Archive of ‘Feelings’ category

5 Mindfulness Tips & Tricks

It’s no secret that things are wonky right now…to say the very least…

  • When people go in public, they’re sporting a new accessory…the face mask
    • AND if someone isn’t wearing one, you definitely notice it
  • Overnight, parents became home-school teachers, activity providers, house keepers, workers/providers, partners, and caretakers…need I say more? 
  • 2020 graduates aren’t having an in-person graduation to celebrate a milestone of their lives
  • Iconic Austin restaurants are starting announcing permanent closures
  • Because of shelter-in-place & social distancing…regular facetime with friends, family, and loved ones is either REALLY limited or not happening at all

I could go on, however, that doesn’t seem necessary.  What is necessary, though, is how you feel in your body RIGHT NOW after reading that list.  That sensation (whatever it may be) is happening because everything listed above is a lot to manage…especially because nobody was expecting a pandemic, and even if we were, we are all first-timers at this and adjusting to new things is often scary.  There are a lot of big feelings that have been happening (for everyone) and those big feelings can be confusing…scary…unwelcomed…helpful…they can be all over the place, really, and learning how to navigate all of that is MUCH easier said than done, however, it is 100% doable with various mindfulness practices. 

In my dear friend, Katy Manganella’s, blog on establishing a mindfulness practice, she defined mindfulness as “simply the practice of coming into the present moment”.  Again…that can be a lot easier said than done, however, there are practical mindfulness tips & tricks below to help you navigate the world of feeling your feelings and looking for ways to ground yourself (especially during a particularly uncertain time). 

Breathe

…yes!  Start here!  While this may feel like a silly (and oversimplified) suggestion, it’s arguably one of the easiest ways to start practicing mindfulness.  Most of the time, we are breathing pretty shallowly…in fact, the last time a lot of us took an intentional deep breath was when a doctor had a stethoscope touching our chest or back and directed you to take deep breaths.  Below are a few easy, simple ways to practice intentional, mindful, deep breathing. 

  • Box Breathing
    • This is an easy technique that involves intentionally breathing in for a particular count (for example, 3)…so you breathe in (1, 2, 3) hold your breath (1, 2, 3) exhale (1, 2, 3), hold (1, 2, 3) and repeat.  This article has a great video for a guided visual for help with box breathing. 
  • Another way to intentional breathe is to inhale for a particular count (let’s say 5) and exhale for a longer amount of time (let’s say 7).  This is a GREAT way to help calm your nervous system. 

Some people may try these out and realize they are still breathing shallowly…a way to learn how to breathe deeply & intentionally is to lie down on your back, put a book on your belly (probably something not too heavy) and breathe in and out with the intention of making the book move.  This will require some work…and may not be the best technique for someone who has experienced trauma. 

Tune into Your Senses

Another mindfulness tip is to tune into your senses.  We are CONSTANTLY taking in sensory information and are typically in autopilot.  Give yourself an opportunity to focus on one of your senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste) and focus ONLY on that one sense for 2 minutes (set a timer if you need to so you’re not focused on the time the entire time). 

For example, if I was focusing on touch in this very moment–I would notice:

  • My computer (not a very mindful thing…but figured I’d be honest)
    • The keys feel different than the touch pad
    • The texture of the couch I’m sitting on
    • The soft, fuzzy blanket next to me
    • My dog’s fur

…I was actively noticing those (although admittedly, I was distracted because I’m writing this), however, it was a nice moment to truly slow down.  Give yourself permission to slow down and notice things around you. 

Things to keep in mind: Taste may NOT be the best sense to focus on…and if you choose smell–know that it’s okay if you don’t smell anything.  Don’t force it.  Rather, notice what it’s like to not smell anything in that moment.  It sounds woo-woo (and maybe it is), but I promise there’s a method to my madness. 

Pay Attention to Your Body

…which is another tip that’s easier said than done.  For as long as I can remember, I have heard phrases like “I had a gut feeling…” or “…that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!”  It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I understood that that was our bodies communicating messages to us (I promise…method to my madness) and it wasn’t until my late 20s (and MAYBE even my 30s) that I truly understand what that meant. 

Even though I’m actively living what you are right now…a global pandemic…and I’m 100% aware of things that are happening around us, when I wrote the list out of changes that are happening all around us, I had a physical reaction to it…I felt a pit in my stomach and a heaviness in my chest…and as I sat with that for a while…I was able to name what was going on: feeling sad (about things happening around us), curious/anxious (about the future), and even a little stuck (because of the uncertainty of the future).  That can feel like an overwhelming amount of information to realize from simply noticing a sensation in your body…and some days, it is. 

However, the more you notice physical sensations that are happening, the more you can name what feeling(s) you’re experiencing, and the more you can access (and hopefully name!) what you’re needing…otherwise you might just feel foggy, agitated, anxious…or all of the above and feel like you just can’t shake what’s happening inside of you. 

Side note: The Emotionary is a book of words that don’t exist for feelings that do.  It’s NOT child-friendly and is a fun, great way to access some of the mixed/morphed/big feelings you have. 

Guided Meditation

What comes to mind when you hear the word “meditation”?  I called my best friend (a business attorney…so someone who is NOT in the mental health world) and she made a joke about lighting incense, holding hands, and chanting…while that can paint the picture of what meditation looks like for some people, that’s not what it’s always like (I promise!).  You can google “guided meditation” and be gifted with SO many options–which is great!  You can find meditations for specific purposes (e.g.: waking up or relaxing) or a particular amount of time (e.g.: 2 minutes or 20 minutes).  Mindfulness

Check out some of my favorites:

Practice Self-Compassion  

By definition, self-compassion involves “extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering” (for more information on it, check out Kristin Neff’s work!)  I know I’ve repeated myself a few times now…but this is DEFINITELY easier said than done.  An easy way to start practicing self-compassion is simply by using the word “and”. 

  • I feel like a failure as a parent right now….AND I’m doing the best that I can
  • I feel really anxious because of the uncertainty around usAND thank goodness I have a therapist I can talk to about these feelings
  • I’m so upset that I don’t get to have a normal graduationAND I am grateful for ways I can celebrate in the future
  • I love my family, but am SO tired of being around them/I feel like I need a breakAND that’s okay!” 

See what I did that?  That’s self-compassion in a nutshell.  It’s SO easy to get caught up in negative self-talk (especially when we’re surrounded by stress, anxiety, and scarcity thinking)…rather than getting bound to black-and-white & all-or-nothing thinking, embrace the beauty of “and” andallow multiple experiences to happen at once.  After all, that IS the human condition…right? 

You might read some of the tips & tricks and think “YES!  This sounds perfect” and others you might be more like “Nope…no thanks”.  Both of those reactions are completely fine and to-be-expected.  Whatever tip or trick you gravitate towards, try incorporating that into your life on a regular basis…the more practice you have doing it on the daily, the more likely you will be able to pull that out of your toolbox when you’re feeling a lot of big feelings and are needing something to ground you. 

By: Julie Burke, LPC

Follow her on Instagram for more mindfulness tips & tricks and reminders/guidance for feeling your feelings!


Five Activities to do at Home with Children: Quarantine Edition

As I sit here writing this, I can’t help but to reflect on how much has changed in the past month.  The roles we play, our social connection and sense of community, our work, and so much more. 

Navigating through this time with kids can be hard; they have had massive shifts in their lives. Parents have had to expand their role to fill that of teacher, coach, guidance counselor, and many others.  Here are five activities that can be used at home (or in nature close to home) to help your children process big feelings in relation to this chaotic time and promote self-regulation skills. 

Emotions Charades 

This is a fun game to play with kiddos to promote mindfulness of the body.  Mindfulness is pulling ourselves into the present moment. When explaining to children use simple, succinct definitions such as “mindfulness is noticing what is happening right now.”  Mindfulness practices can help improve focus and concentration, as well as increase self-regulation skills.  

In emotions charades, either purchase cards with faces depicting different emotions (these are great: https://www.playtherapywithcarmen.com/collections/focus-on-feelings/products/flash-cards-with-words-focus-on-feelings© ) or create your own cards with your children using art supplies.  Create faces that show anger, frustration, sadness, happiness and any emotion you can identify together!  Shuffle the cards and place them face down. One player then selects a card. The player will not only use their face, but their entire body, to act out the emotion silently to other player, who is trying to guess what it is.  

This game helps create awareness of how the body reacts to different emotions.  You can even ask questions to further process the emotion. For example, if your child is acting out fear, you can ask them questions like “what helps you to feel safe? What does safety feel/look like to you?” 

Yoga/Animal Yoga

Yoga practices have been shown to help children with mind-body awareness, self-regulation, improved self-esteem and social-emotional learning (just to name a few!).  Cosmic Kids Yoga has an entire YouTube channel with tons of great videos geared towards children of all ages and interests (including Frozen, Pokemon and Harry Potter!).  You can access it here: https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga

If videos aren’t your thing, here is a link to free animal yoga pose cards: https://wyqualitycounts.org/animal-yoga-for-kids/

Aromatherapy Playdoh

According to recent research, repetitive, rhythmic movement (think rocking, swinging or kneading playdoh) and sensory experiences calm the part of our brain that signals danger.  Creating aromatherapy playdoh together is a great way to integrate both movement and sensory input to promote feelings of relaxation.  

Recipe: https://www.healthline.com/health/diy-aromatherapy-playdough-for-stress – 7

You can also make multiple batches with different smells! 

  • Lavender can help to promote relaxation and sleep
  • Citrus scents energize
  • Pine can reduce stress
  • Peppermint can improve focus/concentration (be cautious with peppermint-since it is a stronger scent, I would reduce the amount needed by half)

Nature Mindfulness Activity

As mentioned before, mindfulness is anchoring ourselves to the present moment.   The Child Mind Institute shares that spending time in nature benefits children by building confidence, promoting creativity, and reducing stress.  This activity combines both nature and mindfulness to create a sensory experience that can promote regulation and tranquility. 

This nature mindfulness activity does not require any materials, just you, your child and thirty uninterrupted minutes outside in nature!  Walk through a park, yard, greenbelt or any other natural landscape and identify: 

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can hear
  • Three things you can feel
  • Two things you can smell
  • One thing you can taste (for safety considerations, I recommend only pointing out something you can eat or bring rosemary/mint or any other safe herb from home with you to reduce risk of eating something harmful!

If your child needs a visual, you can print out a scavenger hunt sheet with things for them to find in nature.  Here are some great resources: 

Safe Place Guided Imagery and Art Project

This is a confusing time for everyone, including children.  Having strong feelings of fear, sadness and anger are understandable and to be expected! This activity helps children to imagine a safe place they can visualize when they begin to feel scared.  

Start by reading or playing a safe place guided imagery script, like one of these: 

Following the guided imagery set out art supplies (whatever you have at home-markers, crayons, colored pencils, paint, paper).  Invite your child to create their safe place on paper. They can draw a literal picture of it or create an abstract piece utilizing color/shapes to express how safety feels to them.  Allow them to choose a meaningful place to keep their piece. If they do not wish to share their safe place, that is totally ok!  

Art is a useful tool to express other emotions as well.  It can provide words and language around emotion that is difficult to verbalize out loud.   Children can use color and shapes to show and externalize how big feelings including fear, anxiety, sadness and joy feel to them.  

Perhaps the most important tool to remember during this time is relationship.  Connection and attachment are healing in themselves. In order to fully be present with your child, we must also do things that nurture our soul as well.  I invite you to take a moment to yourself right now by placing one hand on your heart, the other on your stomach and feel your breath. Quietly extend compassion to yourself in this chaotic time.

You are seen, you are heard.  We are all doing the best we can.  

Presley Pacholick, LCSW
By: Presley Pacholick, LCSW

Creating Healthy Boundaries

Growing up in collectivistic culture at home, boundaries were not a celebrated tool in my family. They were perceived to be selfish at times – unhelpful to the entire family unit. As I grew older, I came to realize just how important healthy boundaries are – with family members, friends, coworkers – to maintain my overall well-being. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, boundaries are limits that define acceptable behavior. Healthy boundaries are those created to maintain physical, emotional, and mental well-being. 

How To Create Healthy Boundaries 

I do want to preface this section by saying that the examples are for educational purposes only – some of them may not apply to your experience or situation. If you are in an abusive relationship whether with a romantic partner, family member, or friend, setting a boundary can be dangerous – please seek help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Please consult with a mental health professional to discuss what options may be most applicable or helpful for you! 

  1. Identify your boundaries: one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is recognize how we feel during certain situations. If you find yourself feeling:
  • Anxious when your mother is complaining about your father to you 
  • Annoyed when your partner invites friends over without consulting with you 
  • Angry when your child plays with the soccer ball indoors  

it may be time to set some healthy boundaries in place. Sometimes utilizing a feelings wheel can help us gain better insight into our feelings and needs.

  1. Communicate your boundaries: follow the “I-statements” method. Starting your statements with “I feel…” versus “You did…” takes judgement away, preventing the person you are speaking with from getting defensive or feeling attacked. Depending on who you are speaking with, it may be helpful to validate the other person’s feelings (can be an especially helpful tool when talking to your parents to show respect).  You do NOT need to “over explain” the reason for your boundary – your healthy boundaries are your right. 
  • “It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”
  • “I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, and I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”
  • “I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”
  1. Communicate consequences: if you find your boundaries have been crossed multiple times – it may be helpful to associate a consequence while communicating the boundary. A consequence is NOT a threat, but at times can look like an ultimatum – especially if you find yourself being mistreated constantly in a relationship, the consequence of breaking your boundary could be ending the relationship for your overall well-being.

Healthy Boundaries With Parents

“It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”

Boundaries with parents can be the most difficult sometimes – depending on your parents’ culture and your relationship with them. For myself, the example above brought up feelings of anxiety and fear of disappointment. Due to my parents’ collectivistic culture, when setting boundaries I found that it was helpful at times to avoid being in certain situations as to avoid offending them. For example, if following the scenario above, saying something like, “I can’t talk now I have to do some work that is due tonight!” 

Another important factor to name when setting boundaries with parents is the idea that we may feel guilty for not helping them. It is important to recognize and differentiate our role as a child and what responsibilities that entails and does not entail.

Healthy Boundaries With Partners

“I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, but I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”

Boundaries with romantic partners are important to cultivate a strong, positive relationship versus cultivating contempt and resentment. With the couples I work with and even in my own relationship with my husband, I have found that it is easy to attack our partners by blaming them for their actions as opposed to understanding and communicating  how we feel as a result of their action. As shown in the example, I started it with “I feel” versus “Why did you invite them over?” Starting a question or statement with “you” or “why” immediately puts the other on the defensive.

Healthy Boundaries With Children

“I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”

Setting boundaries with children may look like setting limits – validating what they are wanting to do, but being firm AND kind in establishing the limit and consequence of their behavior. To learn more about setting limits and boundaries read our posts about Positive Discipline or attend one of our workshops

It takes practice and time to create healthy boundaries. If you find that identifying your boundary, communicating it and the consequence of not following it are not working in your relationships, it may be beneficial to weigh the pros and cons of the relationship and decide if it is healthy for you. Wishing you all healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationships!

By: Sarah Shah, LPC-Intern supervised by Martha Pasiminio, LPC-S
Follow Sarah on Instagram!

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