Archive of ‘Feelings’ category

Rethink Resolutions: Set a Theme for the New Year

As 2019 quickly comes to an end and a new year (and a new decade!) begins, people are quickly scrambling to think of New Year’s Resolutions to set for themselves to start a “New Year, New Me”.  The Cambridge Dictionary defines New Year’s Resolutions as “a promise you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year”. According to a quick Google search, the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions include:

  • Diet or eat healthier
  • Exercise more
  • Lose weight
  • Save more & spend less
  • Learn a new skills or hobby
  • Quit smoking
  • Read more
  • Find another job
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Spend more time with family & friends

While people who set up resolutions (either like the ones above or any other goal they set for themselves), it often sets them up to feel disappointed because if/when they don’t reach their goal, they feel like they’ve failed.  I am not anti-New Year’s Resolutions, by the way, I think they’re a good idea, in theory, but setting yourself up for failure, essentially, doesn’t seem like a good way to start anything.  So rather than setting a New Year’s Resolution for yourself, I want to encourage you to set a theme for the new year. 

What is a New Year Theme? 

The Oxford dictionary defines “theme” as:

  • The subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person’s thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic.
  • An idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.
  • Give a particular setting or ambience. 

In simpler terms…a theme is the main idea or underlying meaning; when setting a theme for yourself for the new year, you are ultimately looking for the main idea (or ideas) in your life.  Life themes are generally made up of keywords that represent your highest values; each value gives you a starting point for defining the major themes of your life.  

How to Identify Your Theme

There is not one right or wrong way to do this.  To get an idea of where to start, though, you need to create a space where you can intentionally think about your values–what do you most value, seek out, and love to experience?  Need some help?  No worries!  Below is a list of universal values (also–please feel free to add your own!)  Take time to look over the list and find the words that resonate with you the most.  One you pick (however many you choose), try to narrow it down to the top 3-5.  Once you determine these 3-5 values, this will be the foundation for the theme you want to set for yourself.  Your theme can be just the word or you can create a sentence with it. 

For example:

  • Wisdom. (This is a perfectly good theme for the new year!)
  • I want to impart wisdom to people around me who are curious and would love to spend time with people who are wiser than me so I can learn from those I value and respect.  (Again…perfectly good theme for the new year!)

I can’t say this enough…but there is no right/wrong way to do this.  This is totally for you. 

Once you find the right words for your life theme, you will start to see a connection between the way you look at and move through the world.  Use these connections to guide you and the way you look at life, challenges, obstacles, and opportunities that come your way. 

Things to Keep in Mind

First and foremost, there isn’t one right way to do this.  I know I’ve said that multiple times…but it’s because it’s ABSOLUTELY true.  Keep that in mind while you keep these other pointers in mind:

  • We likely need several themes. 
    • It is unlikely that you’ll have JUST one theme in your life (although it’s totally okay if you do!) 
  • Life themes do NOT happen overnight.
    • This process takes time!  It’s not something that you should rush or force.  As life happenings occur, some stories in your life end while others begin–momentum unfolds with each page in the story of your life.  So be patient and kind to yourself as you are evaluating what makes most sense for you. 
  • Understanding our theme keeps us engaged and intentionally living. 
    • A theme in your life is not intended to live a certain life and dictate what you can or cannot do.  Rather, it is intended to help you determine how to handle celebrations & challenges and everything in between.

Above all, be true to you and set a theme (or themes) for your life that will allow you to live your best, most authentic self.  After all, that’s what the ultimate goal is…right? 

List of Values:

  • Life
  • Peace
  • Wisdom
  • Creation
  • Sacred
  • Love
  • Energy
  • Potential
  • Connection
  • Justice
  • Perspective
  • Growth & Change
  • Balance
  • Renewal
  • Truth
  • Nature
  • Consciousness
  • Evolving
  • Harmony
  • Play
  • Understanding
  • Order & Chaos
  • Unity
  • Freedom
  • Happiness
  • Soul
  • Rejuvenation

Need some extra guidance with setting your theme for the new year?  Check out this blog by Katy Manganella on setting intentions for the new year.  It’s a great place to start! 

By: Julie Burke, LPC
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Grief, Family, and the Holidays

Holidays can be difficult for a variety of reasons; after all, the holiday season can bring up all kinds of feelings. This can be especially difficult when your family has suffered a loss of any kind. It’s a time when families often get together, thereby making losses more noticeable. Tensions between family members may already be high, and there is often a wealth of memories tied to the holidays, both joyful and difficult. The holidays can be painful reminders as well as an opportunities to reminisce, strengthen relationships, and revive old traditions or create new ones.

Everyone is Different

Just as everyone in your family has their own personality and ways of dealing with stress, people often grieve differently. Grief sometimes comes in waves, and may seem delayed for some people, especially children. It’s not something we get over or move on from, but we do move forward. We incorporate the loss into our life story, and may make meaning of that loss in different ways. We may feel the grief less often or less intensely, but it doesn’t go away completely. Children may grieve differently too, depending on where they are developmentally. They may also experience various aspects of the loss, or grieve again, as they reach new developmental stages. 

Navigating Traditions and Rituals

One thing the holiday season invites is tradition. When someone who was part of a yearly ritual or tradition dies, that inevitably changes our experience of it. Just as individuals and families grieve in different ways, family members may have varying ideas about what to do with those traditions. Questions about changing or skipping traditions may arise. While family members may disagree about how to move forward, it is important to let everyone express their feelings, thoughts, concerns, and hopes. Discuss which activities the family wants to keep, which to skip, and what could be added. Is there a way the family can honor the person who has died, knowing that things won’t ever be the same as they were? When possible, give children choices about whether or not to participate. 

Taking Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Take 5 minutes to yourself to breathe, have a cup of tea, or simply be alone. Get coffee with a friend who gets you. Be gentle with yourself—the holidays are full of reminders, both of what you have and who you have lost—give yourself permission to grieve, to cry, to laugh, to enjoy those around you. Whatever you are feeling is okay! It’s also okay to set the boundaries you need, whether that’s by doing less, choosing who to spend your time with, or skipping an event altogether. Listen to your body—try to get the rest you need, stay hydrated, and move if you can. 

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly–that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” Anne Lamott

Resources

If you are struggling and would like additional support, the following organizations offer groups and other grief and loss resources.

The Christi Center

Austin Center for Grief and Loss

Hospice Austin

By: Magdalen Marrone, LCSW

Therapeutic Children’s Books

Books are one of my favorite ways to connect with kiddos. When we incorporate books into the therapy process, we refer to it as “bibliotherapy.” Sometimes, older clients are asked to read books on their own time outside of counseling. With my younger clients, we spend some of our time in session reading about ways we can better understand and cope with anxiety, impulsivity, trauma, or depression. In addition to keeping these books in the office, I also recommend them to parents as books to revisit at home. Below, I’ll share some of my most-utilized books in the counseling room! 

What To Do When You Worry Too MuchAge Range: 6 – 12 years

This is an interactive, workbook-style book for children experiencing symptoms of anxiety. This books explains that worries are completely normal, and that everyone experiences them. It talks about the somatic symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, sweaty palms, accelerated heartbeat etc.) that so many of us experience when feeling anxious. This book is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, and helps kids change the way they think about anxiety. It has lots of different interventions for children to try in session, and helps kids learn that they are in control. This is my go-to book for anxiety! 

My Mouth is a Volcano! Age Range: 5 – 8 years

This story book is perfect for kids who have challenges with speaking out of turn or blurting out answers at school without being called on. Impulsivity can be a big challenge for children and it often becomes more visible as they reach kindergarten and 1st grade- when expectations at school may increase. My Mouth is a Volcano tells us about a child who is constantly interrupting (or “erupting”) at school and at home. This picture book helps kids with perspective taking and empathy, too- always a plus!  

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine  — Age Range: 5 – 8 years 

This book tells the story of Wilma Jean, a student who is experiencing anxiety before and during school (sound familiar anyone?). Wilma, with the help of her mom and her teacher, goes from stomaches and headaches to actually enjoying school. It offers creative ways for parents, teachers, and other caregivers to help their child better cope with their anxious feelings.  

What To Do When Your Temper Flares  — Age Range: 6 – 12 years

Another workbook from the makers of What To Do When You Worry Too Much. It teaches readers that anger is not a “bad” emotion, and that everyone gets angry sometimes. It offers step-by-step guides on understanding why people get angry, what purpose the emotion may serve, and different ways of expressing that anger in a safe and controlled way. What To Do When Your Temper Flares has lots of analogies, examples, and coping skills for kids (and caregivers!) to practice in therapy and at home. 

A Terrible Thing Happened Age Range: 4 – 9 years

This book has proven its worth time and time again! A Terrible Thing Happened helps kiddos understand and cope with trauma. The book describes the trauma, or “terrible thing”, very vaguely. The book never explicitly names the trauma. This is helpful because the book can be used in many different instances, and the child can imagine the trauma however they need to. A Terrible Thing Happened introduced the reader to Sherman, who witnessed something terrible. Sherman experiences eating and sleeping disturbances, somatic symptoms like stomachaches, and behavioral changes at school. Sherman learns from the help of his caregivers and his therapist that talking about the terrible thing can be helpful. Sherman learns how to express himself with art (and his words!) in this book about healing after trauma. 

What are some of your favorite books to incorporate into your therapeutic or educational work with children?


Written by: Morgan Rupe, LPC-Intern, supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPS-S, LMFT-S
Follow Morgan & Rio on Instagram at @animalassistedtherapist
Check out the work Morgan & Rio are doing at http://AnimalAssistedTherapist.com



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