Yearly Archive 2015

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Down the Rabbit Hole of Compulsive Spending

Compulsive Buying DisorderThe holidays can make even the most sensible, financially literate person feel like they’re spiraling down a rabbit hole of compulsive spending and impending debt, so it’s no surprise that this time of year can inflict even more stress for the estimated 18 million Americans who exhibit compulsive spending year-round and suffer from Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD).  That’s nearly 6% of the American population.  These shoppers experience overwhelming and irresistible urges to buy that persist despite the numerous adverse and devastating consequences that overspending can cause.

Compulsive Buying Disorder is characterized by excessive shopping cognitions and buying behavior that results in distress or impairment, and it’s found worldwide, including such places as the U.S., Canada, England, Germany, France, and Brazil.  Though women are more commonly stereotyped as compulsive spenders, CBD does not discriminate: In the U.S., 5.5% of men suffer from compulsive buying behaviors, which is only somewhat fewer than the 6% of women who suffer.  The age of onset of CBD appears to be in the late teens or early 20s, with a mean age at onset of 30 years.  It is likely that the age of onset corresponds with emancipation from the home and the age at which people first stablish credit accounts.

Are You a Compulsive Spender?

So what constitutes a compulsive spender?  Ask yourself these questions:  Do you often feel preoccupied with shopping and buying?  Do you go on frequent buying binges?  Do you use shopping as a way to handle stress?  Do you spend more time shopping than you intend to?  Do you experience guilt or remorse about shopping?  Do you find yourself hiding purchases from your spouse or your family or friends?  Are you encountering excess debt, partner or family conflict, or participating in illegal activities because of your shopping and buying habits?

Clinical symptoms of Compulsive Buying Disorder include:

  • preoccupation with shopping and spending
  • devoting a significant amount of time to these behaviors
  • shopping and spending are generally intertwined
  • experience of an increased level of urge or anxiety that can only lead to a sense of completion when a purchase is made

The impulse to buy actually stems from an emotional need.  Most people don’t realize that impulse buying is related to your state of mind.  Impulse buyers can be triggered to spend due to anxiety, unhappiness, depression, boredom, shame, impulsivity, low self-esteem, perfectionism, obsessions and compulsions, a desire to belong, and numerous other emotions.  What makes one spend impulsively is unique for each and every person, and the true psychological source of a person’s compulsive spending tendencies can be very difficult to pinpoint.  Buying provides temporary relief from negative emotions, but most people find that they feel remorse or disappointment once they make a purchase and their need is rarely filled by the activity.

Comorbid Conditions

The behavior of compulsive spending is not currently a diagnosable mental health condition; it is not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the bible that psychiatrists and other mental health professionals use to make diagnoses of mental health conditions.  Compulsive Buying Disorder is often linked to other psychological conditions, ranging from depression to anxiety to addiction.  Some researchers identify compulsive buying as an obsessive-compulsive tendency, while still others view it as an impulse control problem due to the short-term gratification and dismissal of long-term consequences associated with the behavior.  Compulsive hoarding is particularly closely linked to CBD.

Compulsive Buying Disorder

The Four Distinct Phases of CBD

According to “A Review of Compulsive Buying Disorder” by Donald W. Black (World Psychiatry, 2007 Feb; 6(1): 14-18), there are four distinct phases of CBD:

  1. Anticipation
  2. Preparation
  3. Shopping
  4. Spending
In the Anticipation phase, the person with Compulsive Buying Disorder develops “thoughts, urges, or preoccupations with either having a specific item or with the act of shopping.”  These thoughts and urges can become overwhelming and even obsessive, ruminating in one’s mind until the person makes the decision to go shopping or to purchase the specific item.
In the second phase, Preparation, the person makes preparations for shopping and spending.  This can include deciding when and where to go and even which credit card or other method of payment to use.  The third phase, Shopping, involves the actual shopping experience, and it can be done in a store or online (or any other venue).  Many individuals describe this phase as “intensely exciting.”  Finally, in the Spending phase, the act is completed with a purchase, which is often followed by the sense of let down or disappointment with oneself.

Consequences of Compulsive Buying Disorder

The Consequences of Compulsive Spending

It’s no surprise that 85% of those who suffer from Compulsive Buying Disorder express concern with their compulsive spending related debts.  74% report feeling “out of control” while shopping, and 92% try to resist their urges to buy but are rarely successful.  When a person suffering with CBD experiences an urge to buy, the urge will result in a purchase 74% of the time.  68% report that CBD has negatively affected their relationships (Source:  “A Review of Compulsive Buying Disorder”).

Impulse buys add up.  They keep people from achieving their real goals if spending habits get out of hand, which can be quite quickly.  Because many, if not most, impulse buys are purchased via the use of credit, the debt incurred can be magnified by interest and finance charges.  Impulse purchases are rarely, if ever, budgeted for, resulting in the buyer not being able to cover the costs of his or her purchases, which can then result in not being able to pay the debt or making late payments to cover the debt.  Enter the costs of late fees.  Before long, the compulsive spender is spiraling down the rabbit hole of debt, which leads to a set of consequences all on its own.

Compulsive spending can result in a lot more than the stress of debt.  People with CBD can find themselves having difficulties in interpersonal relationships.  Due to embarrassment, compulsive spenders often prefer to shop alone unless their companion is one who either enables the spending or is a compulsive buyer him or herself.  Compulsive spenders often find themselves hiding their purchases from their partners and/or family members.  The excessive spending frequently results in arguments or conflict if the behavior is found out.

Individuals suffering from CBD are often found in a state of emotional turmoil.  Not only can their state of mind cause compulsive spending behaviors, but the compulsive spending behaviors usually cause a state of mind in which the person feels depressed, anxious, frustrated, angry, let down, fearful, and a wealth of other negative emotions.  Their minds are in a constant state of stress, worrying about how they will pay for their purchases, as well as whether their partner or family member will learn of the overspending.

How to Stop Impulse Spending

There are a number of tactics you can try if you believe you’re an compulsive spender and wish to stop.  Once you’ve identified yourself as an impulse spender, try to figure out what triggers the spending.  Are you feeling bored?  Restless?  Are you buying in order to cheer yourself up (aka “retail therapy)?  As a means to reward yourself?  To achieve a sense of belonging?

Following are some tips to stop impulse spending:

  • Eliminate opportunities.  Unsubscribe from the email alerts, deal sites, and catalogs.  Stay out of the stores and off the websites dedicated to things you like to purchase or collect.  Avoid your poison, and distract yourself with something else instead.
  • Use delaying tactics.  Often an impulse to spend will pass as quickly as it came to you if you’re able to delay the urge.  Tell yourself that you will revisit the idea in a week or month instead, and then DON’T set any type of reminder.  Chances are that you will forget about it.  If there’s something you still really want to buy, remember that there’s nothing wrong with doing so as long as you have the money set aside for it ahead of time.  Or try this strategy… Because it’s easy to spend money without thinking things through thoroughly, sometimes waiting a day, a week, or a month will yield an incredibly different result.  Set up a framework that allows you to at least sleep on an un-budgeted purchase.  For smaller items (e.g., a new pair of jeans, kitchenware, etc.), spend at least 24 hours before you make your purchase.  For high price items (e.g., furniture, a car, booking a vacation, etc.), spend at least a week doing research and at least another day or two before making your final decision.
  • Enlist help.  Ask friends and family to remind you that you don’t want to spend money on impulse.  Ask them to remind you of your bigger spending goals that you want to achieve and that impulsive spending will delay if you choose to buy.  Merely speaking your plan out loud to someone can sometimes cause you to pause and reflect on whether you’re reacting to an emotion or contemplating your true motives.
  • Don’t forget to plan for fun.  People forget that not impulse spending does not mean not spending at all.  Not impulse spending means limiting the amount you spend to what you can afford.  Budget for something fun, whether it be a fun activity or a purchase that you’d really like to buy.
  • Recognize when you’re at your weakest.  Carefully observe your own patterns of behavior and habits.  If you know you overspend during certain emotional seasons of your life, put safeguards into place to keep you from making an unwise decision.  Times of grief, stress, and lack of sleep can all influence the ways we approach spending money.  When you’re having a rough day, try to stay offline and out of the stores as much as you can.
  • Never shop without a list.
  • Set a budget before you head out the door.  This helps you choose your purchases more carefully and will help you stick to your list.
  • Carry cash.  If you can, take cash instead of a credit card or debit card.  Using cash makes it easier to not go over your budget.
  • Question yourself.  Ask yourself these three questions:
    1. Do I need it? – If the answer is no, put it back.
    2. Can I afford it? – If you can’t, put it back.
    3. Can I borrow it? – If the answer is yes, put it back.
  • Avoid sales in general.  The psychology behind sales is to get customers in the door to spend more money than they would in the first place.  Practice mindful spending, look for a deal when you’re going to buy, and ONLY buy that item.
  • Channel your feelings into something besides shopping.  Pursue an interest or hobby.  It may result in less free time to shop.
  • Indulge in a guilt-free way.  You can’t not shop.  Set a budget for items you like to indulge in, such as clothes.
  • Keep a spending log.  Record each and every purchase that you make.  Every day.  Don’t feel like a purchase is worth recording?  Then it’s probably a purchase not worth buying.  Keeping a log of the way you spend money can help you see where all your money is going and help you gain insight about your purchases.  An additional bonus:  The fact that you have to take the time to record each and every purchase is often a deterrent for some people to make a purchase, as they don’t want to record the transaction.
  • Find a therapist.  Working with a therapist can help you gain insight and increase emotional awareness.  They can also help you come up with healthy emotion regulation strategies and identify healthy alternatives to compulsive spending.  If you’re experiencing problems with your partner or with family members as a result of your overspending, therapy can also help address these issues.  In addition to other techniques, a therapist can teach you mindfulness techniques, which have demonstrated efficacy in helping people achieve control over their impulsive reactions and habits and acceptance of their emotions and moods.
  • Undergo financial counseling.  Financial counseling can teach you how to effectively manage your money and create a budget that you can stick to.  Financial counselors can also provide information on effective strategies to help you get out of debt and/or repair your financial situation.

Conclusion

If you think you have a compulsive spending problem or may be suffering from Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD), know that there’s hope.  Recognizing that you may have a spending problem is the first step in recovery.  You don’t have to spend the rest of your life in a state of stress caused by overspending.

 

 

Sources

Stop Letting Your Emotions Ruin the Way You Manage Money

10 Ways to Put a Halt on Impulsive Spending

What I Learned During Shopping Addiction Therapy

The Cost of Buying On Impulse

Compulsive Spending/Shopping

A Review of Compulsive Buying Disorder

 

 

 

 

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

My Favorite “Non-Therapeutic” Games… Perfection

Perfection game photoPlaying games in therapy is one of my most favorite things to do in my profession as a therapist.  Children especially enjoy game play, as they also like having a willing opponent in which to play games.  In my practice, I use specialty therapeutic games, which are games that are specifically created and designed to address particular mental health issues and challenges (e.g., impulse control, positive thinking, etc.), as well as traditional board and card games that you can purchase at a department store (e.g., UNO, CandyLand, etc.).  I call this latter group of games “non-therapeutic” because they were not specifically designed to be used as therapeutic techniques in mental health.  The truth is that regardless of whether a game is specifically designed with a therapeutic purpose in mind or not, ANY game can be made to have therapeutic value in my playroom.

I’ve explored various techniques that I use with the games Jenga, Find It, and Sorry! in previous posts.  In this post I’m going to show you the therapeutic value of the classic game Perfection with children who have difficulty with focus, attention, and concentration and those who need to develop more effective problem-solving skills and appropriate coping strategies.  Perfection is an excellent game to help with all these things!

How to Play Perfection

The object of the game Perfection is to fit all the shapes into their matching holes in the game tray.  Pictured in this post is the travel edition of Perfection, which includes 16 shapes, but the original game actually has 25 shapes that you have to fit.

To set the game up, the player spreads the shape pieces next to the game tray so that he or she can easily access the pieces.  It helps if all of the handles are facing up, though if you’re looking for the added challenge, leave the shapes as they are.  Then the player sets the timer (on the game tray) so that they have 60 seconds of time to complete their task (for the travel edition of this game, the timer will be set to 30 seconds as there are fewer shape pieces).

Next the player simply presses down on the game unit’s pop-up tray and starts the timer.  The player then has to quickly fit the shapes into their matching holes.  If he or she finishes before the timer runs out, they should quickly turn the timer off; their turn is over and they have successfully completed their task (they win!).  If he or she DOES NOT finish before the timer runs out, the tray will pop up and scatter the shapes all over (and nearly scare you both to death in the process!).

How to  Make Perfection Therapeutic

Perfection is played no differently in therapy than how it is played regularly.  When I first introduce the game to a child, I teach them how to play and let them play two or three times without any intervention from me.  During this independent game play, I observe the child’s behaviors:  Does the child become easily frustrated?  How does the child handle the stress and frustration of trying to beat the timer?  Is this method effective for them?  How well are they able to concentrate and focus?  Are they easily distracted?  More likely than not, you will find that most kids get in such a hurry to beat the timer that they actually decrease their efficiency of successfully completing the task due to their inability to remain calm and focus on the task itself.

After the observation phase, I discuss my observations with the child.  I then prompt him or her to brainstorm ways to improve, offering suggestions such as slowing down, remaining calm, using deep breathing techniques, and staying focused.  I then role play these new techniques with the child while they play the game again (and sometimes, again and again).

Soon you (and the child) will see visible improvement in their efficiency in completing the game’s task.  The goal, whether achieved that day or a few sessions down the road, is for the child to be able to utilize effective and appropriate coping and problem solving skills during game play, as well as in real life situations that he or she may encounter.  For this reason, it is important to process and even role play these new skills and how they can be utilized in various life situations, such as when taking a test in school.  It’s remarkable how easily kids will remember their new skills all because they played the game Perfection!

 

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Book Review: “How to be Comfortable in Your Own Feathers”

How to Be Comfortable In Your Own Feathers photoI’m very picky about things like books, movies, and television shows.  Something has to be really good for me to like it.  When I first ordered How to be Comfortable in Your Own Feathers by Julia Cook, I admit that I was very excited.

I like Julia Cook’s children’s books because they always teach a valuable lesson for children while keeping it fun, like how to keep from blurting out in class, maintaining self-control, and the difference in tattling and keeping yourself or your friends safe.  Julia Cook, who has authored more than 50 books for children and teachers, is a former teacher and school counselor with a master’s degree in Elementary School Counseling.  She writes books for children that keep them laughing while learning to solve their own problems, use better behavior, and develop healthy relationships.

In the book’s Foreward, it states, “How to be Comfortable in Your Own Feathers uses a creative approach to speak to children who may be currently struggling with body-image concerns.  Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, it is important that adults understand how to use this book effectively.  This story is written in a manner that gives children an opportunity to apply the characters’ experiences to their own lives.  It also demonstrates appropriate adult responses that encourage the development of healthy eating habits.”

Bluebird, who is the main character in this story, wants to flutter like the most popular bird in class, Hummingbird.  Bluebird, Chicken, and Owl all try so very hard to flutter like the hummingbird, but each of them just aren’t able to do it.  Hummingbird tells Bluebird that the reason she isn’t able to flutter like her is because her body is “too frumpy,” her wing span’s too wide, and her feathers look “lumpy.”  Hummingbird even advises Bluebird to go on a diet and work out at the gym so her body could be thin.

So Bluebird goes on a strict diet where she barely eats, and she works out, just like the hummingbird told her.  Eventually, Bluebird begins losing her feathers and not feeling so well.  Her mom finds out about what she has been doing and teaches her about balance and having a healthy “Food Voice.”  Bluebird begins to learn how to find balance and even finds out that she isn’t supposed to flutter like a hummingbird because she is a bluebird, and bluebirds are meant to soar. Near the ending of the book, Bluebird is seen talking to a counselor and is beginning to feel better about herself, though some days are still harder than others.

What I Thought About the Book

Just as I have liked several other books authored by Julia Cook, I felt this one was a winner as well.  It is beautifully illustrated by Anita Dufalla, which makes the book even more appealing to readers.  I felt the book’s message about body image, good self-esteem, and healthy eating was definitely one that many children of today need to hear.  The book is recommended for third graders and older, but I think a more appropriate age recommendation would be fourth grade to sixth grade.  I’m not sure I can see a child in middle school not thinking that the book is too young for him or her.

I do think the book started out really strong and quite engrossing and then began to slack off as soon as Bluebird’s mother learned of her body image issues.  Then it seemed the book was quick to rush to the end.  I’m not sure I liked the last few pages where Bluebird is seen talking to her counselor, and I am a counselor.  Maybe it was the way things were worded, but it just seemed kind of hokey, not that seeing a counselor isn’t an excellent idea for someone having problems with their body image.  After I read the book, I looked back at the amazon.com reviews that others had written and apparently there were others who felt the same way too.

Although the ending seemed kind of abrupt and rushed, I still felt that this was a good book, particularly for the children in which it was written for – those with body image issues.  Children with low self-esteem could also benefit from the book, though it may not be appropriate for everyone.  Body image can be a sensitive topic, but that doesn’t make it any less important.  Children in elementary grades are now dieting excessively and trying to lose weight, and most of them, even if a weight issue exists, have little idea as to how to eat and exercise healthily and with appropriate balance.  It’s certainly a topic that should be addressed.

 

 

 

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Seasonal Affective Disorder: More Than Sad

Seasonal Affective DisorderEvery fall around the months of September and October, thousands of Americans begin showing signs of constant agitation and anxiety, irritability, crying spells, overeating, fatigue, lowered sex drive, difficulty sleeping, and depression.  Their energy begins to drop noticeably, their arms or legs feel heavier, and they have such intense feelings of hopelessness that it leads some to begin thinking about suicide.  They may even begin to become hypersensitive to social rejection, that is, if they’re not avoiding social situations altogether.  All of these symptoms generally continue for six long months.  Six.  Long.  Months.

Six long months until spring arrives and the sun begins to shine more.  Six long months until Daylight Savings Time, when the days finally start lasting longer.  Six long months until as many as six out of every 100 people in the United States begin to feel some sense of normalcy again.  Six long months of struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Most of us tend to experience some physiological and emotional changes when the weather hits.  We generally eat more, sleep more, and even experience more up and downs during the shorter days.  We are often disappointed that the summer has ended and that the weather is colder.  But those who suffer from SAD experience all of these things and much more at a level of intensity that is equivalent to those who suffer from clinical depression (Major Depressive Disorder).

Who Suffers with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Although we know that as many as six out of every 100 people in the U.S. struggle with SAD, it is estimated that there’s a probable 10-20% who experience a milder form.  The diagnosis affects both men and women similarly, but it is significantly more prevalent in women.  In fact, 80% of SAD sufferers are women ages 18-45.  And we must remember that none of these numbers even include the number of people that suffer in silence, those who know that something is “off,” but they fail to seek treatment for one reason or another.

As is true worldwide, Seasonal Affective Disorder is significantly more prevalent in Northern regions than in regions closer to the equator, meaning that those who live farther from the equator are more likely to develop SAD.  You can see this if you compare SAD rates in Fairbanks Alaska, in which 9.2% of the population suffers from the illness, and Sarasota, Florida, where 1.4% of the population is affected.  The change in latitude is a common cause of light deprivation.

SAD also has an inherent vulnerability, as it tends to run in families.  Most patients with the illness have at least one close relative with a history of depression (often SAD).  The disease also tends to first appear in one’s 20s, and its symptoms then generally return year after year once the weather begins turning colder.

What Causes SAD?

The jury’s still out on exactly what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Its likeliest cause may be attributed to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year.  This lack of sunlight affects how serotonin and melatonin work in our brains, affecting mood, sleep, and appetite.  It is also thought that stressful events may contribute to feelings of depression in the winter.  Stress tends to be harder to deal with in the winter for a variety of reasons, including the season’s holidays, weather, etc.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Symptoms of SAD are very much similar to those experienced by those who suffer with Major Depressive Disorder, or clinical depression.  To be classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) states that there is evidence of “a regular temporal relationship between the onset of major depressive episodes in major depressive disorder and a particular time of the year.”  Two major depressive episodes that show this relationship must occur within the last two years.

As with a clinical diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, SAD must meet five or more of the following symptoms that have been present during the same 2-week time period and represent a change from previous functioning.  At least one symptom must be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

  • Depressed mood most of the day (In children and adolescents, this may be irritable mood)
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide
The symptoms must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, and the episode cannot be attributed to the physiological effects of a substance or to another medical condition (source:  “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition”).
Light Therapy

Treatments for SAD

There are different noted treatments to help people suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Probably the most popular treatment and piece of advice from doctors and mental health providers is to get some light, whether it be in the form of natural sunlight or usage of a “SAD lamp,” light therapy appears to be the treatment of choice for SAD.

If able, the most affordable and desired choice of the two would be to get out in the sunlight.  Even though it’s cold outside, the sunlight is extremely beneficial to those affected.  It is recommended that you get out in the morning sunlight if possible, but if you have a job like so many where the sun still hasn’t come up by the time you leave for work in the morning, the next best thing is the noon sunlight.  Try taking a lunch break outdoors and find a sunny spot.

If you’re unable to soak in the natural sunlight, or if you’re not able to get enough sun, SAD lamps may be something to look into.  SAD lamps, or light therapy, stimulate natural daylight and is highly recommended to sufferers of SAD.  Patients generally begin with 30-45 minutes of daily treatment in front of the special bright lights and then gradually reduce this duration on a weekly basis.  The intensity of light is equivalent to being about the same that you might see when looking out the window on a sunny day.  People have reported great relief from this type of treatment.

Other treatments that one might find beneficial to help alleviate the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include the following:

  • Antidepressants. – Talk to your physician about your symptoms, and see if taking an antidepressant may benefit you.
  • Exercise. – Getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat increases serotonin and endorphin levels.
  • Cut back on stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and carbohydrates. – These can lead to mood swings that can worsen your depression.
  • Eat foods containing tryptophan. – Many who suffer from SAD experience reduced levels of serotonin, the brain’s neurotransmitter.  Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor of serotonin; eating foods that contain this may increase your body’s production of serotonin and help you feel better.
  • Check your diet. – Make sure your diet is healthy, nutritious, and balanced.
  • Fill your home with light. – Open up those blinds!
  • Wear warm colors and surround yourself by them too. – The colors yellow, orange, and red can stimulate your mood greatly.
  • Laugh. – Watch your favorite television show or a funny movie. Let yourself laugh out loud.  Laughter stimulates endorphins much like exercise.

If you believe you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or clinical depression, it’s important that you get treatment.  Don’t suffer in silence!  Contact your physician and get evaluated.  Visit a qualified mental health provider with experience in treating depressive disorders.  There’s help out there.

 

 

Sources

How to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Winter Blues

10+ Tips to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

10 Home Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Dangers of Severe Depression

I Spend Half the Year Hating Myself and Wanting to Die: How SAD Affects Women

“Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition” (American Psychiatric Association)

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

The Reality of Mental Illness

The Reality of Mental Illness“The mentally ill frighten us and embarrass us.  And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance.  What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.”  – Glenn Close

Mental illness carries a stigma.  The mentally ill carry it with them at all times, like a big, ugly, hairy mole on one’s face that people try to avoid looking at.  It’s sad and it’s frustrating.  Regardless of how far mental health has come with trying to eliminate such stigma, it’s still very much alive.  A majority of Americans continue to remain misinformed and even fearful of the mentally ill.  Just watch the news in the days following a mass shooting.  You will hear the question loud and clear:  Was the shooter mentally ill?

The truth is, there are an awfully lot of myths out there about mental illness that too many people still believe.  It’s important to debunk these myths.  By dispelling such myths, we take a powerful step toward eradicating the stigma and the public’s fears surrounding mental disorders.  Following, you will find 12 common myths about mental illness, as well as the facts, the reality, of mental health in the United States.

Myth #1:  I don’t know anybody with a mental illness.  Mental health problems don’t affect me.

Fact:  Mental health problems are actually very common, and it’s very likely that if they don’t affect you now, they will at some point during your lifetime.

  • According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.7 million, or 18.6%) experience mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults (13.6 million, or 4.1%) experience a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes within or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13 to 18 (21.4%) experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.  For children aged 8 to 15, the estimate is 13%.

Myth #2:  Mental disorders are not real illnesses like cancer and heart disease.  People with mental illness are “crazy” and could “snap out of it” if they really wanted to.

Fact:  Mental disorders are legitimate medical illnesses, just like cancer and heart disease.  Research has shown time and time again that there are genetic and biological causes for mental illness.

Myth #3:  People with mental illness are “weak” and “lazy.”

Fact:  Mental illness has nothing to do with being lazy or weak.  Mental illness is the result of changes in brain chemistry or brain function.

Myth #4:  Mental illness isn’t that big a deal.

Fact:  Here are some statistics that suggest otherwise:

  • According to NAMI, serious mental illness costs the U.S. $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.  And adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die an average of 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
  • Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition aged 14 to 21 and older who are served by special education end up dropping out of school – the largest dropout rate of any disability group.

Myth #5:  People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

Fact:  Only 3 to 5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.  In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are actually 10 times more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the general population (MentalHealth.gov).

Myth #6:  Mental illness is just an excuse that people who commit crimes use in order to stay out of jail.

Fact:  Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have a recent history of a mental health condition (NAMI).

Myth #7:  Kids who become involved with the juvenile justice system are “bad” kids and have problems because of “bad parenting.”

Fact:  First off, kids who become involved with the juvenile justice system aren’t necessarily “bad” kids; they are kids who have most likely made some very poor choices.  According to NAMI, 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% suffer from serious mental illness.  Many factors can contribute to mental health problems (MentalHealth.gov), including:

  • biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
  • life experiences, such as trauma or history of abuse
  • family history of mental health problems

Myth #8:  But kids can’t get mental illness.  They can’t get things like depression and anxiety disorders.

Fact:  Kids can and do develop mental illness, depression and anxiety disorders included.  In fact, this can happen to anyone at any age.  Half of chronic mental illness begins by age 14.  Unfortunately, just over half (50.6%) of kids aged 8 to 15 are reported to receive mental health services.

Myth #9:  Depression is a normal part of the aging process.

Fact:  It is not normal for older adults to be depressed.

Myth #10:  Addiction is a lifestyle choice and shows lack of willpower.  People with substance abuse problems are “bad” people.

Fact:  Addiction is a disease that generally results from changes in brain chemistry.  Few, if any, choose to become addicted to substances.  Addiction has nothing to do with being a “bad” person.  Among the 20.7 million adults in the U.S. who experience a substance use disorder, 40.7% (8.4 million) had a co-occurring mental illness.

Myth #11:  People with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.

Fact:  People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees.  Employers who hire people with mental health problems report that their workers have good attendance and punctuality, motivation, good work, and job tenure to be on par or greater than other employees.

Myth #12:  Suicide will never affect me.

Fact:  These sad statistics unfortunately suggest otherwise:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • It is the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 24.
  • It is the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24.
  • More than 90% of kids who die by suicide had a mental health condition.
  • The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in white men over age 85.

 

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”  – Bill Clinton

 

Sources

“Mental Disorders in America” (The Kim Foundation)

“Mental Health By the Numbers” (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

“Mental Health Myths and Facts” (MentalHealth.gov)

“Myths Vs. Facts on Walk in Our Shoes” (Walk in Our Shoes)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

“Misconceptions About Mental Illness – Pervasive and Damaging” NARSAD Research Newsletter, Volume 13, Issue 4, Winter 2001/2002, p. 28

 

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Target of the Office Bully

Bully BossSeveral years ago I went through one of the most devastating experiences of my life.  I was the target of an office bully.  It started from day one and her treatment toward me spiraled downhill from there.  I was constantly berated and sabotaged at every turn.  She would close the door and have secret meetings with me to demean me and inform me that I must have a “cognitive disconnect” because there was no other explanation for how someone could possibly be so stupid.  She would assign me task after task after task until my to do list easily topped 100 items that I was responsible for.  She would one minute tell me I needed to take notes in meetings and then come to me afterward in private and tell me I wasn’t allowed to take notes.

When I finally got the courage to confront her about her behaviors toward me, she insisted that I must be mistaken because she liked me, that she would never treat me in such ways.  For a time, she had me believing that I must be crazy, that all my perceptions had to be wrong.  I woke up every day dreading going to work.  While at work, I would cower in my office and pray that she wouldn’t find me.  I couldn’t understand her behavior toward me.  I spent every day confused as to what I was doing wrong because even when I thought I was doing everything right, my boss was still able to find some detail I had supposedly missed.

As hard as I tried not to let my boss bother me, one day I broke and asked a co-worker what I was doing wrong.  It was then that I was informed that I was just her newest target, that she had a long, long history of bullying employees until they finally gave up and quit.  I wanted to give up and quit too, but I desperately needed the money.  My co-workers seemed to very supportive, that is until the day I finally quit my job.  Then they mysteriously disappeared as my support system, after telling me, of course, that they wouldn’t back me up about the behaviors they themselves had observed from my boss toward me; they told me they couldn’t afford to lose their jobs, after all.  Neither could I, but the day finally came where I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I took a deep breath and quit, then walked out the door to my car, where I cried and cried all the way home.

By the time I left my job, my self-worth was shattered.  It took months for me to finally be able to look back and realize that the job was destroying me the whole time.  It took even more months for me to look back and recognize that NO ONE should be treated the way I was treated, that I was worth so much more than my boss had ever given me credit for.  Looking back, quitting that job was one of the best decisions I ever made.  My health deteriorated while I was there, my stress levels were always high, and psychologically, I was depleted.  Removing myself from that incredibly unhealthy situation was the best option I could have chosen.

What is Workplace Bullying?

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute’s (WBI) 2014 National Survey, 27% of Americans have directly experienced or are currently experiencing abusive conduct at work, or workplace bullying.  72% of the American public are aware of bullying in the workplace.

Workplace bullying is defined by the WBI as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment… in one or more of the following forms:  verbal abuse, threatening, humiliating or offensive behavior/actions, work interference, sabotage which prevents work from getting done.”  What constitutes workplace bullying?  According to the definitions included in most anti-bullying bills, definitions of abusive conduct include:

  • repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks and insults
  • verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating or humiliating
  • gratuitous sabotage or undermining of an employee’s work performance
  • conduct that a reasonable person would find to be hostile, offensive and unrelated to the employer’s legitimate business interests

It should be noted that a single act of any of these things doesn’t constitute abusive conduct unless it’s especially severe.  In some anti-bullying bills, the definitions further include “conduct that results in material impairment of a victim’s physical or mental health,” as documented by a physician or otherwise supported by expert evidence at trial.

As was true in my own situation, “gas lighting” has also been documented to occur in the workplace.  This is where the bully (or bullies) try to convince the target that his or her perceptions are wrong.  An example would be an employer telling the target that a project was due on a certain date but the bully later denying this and insisting that they said it was due much earlier.

What Type of Person is Usually Targeted for Abusive Mistreatment in the Workplace?

The WBI (2014) found that 37% of targets are actually compassionate and kind people.  22% display agreeableness, and 19% portray cooperativeness.  This means that an overwhelming majority of those targeted possess positive attributes.

According to Laurissa Doonan’s article, “Do You Know a Bully Boss?”, “bully bosses bully because you threaten them in a way that makes them nervous.”  The target is generally one who can expose the bully’s weaknesses and shortcomings.  “You’re probably smarter than them, and unwittingly demonstrate that just by doing your job.”

Who are the Biggest Perpetrators of Workplace Bullying?

According to the WBI’s 2014 National Survey, an overwhelming majority (40.1%) of principal perpetrators are bosses.  Second in line at 19.0% are peers of the same rank as their targets.

Bullying Target

The Impact of Bullying in the Workplace

The impact that workplace bullying has, both physically and mentally, warrants that this is a very serious problem.  Being the target of a workplace bully causes severe distress.  Stress is the very real biological human response to stressors; bullies are the stressors in this case, as well as the coworkers and institutional helpers (Human Resources and senior management) who stand by and do nothing when a target expects and so desperately needs them to help.

Distress triggers the human stress response, automatically coordinating the release of glucocorticoids that flood the brain and body.  Prolonged exposure of brain tissue glucocorticoids results in atrophy of areas responsible for memory, emotional regulation, and the ability to sustain positive social relationships.

There are other stress-related and health complications from prolonged exposure to the stressors of bullying as well, including:

  • cardiovascular problems
  • neurotransmitter disruption
  • atrophy of the brain’s hippocampus and amygdala
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • immunological impairment
  • auto-immune disorders
  • fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • diabetes
  • skin disorders

Wow.  And sadly, the greater the exposure to such stressors increases the severity of psychological impact.  Not surprisingly, bullying also results in psychological-emotional injuries, including:

  • debilitating anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • depression
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • shame
  • guilt
  • an overwhelming sense of injustice

Additionally, the WBI 2012-D study found that 29% of bullied targets considered suicide; of these, 16% had a plan to carry it out.

Few Laws Protect Workers from Bullying

Unfortunately, as of this date, few laws protect workers from this sort of thing, primarily because it’s difficult to always classify certain actions as bullying.  While there is an effective method to determine bullying in the court system, the terms of that system are susceptible to the interpretation of the court.

In a court of law, the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) claim provides the groundwork for one to prove that certain workplace bullying is intentional and can cause extreme emotional distress.  Four elements of IIED must be proven by the plaintiff in order to win such a case in court:

  1. Intentional or reckless conduct
  2. Extreme and outrageous conduct (which is the most difficult to prove because harassment and verbal abuse are generally not what the court defines as “outrageous”)
  3. The actions of the wrongdoer caused the plaintiff emotional distress.
  4. Emotional distress must be severe (so that the victim suffered a compensable injury).

The truth is, unless a worker is protected under federal and state statutes, such as Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin, he or she has few protections legally against being bullied in the workplace.  Though some states have enacted or are in the process of enacting the Healthy Workplace Bill and a majority of people seem to support it, the system still has quite a way to go in protecting workers.

Until then, it’s important to heed some advice:

  • Don’t blame yourself.
  • Document everything.  Every incident.  And do so in a non-emotional way, stating just the facts.  Leave out explanations of how the bullying incidents make you feel.  Also be sure to document the presence of any witnesses.
  • Don’t allow meetings to take place in secret.  Sharilee Swaity advises to never allow any meeting to take place without having a paper trail of it.  Insist that you receive an email outlining everything that happened during the meeting.  If your boss refuses or neglects to do so, then send him or her an email outlining all that happened and ask them to confirm.
  • Don’t isolate yourself.  Take measures to ensure that you take care of yourself.

 

Sources

Do You Know a Bully Boss?

What Employers Should Do About Workplace Bullying

What NOT TO DO When Being Bullied at Work

Workplace Bullying and What It’s Like Working In a War Zone

Workplace Bullying Cases are Hard to Prove

Workplace Bullying Institute

 

 

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

My Favorite “Non-Therapeutic” Games… Find It

Find It GameI love using games in therapy, and kids love playing games in therapy!  Last week I posted about the use of the Jenga game as a therapeutic intervention during counseling sessions.  It’s an excellent resource for just about any topic or skill that you’re trying to teach to kids, adolescents, and adults alike.  I use a number of games in therapy sessions, both therapeutic and “non-therapeutic.”  The difference between the two is what their intent and purpose was when the game makers created them.  “Non-therapeutic” games are simply those that you can find at your local department store in the game aisle, like Candy Land, Jenga, and Operation, but in my experience, ANY game, regardless of its intent during creation, can be made therapeutic.  Today’s game can be found in both therapy resource catalogs AND the game aisle.

Find It as a Therapeutic Intervention

Find It, like Jenga, is another one of my favorite “non-therapeutic” games to use as a therapeutic intervention with children and adolescents.  Find It is a classic I Spy game that comes in a nice sturdy cylindrical container filled with miscellaneous small objects to find (e.g., a rubber band, an eraser, a feather, etc.) that are hidden in a colorful array of beads, pebbles, or dried rice (depending on which version of Find It that you choose).  I primarily use the game with children and teens that I’m treating for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or who have other issues in which they have difficulty with focus and attention.  I use the game to help improve their concentration and focus, as well as to informally assess their distress tolerance.  The object of the game is simple:  Find as many objects from an included list as you can.  You can do this activity timed or take as long as you need.

The first time I give a child the Find It game during session, I collect baseline data by setting a time limit (for example, 10 or 15 minutes) and assess how many objects they can find within that given time frame.  The game itself includes a small notepad checklist, so we mark each item off as it is found.  I write down the time limit I give the child (whether it was 10 or 15 minutes) and the number of objects found, and then I put the information in the child’s file so I can access it in future sessions.

How Often to Use Find It in Session

We play the game intermittently; the next time we play the game is generally a few sessions after I’ve collected the initial baseline data.  The sessions in between are spent doing other focus improving activities in order to help the child develop his or her skills.  When we play the game again, I give the child the same time limit as before.  Again the child is asked to perform the same task:  Find as many objects as possible before time is up.  The objects are never in the same place as they were initially, as each movement of the container shakes and jumbles the objects around.  I record the data afterward, just as I did the first time the child played.  This time I’m looking to assess whether the child’s scores (number of objects found in a given time) have improved as a result of our working on their focus, concentration, and attention span.

Find It as a Tool to Improve Distress Tolerance

Find It also allows me to see how a child tolerates the distress and frustration that comes with sometimes having difficulty finding the small objects.  During game play, if a child is becoming noticeably distressed, I teach coping and self-regulation methods that they can use to slow down and bring their focus back to the game again.  Between sessions, we will work on improving the child’s distress tolerance and learning effective coping skills to help handle frustration.

How Long to Use the Find It Game

I generally give the child the Find It game and assess their focus once every few sessions until I see that their scores have significantly improved and/or their distress tolerance is handled appropriately on a consistent basis.  Once I see that the child has improved, we put the game away, though the child usually ends up getting it out at the beginning or end of future sessions as a transition activity.

 

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

My Favorite “Non-Therapeutic” Games… Jenga

Jenga photoGames are wonderful to use in therapy, especially with kids!  I utilize a number of games in therapy sessions, both therapeutic and “non-therapeutic,” the difference being what their intent and purpose was when the game makers created them.  “Non-therapeutic” games are those that you can find at your local department store and find in the game aisle, like Scrabble, Monopoly, and Battleship.  In my experience, ANY game, regardless of its intent during creation, can be therapeutic.  I’ve taken many, many “non-therapeutic” games and turned them into awesome therapeutic interventions in therapy.  The results are always amazing.  Kids love that they’re playing a game, and they don’t even mind that I may have changed it up a little.  My next few posts will be about some of my most favorite “non-therapeutic” games to play in therapy.

Therapeutic Jenga

Jenga is a gem!  I have used Jenga hundreds of times as a therapeutic intervention.  The game can be used in so many ways and with practically any topic you think of.  Additionally, I’ve found that I can use Jenga with any age group:  children, adolescents, and even adults!

When I first started using Jenga, I would write various tasks and questions based on the skill I was trying to teach on the individual wooden blocks.  This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it didn’t take long before I had spent a small fortune on Jenga games.  If you walk into my office, you’ll find several Jenga games, each covering different topics and for different age groups, all created before I eventually realized that it was significantly more cost effective to just purchase one Jenga game, color code the blocks with stickers or markers, and create prompt and task cards to use instead.  You can create your own Therapeutic Jenga any way you wish, but if you plan to use the game for several different skill teachings, I’d advise the latter method.

Therapeutic Jenga is played by following the game’s original game instructions, regardless of what topic or skill is being taught.  Simply color code your individual blocks with various colored stickers or by using different colored markers prior to play.  Have color coded task/prompt and/or question cards prepared as well.  During game play, a task card is drawn according to the color code on the block that is plucked from the tower.  The person who picks the block is the one who answers or completes the question/prompt.  Just for fun, I intentionally leave a few of the blocks blank (with no color code), which are used as free passes, meaning there’s no question/prompt to complete – the kids and teens especially love when they choose one of these!

What therapeutic skills can be taught using Therapeutic Jenga?

Among other topics, I’ve used Therapeutic Jenga for rapport building, reinforcing positive relationship skills, social skills, teaching emotion identification and expression, communication techniques, anxiety reduction, impulse control, and even to teach all ages how to dispute irrational self-talk.  I’m yet to witness even one person complain about not wanting to play Therapeutic Jenga.  It’s a game that is always met with an excited and receptive attitude!

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

5 Reasons Why I Love Being a Therapist

young male child photo

When I first began the Master of Arts program in Counseling at West Virginia University in the fall of 2002, I honestly never knew just how much I’d grow to love this field of work.  Sure, I was interested in psychology and the workings of the human mind and behavior, but I never expected that being a therapist could ever become so intertwined in my heart and affect my very soul and being.

From the very first time that I sat in a small room with a grieving young woman as she expressed raw emotion to me, a student intern at the time, I learned that just being there to listen as she cried meant more to her than I could have ever imagined.  It was then that I learned that people often just want to be heard, to be listened to.  On that day, I learned that there was no way I could be in this field of work and not be deeply affected.  I felt the young woman’s pain, the hurt swelling up inside of her, and with that, I couldn’t help but want to try to help her somehow.  The training I received had prepared me with a number of ways I could try to help, but it was my heart that showed me the way.

I’ve learned quite a bit since I saw my first client nearly 14 years ago, but what I realized – what I never could have predicted – was just how much I would truly love being a therapist.  It takes enormous strength for a person to undergo therapy, and I am humbled and honored that someone could put the kind of trust in me that they need to have in order to dig deep within themselves and show me who they really are, to trust me to help them in the way I am trained to do.  There are so many reasons why I love being a therapist, but if I could only choose five, this is what I would tell you…

5 Reasons Why I Love Being a Therapist

  1. I truly do like helping people.

I’ve had one too many of my own experiences where I needed help – like, really needed help – and I thought no one was there.  In some instances, I had to learn to help myself and be my own advocate, if you will.  Those rough times may have made me stronger, but how nice it would have been if someone had been there to guide me.  That’s the job of a therapist.  Not someone to coddle you or do the work for you, but someone to provide a listening ear, unconditional positive regard, guidance, and helpful tools to help pull you out of your rough patches in life.  I like sharing my tools and techniques that I’ve learned through years of training and experience to help others.  I like that I can offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, should someone need one.  If I can make someone feel even just a little bit better about themselves or their circumstances, then that is my reward for helping.

2.  I love to learn.

I admit it, I love learning new things. I’m fascinated with all there is to learn out there. I suppose it’s a good thing, then, that counselors are required to continue their education though hours of training even after they graduate. Yes, I’m that person who actually enjoys going to trainings. There are so many amazing things to learn: new techniques and interventions, new theories, what works and what doesn’t, etc. Besides formal trainings, though, being a therapist often means that one has to do their own research to continue learning about various mental disorders and treatments. Even those who aren’t born researchers sometimes have to rely on educating themselves in order to be able to best serve their clients. What am I currently researching? Asperger’s Syndrome and the best evidence-based treatments.

3.  I learn so many new things from my clients.

Regardless of who I’m currently working with, whether it’s a hyperactive child, a defiant teen, or an anxious adult, each and every client teaches me something, and I think that’s awesome. There are no two clients alike; everyone is so uniquely different. Each client teaches me just how extraordinary we, as humans, really are: we each find a way to cope with whatever life throws at us. All in all, we’re all really just doing the best we can.

4.  Therapy can be fun!

There’s a time for seriousness, and there’s a time for fun. Even with my adult clients, I often get the opportunity to employ some different creative techniques in our sessions. My office is stocked with games, crafts, and other art materials, as I believe that creative expression can help alleviate so many symptoms that clients present with. I also use humor in therapy, with kids and adults. I think it’s important for us all to sometimes take a step back from where we are in life and just laugh at something.

5.  I get to witness hope and inner strength.

We all need hope, something that makes everything we’re going through somehow worth it in the end.  When a client sees me and describes feelings of hopelessness, one of the first things I try to do is instill a sense of hope.  In this job, I get the opportunity to witness the human condition every single day, and with that, I get a firsthand glimpse into each client’s hope that everything will somehow be okay.  I’ve seen clients who have endured horrific trauma and those who have lived through so much pain and hurt that are so incredibly strong, and I admire that inner strength.  Despite the stigma that is often attached with seeing a therapist or doing therapy, it actually takes an amazingly courageous person to seek out and undergo counseling.  Therapy requires one to search within himself and expose all his vulnerabilities to a virtual stranger.  That’s bravery.  That’s strength.  And I get the privilege of being a part of that, and I am truly humbled.

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Coping Skills for Kids: From A to Z

child's artwork photoMost, if not all, children and adolescents, whether struggling with a mental health issue or not, sometimes have difficulty self-regulating, or utilizing healthy coping skills.  Kids who have difficulty identifying their feelings can especially find it hard to calm down and self-regulate when they experience strong emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression, and grief.  Below is a simple list of healthy coping skills for kids:  from A to Z.  Be forewarned that not all strategies will work for your child.  Often you will find that what may work for one child won’t seem to help another.  It’s best to let your child choose a few strategies to try, one at a time, to see what works best for her.  If you have a preschooler, you may have to help them pick out a few techniques.  Just be patient.  There are many, many coping skills out there; your child will eventually find one or more that helps best.

 

Coping Skills for Kids:  From A to Z

A – Get ARTSY!  Draw, color, and/or paint!

B – BLOW BUBBLES!

C – COUNT backwards from 100 (or a lower number, if you have a younger child).

D – Practice DEEP breathing.

E – EXERCISE!

F – Smell some FLOWERS.

G – GO somewhere, like to the movies.

H – HUM a tune.

I – INVITE a friend over.

J – JUMP rope or JUMP up and down.

K – KEEP it simple.

L – LISTEN to music.

M – MEDITATE or practice MINDFULNESS.

N – Write in a NOTEBOOK or journal.

O – Go OUTSIDE!

P – PET your pet!

Q – Learn to QUILT or sew.

R – READ a book or the comics in the newspaper, or ask someone to READ to you.

S – SING!

T – TREAT yourself to something yummy or do something fun to TREAT yourself.

U – UNDERSTAND that all feelings are okay.

V – VISUALIZE – Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a safe place.

W – Create WORRY stones.

X – ‘X-hale!

Y – Practice YOGA.

Z – ZZZZZ… Sleep.

 

 

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