Play for a Calmer, Happier You and for Better Relationships

photo by noah silliman

We all want to feel happy and be connected with our loved ones. Play is a natural way for us to feel light and joyful thus spilling over into feelings of happiness and passing that on to the ones we love. Sounds pretty simple. But with our busy schedules and endless “to do” lists and activities, it may take some conscious effort to make this happen.

As this is National Play Therapy Week, February 3-9, I thought this may be a good time to share some thoughts about play and some of it’s wonderful benefits. As a Registered Play Therapist I use play in a therapeutic way in my private practice. Not only is play helpful for children. It is helpful for adolescents and adults as well. Play is truly healing and restorative. It is connecting and relationship building. Play is a wonderful preventative prescription as it requires the focus of being in “the moment”, not worrying about the past or the future.

Let’s look at ways to incorporate more play into your life. And how to do so in the most healthy ways possible.

Play for YOU to Rejuvenate and Relax

photo by ariana prestes
  1. Choose Something That You Really Like or Love, Just for the Pure Enjoyment of It. The key here is YOU and what YOU enjoy and brings YOU pleasure. This is not exercise or your yoga practice, etc. Even though these should bring you pleasure and feel good.
  2. Choose a Time That You Can Focus on the Playful Time and Let Go of the Past or the Future. Just allowing a time for you and the feeling of playfulness and joy.
  3. Choose Something that is Lighthearted and Fun. There is lots of time we spend in our life being serious. This is a  good thing. But we all need balance.   Pure fun is such a freeing  feeling that gives us a break from our worry.. So give yourself this gift.  You  deserve it!
  4. Take a Break From Your “TO DO LIST”. Doesn’t that sound wonderful. Just not doing anything on this list will open up space to be playful and rejuvenate your spirit.

Some possible playful ideas for YOU:

  • Spend time in nature, enjoying all that you love in the outdoor setting.
  • Cuddle up with and play with your animals.
  • Ride your bike or take a walk in a slow, enjoyable way, taking in all around you. This is different than exercise, more a meditative activity.
  • Spend time doing something that brings you joy. Maybe it is cooking or maybe it is painting or writing or playing music or shooting some hoops. Do what brings you joy.

“Playfully Yours” Couple Time

photo by scott web

We start out being playful and having fun in our relationships. And as time goes by, you may find this is less so. As one person said to me, “Life gets in the way.” Our lives do become more full with families and more demanding work, etc. So let’s look at ways we can keep the playful / fun in our couple relationships.

  1. Schedule Time for Fun. That may sound not too playful. But for some folks it is the only way “fun” happens. This can be a weekly date night or date day. It is a great start. This can evolve into more spontaneous playfulness
  2. Create the Atmosphere and Space for Spontaneous Playfulness. Inject a light heartened response, initiate playful behavior, be flirtatious, etc. Be a “playful person” whenever you can. All this contributes to a more light, positive feeling. Share more positive than negative to help allow for more playfulness to emerge.
  3. Recognize and Remember the Value of Keeping a Playful Connection. This is a basic core piece of a healthy, vibrant relationship. A playful connection is needed to keep our relationship alive and well. It is a component that we need to nurture and see as important.
  4. Couple Time is not Group Couple Time. Sometimes we will lump spending time with a group of friends as a couple activity. It is and it is not. True couple time is just the two of you focusing on each other and having fun and being playful together.
  5. Brainstorm What Playful Things You Want to Do Together. Update with each other what you feel you are missing or really want to do that would make you feel more connected and more happy. Then put them into action.

Family Play Time

photo by caroline hernandez

Playing together as a family is so “up there” as to healthy family functioning. It helps to build strong, connected relationships. This in turn helps as we do the job of guiding and leading our children. Children respond more cooperatively and have a stronger attachment to parents when the relationship is a balance of playful connection and positive guidance.

In our busy, full lives it can feel challenging to incorporate time for play. But we really need to do so. It may mean looking carefully at what our children and we as adults are involved in. We cannot do it all as much as we would all like to. Of course age of children and special circumstances will play into our decisions.

Things to Consider in Planning Family Play Times

  1. Consider your children and their age, choosing something that is a developmental fit / age appropriate for them. This will increase their enjoyment as well as yours. In addition, this will set the stage for a successful family play time.
  2. Think about what your children enjoy, what their passions are and try to make sure these things are a part of the mix. This does not mean we cannot expose them to new things. Alternating what is done with family play time with the different interests within the family is a good thing – helping to give children the gift of being tolerant and ok with doing a variety of things.
  3. Create a balance of at home and out of the home play times. This is a great modeling of helping children know you can  create your own fun in your own home and know you do not have to have a lot of money to do so. Of course it is fun to do adventures out of the house. But again they do not have to be grand vacations. There is lots to do locally and within neighboring towns. And of course, special vacations are great as well.
  4. Parent / Child Dates for Individual One on One Time. It can be very connecting to have one on one Parent / Child Dates or Play Times if  you feel your children crave individual time. Of course this means making sure all your children have their turn to keep harmony within your family.

I wish for you a deep rejuvenation and more happiness as you experience more play in your life. And I wish you well as you as create more playful times within your relationship.

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.

Powerful Technique to Gain Insight – Write a Letter From Your Future “Wisdom” Self

sunlight in forrest john-westrock-638059-unsplash

photo by John Westrock

Sometimes we are just not sure what to do next. We have all been there. We think we know but for some reason it just does not feel completely clear.

In working in session with a client recently, I used a technique that I had not used in a while. I had been to a recent workshop that had some variation of this technique, so it was brought back up to me in the forefront of my mind. This powerful technique is to Write a Letter From Your Future “WISDOM” Self. I am sorry to say I do not know who to give credit to for this powerful technique. I was so very pleased how this client put it all together as to how it was all going to work out and why.  I did the activity with my client and found myself very happy with what my “gut instincts” had to say to me as well.

This technique could be used for a variety of situations in which you feel you need some guidance or insight. And in this case the guidance will be coming from your future “wisdom” self. Some may add a spiritual dimension to this activity if they are so inclined.

Some times it may be helpful are:


  1. You are feeling not clear on a decision you need to make.

  2. You are discouraged and feeling a bit hopeless as to making progress on an issue.

  3. You are looking for a solution to a problem you are facing.

  4. You are feeling anxious about how something is going to work out.


 

paper for writing in front of woman with flowers to the side rawpixel-com-256642-unsplash

photo by Raw Pixel

How to Write a Letter From Your Future “WISDOM” Self:

  • Gather supplies to write a letter or note to yourself.

  • ID what it is that you want insight on as to an outcome of something that is a worry or issue for you.

  • Project yourself into a place where you are in the future and you have the “wisdom” of being able to look ahead and see what might be the best direction for you to go or to show you how things will work out with your current path and plan.

  • Have your “Future Wisdom Self” write a letter to you.

  • Let this flow naturally and without too much analysing

  • Really look at what has been written.  Consider what you have come up with and let this wisdom sink in.

  • You can put this in an envelope and date it.

  • Go back and take a peek at your letter as you feel you need to connect with your “Future Wisdom Self”.

You Got This sign sydney-rae-408416-unsplash (1)

photo by Sydney Rae

This very much helps us to know that our real power is right here, right now. It is has been with us the whole time. Be confident. You have got this! Here is to you tapping into your own very special power.

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.

 

Five Strategies to Ease Anxiety Due to Ongoing Tragedy in Our World

Five Strategies to Ease Anxiety Due to Ongoing Tragedy in Our World

As I write this I think about another event in our country that has occurred leaving us all shaken and disturbed. The massacre in Las Vegas has affected us all and our feelings of safety. I woke up last night … Continue reading

One Strategy to Recapture Your Calm & Focus on What You Do Want

One Strategy to Recapture Your Calm & Focus on What You Do Want

We all have been there. Too much to do. Too much to manage. Too much overwhelm. Just simply too much! There are lots of things we can to do work on these issues. Sometimes due to circumstances we have to … Continue reading

Unplug, Relax and Enjoy

laberinth at flainnifans near zion natioanl park

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.

 

Multi-Tasking Versus Single or “Mindful” Tasking

multi task yoga woman

I used to be so very proud of myself for being such a good multi-tasker and at some levels I still am. It is needed and valuable when the situation fits, but many  times single tasking or “mindful” tasking is better. Our daily hectic life styles make if feel like we have to multi task. Lets take a look at both. And then see how we may integrate these different approaches in our daily, realistic lives.

Definition of Multi-Tasking: Performance of multiple tasks at one time. (Merriam-Webster)  A person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Multi-Tasking: Ability to getting more done within a time frame. Potentially achieving more with the time you have. It can be a helpful tool if you are in certain emergency situations.

Cons of Multi-Tasking: Not fully being able to focus and give full attention to something or someone. The risk of not doing something well, but only partially doing a task. Errors and mistakes increase the more you are multi-tasking. It can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and not completely connected to the projects or people you are working with. You may find yourselves more blunt and less patient with others as you multi-task. What you do accomplish may not be your best.

mindful animated man with lots thoughts and dog with simple thoughts

Definition of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Bearing in mind: aware. (Merriam Webster)  Giving attention. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Giving your full attention to something or someone allows you to use your full intellect and emotions to accomplish what you want to do. Focusing on one thing at a time gives you the ability to give something or someone your best. Weather it is communicating with someone who you care about or completing an important task for your business. This full focus can allow you to potentially save time if this is your goal.  Focusing on one thing at a time feels less stressful and more peaceful. Our bodies are not really intended to be in a “red alert” multi-task framework for long periods of time.

Cons of  Single or “Mindful” Tasking: You may feel you are not getting enough done. You have all this “stuff” going on and you are only doing one thing at a time. You may wonder am I doing all I can. At times you may feel you have no realistic choice but to be doing multi things at once.

 

An Integrated Approach to How We Manage Our Time

As I was writing this, it occurred to me, you can truly only do one thing at a time. It is HOW you choose to do each thing or interact with each person you have in front of you. You do have CHOICES as to how much time and focus you spend on something. And you do have a choice on which thing you focus on first.

Yes there are some realities of performance on a job or making sure all the basics happen at your home or with your children. It may be at times you make a choice to spend less time on something and it be a bit less  perfect. Or you may choose to take time for a conversation as you feel it is more important in the long run than something else you are working on.  It is really all about choice and what you choose to focus on and for how long. And what you view as most important to you.

As a therapist, I would have to weigh in on mindful single tasking as to relationships. Doing more than one thing at a time as you spend time with your partner or child normally does not work well. And of course there are exceptions. But in general without attention and focus, relationships suffer and problems develop.

multi task versus serial chart

So in summary, my take on this issue is . . 

  1. Decide each day what is most important and focus on that.
  2. Be ok with letting go of stuff that does not really matter.
  3. Multi-task when you must, but limit this to when it really has to happen.
  4. Do be MINDFUL or give full attention whenever you can.
  5. Remember your relationships will grow and strengthen with full attention and focus.
  6. Let your mind rest and “be with” whatever you have chosen to focus on, letting go of all the “other things” that are waiting on your “to do” list.

Good luck in finding the best balance with how to manage your time for yourself, your professional life and your personal relationships. Keep in mind you are more than your “to do” list!

How to Calm Your Anxiety with One Easy Strategy

woman reflecting

Want to calm yourself quickly and retrain your brain to be more calm? Consider what you are saying to yourself. If you find yourself telling yourself things like the following, it is time to rework your self talk to be more helpful for you.

Do you hear yourself say?

“I can’t do this,”

“I am so overwhelmed!”

“What if I mess up?”

“I am scared I won’t be able to do this.”

What you do with this negative self talk is to turn it into a self prophesy,  giving you more of what you are thinking.

You can change your thoughts which will in turn change how you feel. Our thoughts are so powerful and so changeable. We can create what we want with what we choose to think. And yes we can choose what we think. We may feel one way and we can acknowledge that but we can then change our thought.

Here are some potential calming self talk statements.

“I can do this. I know I can make happen what needs to happen.”

“I can turn this around. I can do this one step at a time. I feel calmness come over me as I do what I need to do.”

“I am perfect just the way I am. I see myself accomplishing what I need to do.”

“I feel confident in my ability to  ______________  . ”

 

Two basic thoughts that help with anxiety are the following.

“I am safe.”

“I love myself.”

 

happy-person1

 

What we say to ourself is what we get. So create a world free from anxiety and full of confidence and calmness. It is in your power to do so.

 

This easing of anxiety not only helps us as individuals but helps us in our relationships. So consider this as a relationship building activity as well.