Self Care Menu

I love the idea of menus-  you get to choose what you want, what you need, in that particular moment.  So I often work with people to create their own menu for self-care-  options that they can look to a choose from when they’re overwhelmed by anxiety or other emotions.

Self Care Menus should include options that involve all 5 senses, things you can do alone as well as ways to connect, items appropriate to each time of day or weather conditions.  Make it versatile so that no matter when your negative emotions threaten to overtake you, there’s always something you can try from your menu.

Your menu can be scribbled onto a post-it note, typed into the notes function in your phone, pinned up to your wall, or whatever works for you!  It can be as simple as you like, or as complex and beautiful as this example:

selfcare

Mine would include some of these options:

  • Take the dog on a walk.
  • Light a candle.
  • Do yoga, in a class or at home.
  • Call a friend (go ahead and write the name & number on your menu!).
  • Box breathing.
  • Put on pajamas and cozy socks.
  • Diffuse essential oils.
  • Have a piece of dark chocolate.
  • Look at old pictures.
  • Listen to favorite songs.
  • 20 minute reading break.
  • Go to bed early.

Homework item:  Create your own menu!  Where can you put it so that you remember and can access your menu when you need it?

Advertisements

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Do you know your ACE score?

Here’s what the CDC says about ACEs:

The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being.

The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors.

Find out more about ACEs here.

The short of it:  Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, harm children’s developing brains and lead to changes in how they respond to stress and damages their immune systems so profoundly that the effects show up decades later. In our field, we believe that ACEs cause much of our burden of chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of violence.

ACEs Connection adds:

There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment.

But there are many other types of childhood trauma — watching a sibling being abused, losing a caregiver (grandmother, mother, grandfather, etc.), homelessness, surviving and recovering from a severe accident, witnessing a father being abused by a mother, witnessing a grandmother abusing a father, etc. The ACE Study included only those 10 childhood traumas because those were mentioned as most common by a group of about 300 Kaiser members; those traumas were also well studied individually in the research literature.

The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.

People are talking more about it, and even some doctors are beginning to consider the ACEs score of their patients…but I think it’s important that we’re all familiar with it and know the scores for ourselves and our loved ones.

Look at one of the questionnaires here.

Journal prompt:  What did you learn as you determined your ACE score?    Next, sketch out a family tree or genogram.  Based on what you know from your family, what do you think the ACE score is for your parents, grandparents, significant others in your life?

 

OWN IT!

 

own it

Recently on a podcast about the Enneagram, I heard an acronym for OWN UP.  After it sticking with me for a few days I thought about how my clients could use something similar for the things we talk a lot about:  gaining awareness of our feelings, and “riding them out” until the intense emotions morph into something more bearable.  So perhaps this can be a helpful reminder:

OWN IT!

Observe–  What are you noticing- feelings, thoughts in your mind, and sensations in your body?

Welcome–  Welcome the feelings, however uncomfortable.  Don’t waste energy trying to change them or outrun them or you’ll miss the opportunity to learn from them and to let them evolve!

Name–  Name the feelings;  put words to the thoughts and to the what you’re experiencing in your body.

Investigate–  Where’s this coming from?  Can you identify a trigger?

Tolerate–  The feelings won’t kill you!  Let them come like a wave-  grab your surfboard and ride it out, using the tools that you’ve picked up.  Breathe through it.  We know that feelings will change (they have to!), so give it a little time and see what fruits can come from staying with your feelings.

OWN IT-  and it won’t own you!

Permission Slips

DF7B5267-D3F7-4CCE-8856-572455C6B9A8

I’ve become a big believer in the power of a permission slip.  The idea that I decide what I will be permitted to do, and you decide what you will be permitted to do in your life, whether that’s permission to take care of yourself, permission to rest, permission to put up a boundary around a difficult or unsafe situation, etc.  The pic above is how I’m practicing what I preach today!

Journal prompt:  What do you need to give yourself permission for today?  Write it out, sign up, and put it up somewhere as a reminder!

Empathy vs. Sympathy

Brene Brown’s work has become relevant and important to me, both professionally and personally.  I’m currently taking one of her online courses, and I look forward to sharing some of that in the weeks and months to come.  But in the meantime, I came across this video a while back and I keep coming back to it.

This video is a great illustration of why we need empathy, not sympathy,  and how we can be more empathic to the people that we care about.  Because we all need connection, and to be able to share our stories and inner worlds with important people in our lives.

 

Pomodoro Technique

I like to use this tool with people who need a kick-start to working on one of their goals.  Sometimes they’re overwhelmed with the amount they want to accomplish or the number of steps involved, and others become stuck in “analysis paralysis,” not knowing where to begin.  The simple solution?  Just do something!  Set a timer (in this case, 25 minutes), and DO something until the buzzer goes off.  There’s an immediate (well, 25-minute-delayed) payoff, and it’s that much easier to set the timer again the next day and jump back in.

This technique is elaborated on at www.pomodorotechnique.com, and also in the book by the same name.  The primary focus there is on productivity, so you can delve so deeply into the Pomodoro Technique that it changes your approach to work.

While it can be a great time-management technique, it can also be a simple and effective tool to break out of inactivity and take a step, however small, in the right direction.  No need to procrastinate or feel guilty for letting another day go by without doing something important to you.  Instead, simply set your kitchen timer or the alarm on your phone, remove distractions, and go for it!

Brene Brown – Video on Shame & Vulnerability

Every once in a while I come across a video or idea that I think everyone could benefit from, no matter where they are in life or what they’re going through.  This is one of those videos that speaks to the humanity in each of us.  If you find it relevant for you, then I highly recommend checking out Brene Brown’s books.

And if you like watching this Ted Talk, then check out more!  There are many terrific speakers who are experts in their fields.  Ted Talks can be a great tool to get your mind off yourself and expand your horizons a bit (I know they’ve been helpful and inspirational to me!).

Circle of Control, Circle of Concern

This simple tool is one of my favorites when working with someone who feels overwhelmed with stress or who finds themselves spinning their wheels, working to change something beyond their control.

Visualize yourself at the center, surrounded by a circle.  That one is your circle of control, and outside that is yet another one- your circle of concern.

circles

Inside your circle of concern are all the other things that matter to you, but you don’t have the ability to control or change directly.  Perhaps you can influence them to some degree, but trying to take charge and control it yourself is not possible-  and attempting to exert control over these things will frustrate you and those who are actually in control.  Things in this circle are the the feelings, attitudes, and choices of others; the economy, the outcome of the election, the news and weather-  these things are certainly significant and must be responded to, but responding is going to look different than reacting.  We respond to things in this circle by intentionally deciding how we are going to interact with it (this person or situation) and then doing so in a way that’s in line with our values.    When a relative or friend mistreats us in some way, then perhaps we need to reassess our own boundaries instead of attempt to change that person (your boundaries are in your circle of control- you get to decide!).  Similarly, if in an argument with your spouse he/she begins to yell, that’s outside your circle of concern;  however your decision to not yell is within it, and you are 100% responsible and in control of that.  Inside your circle of control are all of the things that you are responsible for and can choose to change (or not).  Your behavior, your words, your thoughts, even your attitudes fall within this circle, as do how you show up in your various relationships.  Also within your control are the efforts you put out, the decisions that you make for yourself, how you respond to the people in your life-   as well as what you choose to eat, drink, read, and learn.

Some people go through life in a reactive state-  reacting with aggression or resentment to the things outside of their circle of control, or furiously trying to manipulate in order to reach our desired result.  It’s futile, and it takes time and energy away from living in a proactive way-  that is, focusing time and attention on the things within your circle of control so that you may experience that satisfaction of self-efficacy-  that you are a powerful person and you can make things happen in your own life!

Many people who come in for counseling initially want to focus on something (someone!) in their circle of concern, and I love to see how things shift as we move the focus onto things within the other circle-  the circle that we can actually make a difference in.  It’s like a weight is lifted off their shoulders as they learn to let go of things that they can’t control.  We could all use that reminder from time to time-  take a look at what you’re spending your time and energy and thoughts on.  Shift your focus off the circle of concern, and onto the circle of control.  Feels better already!

Want to feel better in less than a minute?

It sounds too good to be true.  And anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime.

Ready?  It’s breathing.

We all do it and are unaware of it for the most part.  Unfortunately, most of us are also unaware of the powerful benefits of intentional deep breathing.

Here’s how you do it-

  1.  Breathe in to the count of four, through your nose.
  2. Hold your breath to the count of seven.
  3. Exhale to the count of eight, through your mouth.
  4. Repeat.

Maybe your beats are half a second at first, but then you can extend them to a slower pace after a few cycles.  Even 2-3 cycles is enough to interrupt the anxiety or stress that you’re currently feeling.  Several more cycles and you’re on your way to a deeper relaxation.  This can also be a great way to quiet your mind and relax your body when you’re having difficulty falling asleep at night.

And no one even has to know you’re doing it!  In the car, at your desk, with your family at Thanksgiving-  go for it!  Breathe, and reap the benefits.

I’m thinking I might want to meet with a counselor…what should I expect?

Is life not going how you had hoped?  Not getting along with your spouse or your kids?  Feeling alone in the battle against anxiety, disappointment, despair?

Wondering if counseling might be the answer?  

Deciding to make an appointment with a counselor can be met with a host of feelings and reservations  from defeat and dread all the way to a twinge of hope and exhilaration  all those feelings are understandable!  While counseling is no magic pill to love life again, it certainly can be a step in the right direction toward increased harmony, health, and happiness.

Locate a reputable counselor in your area

Once you’ve decided to go for it, the first thing you’ll want to do is find a counselor in your area who has experience working with the kind of challenges that you’re facing.   Do some research online, and ask around.  Sometimes word of mouth can be a great way to determine if someone’s going to be a good fit for you.  Ask your doctor, trusted friends or family members, people in the community who may have benefited from a counselor in your area.

Get an appointment in the books!

Next you’ll want to set up an appointment to meet with the counselor.  You may be asked to fill out some intake paperwork ahead of time, or you may be given a verbal intake during that first session.  That initial meeting is when the two of you will get to know one another  the counselor will want to know more about what’s bringing you to counseling and what your goals are, and you’ll get to hear more about the counselor including how they approach therapy, what theories they drawn from,  how their sessions are typically structured, and more.  Please don’t hesitate to ask questions and clarify things you’re not sure about!

It’s all about relationship

Deciding to begin regular sessions with a counselor is a big decision you don’t want to waste precious time, money, and emotional energy  and it’s of the utmost importance that your counselor is someone that you believe you can form a good working relationship with.  Research shows that the counseling relationship is crucial to a successful outcome for clients!  So if you don’t feel comfortable with the counselor, you don’t have confidence that you can form a good relationship with him/her, or your gut tells you that this counselor is not a good match for you, then by all means pay attention to that!  If you have doubts (but also feel that you’d probably have doubts no matter who was in the chair across from you), then it’s a good idea to discuss that with the counselor-  see what they have to say and if it eases some of your concerns about the relationship that the two of you can have.  These kinds of discussions are not at all uncommon- counselors encourage this type of discourse, so be emboldened to bring up anything that might help you determine who is (and is not) going to be a good fit for you.  If you decide that this counselor is not the right one for you, then back to square one-  find another professional and make an appointment.  Starting over may sound exhausting, but it’s worth it to find someone with whom you can connect and develop a therapeutic alliance as you work on the important goals you’re bringing to counseling.

Best of luck to you!  If I can be of help to you in your journey, please contact me.