Managing Difficult People: Practical Strategies with Dr. Rebecca Ray

My most recent episode of De-Stress for Success is all about difficult people. You know the ones! Those people in your life that press your buttons, make you feel like you are the problem, that leave you ruminating over what was said and wondering why you feel so awful. Who better to help us learn how to deal with difficult people, that the author of Difficult People, clinical psychologist, Dr Rebecca Ray.

Dr. Ray has spent years helping individuals navigate the challenges of interacting with difficult people, including family members and colleagues. Through her insightful exploration of these subjects, she provides our listeners with valuable strategies to manage stress and difficult personalities effectively.

Dealing with difficult people is a significant source of stress. These individuals often have a knack for pushing our buttons and making us feel like we are the problem. But, as Dr. Ray points out, it’s crucial to distinguish genuinely difficult people from those simply going through a rough patch. Many challenging personalities are products of their pasts, and understanding this can foster empathy. However, this should not compromise our psychological safety.

One of the central themes of our discussion with Dr. Ray was the concept of compassion, particularly when dealing with difficult people. Compassion, she suggests, can transform our interactions with difficult individuals, helping us approach them from a place of understanding rather than frustration or anger.

However, compassion does not mean allowing difficult people to walk over us. Dr. Ray stresses the importance of setting boundaries and ensuring our psychological safety. If we fail to set boundaries, we inadvertently enable difficult behavior, feeding into the cycle of stress and conflict.

Dr. Ray also shares her personal strategies for managing stress. Her approach is rooted in self-kindness and compassion, a philosophy that can be transformative for those accustomed to harsh self-criticism. She offers practical scripts to navigate tricky conversations and handle difficult people, tools that can empower listeners to manage their stress more effectively.

In conclusion, managing stress and difficult people is a complex process requiring self-awareness, compassion, and firm boundaries. By understanding the nuances of stress and the motivations of difficult people, we can approach these challenges with greater confidence and effectiveness. Dr. Rebecca Ray’s insights and strategies offer a roadmap to more compassionate stress management and healthier interactions with difficult people.

The great news?! Dr Ray’s book, Difficult People, includes over 100 scripts to help you navigate tricky conversations and create effective boundaries with difficult people. Tune in for an engaging conversation that leaves you armed to manage difficult people effectively and compassionately and lessen the ensuing stress that these conversations usually create.

To learn more about Dr Rebecca Ray, visit
Rebecca’s instagram handle is:

Dr Ray is the author of 6 fabulous books, including Difficult People, all of which can be found in good bookstores, in print on the Kindle and audio formats. Highly recommended!

A Call to Action: Combatting the Phone Addiction Crisis Among Adults and Children with Professor Selena Bartlett

In a recent De-Stress for Success podcast episode (episode 5), globally recognised neuroscientist, Professor Selena Bartlett, joined me for a profound conversation about our relationship with mobile technology. The topic is of great importance in this tech-saturated era, especially when considering the influence these devices have on our brain health, stress levels and interpersonal relationships.

Our phones are like mini poke machines. They have been designed to be addictive, tapping into old circuits in our brains to train us to stay hooked. The impact is so significant that people often prefer to be with their phones than with other people. This device-induced addiction has a profound effect on our stress levels and our ability to be present. By understanding the neuroscience behind these patterns, we can better navigate our relationship with technology and mitigate its negative impacts.

Unfortunately, the consequences of our technology obsession don’t stop at adults. Our children mimic what we do but have taken their use of mobile technology to a whole new level. A pressing concern highlighted in our conversation with Professor Bartlett is the current mental health crisis among young people, significantly influenced by technology. Today, children as young as four are immersed in tech, exposed to third-party apps that parents naively believe are safe. Crime networks are exploiting our children online, and our reliance on parental controls and screen time restrictions is not enough.

In response to these alarming realities, Professor Bartlett emphasises the need for a fresh approach to parenting in this tech-saturated era. Socratic Parenting Skills, she suggests, can be instrumental in initiating meaningful dialogues with our children about their tech use. Understanding the signs of grooming and having a carefully crafted Tech Family Plan can act as a protective shield for our kids.

The situation calls for immediate action. The mental health of all of us, including our children is at stake, and it’s essential to impart to them that our love for them is infinitely more significant than any technological device. We must reshuffle our priorities and not only shield our children from the darker aspects of the digital world but also future addiction. Tech use impacts not only their ability to focus and stay connected but it negatively impacts their relationships, body image, hormones and ability to connect with others well into the future.

Professor Bartlett’s insights are not only enlightening but also alarming. The tech addiction crisis among children is already having an impact. As parents, we need to regain control and create safe digital environments for our children. This call to action is not just about ensuring online safety but also about preserving our children’s mental health and ensuring their holistic development in a tech-saturated world.

This eye-opening conversation with Professor Bartlett is a reminder that as parents, our responsibility goes beyond providing for our children’s basic needs. In the digital age, we must also become their protectors, educators, and guides in navigating the complex digital world.

But more importantly, we need to lead by example, put our phones down, hide them in the top drawer, keep them out of our bedrooms, away from the dinner table and commit to a Family Tech Plan. We need to buy into real change around our use of our devises too.

Stress Less by Silencing Your Inner Critic: Tools for Positive Self-Talk

Do you struggle with a relentless inner critic that often dictates your actions and feelings? You are not alone. Many of us grapple with negative self-talk, often without realizing its profound impact on our lives. The good news is, we can harness the power of positive self-talk to rewrite our inner dialogue and transform our lives. This was the central theme of my recent De-Stress for Success podcast episode.

Negative self-talk is the internal dialogue that tends to put us down. It can be a formidable force that sparks a cascade of stress responses in our bodies, leading to feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and even self-fulfilling prophecies. On the flip side, positive self-talk can inspire feelings of confidence, resilience, and motivation. The key is to understand this internal monologue and learn how to control it effectively.

Our internal monologue, also known as self-talk, is a powerful determinant of our emotions and behaviors. When we entertain persistent and harsh self-criticism, it triggers a range of stress responses. The amygdala, a small structure deep within the brain that processes emotions, perceives these self-critical thoughts as real threats, setting off a stress response. This can result in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

But how do we combat this common mental battle? The first step is to recognise and understand our inner dialogue. By identifying patterns and triggers in our self-talk, we can begin to rewire our brains for more positive thinking. Practical strategies include meditation, breathwork, positive affirmations, and nurturing supportive relationships. These tools can help us observe our thoughts without judgment, leading to a more positive and empowering thought process.

Moreover, understanding the roots of negative self-talk is crucial. These thought patterns often stem from early childhood experiences, traumatic events, societal pressures, or a lack of self-compassion. By identifying these sources, we can challenge and change our negative beliefs.

Another important aspect is recognising that we are not our thoughts. We are the observers of our thoughts. By observing our thoughts without identifying with them, we can gain a sense of detachment from the inner dialogue. This enables us to let go of self-critical thoughts and replace them with more positive and empowering ones.

In the end, it’s about empowering ourselves. It’s about rewriting our inner monologue and shaping our future in the direction we desire. By consciously practicing positive self-talk, we can transform our inner dialogue and consequently, our lives.

Remember, changing your inner dialogue is not a one-time effort. It requires consistent practice and mindfulness. But with intentional effort, we can reshape our neural pathways, foster more positive thoughts, and ultimately, lead a more fulfilling life. It’s time to silence your inner critic and embrace a more positive and empowering thought process.

Please reach out and book in a free 30 minute confidential chat if you would like support to stress less or drink less:


The Power of Breathwork and Yoga Nidra in Restoring Balance: Practical Breathwork Strategies with Danni Carr

The hustle and bustle of everyday life often leave us gasping for breath, both metaphorically and literally.

My latest De-Stress for Success podcast episode with Danni Carr, a trauma-informed sobriety coach and certified meditation and breathwork teacher, brings light to the transformative power of breathwork and yoga nidra as stress management techniques.

These practices have the potential to help individuals establish equilibrium amidst life’s stresses.

Danni shares her expert insights on how breathwork can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This aspect of our nervous system plays a vital role in inducing a tranquil state, providing an escape from the whirlwind of thoughts that often cloud our minds.

This calmness is not fleeting; instead, it creates a lasting effect, reducing stress levels and establishing a sense of balance in our lives.

Breathwork strategies that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. The beauty of these techniques lies in their simplicity and accessibility. The act of focusing on our breath, of inhaling and exhaling intentionally, can lead to a rejuvenated body and mind.

The power of breathwork is underscored by its role in stress management, proving it to be a potent tool in promoting self-care and acknowledging our need for personal time.

In this episode we delve into the potential of yoga nidra to restore the nervous system and improve memory. The practice of yoga nidra, which directly translates to yogic sleep, allows the body to mimic the state of sleep, slowing down brain waves and inducing a deeply restorative state. This state of rest is not only rejuvenating but also holds numerous health benefits. From lowering blood pressure and inflammation markers in the body to boosting memory, yoga nidra is emerging as a therapeutic practice recommended by health professionals.

This enriching experience encourages us to harness the power of our breath and over time pre-empt stress and cope a little better with life’s chaos when things get tough. Through consistent practice, we can foster inner peace, enhancing our overall wellbeing.

I highly recommend that you check-out Danni’s guided mediation and breathwork on the Insight Timer app: They are incredible. For beginners like me, they provide a great entrée to the world of breathwork as an antidote to stress, helping to set up a new healthier stress response.

Making Informed Choices: The Truth About Alcohol and Stress

Alcohol is often seen as a stress reliever, a soothing elixir to wash away the pressures of the day. But how accurate is this belief? In my latest podcast episode of De-Stress For Success, we delve into the complex, and often paradoxical, relationship between alcohol and stress.

We begin by exploring the physiological effects of alcohol on our bodies. Despite its initial calming effects, alcohol can exacerbate stress levels. This paradox is attributed to the complex interplay of neurotransmitters and hormones in our bodies. Initially, alcohol triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, leading to feelings of pleasure and reward. However, this initial relief is short-lived. As the dopamine levels decrease, the body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, leading to increased stress and restlessness.

Regular and heavy drinking can disrupt the body’s hormonal balance, causing the release of stress hormones even in anticipation of alcohol. This contributes to heightened anxiety and sensitivity to stress, leading to a vicious cycle where alcohol is sought as a means of escape, but which ironically contributes to the very stress you’re trying to escape from.

We also delve into the psychological implications of using alcohol as a coping mechanism. When alcohol is relied upon to relieve stress, it can stifle the development of healthier stress management strategies. This can lead to psychological dependence and a cycle of escalating stress and alcohol consumption.

Alcohol’s impact on our mood and sleep patterns further complicates its relationship with stress. While alcohol may facilitate falling asleep initially, it disrupts the later stages of sleep, leading to poorer sleep quality overall. This lack of restorative sleep contributes to higher stress levels. The neurochemical effects of alcohol can also amplify negative emotions and thoughts, leading to increased feelings of anxiety and depression when the effects of alcohol diminish.

Moreover, consistent, regular to heavy alcohol consumption can lead to various physical health problems such as liver damage, cardiovascular issues, weakened immune system, and even an increased risk of certain types of cancer. These health concerns can trigger stress and anxiety, further exacerbating the cycle of stress and alcohol consumption.

However, the purpose of this episode is not to advocate for absolute sobriety (although congratulations if this is where you are at or your goal!), but to provide listeners with the knowledge and understanding to make more informed choices about alcohol’s role in their lives. It’s an invitation to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol and stress, to move from merely surviving to truly thriving.

The key takeaway is the need to explore healthier coping mechanisms for stress. Exercise, mindfulness, and deep breathing are just a few examples of strategies that can break the stress cycle without the negative effects associated with alcohol.

In conclusion, the relationship between alcohol and stress is complex and multi-faceted. While alcohol may seem like a quick fix to stress, its long-term effects can exacerbate stress levels and lead to a host of other health issues. By understanding the true impact of alcohol on our bodies and minds, we can make informed choices that contribute to our overall well-being.

Dry July Motivation for Stressed Lawyers!

There are 101 reasons to support Dry July, but for stressed lawyers a compelling motivation is to feel calmer and less stressed. Restorative sleep, increased joy and greater mental clarity are others. Dry July is for everyone. You do not have to be “big drinker”.  You can simply be curious about the health gains that come with less alcohol in your life.

Stressed people drink to cope with stress without realising that alcohol compounds stress levels. Do you start feeling stressed as soon as you wake up and immediately reach for alcohol when you walk in the door after a long day? Perhaps you’re in your mid-40’s, feeling like you are always “spinning 10 plates in the air”, drinking too much and considering committing to Dry July next month to regain some balance.

Taking a break will not fix everything, but it will improve your sleep quality, reduce your stress hormone levels and create space to allow you to reassess your work/life balance. It’s hard to do this when you are constantly fatigued. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to discover who holds the balance of power: you or the bottle.

Here are 5 practical steps you can follow to make Dry July work for you so that you can reap the rewards at the end.

First up, if you are a consistent daily moderate drinker, it is important to consult your doctor before stopping drinking, as you may be physically addicted to alcohol and need a medically supervised detox.

Tip 1: Create Three Lists

List 1: Why do you want to take a break? List 2: What are your fears in stopping? List 3: Why now? These lists will set your intention up front and will remind you why you are doing this when you need motivation. Greater energy, better sleep and weight loss often feature in list 1. List 2 often includes socialising fears, fears around coping with stress and numbing the endless lists, boredom and loneliness. The third list may be that you are worried about where your drinking is heading or you’re worried about how alcohol is impacting your relationships, health or reputation. These are great reasons to give this a red-hot go.

Tip 2: Approach Dry July like an experiment

Look at Dry July as a month of health gains rather than one of deprivation. Define a successful Dry July as one where you learn about your relationship with alcohol and feel better at the end. Do not beat yourself up if you do drink occasionally. Shame and blame will increase your risk of drinking again. Instead, treat it as a learning experience and ask why did I need to drink in that moment and what can I do differently? Approach it with curiosity to learn about alcohol and why it is you drink the way you do.

Tip 3: Learn the science of alcohol

This is key! Did you know alcohol is one of the only substances that is both a depressant and a stimulant that pumps your body with stress hormones (hello 3am wake up!)? Did you know it decreases feelings of joy even when you are not drinking? Learning the science is a big part of the process of changing your drinking habits. Reading This Naked Mind by Annie Grace is a great place to start.

Tip 4: Explore your personal stress response

There are two important things to know here. Firstly, stress is cumulative, building up throughout the day so that by the time you walk in the door it can be hard to resist drinking. Releasing the stress valve regularly throughout the day can greatly improve your chances of resisting alcohol.

Secondly, the way you cope with stress is highly connected to your childhood environment and experience and how your parents coped with stress. Being aware of this is the first step. The next is to retrain your brain and nervous system to develop healthier coping mechanisms that stick. World-renowned neuroscientist, Professor Selena Bartlett, talked about how to train your mindset using the principles of brain plasticity to mitigate stress without reaching for alcohol in episode 34 of the She’s Sober Sydney podcast recently, referring to the stress that lawyers in particular face. She shares some practical tips to improve brain health. It’s a great episode to listen to for motivation in Dry July.

Tip 5: Mindset Shift

We drink because we believe we need it for some reason. We believe that we will gain something from it. To relieve stress? To reward ourselves? To celebrate? These beliefs create the desire. However, none of these beliefs are true and accurate. They are founded on false assumptions and experiences developed over decades from advertising, cultural norms, and our childhood environment.

Get curious over Dry July and put your alcohol beliefs on trial and test them for accuracy. This is the mindset work that ultimately diminishes your desire for alcohol, creating better habits that stick in the long term. Unsure of what your alcohol beliefs are? What are your fears around stopping drinking (Tip 1)? This will reveal some of your beliefs.

Your chances of succeeding are further boosted if you listen to some alcohol-related podcasts or even sign up to a 4- or 6-week course designed to help you drink less.


I work with many lawyers and without fail the word that is used to describe their lives after a break from alcohol is “calm”. The chaos eases as does the tendency to ruminate on work-related conversations and for the first time in a long time they notice a greater degree of calmness.

Good luck if you are embarking on Dry July! Once you have experienced solid sleep, a fresh sense of calm and the mental clarity that accompanies a break from alcohol, it is hard to go back. No one regrets not waking up without a hangover. Finally, reach out for support if you would like to drink less but are finding it hard to do so alone.

*Dry July is a fundraising campaign, raising funds for people affected by cancer. To signup, donate, visit