How to Create What YOU Really Want for the Holidays Ahead

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I cannot believe I am writing a blog post on this, but it has already began – the thinking, the obsessing, the worrying, the planning, the stressing about the holidays ahead. The four upcoming holidays can feel like they all merge together into one massive overwhelm. It can be hard to separate them out. But of course it does not have to be that way. I want to share some ideas on creating holidays that are truly what YOU want. And now is the time to contemplate all of this – at the beginning of this time frame.

It is so easy to get caught up in it all and end up doing things you may not really want to do. Or to sometimes not really plan and end up not doing what you really want to do with your holiday time. So here are some ideas to consider.

 Questions you might ask yourself about the upcoming holidays that may help you be the true “creator” of  YOUR  holidays:

  1. What would my perfect holiday times look like? What would I be doing? Who would I be with? Ex. – For some it may mean enjoying time with loved ones. or slowing down to enjoy a special what ever it might be.
  2. What does each holiday really mean to me? Or what do I want it to mean to me? Ex. –  One family may say it is a time to reflect on what we are really thankful for?
  3. Does what I do reflect what I want my holiday to look like and be about? Ex. – Yes and No. Maybe yes we spend time together. But no there is too much competition with iPhones, video games, etc.
  4. What are my most favorite memories of past holidays? What was I doing? Ex.- One child may say when we had the snow ball fight in the front yard. Dad may say, when we went out looking at holiday lights and had hot chocolate after. Mom may say when we all made a holiday meal together.
  5. What are my most un-favorite memories and what can I do to avoid these from happening again? Ex. – This might be for some – the stressing and rushing and overwhelm.
  6. Do my holidays all merge together without a real feel of truly enjoying each one for what they are? A very good question, are we really mindfully enjoying each holiday?

Develop a Flexible Plan That Fits You and Your Family

  • Meet together as a couple or a family to talk about some of the above questions.
  • Decide together (or for yourself if you are single) what your main goals for the holiday are. Is it to relax? To be with family? Enjoy special holiday activities? Celebrate a particular religious belief? A mix?
  • As a couple or family you can put together a flexible plan of the kinds of things you want to do and begin gradually to work toward this.  Incorporating everyone’s ideas is very important if you are in a family or as a couple.
  • Keep in mind that too much will feel overwhelming for most people and that thoughtful choices are a much better route to go. It is not so much about how much you can pack in, but incorporating what you most want to do and really taking time to ENJOY it.
  • Try to stay open and flexible as plans shift and change as they will at times. Knowing you can be happy even if things do not happen exactly as planned.

My hope for you and your family is that you create what you most want and desire. Happy Holidays to you and your family!  holly-leaf-small


Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

Being Open to the Unexpected Good that is All Around You

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I think when you leave a space within yourself to be open to “unexpected blessings’ or the variety of ways good can come into your life, you increase your chances of not missing out on the “good stuff”.  It is so easy to get down and discouraged. But when you keep a place open for unexpected good to come in, you have a much better chance of new and varied ways for happiness to evolve.  I know personally that when I take time to train my mind in the direction of the good stuff, I get more of it. And secondly, when I let go of the need for something to happen in a specific way, I open myself to a much wider array of positive possibilities.  This is true, even if it is not exactly the way I had “planned” or first desired it to happen.  This opens up space for more happiness.

 Here are a few concrete strategies to help with keeping open to the unexpected “good stuff” that we all so want in our lives.

1.  Start your day with “expecting the good” and that it may come in unexpected packages. You may be thinking “How do I do that?” That may be different for different folks. Some possible ways may include:

  • Before you get out of bed, take a few moments to tell yourself that you are expecting “good things” to happen today and that they may come in unexpected ways or forms and the you are open to them. You can even offer thanks for the “unexpected blessings” to come.
  • Say a few affirmations to yourself as you prepare for your day. This may be as you put your make up on or put your clothes on for the day. Or it may be as you eat your breakfast or do your daily morning walk, etc. This is just simply internal self talk of the good things you are expecting with acknowledgment that they may come in a form that you expect or envision.
  • Write down a few thoughts about the good you expect for the day ahead and add to that list that you know they may come in surprising and unexpected ways and that you are open to that. Add in a word of thankfulness for all the good and expected blessings that will appear for you in your day ahead.

2.  Be on the “lookout” for the good and unexpected to happen in your day as it unfolds. When you LOOK, you FIND. It is your focus that gets you where you want to go.

3.  Be thankful for the good and the “unexpected” that does occur in your day. Take a moment to be thankful in “real-time” as these positive things happen in your life.  Let this feeling “sink in” and bask in the glow of this goodness.  You can also end your day recounting all the good that has happened that day, which would include unexpected positive things that occurred  in a journal or just mentally thinking about them at the end of the day.

So be on the look out for all the GOOD, which includes the UNEXPECTED FORMS OF GOOD that will come into your life each and ever day. You will be glad you did!

Best Wishes,

Tanna

 

Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

 

 

 

ACT Limit Setting for Children

I love the ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting method for children. This is a wonderfully positive and helps children to begin to develop self-discipline. This is what we ultimately want for our children – to be able to regulate their emotions and behavior; in addition, being able to set healthy boundaries for themselves and others. That is what I feel this kind of limit setting model can do for those who use it consistently.  I had an opportunity to present to a group of therapists last week and part of this training was presenting this model to them.  It is simple, but effective.  I find it to be respectful of children and gives parents the needed skills to set healthy limits with their children.

Here are the Basics for the ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting, which were developed by Dr. Garry Landreth, University of North Texas and author of  “The Art of the Relationship” and co-founder of Child Parent Relationship Therapy.

ACT Limit Setting 

  1. Acknowledge the Feeling – Example: “I know you want to eat some cookies right now. You are hungry and you like cookies.
  2. Communicate the Limit – Example: “It is almost time for supper. Cookies are for after supper.
  3. Target the Alternative – Example: “You can have some carrot sticks or you can help me set the napkins on the dinner table.”

This is simple, but effective. Part of making it effective is REALLY listening to your child and reflecting what they are feeling. And then respectfully letting them know the boundary, with a follow-up of “what they can do”. This last part is so important in giving the child something to move toward that is acceptable.

You might ask what do you do when the child will not comply? You can first repeat what you initially said. Some choose to repeat this a couple of times, with a bit a space in between the information giving. If there is still no movement toward what is needed, you can then make the choice for the child or follow-up with a natural consequence. With the child in the above example you might simply put the cookies up high out of reach or ask that they go to another part of the home as they are getting into things that are off-limits. Of course standing by the limit you have set is important as well. This all said in a calm, matter of fact voice is best.

For more information about this method you can go to Dr. Garry Landreth’s book “The Art of the Relationship”.

I highly recommend the following video on the ACT Model of Therapeutic Limit Setting. This video is done by Dr. Theresa Kellam. She is one of the co-authors of the Treatment Manual for Child Parent Relationship Therapy. This video is of her own personal experience with her own child when she first learned this method of limit setting and what happened afterwards with her child as she grew older.

www.youtube.com     Go to: ACT Limit Setting by drkellam.

I encourage you to try this model of limit setting. I think it is a healthy interaction in helping children to learn to self regulate and in learning how to accept and set boundaries themselves when needed.

 

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Here I am presenting a workshop on Family Play Therapy, in which I cover ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting.

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Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact a local mental health professional . Strom Individual & Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

 

How to Set Healthy, Respectful Boundaries

Pic of flowers with Boarder FullSizeRender

Do you need to set some boundaries with someone and not sure how to do it without being offensive? I wanted to share some thoughts on boundary setting and how to do it in a healthy way. For many folks boundary setting is not easy. We all want to be loved or we want to protect our relationships. Setting a boundary can feel scary as we may worry about any upset that it may cause. Setting a boundary or limit or saying no can come off abrupt and sharp or it can be done in a way that is respectful and non offensive.

Boundary setting is something that can apply to lots of different kinds of situations. This is intended to share information in regard to the general idea of healthy, respectful boundaries for all relationships. And among that sometimes it may not be a relationship but a situation that is occurring.

If you care about yourself and want to do good self-care, boundary setting will be a necessary interaction that you will need to engage in from time to time or quite frequently depending on those you are in contact with. Here are my thoughts on setting healthy, respectful boundaries.

Healthy Boundary Setting

  1. Let’s first look at what Boundary Setting is. This is about self-protection and good self-care for your self OR if you are a parent setting a boundary with a child or teen, it may be about protecting them and caring about their well-being. Respecting and standing up for yourself is a part of boundary setting. Healthy boundary setting is also about being respectful of those you are setting a boundary with.
  2. What is the difference between Offensive Boundary Setting and Healthy Boundary Setting? Offensive boundary setting may come off as harsh or uncaring. Healthy boundary setting will be aiming toward a respectful dialog and a healthy relationship.  Examples – Talking to your spouse: “I know you are upset with me, but I need you to tell me in a softer voice and without yelling” OR  Talking to your teen: “I know you like talking to your friends late at night, but our family rule is no cell phones after 10:00 pm.”
  3. Healthy boundary setting involves you deciding what is best for you or as a parent of children at home for your children.  It is about being in touch with your feelings and honoring what feels right to you. If someone is doing something that feels hurtful or abusive, then setting limits of how you are willing to interact is important. You cannot control another person, but you can choose to step away or disengage from someone who is being hurtful or disrespectful in an adult relationship.
  4.  Arrange a time to talk with the person you need to have a conversation with that is a mutually good time. Or it may be that you need to have this conversation as the need arises in a more natural consequential way. 
  5. Take some deep breaths and center yourself before you embark on a conversation about boundaries.
  6. When having a boundary setting conversation, start with letting the person know you desire a good relationship (if this is part of the issue) or that you need to let the person know your feelings on something. 
  7. You can acknowledge the other person’s needs or feelings first before begin to express your own.
  8. Use respectful language about your feelings and what you can and cannot do, keeping your voice calm and using a low tone.  You can ask for what you need. The important thing is that you express your feelings and needs. The person you are engaged with may or may not be willing to accommodate you. If not then you will need to decide what you need to do. This is not in retaliation, but in the stance of good self-care and respect for yourself.
  9. Stand your ground and keep with what you feel is best for you. Do reiterate if your boundaries are pushed again or if your initial request was ignored. But at the same time don’t push it in someone’s face if they are cooperating with you.
  10. Feel good about your self growth of being able to stand up for your self.

Boundary setting will involve you having a healthy self-esteem, knowing that you matter and how others treat you matters. It also involves having courage to have a potentially hard conversation with another. I  recently read one of Rick Hanson’s articles in which he talked of “speaking from the heart”. That is really what we are talking about here – speaking from your heart and letting the real you express what is needed to be said to help you feel better.

Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact a local mental health professional. Strom Individual & Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action  you take in regard to this article.

 

Letting Go and Creating What You Do Want

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One of the first steps to creating what you want is to “let go” of what no longer serves you. This opens the door to the possibility of creating “what you do want”.

I have always hated the term “letting go”. Have you ever had someone say “You just need to let it go.” I have and my first internal response is, “No, it’s not fair and I am not letting it go.” This letting go thing is not always easy and I think one of the  lessons I have learned from my own personal experiences and many of my clients is that is a journey or a process.

There are little, medium and big letting go of things that occur. Small things, like someone was rude to you is different of course than a loved one doing something very hurtful. The journey process mentioned below is more about the significant or larger things that occur that we feel stuck in.

Let’s take a look at this journey of letting go and what we might do to help navigate this process. Then put our focus on what “we do want” as this is what will get us to what will make us happy.

  1. Recognize that letting go is a process and it is ok for it to take some time. This will be different for different folks.
  2. Honor your real feelings of upset. Explore them and acknowledge them.
  3. Talk with someone who understands your need to process the genuine feelings you have and who can listen in a non judgemental way, without giving lots of advise. This may be your spouse or partner or another family member. Or it may be a good friend or even a therapist.
  4. To keep these upset feeling from overwhelming you, consider setting a certain amount of time that you will think about these feelings. And then do and experience other feelings outside of this time. Let the good come into your live during these times.
  5. Decide on what you want to do with your feelings. For example you can tell the person who hurt you what you are feeling. You can decide what you want to do from that point out that will make you feel better.
  6. When the time is right decide it better serves you to let go of the upset and move to a place that makes you feel more happy, with less worry. You can do this. And it will lead you down the ultimate path of being at peace.

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At this point, you are ready to create “what you do want”. Now that this upset energy has been moved out you have space for the good stuff. And isn’t this where most of us want to end up. Being in a place that brings us joy and happiness. Letting all that is good into our life. Here are some of my thoughts on creating what you do want.

  • Spend some time really thinking about what you do want. What do you want more of in your life? Who do you want to spend more of your time with? What do you want to do that is new? What makes you really feel happy and passionate?
  • Begin to boldly take some first steps in what you do want. It is time to give birth to your new you or your new life you want and desire. It is not always easy to take these first steps, but after you get going you will find a momentum that occurs.
  • Enjoy and absorb all the good feelings that are coming from taking the first steps toward what you do want now. This can nourish and feed your soul that is recovering from the hard things you needed to let go of. It feels so very good to focus on the good.
  • You will find the more you focus on what you want, the more it will evolve in your life.
  • Remember it does not have to be perfect. Enjoy all that leads you to where you want to go!

It is all about allowing a space for the good to come in and then creating the life you desire! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Happiness Through a Gratitude Journal That Lets the Good In

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Life has a way of throwing us a curve ball, at times adding challenges that seem to gray every thing around us.  Due to a recent illness within my family that ended with a surgery, I went to that gray place. I was thinking to myself, “Ok you are a therapist, what do you want to do here to feel better?”  I found Rick Hanson’s book: Hardwiring  Happiness peeking through my most recent stack of books by my reading chair.  I began re-reading parts of Rick’s book and found one of my favorite parts about taking in the good. I  like to call it “letting in the good”. I really like this concept of letting the good come in even when it feels dark and gray. Our brain does gravitate to the “dark side”. As Rick Hanson likes to say the negative experiences are like velcro and the positive experiences are like teflon.  The brain has a negativity bias that is built-in to keep us safe. Understanding this principle helps us to know we have to highlight and focus on the good to experience it more easily. I’m not saying we should not let our self feel sad, that is important as well. But we have to be vigilant not to go to the “dark side” and hide from the light that is always there for us.

Out of the weeds and tangles of life great beauty can be found.

 

A bit later I decided to do a bit of writing in my gratitude journal as this is always a mood lifter. As I began to write I thought why not do a more descriptive writing entry in my gratitude journal to “let more of the good come in”. First of all let me say a bit about  “letting in the good”. The following is a summary of the first three of the four steps of what Rick Hanson calls “taking in the good”. In this case it is in past tense as you are remembering and recalling.

LETTING IN THE GOOD

  1. Acknowledge the Positive Experience -In the case of reflecting back, bring forth the positive experience to your mind.
  2. Enrich It – Keep this time in your mind, opening the memory so you can fully remember it and enjoy it in its fullness. Think of how it personally helped you.
  3. Absorb It – Let it sink into you becoming a part of you.

You can use this process of “letting in the good” as you write in your gratitude journal. For some a gratitude journal may be more about listing what you are grateful for that has happened to you that day. In a Descriptive Gratitude Journal you would want to do the following:

  • Be detailed in your description of what you are grateful for or what positive experience you had that day.
  • Describe all the positive feelings you felt during this experience.
  • Relive this positive time in your mind. Let it stay with you, enjoying the feel of it again as long as you can. 

I hope you will try this enhanced gratitude journal writing. The good feelings will have a better opportunity of becoming a part of you, living on. And of course the more you journal about your positive experiences the more that you will draw more positive experiences to you.

Best wishes for happy days ahead!

 

How to Be Happy Even in the Tough Times

Daisies in open field with blue skies

We all want a PERFECT life, with all good things always coming our way. Nothing wrong with that. What we envision will many times be what we get, just not always in the form we think it will come or with the exact timing we wanted. We are all human and live in a human world with constant change and things not always going in the way we planned. Being able to go through those times and still be happy is a sweet thing indeed. It means we have some control over our emotions and have some choice. Isn’t that a grand thing.

Sometimes it takes us remembering what it is that REALLY makes us happy.

  1. Yes it is fun and exciting to go on vacation. Or buy a new something for our house. And it can make us feel happy. But in the end, for most of us it is about our time with our loved ones and the beautiful interaction and love that flows between us. So for me I try to remember when I am feeling sorry for myself that it is not so much about what I have or specifically if something goes as planned, but who I am with and my time spent with them and the joy and playfulness that we create together. Plus the support and strength we draw from one another. Giving us a life of love and connection – what we truly need as humans. For example: Your spouse or partner seems down and really is not into the fun time you have planned together. You feel upset too in that you wanted a fun time with your loved one and it is not happening. So opposed to having a fit of upset, you dig a little deeper and find that your sweetheart is really distressed about a particular something that you did not know about. So you learn more about this and find an empathy and wanting to help make your loved one feel better. You begin to feel closer with the sharing of this information. So all is not lost, you connected at a deeper level. You now understand your loved one better. You can put your heads together and find some ways to make it better for both of you.
  2. We see something going a certain way and it does not. We don’t understand. We did all the right things. What happened? Sometimes we don’t always know. But, what we forget is that the other something can lead to something even better. And we have to remember that all is well regardless of what happens. We don’t have to let what happens to us dictate weather we are happy. You have all heard the saying: “One door closes and another opens.” Well it is true. We just have to know and have confidence this is happening. Knowing there are good things out there for us. And things will work out. Our knowing and action toward this will facilitate this happening. Meaning we accept and move on when a door closes and go out there and create opportunities for others to open for us. Knowing that many times these new open doors will lead to something even better.  For example: You are in charge of a project in which you have taking a lot of time to find another to assist and they do and you feel all is going so well.  Happiness blooms all around you! And then the person needs to   bows out. All that thoughtful planning down the drain. Frustrated, you begin again. But is all lost?  No. You are just now ready for the next person to finish in another way that may be just as good or maybe even better. So stay tuned for Chapter 2.  Your story will enfold, maybe even with a better ending! 

Please Note: I do want to say I am not promoting that we ignore our upset or sad or angry feelings. Those are all valid and should be acknowledged. I am promoting that we allow ourselves to go beyond this when we are ready to do so and know that it is possible. I am saying basically we do not have to stay stuck in an emotion that we have more choice that we all think. 

In the end, it is all about perception, how we view something and how we choose to respond. We can choose happiness. It is just a step away. It may not look the way we originally thought it would, but it is still there. So go for it. It does not have to all be perfect to be happy. So step out and dare to be happy even when all is not perfect. You will be glad you did!

 

Unplug, Relax and Enjoy

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Can we really unplug, relax and enjoy? I say yes, we can do this. But it is a very conscious choice we make in each and every moment I think. As of recent due to increased job, community and personal commitments I have found myself in a place to really re-look at this concept.

As I begin my vacation travels this week, I see lots of folks completely plugged in and checked out to others around them, including themselves. I am not suggesting we all throw out all of our electronic devices we are all a bit addicted to. But I am suggesting that we do a check in with ourself every so often as to the balance of being emerged in our high-tech environments and the “crazy busy” life so many of us create for ourselves AND taking time for self-care and letting joy and peace flow into our live. Thus my own check in as I take some time away from it all.

As I sat on a plane earlier yesterday, I sat across from a father who had his young baby son  lying on his lap. The baby was asleep with his little arms flung out above his head, a content and utterly peaceful experience on his face. To his side dad had another child who was resting on his shoulder, cuddled up and asleep by her daddy. It was all so sweet and very calming to be sitting by. A bit of a “wake up call” for me to take more time for this beautiful, peaceful calm together time with my loved ones. Without this balance we can feel disconnected and very un-centered.

So I am off to begin this process to re-balancing once again. And yes it is an over and over process I think. It is so easy to get off course, but always possible to get back on a path of more joy and peacefulness.

Some questions you might ask yourself as you too are trying to access and get back on the path:

  1. How am I doing? How do I feel the majority of the time?
  2. What am I doing on a day-to-day basis for self-care? 
  3. Do I plan long-term what is the very best for me and what I want and what brings joy to my life?
  4. What kinds of boundaries do I set up to make sure I am doing what is the best thing for me and that is balanced and healthy?
  5. And the ultimate question, “Is this how I want to live my life?”

I hope you will enjoy this beautiful spring time emerging around us and use it as a time for re-birth and new beginnings toward better self-care and reaching for all the joy and happiness you deserve.

Much peace and love to you all.

 

A Fun Calming Technique for Children – Butterfly Breathing + Butterfly Hugs

butterfly animated smiling pink with poka dots butterfly note for board.docx - source Your child is angry and beginning to escalate. Or you know your child is anxious and not sure how to feel better. I want to share a simple, fun technique designed for children I recently learned about at the Oklahoma Play Therapy Association’s Annual Conference. Dr. Jennifer Baggerly, PhD, Professor at the Counseling and Human Services at the University of North Texas at Dallas presented the Butterfly Technique. Here is how it works:

Butterfly Breathing

  1. Let your child know there is a way to make them feel better. It is always best to help your child when the emotions have not escalated to a very high level.  The sooner you can assist the better.
  2. Ask your child to pretend to be a butterfly! Model for your child what butterfly wings would look like. Hold your arms out and bring them in toward each other. And then out again, letting your arms / wings flap.
  3. Practice together with your child how their butterfly wings work. Practice always helps for being able to remember later when it is needed.
  4. Have your child now let the butterfly breath as it flaps it’s wings. Model for your child how the butterfly breathes. There is more than one way this can be done. The most important message is for the butterfly to breathe deep. One way to model this is by demonstrating and talking through the following wing / breathing pattern.
  • As the butterfly opens its wings, take a deep breath – you can count 1, 2, 3 as you open your wings if you wish.
  • As the butterfly closes its wings, let the breath out, letting all your worries out – you can count 3, 2, 1 as you close your wings if you wish. 

5.  Continue  “Butterfly Breathing” until your child feels more calm.  Model and do this with them as they learn this technique.

Note:  One website that shows the Butterfly Breathing technique with the 1,2, 3 count is:   elfenworks.org/butterfly. In addition you may go to iTunes and look at the Butterfly Breathing app put out by Elfenworks, which is free. The Elfenworks site has a butterfly breathing script and additional information in regard to their butterfly breathing technique. 

 

Butterfly Hugs

To add to your “Butterfly Breathing” you can add “Butterfly Hugs”.  Here is how you would do butterfly hugs:

  1. The arms / wings can fold into the chest with hands moving to rest on the arms, giving a hug to yourself. 
  2. Hands tap the arms and then hands rubbing the arms from left to right.

Good luck with your butterfly breathing and butterfly hugs and remember you may find it helpful for yourself to use as well. And the more you model for your child the more he or she will probably use it!