While checking out Facebook one day, I found a great video by Kristina Kuzmic in which she suggested an awesome activity to do with your kids. The video showed her and one of her children spending some good quality time together driving around town (which in itself is a good way to connect with your kid) and finding different ways they could do random acts of kindness together.
If you don’t know who Kristina Kuzmic is, I strongly recommend checking her out! Kristina is energetic and she’s really funny while she offers her perspective on issues of parenting and life in general. She does “mom-centric” videos about raising children and juggling all of life’s challenges. She really is great! And the video I watched about how she spends some good one-on-one time with her kids (individually) especially inspired me!
We all hope to instill kindness in our children. And we all know the benefits of spending good quality one-on-one time with our kids. Kristina’s idea offers both! After watching her video, I knew I had to give it a try with my own children. I have two kids – both boys – who are always vying for mom’s attention. Spending one-on-one time with each child can be challenging. Either we don’t have the opportunity or we aren’t quite sure what to do together – at least this is a roadblock I’ve found in raising only boys.
Okay, enough introduction. Let’s get to the acts of kindness ideas, right?! The following ideas are all free or pretty affordable, hence why you can do most of these acts this week if you want to – there’s no prerequisite of having a lot of money.
My challenge for you is to pick a time this week that you can spend some one-on-one time with your own child, then together choose at least three random acts of kindness to do during your special time. Brownie Points: Do something like this once or twice a month if you’re able! Hope you have fun!
In my last post, I gave you 55 Art Journal Prompts for Teens, a collection of some of my favorite prompts to use with my clients, as well as for myself. Art journaling can be incredibly therapeutic, and you don’t have to be Picasso to do it. Everyone has some creativity living inside them!
For this post I want to give you some silly art journal prompts, which I also make sure to give to my clients in addition to the more serious ones. It’s important to have fun. It’s important to allow yourself to be silly sometimes. Not everything in therapy (or outside of therapy) has to necessarily have some deep meaning attached to it except for the mere fact that it’s just something fun to do. Seriously, this is an important part of taking care of you. Everyone should make time for play (and I’m not just talking about kids and teenagers right now)!
So here are some of my favorite silly art journal prompts – be sure to definitely give some of these a try!
In counseling children and teenagers, I must tell you that I’ve seen some incredible talent. Some kids are talented musically, some are talented in sports, some are great writers, others are great artists, and some can tell you every country’s capital as though it were as easy as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In every kid I’ve ever worked with, I’ve found an amazing amount of creativity flourishing inside them.
Everyone is creative in their own way. Don’t believe me? Those kids who can rattle off facts like it’s nothing to them? They had to use some creativity in order to be able to memorize and remember those facts, such as using mnemonics or using music. You have to be creative in different ways if you play a sport, remembering all the moves and such.
I hear a lot of kids (and adults, especially) tell me that they’re not creative. They think that because someone told them back in second grade that their drawing wasn’t “good enough” that they themselves are not “good enough.” I say those people that told you that don’t know what creativity is. Everyone is creative!
There’s something cool about using art in therapy. Please note that while I know some various art therapy techniques, I am not a fully trained or certified art therapist. I do, however, use quite a bit of creative expressive techniques in my work as a therapist. One technique I use to help show people that they are creative and that creative expression is remarkably healing is assigning them to journal. Whether it’s through writing, music, art, or any other creative expressive technique, we can find healing in our lives.
Let me say that you don’t have to be an “artist” to do an art journal. There is no “wrong” way to do art; there is no “bad artist.” Art is an outlet for the thoughts from your soul to your hands and onto paper. For art journaling, you can draw, you can color, you can paint, you can collage… the possibilities are endless. I’ve included in this post some of my favorite art journaling prompts that I use especially with teens (and even adults!). Please note that just because the prompt might say “draw,” doesn’t mean you have to draw. If you’d rather collage or do some other form of creative expression (like knitting or writing or sculpting, etc.), you can still use these prompts! Don’t overthink them. Just let yourself be in the moment and do it. Draw in the dark if you think you’re “not a good artist!” Just let yourself be. Just try it.
There you go. Have fun!
Children with anxiety sometimes have a hard time opening up about what they’re worried or anxious about. Enter the worry worms. Worry worms are simply construction (or cardstock) paper worms that look like… well, little worms. I use them in play therapy, but you can easily make your own worms at home and play the worry worm game.
Worry worms are pretty easy to make. Simply draw or trace a worm onto brown construction paper (or cardstock paper works well too). Make several worms, and cut each of them out. Wa-la! Worry worms! I laminate my worms, simply because this allows me to keep them durable for multiple children to play with.
Next I hide these little guys (the worms) around the room for the child to find. For each worry worm the child finds, they are asked to tell one worried thought they have or have had.
It looks like a game of hide-and-seek to them, but let me tell you what really happens when you play the worry worm game:
One day while I was brainstorming activities I could use to help my tween and teen clients review feelings and emotions, I thought I had come up with the “perfect” idea. I was already creating flashcards for my younger clients, which were actually index cards with magazine pictures of different feelings faces and body language poses that I was planning to use to TEACH emotion identification. I figured, why not let my tweens and teens help me create the flashcards as a way to REVIEW feelings?!
I was excited! Not only had I come up with this bright idea to teach and review emotions, but I was going to get some help creating my flashcards. (Hey, I’m human! I need help too!) Next step, put my plan into action.
I visited a middle school that day and explained my plan to the 13-year-old sitting beside me. She was up for it. Yay! She thought it was a really neat idea, and she was especially psyched that she was going to be helping me create something I planned to use for many years to come with the younger kids.
So we began.
First we glued various pictures onto one side of each index card. She laughed at some of them, occasionally noting that some of the pictures were really funny. After all, who wouldn’t think that a dog wearing glasses wasn’t funny?
Then it came time to write the feeling name on the back of each index card. The first few were easy: a smiling child might be feeling happy, the dog wearing glasses might be feeling smart. The clown might be feeling silly. Then all of a sudden she was stumped. She showed me a picture of a teenager who was portraying that she was scared.
“Jealous?” she questioned.
I prompted her to look more closely at the picture, paying attention to the way the person’s body looked and to what clues the person’s face was showing us.
She really didn’t know. I felt terrible! Here I had assumed that by the old age of thirteen, that this would be a review on something fairly easy. Talk about an eye-opening experience.
What was even more eye-opening was that I soon learned that only maybe half of the 12 to 18-year-olds I worked with were able to accurately identify the emotions on the flashcards – never less their own emotions. And about 25 percent of adults I came in contact with just in everyday life weren’t quite sure either. I felt awful! How could I not have realized that even teens and grown-ups occasionally need some emotion identification education too?
Since then, I teach emotion identification and expression like crazy! After all, how can one be expected to regulate their emotions if they weren’t even quite sure what they’re feeling in the first place?
Now when a child or teenager begins therapy with me, my first task is always to assess whether or not they are able to identify feelings. Dependent on the age, I might use flashcards, workbooks, feelings charts, magazines, mirrors, games, or whatever else I’ve gotten my hands on that might be relevant.
Here’s the thing: Feelings are important! They give us information about what we’re experiencing and help us know how to react. But not only is it important to label how we’re feeling, it’s just as crucial to be able to at least get a sense of how those around us might feel.
Being aware of our emotions helps us to build better relationships, whether it be at home, at school, at work, or anywhere else out there in the real world. Knowing and being able to label our feelings help us to talk about them and describe them more clearly. They resolve conflicts better. They help us communicate more effectively with those around us.
Just being able to name what we’re feeling actually helps us move past difficult feelings more easily. In order to be able to modulate and regulate our feelings, we must first be able to label our different internal experiences!
Think about a young child, if you will, who is having a tantrum on the kitchen floor all because you told them that they couldn’t have that yummy looking cake setting on the counter until after dinner. They’re not tantruming because it’s fun and who doesn’t like to throw a good tantrum every now and then. No, they’re actually having a really difficult time regulating their emotions because they really wanted that cake and right now they can’t have it. They’re feeling really disappointed. They’re feeling very frustrated. Because they might not have the words yet to identify and express their emotions appropriately, they’re doing the only thing they know how to do right now in this moment: express their disappointment and frustration by acting out.
What can we do to help children (and ourselves) learn how to identify feelings?
As a therapist, I utilize a number of tools and strategies to help teach clients about feelings. I make feelings cards, I have kids make faces in the mirror, I use special feelings games and workbooks, and so on.
One of the easiest and most convenient ways, though, to teach children how to label their feelings and be able to more accurately identify how others might feel is through the use of apps.
Years ago I didn’t have a really cool smartphone to help me out. (I think I probably had one of those awesome flip phones though.) Now most of us have a handy-dandy phone with access to tons and tons of awesome apps we can use that are supposed to make our lives easier and more productive (or to help kill boredom when we need it to).
There are so many feelings and emotion apps on iPhones and Androids, I don’t even want to begin trying to count them. Some of them are very simplistic, while others are much more complex. Some are for children and others are for us grown ups. Some cost money, though most are free. Some apps are really, really good; some apps are pretty useless and not worth your time.
They’re not all for learning how to identify emotions either. There are also some great apps out there that help us track our feelings from day to day – an especially useful tool for anyone struggling with a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder.
I’m going to save some of you the trouble of searching through all the various apps that support emotion awareness, though you’re obviously more than welcome to look and try any or all of them out for yourselves. These apps are my favorites, ones that I use in counseling kids and adults. They’re apps that I use for my own children, as well as ones that I use for myself – because hey, I’m not about to recommend something for you or your kids that I wouldn’t be willing to try and use for myself and my own family!
Emotions, Feelings and Colors! is one of my 3-year-old’s favorite apps right now. Designed for kids in pre-K and Kindergarten, kids can watch short animated stories and identify what emotion the characters are feeling. In addition to that, the app also suggests some best tactics to help the characters work through their emotional situations! Love it!
I actually have quite the collection of these emotions apps from I Can Do Apps. I use Emotions, Emotions 2, Emotions Flashcards, and Baby Emotions both professionally and at home. The I Can Do Apps, in general, offer apps to teach and reinforce speech and language development. The collection of the four emotions apps cost $4.99, though you can also purchase each one separately.
All of these apps help children practice emotion identification and develop understanding and interpretation of feelings. To clarify the differences in the apps, though:
Emotions helps kids identify different facial expressions using real faces and tests their understanding of emotions. This pack only includes the most basic emotions – happy, sad, scared, surprised, and angry.
Emotions 2 does the same thing as Emotions, but it includes more complex emotions, including tired, calm, grumpy, excited, proud, sick, bored, and frustrated.
The Emotions Flashcards app is exactly what it sounds like. It includes the emotions happy, sad, scared, surprised, angry, tired, grumpy, excited, proud, sick, bored, frustrated, and calm.
Baby Emotions is more for toddler aged children, though it could also potentially be used by parents who have difficulty identifying emotions in their infants and young children. The app includes baby faces portraying the emotions happy, sad, scared, surprised, tired, and calm.
Feelings with Milo is an emotional literacy app that teaches younger kids about feelings by helping them understand and learn to manage their emotions. It also lets kids keep record of their feelings everyday by giving them a chance to identify the mood they are feeling. This is a pretty cool app, and its graphics make it quite inviting for kids to use.
Feel Electric! is brought to you by The Electric Company. Remember them? Feel Electric! offers engaging tools to help kids explore emotional vocabulary and self-expression. You can find games, a story maker, a glossary of 50 emotion words and definitions, and even a digital diary to help your kids track their moods. This app is especially good for elementary age but can also be appropriate for tweens and teens that are having difficulty identifying and expressing their emotions.
Moodtrack Diary is my absolute favorite mood tracker! You can find it in the iTunes store, as well as at Google Play for Android. There are actually two versions, one that is a “social” mood tracker, which anonymously posts your current mood for other anonymous users to see – this is especially good if you’re looking for encouragement and want to connect anonymously with others out there in cyberspace.
I personally prefer the “private” mood tracker myself. The private version has a setting in which you’re able to share anonymously but it also allows you to keep your moods private and only for your eyes. The app works offline and syncs when you’re online if you turn on sync in the settings. You can track your mood as often or as little as you want, and it literally only takes a few seconds. You simply type in how you’re feeling, then you’re asked to rate your mood on a scale on 1 to 5, with 5 being the most positive mood. Then the program plots your moods on a graph, making it super easy to see patterns and mood swings.
This is the mood tracker I actually recommend the most to clients. It is not only simple and user-friendly, but if the user desires, they can share their graphed moods with their counselor or a good friend. All you have to do is provide them with your special designated password and they can log on to a computer to see how you’ve been feeling. On Touch ID devices, you can also set up a fingerprint lock. This app gets an A+ from this therapist!
Emotionary by Funny Feelings is another awesome app for kids and adults who are looking for the right word to describe just how they might be feeling. It not only includes a definition for common and funny feeling words (like “happy as Larry,” which apparently means you’re feeling extremely happy), but it also includes emoticons associated with most feelings.
What I like best though is how the app takes you step by step in finding the perfect word for how you’re feeling. First you pick a primary emotion (anger, anticipation, fear, joy, or sadness). Next you pick the category of feelings to find your perfect word. For instance, if you’re feeling sadness, you’re then given the categories alienated, disappointed, distressed, embarrassed, sad, and vulnerable. After choosing the category that best describes how you’re feeling, it takes you to a list of words (and definitions) which fall under that category.
Say I’m feeling embarrassed, so I click on that category. I’m then given a list of a list of over 20 words that I can choose to specifically identify my feeling, such as foolish, guilty, humiliated, mortified, and uncomfortable.
Not only is this app great for finding the perfect word to describe how you’re feeling, it’s perfect for all you writers out there as well!
Just a word of warning though… There are two versions of this – a free version and an inexpensive paid version. If you have kids who will be using the app, be aware that there may some words you’d rather them not see or be saying (such as “happy as a pig in sh**”).
Okay, just one more favorite of mine! Monster Feelings is like a more detailed version of Emotionary, only with MONSTERS! Look up descriptions, examples, and “energy” level of various feelings AND find a monster feelings face to go along with that feeling. This app can be used with kids, teens, and adults. I think this app is a lot of fun!
Regardless of whether you try these apps out for yourself (or your kids) or whether you search for others on your own, I really do encourage you to at least check emotion apps out. Learning how to identify and express emotions is key to being able to start regulating emotions more effectively. After all, how can you adequately express how you feel if you’re not even sure what you’re actually feeling in the first place? 🙂
I admit it. I’m a research junkie. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me, including the clients I work with (and their parents). When I want to know something, I’m notorious for finding every bit of research I can on it. If, in my research, I find a book cited frequently or I find a raving review, I can’t help but check it out on Amazon.com and most likely, add it to my Wish List.
Then of course, there are also times that I just browse a topic I’m interested in learning more about in the Amazon.com store just to see what’s out there and look over the many reviews to see if the particular book is worth my time. Kindle book, paperback, hardback, spiral-bound… My iPad and my bookshelves are filled with resources I use in my counseling practice.
I often get questions about the books in my library – both in my Kindle library and my hard copy library. Today I thought I would share a few of the many therapy books (my “therapeutic resources”) you can find on my Kindle. I will share some of my other books in a future post.
I should note that this is not a sponsored post. Amazon.com, nor anyone else, is paying me to share my book selection. I want to further note that just because I have a particular book in my library doesn’t necessarily mean that I recommend it. Most of the books in my Kindle library are really, really good. Others, maybe not so much. You’ll find that some books are specifically written for clinicians, while others are written for everybody else.
Okay, so here goes…
There you have it… Just a few of my growing library of Kindle books! I didn’t even start to cover the books I have on relationships, parenting, family, addiction, and trauma recovery. Those will come later:-)
I have a confession. I don’t handle stress very well. In fact, if I don’t do something about it before it becomes overwhelming, it won’t take long before anxiety kicks in. I have another confession. I sometimes don’t take the time to stop and actually do something about it before becoming overwhelmed.
There you have it: an actual therapist with years of education and training and years of experience, and much like many of the clients I see, I too experience an anxiety that intrudes upon my life when I’m stressed. It might seem strange that a therapist wouldn’t know how to handle stress very well, but the truth is that I do know how to handle stress. I can just never seem make time to actually handle it.
So what’s a human to do? That’s right. Human. That’s the thing. We all feel stress, maybe some more than others, but it’s human! It happens to everyone! Some people just handle, or cope, with it better (and more effectively) than others.
Here’s the thing, I know that if I would just stop and listen to my body, I could prevent, or at least better cope, with that anxiety that will soon take over my life when I’m feeling stressed. Here are 17 of the most effective coping skills that I’ve found to help me find some peace. Give them a try. You may find something that will help you too.
First off, let me note that you don’t have to consider yourself to be a “spiritual” person just to be able to use these techniques. “Spiritual” strategies are simply skills that can affect a person on a more spiritual, mindful level. Satisfying the human need to feel worthwhile and connected (and at peace) improves a person’s core well-being. These strategies aren’t like ones that simply distract you; those are temporary fixes to use when you aren’t able to more effectively cope at that moment (such as when you need to concentrate on the test you’re taking at the time). Distraction isn’t very effective to help in the long-term because the moment the distraction is no longer present, the stress or anxiety generally returns. Spiritual strategies are more effective not only in the moment, but also provide peace and calm in the long-run.
So here they are:
I hope you’re able to find something on this list that helps you better manage your stress too! If you know of other strategies that help you cope with stress, please leave a comment so I can add them to my list!
Coping strategies (also referred to as coping skills or self-regulation skills) carry enormous potential to be effective at calming us down, helping us cope with life’s situations, and assisting with regulating our wide array of emotions. There are SO MANY types of coping and self-regulation strategies. Some work better for children and adolescents, while others are better suited to be used by adults. Individuals generally find that some techniques are more effective than others, depending on the situation, the emotion one might be feeling, or what you’re trying to achieve by utilizing a skill. There are numerous coping strategies out there that a person can try, if they’re just willing to give them a shot. Most people find that not every coping skill they find suggested on Google or Pinterest or even in therapy proves to be effective for everyone every time. A coping technique that your friend may use to help him calm down when he’s angry might not be as effective for you when you’re mad. That’s okay because there are LOTS AND LOTS of coping strategies out there! If you find that one technique doesn’t seem to help, look for another. Just don’t ever completely trash a skill though, as sometimes it takes more than a couple tries to notice that a strategy really helps, and what may not work today may help significantly in the future, and vice versa.
In my last post, I introduced a list of diversion strategies to help people better cope with their emotions, as well as distressing events they may be experiencing in their lives. In this post you will find a list of 42 positive cognitive coping and self-regulation skills that you can try when you’re in need of something that involves using some brain power and thought processes in order to help influence the way you feel and/or behave. You will likely find that some strategies may be more appropriate for adults, while others might prove more appropriate for children and teens. Trying all of them, however, won’t hurt you as long as the task is within your skill level (for example, a five-year-old may find it difficult and equally frustrating if she tries to learn how to code). These techniques can be utilized by anybody, though some skills will probably appear more appealing than others.
Try them out. Let me know in the comments section if they help, or maybe you have some of your own ideas that you would like to share! Remember, if one strategy doesn’t seem particularly helpful, try something else.
Hope these help! Check back for future posts about other types of coping strategies!
Coping skills (also called self-regulation skills) are great. Seriously. They have the potential to be effective in a number of ways. Feeling sad or depressed? Find a coping strategy that helps lift your mood. Feeling angry? There are coping skills to help with that. Are you feeling anxious? There are strategies you can try to help you feel better. Feeling a sense of emptiness? There are techniques for that too. Just feeling upset in general? Yep, there’s coping strategies for that as well. Feeling bored? Choose a coping skill to help you get out of that funk.
There are numerous types of coping and self-regulation strategies. Some work better for children and teens; others work better for adults. Some techniques are more effective with helping to fight urges to self-harm. Other techniques are more helpful when you’re feeling depressed or anxious. And then there are others that can help calm you down when you’re feeling angry. There are even strategies out there that help individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different coping skills out there that a person could try. Just check out Pinterest and Google. That’s a good thing because most people find that not every coping skill will prove effective for everyone every time. A coping skill that helps your friend may not help regulate your feelings at all. What helps you control your anger might not be as effective at lifting your mood when you’re feeling depressed. That’s okay because there are lots and lots of coping skills out there! If you learn that one technique doesn’t help, look for another. Don’t completely trash a skill though. Sometimes it takes more than one or two tries to notice that something really helps, and what may not work today may help significantly a few months from now.
In this post you will find a list of 54 diversion strategies that you can try to help cope with those overwhelming emotions we all feel sometimes. “Diversion strategies” are coping skills that will allow you to stop thinking about the situation contributing to your distressed emotions, at least for a period of time. These techniques aren’t necessarily meant to be the final solution, but they can be quite useful in keeping you safe, distracting you until you have a little time to think more clearly, etc. These strategies are particularly useful if you can recognize the warning signs of those overwhelming emotions.
Try them out. If one doesn’t seem very helpful in regulating your emotions, try something else.