Archive of ‘Connection’ category

Nature’s Gifts: 3 Therapeutic Reasons to Get Outside

Nature is an often overlooked, yet abundant resource for healing.  As a therapist, it is my job to sit with clients when they are feeing distress, overwhelm, and anxiety. In order to redress these challenges, I often provide strategies and coping skills that utilize nature as a resource. As an ecotherapist, I see the natural world as a co-therapist in the healing process.  This blog serves as a beginners guide for increasing your healing capacity by engaging the free and accessible benefits of the natural world. 

Find below 3 reasons to get outside and corresponding activities that can help meet our nature needs:

Nature Increases Wellbeing

Spending time in the nature or even just viewing pictures of nature are both associated with psychological wellbeing.  Being outside in nature is correlated with a decrease in blood pressure, the relaxing of tight muscles, and an increase in alpha brains waves which incite feelings of calm.

Action: 

I often prescribe nature outings during the week for clients who are struggling to stay grounded or feel overwhelmed by stress or anxiety.  Plan outside activities after periods of stress or anxiety for you and/or your family – doing yard work, going on a walk around Lady Bird Lake, or spending time on your porch can all be helpful transitional activities that can calm you down after the work/school stress or blues.

Nature Creates Avenues for Positive Sensory Intervention

The latest research states that new, repetitive interactions with sensory experiences help grow the brain and create positive, healing neuropathways.  Healing sensory experiences are positive experiences that engage the senses. The natural world is full of novel, sensory experiences – these experiences are especially important for our kiddos and teens whose brains are still developing. Note: it is also important for adults.

Action:

Play the “5 Senses Game” with your family after school.  Go on a nature walk and ask each family member to notice something they saw, heard, tasted, and touched.  (I generally leave out the taste sense and have a handful of mint or rosemary sprigs to pass out unless you’ve got a family of gardeners who know what is safe to taste and what is not).  At the end of the walk, ask each family member to share their experience.  

Nature Encourages Physical and Emotional Healing

A landmark study by Ulrich found  that having access to a nature scene through a window expedited the healing process for those undergoing gallbladder surgery.  Patients with nature access via a window healed faster at a statistically significant rate compared to those patients who did not have access to a natural scene.  Additionally, research suggests that there are microbes in soil that are associated with increases positive mood.  Many hospitals and healing spaces are  now incorporating gardening as an addendum to healing protocols.  

Action:

If possible, create work and play spaces that have access to windows with natural views.  Place a plant next to your bed, or at your desk at work. Not keen on watering?  It’s Texas – get yourself a cactus or succulent!  If you do not have access to light or windows, place pictures of the natural world in your office – this too is supported by research to increase feelings of calm. 

This week, take a deep breath, and walk outside.  The healing capacities of the natural world are ready to help.  Feel free to reach out if you have any nature-related therapy questions.  When in doubt, go outside…

By: Amber Jekot, LMSW under the supervision of Lindsey Humphrey, LCSW-S

5 Categories of Self-Care

Self-care is a buzz word in today’s culture. Sometimes we don’t know where to being when trying to take care of ourselves in our busy world. Below are 5 categories of self-care to help you start out. The great thing is that the act of trying with self-care is a form of taking care of yourself. Take a look at the list and see what you are able to try this week.

Water

Hydrating your body with water has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It is recommended by nutritionists that a person drinks half their body weight in ounces of water each day. So that means if a person weighs 150 pounds, they are recommended to drink 75 ounces of water each day.

Nutrition

Nutrition is all about balance. Every human body has different nutritional needs. Becoming aware of what your body needs with nutrition will help your body function better, your mind to think clearer, and overall your ability to care for yourself increases.

Sleep

The category of sleep can be divided into bedtime routines, how long a person sleeps, and quality of sleep. Looking into how you put yourself to bed can shed light on how you are preparing your body for a good night’s rest. It is recommended that screen time is turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. How much sleep and the quality of sleep a person can get is dependent on a lot of factors. Take time to look at how this can be improved for your body, because your sleep pattern is unique to yourself. If quality of sleep feels beyond your control, contact your doctor to get more information.

Activity

Activity is an important category of self-care because of how quickly it addressed both physical and mental health. Activity can be defined as any movement that is more than your body’s resting position. For myself as a therapist, I spend most of the day sitting. Activity for me can be something as simple as standing. When activity turns into exercise this is when your brain pumps all of the happy hormones, like endorphins. Any form of activity is welcomed when trying to add more self-care.

Social

Social activity for self-care is based on what a person needs. Taking time to listen to your body will help you decide what kind of social interactions you are needing. Sometimes a person needs alone time away from the social scene to recharge. Other social needs could be knowing if you need to spend time with friends who are fun and are going to make you laugh, or if you need to spend time with friends who are able to listen and comfort you. Before making plans, take a moment to pause and listen to what your body needs before making a social decision.


Written by: Julie Smith, LMFT-A supervised by (Supervised by Kirby Schroeder MS, LMFT-S

Summertime: 7 Ways to Maximize Free Time with your Kiddos

With summer’s arrival, as a parent or caregiver you may find yourself with anxious feelings about the long warm days and idle time coming – you may be thinking, how in the world am I going to keep these kiddos entertained all summer? How can we keep TV and video games to a manageable level? How can we help our kids feel engaged in activities that are exciting, but simultaneously include some aspect of learning (or at least not staring into a screen)?

If you are like me, these thoughts have been crossing your mind a lot lately. You are in the right place and hopefully this post can spur some ideas to help your family thrive in downtime together this summer!  

~This is by no means an exhaustive list, and with some adaptation, the below activities can be appropriate for mostly all ages of children~

Cultural Events

  • Attend a cultural festival or event of any sort, such as an art, music, or theatrical performance. Not only can these events be engaging for the whole family, they can spark creative interest in a subject area your child may not have had before.

Reading

  • Read (anywhere!) and join the Austin Public Library! Reading together is one of the best ways to spend quality time, increase vocabulary + introduce concepts for younger children and avoid the summer slide for school-age kiddos!
    • There are of course many ways to do this – in your favorite park, cozy spot at home, or at many of the public libraries in Austin. https://library.austintexas.gov/events/calendar
    • If you haven’t yet visited the new central library downtown, it is a site to see!  It even includes a special Teen Lounge devoted to adolescents and many special events.
    • Book People also offers many events and storytime for younger kiddos; events calendar here https://www.bookpeople.com/event

Museums and Historic Sites

  • Visit a museum or historic site. Here are some favorites!  
    • Laguna Gloria – bring a picnic or pick up food onsite from Epicerie and enjoy on the lawn
    • The Blanton Museum
    • The Thinkery Children’s Museum + Mueller Lake Park
    • Bob Bullock History Museum
    • Austin Aquarium
    • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
    • Austin Nature and Science Center

Gardening

  • Plant a small plant or garden to tend; even an indoor plant for when it’s too hot outside! Gardening with your child will give you a sense of shared purpose and responsibility! Here are some of my favorite nurseries to help get you started:
  • Shoal Creek Nursery
  • The Great Outdoors
  • East Austin Succulents  / Tillery Street Plant Company

Photography

  • Practice photography – Even some of our smallest kiddos will enjoy taking pictures with a Polaroid. It can give you a few free minutes while they explore the house or backyard and then provide you with some quality time as you review their gems together! This can create a sense of pride for your children in their work!
  • Spend time making a collage or photo book together of your favorite memories.

Donate to Charity or Volunteer Together

  • Host a lemonade [popsicle / cookie / whatever] stand together and decide on a charity to which to donate the profits.  This activity really stands out as you can teach entrepreneurial skills, create awareness around money, engage in social skills with neighbors, and give to others in need.   

Get the Wiggles Out

  • Austin Bouldering Project – Indoor and outdoor rock climbing for all ages Austin Bouldering Project
  • Play for All Park – This amazing park is located in Round Rock and was made with children with special needs in mind. It is massive and children of abilities will enjoy the many features it offers. Play for All Park
  • Marathon Kids: Walk and Talk – over the summer, walk the total distance of a marathon with your child and talk along the way. Sign up and receive a mileage tracker and conversation topics for each walk! https://marathonkids.org/walkandtalk/
  • Hamilton Pool – beautiful, historic swimming hole located about 20 miles west of Austin. Don’t forget you need reservations for summer visits!  https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/hamilton-pool-preserve
  • Deep Eddy – take a cool dip in Texas’ oldest swimming pool.  This “beach entry” pool is awesome for small kids and adults alike!
  • Zilker Park – an Austin dream day – Ride the Zilker Zephyr miniature train, hang at the park / playground and take a dip in Barton Springs (this one’s better for the older kiddos)
  • Your backyard / a neighborhood street: For a quicker adventure with littles, cruise around the backyard or walk the block to collect some sticks to turn into snakes (try to find some with a fork that can be the mouth!).  Set your child up with paint and paintbrushes and see them transform into snakes. You all can also paint rock families!
  • Play at a Splash Pad! https://freefuninaustin.com/austin-area-splash-pads-2016-schedules/

Making Meaning From Your Time Together

Now that you’ve invested time and energy in an activity together, remember some ways to make it even more meaningful while you are engaged in the event or afterward.  These tips are easy and can really strengthen connection between you and your child.

  • Actively listen! Ask open-ended questions!  When your child is talking, listen for feelings they’ve expressed. Notice these and dig a little deeper.
  • Ask your child to name Three Positives at the end of the day or as you’re tucking them in at night.
  • What are you thankful for in your [day / time / activity we shared]?
  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • Tell me more about your photo [the book we read / the place we visited/ etc.].
  • Don’t forget the nonverbals! Make sure you are making eye contact, getting down on eye level or putting your arm around your child as you are having conversation.

Know that not every adventure will go exactly as planned (or be free from tears, for those with smaller humans!). Just remember that it is the love and attention you are giving your child and the time you are investing in your relationship that will mean the most.  Have fun and see you out there!


Written by:
Brooklie Gonzales, LPC-Intern supervised by Emily K. Slaughter, LPC-S

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