression tend to feel helpless and may jump to problem-solving or giving advice. Often, someone who is depressed knows what they need to do to feel better; they don’t have the energy to do so in that moment. In these situations, it is very powerful to simply be with your partner. Accept that this is part of your relationship, instead of trying to change or cure them. Holding their hand, giving eye contact, and actively listening can help far more than offering suggestions for things they should be doing. Talking through thoughts and feelings can effectively reduce symptoms, and knowing that someone loves you when you’re feeling at your worst is both healing and empowering.

4. Provide basic comforts.

Drawing a warm bath, whipping up a meal or a cup of tea, or even giving a back rub can be life-changing for someone suffering with depression. Because depression often makes people feel unworthy or unattractive, words of encouragement are also vital. Finding other ways to be intimate when your partner is not feeling well shows sensitivity and relieves pressure from a partner who may feel inadequate.

5. Give reminders and encouragement.

People with depression may believe the things they are feeling are a result of who they are as a person, which can result in self-loathing. They may feel shame or guilt for not being able to better control their emotions. My partner will often remind me that my depression is not me, and that I am separate from it. He also reminds me that depression is an illness, and like any other illness, the one who is sick is not to blame. When he points out my strengths and past successes, it empowers me and reminds me that I will eventually feel better again.

The Bottom Line

While a partner may not be able to take away their loved one’s depression, they can provide the strong support system that is vital to a person’s mental health and sense of self. Through patience, understanding, and open communication, a partner gives their loved one a space to heal and feel safe to communicate what they are feeling. Having a relationship where one or both partners experience depression can be a challenge, but if both are willing to put in the time and effort, the result can be a strong, supportive relationship built on trust and understanding.

-Lauren Hasha

Margaret Cho Wants You to Embrace Your Darkness

Using creativity to cope and connect

Margaret Cho has been finding ways to entertain us for decades. From her stand-up routines, such as The Notorious C.H.O.; to her books, such as I’m The One That I Want; to her roles in films such as Face/Off, Cho continues to come up with new ways to explore and share her artistry.

A major reason why Cho continues to be so prolific is the same reason why she is so beloved by her fans — she is willing to tackle and speak out on difficult issues. Cho has been an advocate for LGBT rights, has opened up about her having experienced sexual abuse, and about her sexuality, as well as her consequent struggles with an eating disorder, addiction, depression and suicide. In doing so, Cho has given voice to people who feel alone and invisible in their struggles with social and emotional issues.

And with her new album, American Myth, Cho is continuing her message: Don’t run away from your darkness — embrace it.

Cho explains how this is a central approach to her life and art. She told me, “People should be conscious that pain and suffering are essential to living. We need it as much as we need happiness and joy and pleasure. There would be no contrast in your existence if the bad and dark parts didn’t exist.”

For Cho, this stance is personal. One of the painful issues with which she has struggled over the years is depression. People who struggle with depression — even only sub-clinical depressive symptoms — may experience significant loss of physical, social and role functioning. And the loss of functioning associated with depression appears to be comparable to or worse than that of other chronic medical issues.

“I think I’ve always had it. It’s something that sounds familiar when people talk about their experience of depression,” Cho explained. “But I’ve never been diagnosed or medicated or anything. It’s not weeks; it’s more just like it’s parts of days.”

Cho describes her depression as feeling like existential dread, also referred to as existential angst. “There’s always been this existential dread that I’ve had, not knowing what the future is going to bring,” Cho explained. “And not knowing how you may have done something in the past that’s upsetting, or regret something that you’ve done.”

Like many others who experience depression, Cho also experiences rumination, which is to compulsively and repeatedly think about something. Rumination can be useful if one is attempting to deliberate over possible solutions to a problem. But it can also take the form of obsessing and amplifying a problem without arriving at a solution.

“It becomes something amplified in your mind to obsess over. The tiny slights that build up – like someone doesn’t email or text you back,” she explained. “Something that you obsess on, and then you realize that the other person has no idea that you’re going through this crazy thing. And it’s just strange how certain facts or details about your life become amplified.”

Managing one’s negative experience can be difficult enough, but Cho felt that while she was growing up there were many social signals that she and her feelings didn’t matter. This first came with observing the underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in popular culture. Research suggests that even subtle forms of racism can result in negative psychological consequences.

In Cho’s case, she described the feeling of invisibility — like she was not there and she didn’t matter — that can arise from these forms of racism.  “I think you feel betrayed and shocked when you realize that you’re not what’s being represented or you don’t feel included. It’s just this strong feeling of invisibility. And it can be very hard to explain to other people.”

-Michael Friedman, PhD, Brick By Brick

20 Rules to Live By

14. Be kind, not nice.

1. Bring your sense of humor with you at all times. Bring your friends with a sense of humor. If their friends have a sense of humor, invite them, too. Remember this when going to hospitals, weight-loss centers, and funerals, as well as when going to work, coming home, waking up, and going to sleep.

2. If it’s worth crying over, it’s probably worth laughing at. Cultivate a sense of perspective that permits you to see the wider and longer view of the situation; this will help you realize that although your situation is upsetting, it might also one day become a terrific story.

3. Other people don’t care what you’re wearing.

4. Don’t be a sissy. This is especially important if you are a woman. Girls can be sissies, but behaving like a simpering, whining, fretful coward as an adult is unacceptable no matter what your gender happens to be. If you are anxious, scared, and feeling powerless, you don’t need to change your behavior; you need to change your life.

5. Don’t lie. Cheat the devil and tell the truth.

6. There is one exception to the rule above: Never say a baby looks like a sausage wearing a hat. The parents will not forgive you. This is a situation in which telling the truth is not wholly necessary. If it’s not possible to tell the whole truth for fear of causing undue pain, just say the baby looks “happy.”

7. Never use the passive voice. Do not say, “It will get done.” Say, “I’ll do it” and then offer a solid, unwavering deadline. Always make your deadline.

8. The pinnacle is always slippery; no peak is safe. Only plateaus offer a place to rest. Are you ready to stay on a plateau or are you climbing? Decide and pack your bags accordingly.

9. As we age, love changes. As a youth, you fall for an unattainable ideal. When you’re more mature, you fall in love with a person: “Sure, he has only one eye in the middle of his forehead,” you’ll rationalize, “but he never forgets my birthday.”

10. Power is the ability to persuade stupid people to do intelligent things and intelligent people to do stupid things. This is why power is dangerous.

11. Sherlock Holmes said, “Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson.” Listen to Mr. Holmes.

12. Everybody wants a shortcut to love, prosperity, and weight loss, although not necessarily in that order. Apart from being born into an adoring family, getting good genes, and inheriting the mineral rights, however, there are no short cuts. The rest of us have to work at it.

13. Help the dramatically self-pitying to understand that they are not, by definition, sympathetic or interesting. Encourage them to address topics other than themselves.

14. Be kind, not nice. Kindness is both intentional and meaningful. Acts of kindness requires generosity, emotional and otherwise. Perfunctory and superficial niceness is, too often, mere window dressing.

15. Only poor workers blame their tools. It’s not the fault of the computer, the school, the train, the government, or poor cell phone reception. Take responsibility.

16. You know how sometimes you don’t think you’re asleep—you’re half listening to a conversation or the television—only to discover you were unconscious? One part of your head would swear it’s awake, but when you actually snap out of it, you realize you were wholly elsewhere? Sometimes that happens in life. Sometimes the only way you know you’re truly in love, in the entirely wrong profession, being a moron at parties, or a great poet is when you snap out of it.

17. You can always stop what you’re doing.

18. You should either be doing something useful or you should be playing. You should not be thinking about playing while at work or thinking about work when you’re out having fun. Compartmentalizing your life is not inevitably a bad thing. It’s easy to waste pleasure by feeling guilty and waste potentially effective time by feeling resentful.

19. Be aware that a safety net, if pulled too tight, easily turns into a noose. Don’t trade independence for security without being aware of the consequences.

20. Someday you will die. Until then, you should do everything possible to enjoy life.

-Gina Barreca, PhD
Excerpted from IF YOU LEAN IN, WILL MEN JUST LOOK DOWN YOUR BLOUSE? published by St. Martin’s Press (March, 2016)