Create Your Own “Feel Better” Plan

Many of you are in a place where you are struggling to keep your anxiety and depression at bay during this health crisis our nation is experiencing. I have many resources I will be sharing in the weeks to come. But first I thought it may be helpful to look at how to structure a general “Feel Better” Plan that is customized just for you.

Here are some of the steps that can assist you in individualizing a plan that is a fit for you and works best for you specifically.

  1. Create a plan that is best for YOU, not what someone else may say is the best for all. There is no one size fits all.
  2. To organize your thoughts you might start with a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle, determining what does NOT make you feel better and what does make you feel better. 
  • One side for, “What Does Not Make Me Feel Better at This Time?”
  • The other side, “What Does Make Me Feel Better At This Time?”
  • You can add to the Feel Better Side near the bottom a horizontal line with a title “Possible New Things to Try”
  • You may need more than one sheet to collect all of your ideas.

3. Set aside some quiet, uninterrupted time to reflect and think carefully about these questions that will assist you in putting together this general plan to help make you feel better. 

4.  Put this visual FEEL BETTER PLAN up on your frig or on your mirror, etc. as a reference to go to when you needing some concrete ideas. Many times when we are upset it is hard to think clearly, thus a solid plan to look back at when needed.

5. Use an electronic folder to collect items that you are sent or you come across or find that you feel are helpful in lowering anxiety or depression or makes you feel better. I get good ideas on a daily basis from a variety of sources but without  putting them in an central place, they just simply get lost. I am not perfect about doing this but I do try and it has helped when I want to refer back to something. Some of these come in form of a video or an audio format, so the electronic folder is helpful.

6. Make a routine that fits for you. Many professionals feel that a routine can be helpful in assisting you to feel better. What kind of structure and what it looks like is a very individual thing. Structure can make you feel more safe when things around you may not feel stable or controllable.

  • Consider the beginning and end of your day for a routine that makes you feel safe, nurtured and hopeful.
  • Routines do not need to be rigid or stressful or overwhelming. They are intended to make us feel better.

7. Fill your day with things that make you feel good.  The more you can fill your day with things that make you feel happy or safe or bring a smile to your face, the better you will feel.  These interventions can be small and interspersed throughout the day. It may actually be better to spread out these uplifting activities. They can be intentional and spontaneous. When you find healthy things that really make you feel good, do more of them. It will serve you well.

I recently heard a meditation podcast in which Gabrielle Bernstein  said “It is good to feel good.” This is a very fitting, ending remark. It is good to feel good! My best wishes to you all in finding your own way to feeling good.

I will be adding “feel better” resources in the weeks to come for you to choose from as you create and continue to add things to your “Feel Better” Plan.

Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended 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.

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.

Less Serious, More Playful

Less Serious, More Playful

Feel like your life is one endless stream of “to do” tasks? All work, no play. You can go through your life seriously “serious” all the time. I have to admit I tend to run this way, full of purpose … 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.


How to Create More Peace, More Fun, More Joy

Cat resting on top of my desk papers

How high is your paper pile? As you can see mine had gotten pretty high. My kitty cat has reminded me it is time to take a break. Sometimes it takes an outside source for me to slow down and regroup. But many times I find if I listen to that small voice within I know when it is time to take a break and refresh. What are some of the signs that tell you it is time to slow down?

Here are FIVE sure signs that you may need a break.

  1. You continue to have accidents, maybe small ones, like running into things, dropping things, finding you have made mucho many mistakes in emails you have sent out, etc.
  2. You cannot find things. Maybe you find your keys in the refrigerator. Not good!
  3. You find your communication has gotten shorter and curter and more to the point. You find you are in conflict more with your loved ones.
  4. You don’t feel you are enjoying life. There is no time for that. You are too busy!
  5. You have a sense of unease that tells you that all is not well. Or you may not feel well straight up. Our bodies are “our friends”. They try to tell us when we are going “too fast” or needing to regroup. In fact, most of us will eventually just get sick and our bodies will just shut us down if we don’t listen.

There are times for all of us that we just feel it is all too much and we need a break. So why don’t we? Good question. Sometimes it really does feel like we don’t have a choice. We are under a deadline or someone else is counting on us and we don’t want to let them down. We might worry what others might think. Or it may be that we have just got in a “habit” of being too busy.

It may not really be so much about how much we have going on in our life, but how we perceive it. Are you a half full or half empty person? Our thinking effects how happy we are and how we cope with everyday stressors.

All this said, we still all need to relax and recuperate – taking time to do something that is just for us or do something that brings us immense joy. Of course the best is when we can fill our life with things that bring us joy and happiness. It is also important to note that we all have our own special speed that feels best for us. Some folks just operate at a higher frequency level. That is ok as long as it feels good and it brings us feelings of happiness.

So to end here are FIVE ways to have more PEACE, more FUN, more JOY.

  1. Put a protective shield around yourself. Imagine whatever image works for you. For example: A bright, white protective light around yourself that keeps you calm and stable and not affected by outside pressures and upsets. At a self-care workshop I did for therapists, I had one participant use a super hero cape to wrap around herself. You will have your own image come to mind. This protective shield is not to say you ignore your family or not be sensitive to others. It actually allows you to be more sensitive when you choose not to let the “yuck” stuff into yourself inner space.
  2. Let the good in. Author and Neuro-Psychologist  Rick Hanson advocates letting more of the good into our lives. Focusing on those parts of our life that bring us joy. So many times this is the little things in our lives. It is just slowing down long enough to see them and feel the wonder of “letting the good in”.
  3.  Clear the clutter, develop a space that feels peaceful for you. This may look different for different folks. But space clearing can  help in feeling more calm and creating an environment that leads to a more peaceful feeling.
  4. Remember you don’t have to be perfect. We are all human. And no one is perfect. We all do the best we can and that is enough.
  5. Take a BREAK. It is ok. Remember a break can be a 5 minute break, a 20 minute break, an evening break or a week break. They all count and help us to find that peaceful place that resides within. And as you know it will all be there when you come back. But when you come back you will have a fresh new look at it. Take a break to ENJOY yourself and your loved ones around you. They count big time in the grand scheme of things.

Note about my blog break: For those of you who follow my blog. I chose to take off from my blog for about a month to take a vacation, attend to some new projects that took some extra focus and regroup. So I am back and ready to go. In other words, I took a BREAK. And you can too. Best wishes in finding that happy balance of work and play!






A Very Simple Calming Breathing Technique for All Ages

pink rose from tanna's back yard

Looking for a way to calm yourself or help your child calm himself. Try this very simple breathing technique. What makes it a bit different is that it is extremely simple and tries  to incorporate your memory of a pleasant sight and smell. And most of all it is Simple, Simple, Simple. And I have decided so many times those are the things we can remember easily if we are feeling stressed and over the top.

Here is my version of this simple technique:


1. Visualize a beautiful rose. Or you could imagine a rose garden if you wanted. Maybe your favorite color of rose or roses. (If you are explaining to a child, you might say “Think about a beautiful rose.”)

2. Take a deep breath and smell your rose. (Remember the wonderful smell of a rose and keep this in mind as you are breathing in your rose.)

3. Hold the wonderful smell for a few moments. (This would be at the top of your incoming breath. Hold in that great smell, enjoying it.)

4. Let your breath come out with a sigh or just naturally as you think of your rose.

5. Continue smelling roses until you feel calmer.


Alternatives to the Rose:

  • You can of course use any flower that you love and that you like the smell of.
  • You can also choose another sight that has a pleasant smell that you particularly like. This might be the ocean and the smell of the ocean OR it might be trees in a forest and the smell of a forest. This of course will be an individual thing as to what fits for you.

You might consider if you want to do the rose as your “calming anchor” to make sure you on purpose smell some roses outside or at a flower market and breath in their fragrance and do this exercise to build in a memory.

I have decided you never know where you might pick up a good idea. In this case, I was watching the movie, Danny Collins. There is a part where his young granddaughter is having trouble calming herself. Danny’s granddaughter has a diagnosis of ADHD.  The father tells her to remember her rose and then he walks his daughter through a similar kind of exercise that I have added to a bit.  I always want to give credit to sources that inspire or plant a seed for an idea for me.

I wish you the best in finding your own special rose or rose garden!



The “Foundation Ingredient” to Finding Answers to Your Problems

catepillar animated smiling

Finding the solution to a problem is not always about just thinking and working harder on it. I had this concept come home to me again recently.  So here is a little story to illustrate this surprising key to finding the answers to problems that you are having trouble finding a solution to.

I was having a tough week, lots to do and not sure how to handle a new challenge that evolved. I had wrestled with it trying to focus and actively find a solution when I was at a point that I felt my brain was fried. I finally decided to go to bed and start anew the next day. Not a bad strategy in itself. I was so wound up I thought maybe a guided sleep meditation might help me go to sleep easier. I had recently reviewed a children’s cd that was devoted to helping children relax and cope with anxiety. I remembered one of the stories being about a harried caterpillar that was all tied up in knots. I thought ok, that’s me!

And I listened . . .  A little girl was in the meadow. She saw a caterpillar who was scurrying around all tied up in knots. She asked him “What is wrong?” The caterpillar answered that he was all tied up in knots that he had to find green leaves to eat and find a place to create a cocoon all before nightfall. The little girl giggled and said first let me help you relax. She asked the caterpillar to lie down and had him relax all of his feet and then his body, etc. until he was all relaxed. The caterpillar was no longer knotted up. He began to feel the warm sunlight and gentle breeze in the meadow.  The little girl asked  him to let all of his thoughts leave his mind and let it relax. His mind was now still and quiet and very clear. As the little caterpillar looked up he saw a beautiful tree full of juicy leaves. And a lovely branch that would be perfect for his cocoon.  So he ate and ate the juicy leaves and began his cocoon in the safe place that he was able to find when his mind was quiet and still. He thanked the little girl for her gift of helping him to relax and find the answers to his problem. All was well.


As I finished this story I felt nice and relaxed and begin to drift off to sleep. But before sleep came, I had this lovely solution pop into my head as to what to do with the challenge that had plagued me all day. I was so excited I got up and jotted down this creative and unique idea. Went back to bed and had a great night of sleep.  This was a nice reminder for me about how letting our mind rest and clear can create fertile ground for the sprouting of fresh, new ideas.

The story I have shared is a summary of “The Goodnight Caterpillar” found on Lori Light’s cd, Indigo Dreams, Track #4. . This is great cd for children (and adults) for stress reduction.

tree image animated word document

This fun story is great for sleep.  But one of its key messages is that when we relax our body and our mind, clearing our thoughts and entering a quiet, still place, we can then really see the solutions for problems or worries. Letting go and unwinding and relaxing fully will bring us great rewards. Think about it. When do you find your best solutions? For me it is normally not when I am at my desk, but when I am out for a walk or taking a break from my work or just after meditating. Other times might be while I am in the shower or drifting off to sleep.

So consider not working so hard and letting the answers come to you while you are in a relaxed state. Doesn’t that sound like so much more fun!



A time to go, a time to rest – TAKING A COUPLE’S NAP

napping dogsSometimes what we need is not to go somewhere; but, to listen to our bodies and rest when we need to. I am not talking about disrupting sleep schedules, but at times a NAP is what we need. There is something really warm and relaxing about taking a nap together as a couple. Maybe you have had an exhausting week and it is Saturday or Sunday afternoon and you have evening plans, but you are just so tired that you are cranky and not feeling like doing anything. You just want to curl up and go to sleep.

Yes, the weekend feels like many times that we need to hurry and get things done while we are not working. Or that we must do a family activity or a couple activity. But NAPPING can be the perfect couple activity!   

So . . .  if  you both feel tired and out of sorts, why not take a little nap TOGETHER. It can be a time to cuddle up and let the world go by for a bit. A time to feel close and relaxed together. A time to take care of yourselves and be connected and close all at the same time. 

You may be thinking I have kids. How does this work.? Well, it depends. If they are little and they have their own nap time, you can do it during this time period. If they are no longer napping,  you might arrange for a play date with a neighbor child. Or maybe you take advantage while your child or teen is out doing their own thing at a birthday party or practice, etc.

Here is to taking a break and connecting all at the same time!