Yes, you can de-stress in just 2 minutes, and there’s no better time to learn how!

Suddenly, you find yourself being the teacher, babysitter, and all around domestic goddess of “pandemic-quarantine central”. No playdates, no playgrounds, no activities and no rest for you. You need to become a ninja of self-care!

Your mental health is more important to how your kids get through this time (and how your marriage thrives through this challenge) than what you put on the dinner table or how clean you keep the house.

Here are 5 incredibly quick and effective ways to dial down your stress level.

1.Essential Oils.  If you’re already a fan of essential oils, just use whichever ones you love. I’ll suggest Lavender as a great go-to, it’s the main oil for releasing tension and anxiety and it also smells just heavenly. You can diffuse it, even if you just put a drop on a tissue in a few places you walk by regularly. My favourite thing is to rub a drop or two between my palms and then run my hands through my hair. I got that trick from a friend and it works great, without making your hair oily or anything.

Besides Lavender, I really love Frankincense, which is an oil that connects you to your own inner wisdom and dispels dense or negative energy. If you want to apply essential oils to your skin, they need to be diluted with a carrier oil, like olive oil or coconut oil. Just add a drop or two to a teaspoon of the carrier oil and then you can rub it on wherever you like. Take 2 minutes in the bathroom to massage your feet or run a few drops through your hair – you’ll feel like a new woman!

2. Breathe. Think about it, breathing is right up there with biting on a bullet when it comes to managing the intense pain of childbirth so it can do wonders for emotional pain if you know what to do.

This particular exercise is one I learned from of my favourite authors, Brené Brown. She does it sitting at her desk with a pencil and paper, and you can do that too, or you can draw with your finger on a steamy bathroom mirror.

Make 4 dots in the shape of a square and slowly trace between the dots, breathing in and out through your nose (very important) while counting slowly to 4 between each dot. The reason to breathe through your nose is that it automatically restricts the flow of oxygen so you don’t hyperventilate, and building up carbon dioxide in our blood actually initiates your body’s relaxation response reflexes. Every little bit helps, right?

3. ESR  (emotional stress release) is a move that comes from the world of Touch for Health and Brain Gym. Think about whatever is  the most stressful feeling for you at this very moment – maybe resentment, frustration, aggravation or disappointment. Rate the intensity of that feeling from 1-10 for yourself and make a note of it somewhere.

Cover your forehead very lightly with one hand, as if you were checking for fever. With that very light touch, close your eyes and play yourself a little movie clip of whatever is making you feel stressed.  Run about 20 seconds of that movie for yourself and really get into the feeling.

Really visualize what’s bothering you in an active scene – the chaos in your home, or people being noisy, maybe disrespectful. Maybe it’s about your step kids coming to visit from their other home where they are not being careful about social distancing.

Now, run that movie again. Just really look at it, see the people involved, feel the feeling as intensely as you can.

When you’ve done that, play the movie again but insert a positive ending; make it all turn out the way you want. See your kitchen all clean and tidied, see the kids quietly doing their  work or playing together without fighting. See a bright white light all around your home protecting you all from viruses. Just watch this part of the movie, the happy, desired outcome, with everything the way you want it to be.

When you’re ready, open your eyes and take your hand away. Check in with yourself – what number would you give your level of intensity around that emotion now? It should definitely be at least a little lower than before. If you want to get it down more, just do another round or two.

4.Thinking Caps /Brain On. This is also from Brain Gym. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently grasp the outside of each ear up near the top and then pull outwards and unroll the cartilage. Move down slightly and do it again,  pulling and unrolling all the way down to your earlobes. When you’ve done the whole ear all the way, go back to the top and do it again. Go around 3 or 4 times.

Your ears are a hologram for your entire body, according to Chinese medicine, so you’re really massaging all the acupressure points of all your organs by doing this. This exercise is amazing for releasing tension in your neck,  where many of us store our stress.

Note: I’ve done this right in front of people many times and nobody has ever noticed so you don’t even need a private place to do it!

5.Meditation. It doesn’t have to be long to be really effective! This exercise I learned from my friend Duda Baldwin, Buddhist teacher and life coach who was a guest in season 2 of my Essential Stepmom podcast.  She does a delightful little meditation that you can do anywhere with your eyes open, alone or in front of anybody.

Just look around you slowly and calmly, and name what you see with a single word, either shape, colour or material:

“Chair “…”red”… “cloth”…”wood”…”phone”…”cup”…”wood”…”black”…”bowl”…”window”…”orange”.

Don’t be fooled by how simple this seems; it really serves to break your pattern of thinking and get you out of your head for just 60 seconds or so, long enough to do a quick ‘refresh’ on whatever tab you have open on the screen of your mind.

The biggest challenge is to actually DO these things when you need them! I suggest keeping a quick reference list on your phone that you can look at when your higher self is trying to get your attention. Even better, experiment with setting alerts to remind yourself to take 2 minutes a few times a day and give yourself the grace of a new start.

Want to watch me demonstrating these techniques? Here’s a link to a quick video demo. Join my email community for weekly advice and inspiration by sending an email to or message me @essentialstepmom.

The Four-Minute Stepfamily

Roger Bannister, a mild-mannered medical student and middle distance runner was the first human being to run a mile in under 4 minutes. This milestone (pardon the pun) was a very, very big deal when it happened on May 6, 1954. Every serious runner in the world had been trying to do it for almost a hundred years when Bannister crossed the finish line with a time of 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

His effort is relevant to us as step-parents because what really helped him break the 4 minute mile was an unconventional approach to the problem. Here’s what I read about him in the Harvard Business Review about him, in an article by Bill Taylor:

“The British press “constantly ran stories criticizing his ‘lone wolf’ approach,” notes John Bryant in his book 3:59.4 and urged him to adopt a more conventional regimen of training and coaching.”

You’d think that everyone would want to try the lone wolf approach, but people are very social creatures; we want more to be like everyone else than to be unlike them. When you do something that goes against the conventional wisdom, you’re sure to get some pushback from the conventional thinkers!

Bannister had to resist a great deal of pressure and I can’t guess how that felt to him at the time. Nobody gets to know in advance how posterity will judge their decisions, but of course he made the right call. The conventional regimen had never helped anyone do what he was trying to do, so he let go of it.

The modern step-family (i.e., with kids being raised by parents in different homes) has never existed as a significant social construct anywhere in the world before now. The first laws pertaining to joint physical custody of children after divorce are barely 40 years old and already there are an estimated 12 million stepfamilies in the U.S. alone. Stepfamily life is a novel situation for humanity;  it’s going to require some adaptation in order for these re-marriages to thrive and for children to flourish.

Statistics reveal that almost 3 out of 4 of step-couples persist in thinking that the tried-and-true parenting traditions still apply to this novel situation. They’ll stick stubbornly to their belief all the way until they hear the long beep of a flatlining marriage and say “we tried everything and nothing worked.” They encourage others to follow the same route or shame them for choosing an alternative path, convinced that theirs is the only sensible approach.

Back to Roger Bannister.  No sooner had he blazed a trail into the history books as the fastest mile-runner alive, someone else was able to repeat his achievement mere weeks later. Soon after, 3 runners cracked the 4-minute barrier in a single race! And on, and on. Once someone showed that it could be done and people believed it was possible, and it actually was possible. The “nay-sayers” were eating their hats!

I believe it’s the adapters of unconventional strategies who are going to cross the finish line of stepfamily satisfaction and here’s why:

•    Adopting unconventional strategies involves personal growth, which by extension benefits children and spouses, even professional or business activities.

•    Children come to respect parents and step-parents for their integrity and for how they model their values instead of simply fearing them for their power.

•    Novel parenting techniques result in compliant behaviour instead of imposed obedience. They heal the wounds of divorce instead of just working around them, allowing parents to raise resilient, confident, emotionally intelligent adults.

To my knowledge, nobody is yet studying the outcomes of unconventional thinking in step-parenting so there is no data available, but anecdotal reports on social media forums that I monitor suggest that alternative approaches are helping thousands of families to live harmonious, happy lives.

I salute the Roger Bannisters of the world, and all the courageous parents and step-parents who are open to trying something new for the sake of their own happiness and for everyone coming along behind them. Show this to your partner and be a solidly unconventional team!

Step-Parent S.O.S: Find Your Phone Buddy!

This might be the most important thing you read today.

#Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to someone who understands what you are going through in your stepfamily day-to-day? It would be so great to feel like you’re not alone, like some of this cray-cray might actually be normal…

There’s someone out there who feels exactly the same way, and boy – would she be glad to hear from you!

Yes, you would be doing her a great big freaking favour if you would find her contact details and send her a private message. Here’s what to say:

Dear ___________,

Read your post online today. Sounds like you are actually living my life! Any chance you’d be open to talking some time? I would really love to chat with another stepmom, so let me know if you’re up for a call!


Your name.

Easy, right?

Now, if she accepts, here’s how to approach this:

  1. Plan a first call to introduce yourselves to each other. Make an agreement to keep it to 20 minutes or so, and put a timer on so you don’t fall down a rabbit hole of stories right away.
  2. Make a time for a second call, and agree to a structure where you each get half the time allotted to tell your own stuff. Use a timer – this is important!
  3. Your job is to either talk, or listen. That sounds obvious, but it’s not. Don’t offer advice, try not to comment as she goes along with how this or that sounds just like what happened to you. You’re allowed to say “Uh-huh…what else?” or “What was that like for you?” or “Wow, I can imagine how I would feel if that happened to me.” Your whole job here is to hold space for her to talk.
  4. When it’s your turn, she’ll do the same for you. She’ll just listen, without judgement, without cutting you off, without falling apart even if she’s feeling your pain.

Share this with her so she understands the ground rules. They’ll be a big help, because it’s easy to just feel like you’re supposed to say something back, to fix a problem. The benefit is in being heard – you don’t need to do anything else.

This might be the most important thing you read today.

Go ahead, find that woman whose posts make you feel grounded and normal, or the one whose life situation mirrors yours so closely. Let’s get social – really social, not behind our avatars but human voices helping each other.

You won’t be sorry.

Go ahead and grab this free download, 3 Secrets Of Successful Stepmoms!

Start Thinking Smaller.

It’s not just the antidote to overwhelm, it’s the answer to most of your stepmom problems.

There are only two reactions to overwhelm. You either become paralyzed or you spin your wheels. If you’re one of those people who find that being overwhelmed makes you more productive, it’s not really overwhelm, it’s more like challenge.

Overwhelm is a challenge too, in its own way. It challenges us to find another response to this combination of high expectations, low resources and zero hope of prevailing. This is just as true inside your blended family as it is in the workplace.

The most important skill you need to develop is the ability to think small, to break the problem down to the tiniest actionable step, and then make just one miniature move.

For example, weekends with the step-kids are total chaos. They are wired when they arrive and the transition is always difficult. They are demanding, loud and needy. Your partner copes by focusing on the TV. They complain about what you make them to eat. They drop their stuff everywhere and the house is a mess.

Where can you begin?

Here are some tiny things you can do keep from feeling overwhelmed.

  • Put 10 drops of Rescue Remedy into a tall glass of water and sip. Repeat as needed. This will calm your nerves and leave you able to drive the car, unlike a glass of wine which is an otherwise excellent suggestion if escape is not part of your game plan.
  • Suggest a routine “welcome activity” that’s the same every time they arrive: pizza, bowling, ice cream, music, card games, waffles, whatever. The predictable routine will be welcome and help them calm down sooner. You don’t have to do it, by the way. It’s the suggestion that’s tiny.
  • Don’t make the food. Problem solved. If that feels too big, go smaller – just get dad to dish it out and put it in front of them.
  • Find something to do outside of the house. For yourself, I mean. You don’t have to be there every minute the kids are visiting, and they will be glad to have dad all to themselves. Think of something small – take yourself out for a cup of tea. Go for a walk. Sit at a bookstore.
  • Do the ESR (Emotional Stress Release) move. Go somewhere you can close the door. Close your eyes and lightly cover your forehead with one hand. Visualize the crapstorm happening on the other side of your closed door for 20 seconds or so. Now, replay that little video clip and tack on a lovely, calm, utterly pleasing end sequence. Smile and take a deep breath.
  • Repeat this phrase, aloud or silently to yourself: “I am not responsible for this. My only job is to help my partner be a good parent – it’s not to do any of the parenting for him.” The next step is to let go of how it looks with you not doing any of his parenting.

Start small – you can pick just one of these tiny gestures and if it feels good, go ahead and try another one.

All that matters is that you keep moving. Change might be glacially slow in coming, but this too shall pass.

Are you a member of The Spectacular Stepmom on Facebook? Join us there!

3 Common Misconceptions About Parental Alienation

This is the situation divorced parents fear more than any other (OK, maybe next to child support payments that empty your bank account!). If you are determined to put the needs of your kids first, it’s very hard to see them being held hostage by your angry ex. It feels like a really helpless, hopeless predicament but it’s not!

As a stepmom supporting an alienated parent, you can help them to take an optimistic perspective on their situation. That’s how I saw my role, anyway. I really believe that I played a part in helping my whole family overcome this problem by staying positive and keeping us emotionally afloat!

I won’t lie – it wasn’t easy. I had a cartload of resources and knowledge from my working life as a health consultant and I relied on a small army of support professionals who held me up when I was down.

Here are some common misconceptions that stop parents from taking constructive action:

  1. There’s nothing you can do
  2. The kids are probably saying what they mean anyway
  3. It’s going to cost a fortune to deal with it

Let’s take these one at a time:

1. There is something you can do – actually, there are a lot of things. The most important part is keeping a positive mental attitude despite the heartbreaking circumstances. One important thing to be aware of is that most kids eventually reach out to the alienated parent and build a close relationship, but it can take years until they are old enough or strong enough to do it.

Much of what you can do today is to fortify yourself for a long wait. You probably know what’s coming next – my list of things to do to keep yourself positive! The best thing you can do for your partner is to share your positive energy.

I can spell it out for you here, but I don’t expect all of you to be able to implement all of these things on your own. Nevertheless, I encourage you to try any or all of these for yourself and reach out for help to go deeper or to become more secure in your positive attitude.

Gratitude Journal (grab my free template > here < )


EFT (tapping)

Essential Oils/Bach Flowers (I generally choose these individually for each client’s unique needs, but there is info available online if you want to self-treat with these)

2. It’s important for dad to give his kids space to be angry at him, and the same is true for you. It’s true that their life changed when their parents divorced and they have a right to be angry about that and to talk about that if they need to.

On the other hand, your step-kids are not saying what they mean if they don’t want to visit anymore, they’re saying what they have to say to survive. In their minds, survival means receiving love from the dominating parent (in this context, bio-mom). Her love for them is surely real, but it’s conditional on taking her side and rejecting dad. Kids have to meet what they believe the conditions are in the only way they can.

My own step kids have been able to talk about their experiences with alienation and they say they felt they had to hide their desire to visit or to live with their dad. Some kids naturally want to protect and support their mom, who they may perceive as being more emotionally needy than dad in many ways. Moms are more likely to lean on their children for support, although the reverse can certainly be seen as well.

In a way, kids know that the parent who loves them unconditionally will keep loving them no matter what, but the one who lays out conditions (whether they know they are doing that or not) will withdraw his or her love if they don’t play their cards right. The kids are therefore walking this tightrope perfectly – they get love from both parents in this way!

3. It can cost a fortune, but it doesn’t have to. Family law is big business and it thrives on your highly charged emotions. Make sure you are dealing with your emotions in another way (see #1 for ideas). Then, check out Legal Shield, which is a membership system for prepaid legal services. It’s a bit like a typical Auto Club where you pay a fee that gives you access to towing, battery charging or lock-picking. Legal Shield gives you access to unlimited questions with a lawyer by telephone, and a discounted fee with a qualified lawyer in your area if you need to be represented in court. They also have a phone app with an emergency button so you can get a lawyer on the phone inside of 3 minutes! I spoke with one stepmom who says that she and her husband successfully re-instated visitation of his children after BM refused to follow court orders. Eventually, they even got full custody of both kids and the fees they paid were both reasonable and affordable – like, under $5K for the 7-year process!

In the end, remember that your partner is doing all the rowing, so his back is facing the goal. Your work is to face forward, keep him on course and report signs of progress! Don’t forget that you don’t have to do this all alone – help is all around you.

BTW, If you’re not already a member of my Facebook group >>The Spectacular Stepmom<<, come on over and join us!

The cure for picky eating [and BONUS: The cure for ANGST over picky eating!].


CLICK BELOW to join my 4 day livestream video challenge from Monday March 9 to Thursday March 12, 2020. You can watch live, on replay or listen in audio only mode and download the tips and recipes too!

The book I mentioned is The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax.

Please come on over and join us on social media, if that’s your jam. We’re at The Spectacular Stepmom on Facebook.

Ready for some one on one advice you so you can feel lighter and more optimistic about stepfamily life? Want to learn how to support your husband through the challenge of parental alienation? Set up a free call and we can talk about what this kind of support might look like for you!


Send in a voice message:

Confessions of a people-pleasing stepmom [and the 3 stages of a recovery-in-progress]


What can I say? It’s true, I’m a work in progress.

Brene Brown’s audio-book The Power of Vulnerability is available from her website,

Visit my website at

Join the Facebook group, The Spectacular Stepmom

We have a group for your spouse called One For The Dads too!

Got my free guide yet? Grab it here: Playing Hard To Like: 10 Challenging Stepkid Personalities and How To Win Them Over

Send in a voice message:

ESP 2.17 Stop the “Stepmom Spiral”: 3 ways to conquer the habit pattern of negative thinking.


Want my free gratitude journal template? Grab it here:

I love to hear from you – really, it just makes my day every time. You can find me at my personal email,

If you’d like to chat, I encourage you to book a free 20-minute strategy session:


Learn more about me and my work at

Finally, I have a Facebook group for stepmoms and one for their partners. Hope to see you there!

Send in a voice message:

ESP 2.16: Who pays for what, and how is that working out for you?


Do you and your spouse ever argue about money? Does it drive you crazy that he spends too much on his kids, or that his ex is making poor choices with the child care payments coming out of your joint bank account?

My guest Tamasin Thomas is a certified financial planner AND a certified therapist. She’s also the host of a wonderful podcast called The Psychology of Money that you can find wherever you’re listening to this podcast or by clicking the link above.

Her website is and you can grab a free resource there called 3 Steps to Resolving Financial Conflict to help couples get through their tough money conversations. 

Connect with me any time – I love to hear from you! Drop me a line at my personal and private email address, or book a free 20-minute strategy session with me here:


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ESP 2.15: For those days when you think you just suck at this.


Everyone has days like this, I know I have had my share. Days when you think you just suck at being a stepmom and everything that’s going wrong is your fault. I made a live video last year for my Facebook group, The Spectacular Stepmom and I decided to share it with you here.

If you’d like to know more about Vipassana meditation, and how you can sign up to do a 10-day course like the one I’m at now, here’s the link:  Click on wherever you are in the world to go to the website for a centre near you. 

Visit me at or book a free 20-minute strategy session with me here:


Send in a voice message: