Category Archives: Exercises

The Breakup Experience

The Breakup Experience

A committed relationship in this article is defined as one based on mutually agreed-upon parameters that might involve exclusivity, honesty, openness, loyalty, trust and other implicit and explicit characteristics. Forms of committed relationships can be varied and might be short or long-term. These commitments may be reflected in domestic partnerships, religious and civil unions, single-sex and heterosexual couples living together, commuter (or long distance) marriages, and other arrangements.

breakup-divorce-separation-relationship-coupleCouples become separate entities when they break up and must chart their individual ways. Loss of a relationship can mean the end of dreams, routines, stability, emotional and financial security, companionship, and family as it existed before the breakup. The resulting trauma is one that impacts on the partners, of course. To varying degrees, children, extended family, friends and colleagues suffer from and grieve the loss as well.

In addition to grieving the loss, those in the midst of ending a committed relationship face a great many practical challenges:

  • Children
  • Parenting
  • Housing
  • Finances
  • Legalities
  • Division of property
  • Establishing an independent life

The legal break up of couples through divorce adds significantly to the complexity of working through the emotional and practical issues inherent in the process. Divorce involves legal considerations, binding agreements, and an economic reality that can alter the expectations and security of all family members.

Ending a committed relationship is an extended process with different phases. Educating your clients about this progression is an important part of working through the confusing, challenges and difficult experiences of breaking up. The following are phases your clients might encounter:

  • Significant relationship distress over time
  • Increased distance from each other
  • Confrontation(s) with partner and family
  • Permanent or temporary separation
  • Temporary reconciliation
  • Decision to end the relationship permanently
  • Selection of legal representation in the case of a divorce
  • Negotiations for the financial break up
  • Creation of a co-parenting plan
  • Day by day co-parenting
  • Creating a new, single life

Divorce is a legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body. Many of the same concerns involved in divorce can apply to domestic partners and others in a committed relationship even though resolving legal issues associated with marriage may not be necessary. Laws governing divorce differ from state to state, and from country to country. Facilitators need to be particularly sensitive to the cultural differences that may have a significant impact on the way in which individuals, families and communities think about and handle divorce.

The following will help your clients work through these tough issues.

Discuss these aspects about your client’s present situation:

Trust – How safe do you feel emotionally? How safe do you feel physically?
Safety – How safe do you feel sexually?
Love – Is your love romantic, platonic, intermittent, evaporating, or other?
Cooperation – How do you help each other with day-to-day responsibilities?
Respect – What level of respect does your partner have for you? What level of respect do you have for your partner?
Physical intimacy – How are you and your partner “in sync” about intimacy and sex? How are you and your partner not “in sync” about intimacy and sex? How would you describe your sex life?
Communication – Do you talk to each other about finances?  Are you only sharing information or are you able to discuss feelings, worries and excitement?
Values – How much do you agree on ethical and moral issues? How does that influence your relationship?
Religion and spirituality – Describe how you share a religious and/or spiritual belief system. If you do not, describe how that works in your relationship.
Raising children – If you have children, describe how you have or have not been able to find common ground regarding discipline, guidance, medical decisions, educational plans and goals.
Family-of-origin relationships – Do you believe you and/or your partner are more loyal to your own families-of-origin than to each other?
In-Law relationships – How have you or have you not worked out relationships that avoid high levels of conflict with each other’s families? Do you have close relationships with your in-laws? Is that likely to continue if your relationship breaks up? Why or why not?
Finances – Are you both contributing to the family economy, either by working outside the home or inside? How does that work for you? How do you agree or disagree on methods of spending money? How do you agree or disagree on a budget or saving money?
Arguing – Do you and your partner stick to the issue at hand when you argue? Do you or your partner bring up wrong-doings of the past when arguing? Does your fighting ever become physical? When you are arguing with your partner, how safe does everyone in your family feel?
Future – How do you believe your life (and that of your children, if applicable) would be better without this committed relationship? How do you believe your life (and that of your children, if applicable) would be worse without this committed relationship? Explain.

Discuss which answers were surprises. What is the take-away for your client?

Breaking Up Is Hard To DoEnding a committed relationship is very difficult, full of twists and turns and unexpected potholes. As you help your participant on their personal journey the following worksheets (from the workbook, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do) will help them clarify their position. The worksheet versions of To Stay or Go, Being Left, The Quality of Current Relationship, and Goals are available to download here.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults: A Blog Series, Part I

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults in the Digital Age

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults Book ReleaseMindfulness has been a hot trend this year. We hear all kinds of inspiring stories about how folks have used this ancient tool to become a better employee, student, partner, and person. Since the scientific community has become interested in mindfulness and other age-old contemplative arts, studies have proven the value of the ability to be fully present in what you do.

Mindfulness has been described as, “A state of mind in which people can observe mental activity without attaching to it or evaluating it.” (Leutenberg, Liptak, 2013) Using mindfulness, people can forge a path to find authentic identity and healthy personal and community connections, creating a good life in the digital age.

Emerging adults who are today defined loosely as those between 18 and 33 years-of-age, have always had rites of passage as they move from youth to a fully functioning adult. In today’s world of constant change and pressure to succeed, these milestones have changed drastically, even since our grandparents time. Although we can now communicate with the world at the drop of a cell phone, more and more people are finding themselves disconnected and lonely.

As they learn about mindfulness and how to incorporate it into their lives, both young adults and their mentors will become more grounded in the present moment and experience more ease, contentment, and life satisfaction – a state that positive psychologists refer to as well-being. From this place of growing comfort and ease, young adults will become more discerning and forward thinking, ready to take on the challenges of emerging adulthood with youthful common sense.

We at Whole Person Associates will present a series of articles which will include materials to clarify the problems facing emerging adults and a path to overcome these issues. We hope you find them useful and encourage your comments.

Mindfulness 1

Why do we need Mindfulness for Emerging Adults in the digital age?

Just as it is a toddler’s developmental task to master walking and talking, it is the developmental task of emerging adults (young adults roughly 18 to 33 years old) to build independence and intimacy. However, if we want these emerging adults to truly thrive in our society, we need to go beyond the developmental basics. We know toddlers need to feel loved and safe for optimum development to occur, but we sometimes forget that emerging adults need to be resilient, compassionate, optimistic, and connected to community to reach their full potential.

There are many advances in neuroscience that encourage seeing mindfulness and other contemplative practices as indispensable life skills. These ancient and now rigorously researched practices are more important than ever in our age of accelerated change, media overload, and chronic busyness. Because of the large interest in mindfulness by the scientific community, we now have evidence that these practices create positive change in the mind and body. By exploring and adopting mindfulness and other contemplative practices, emerging adults can forge a path to find authentic identity and healthy personal and community connections, creating a good life in the digital age.

Universally and eternally emerging adulthood is a transition time full of excitement and potential as well as risks and challenges. Facing our fears during times of transition is brave work. It may seem counterintuitive, but staying open-hearted and open-minded during the rollercoaster ride to adulthood gives us an opportunity to employ values-based decision making that will lead to balance, connection, and contentment.

In a series of eight articles we will explore four important categories: Balance, belonging, focus, and meaning. Each category will enable readers to build a personalized toolbox of skills. These skills will empower emerging adults to take control of stress and navigate difficult emotions. Both young adults and their mentors will become more grounded in the present moment and experience more ease, contentment, and life satisfaction – a state that positive psychologists refer to as well-being. From this place of growing comfort and ease, young adults will become more discerning and forward thinking, ready to take on the challenges of emerging adulthood with youthful common sense.

meditation-balance-rest-autumn-tree-trees-leaves

Balance

The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation and Conscious Breathing.

No matter what our personal stress style, all human bodies respond physically to stress in the same way. Fortunately we have some simple and free tools at our disposal to help us counter the stress response. These tools can be practiced anywhere! Deep breathing allows us to access the underutilized rest and digest response. This response causes blood pressure to decrease and slows the heart rate. Gastric juices are released so that the body can digest and absorb the maximum amount of nutrition available in food.

The opposite of the rest and digest response is the over-utilized fight or flight response. In fight or flight mode, the heart rate increases, pupils dilate, and blood flow is rushed to the limbs to help us escape danger. This response happens whether the stressful situation is at work or at home; whether it is real or imagined.

The fight or flight response helps us remove ourselves from dangerous situations. Problems occur when these stress reactions happen too frequently and/or too close together. Then occasional stress becomes chronic stress. The body is then bombarded with stress hormones such as cortisol, and we run the risk of developing conditions such as sleep disorders, depression, heart disease, and chronic fatigue, among others. Stress can make us more vulnerable to illness and can prematurely age us. How we respond to chronic stress – going for a walk as opposed to smoking, for instance – will ultimately slow down or speed up these unwanted processes.

The exercises that follow will help with food issues and exercise issues.

Click here to download free exercises.

The material above has been excerpted from Mindfulness for Emerging Adults by Donna Torney.

Coping with Chaos in the Twenty-First Century

Chaos and Confusion

Coping with Chaos Workbook and Card DeckExcerpted from Coping with Chaos
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, EdD

Definition of chaos: a state of utter confusion – Complete disorder – a jumble.

One thing that all people can count on in the twenty-first century is living with chaos. Chaos refers to a state of confusion in your life, the experience of random or unpredictable occurrences, and/or a lack of order to your daily life, space and belongings. Chaos can be seen in the many changes in the workplace, cell phones ringing and people constantly beset with interruptions, the barrage of new information flooding into your brain, thousands of choices, new and improved product ideas, new technologies that arrive daily, and new family structures. Often a family member volunteers or is forced to take on a new role such as caregiving. These are just a few of the many ways people are experiencing increased chaos in their lives which leaves them feeling irritated, frustrated, exhausted, angry, overwhelmed and/or confused.

Many people are interested in returning to the days when life was simpler, calmer, more controllable and more predictable. People want their lives to be full of events, people, and things they can predict and count on. Instead, they feel like they are losing their sense of purpose, control and predictability, and the result of these feelings is a sense of exasperation and weariness.

Faced with many choices, loads of information at everyone’s fingertips, and complex technological systems, people seek to establish order and control in their chaotic lives. More than ever before, it is important to understand chaos and attempt to find patterns in the chaos.

This can be seen throughout history:

  • Religion – Various religions have tried to make sense of the world by coming to terms with evil and making sense of a world that seems aimless, violent, and full of random acts and events.
  • Science – The history of science is an ongoing attempt to discover patterns in the physical world and to understand incomprehensible and disorderly events. Scientists usually spend their lives searching for laws and patterns that can be repeated and therefore understood.
  • Mythology – Myths have been handed down through the ages to help cultures make sense of the randomness of events. Myths include parables related to birth, death, journeys to distant lands, magical beasts, mythical heroes and heroines, and gods and goddesses.

People often ask, “Why worry about chaos…there’s nothing you can do about it?” The fact is that people can control the chaos in their lives. It can be quite liberating to realize that chaos, although unsettling, need not be as frustrating as people believe. They can learn to define patterns of chaos and redirect their energies and abilities.

A New Way of Looking at Chaos

The Chaos Theory is one of the best theories for dealing with the chaos in the lives of people. This Chaos Theory was developed in the 1970s when James Gleick and Edward Lorenz found that small changes and fateful events set off patterns that could affect everything in their surroundings. They referred to this as the “butterfly effect” when they observed that a butterfly flapping its wings in China could affect weather patterns in Europe.

Therefore, even though chaos finds its way into the lives of every person, it is critical that people find ways to effectively cope with and overcome the chaos. The Chaos Theory suggests that there is no chaos; rather, there is a pattern and underlying order that can be defined by observing it with the right lens.

There are several ways to embrace and manage chaos:

  • Expect it – In the twenty-first century it is almost impossible to avoid chaos in life. People need to be aware that their plans are likely to be interrupted and changed, and that everything cannot be predicted and controlled.
  • Understand it – By seeing chaos for what it is and accepting and controlling it, people can see chaos as freedom from predictable routines and constraints. Eventually, chaos can be seen as a transition point to a more controlled, calm and satisfying life.
  • See it for what it is – Chaos Theory reminds people that even in chaos one can find distinct, critical life patterns. When people are able to identify the patterns in their lives, they can work to control the chaos and live simpler lives.
  • Control It – Chaos Theory suggests that there is always going to be chaos in the lives of most people. The secret is to be alert to the opportunities chaos brings and find ways of doing one’s best to control it so that it does not negatively affect one’s life.

All people at some point will experience chaos that will come from a wide variety of sources and can cause people to feel frustrated, stressed out and weary. Most people see this chaos as a symptom of the twenty-first century and feel that there is nothing they can do about it. In reality, chaos can be seen for what it is. People can do something about it and control it in their own lives.

The following worksheets will help your clients begin the process of controlling the chaos in their lives. Try them first yourself so you can guide participants through the process.

Click here to download these worksheets.

Stress Management

Stress – A Problem for All Ages

Stress Management Coping With Everyday StressorsStress Management article and exercises excerpted from Optimal Well-Being for Senior Adults, Vol. 1 by Ester R.A. Leutenberg and Kathy A. Khalsa, CPC, OTR/L and Coping with Everyday Stressors  by Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John Liptak, EdD.

We live in a world fraught with stress. Stress has many sources and can bestress  generated from within a person through self-imposed thoughts and feelings, while others stressors come from the environment: Stress is completely age tolerant. Our reactions to stress might be different as we get older, but it is out there waiting to pounce.

Stress generated from within a person ‒ Stress can be self-imposed through low self-esteem, anger, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of helplessness, anxiety, perfectionistic tendencies, jealousy and hostility. For example, people who are perfectionistic often bring stress upon themselves by being too careful and worrying about tasks being perfectly accomplished.

Stress generated from the environment – Stress can be felt from the results of environmental catastrophes such as severe storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and acts of war. For example, people who are trying to rebuild their homes and lives after a hurricane find themselves struggling to meet their most basic needs.

Stress generated from conflicts – Stress can be the result of situations in which people are faced with an incompatibility with people, needs, demands, opportunities or goals. For example, a person who does not get along with a co-worker will experience stress on the job.

Stress generated from daily hassles – Stress can be the result of minor irritating annoyances that occur in daily life. Some of these daily hassles may be losing keys, car breaking down, waiting in long lines at a store, waiting for appointments, and getting stuck in traffic. For example, a person having to sit in traffic going to and coming home from work will experience stress.

Stress generated from economic factors – Stress can be the result of economic factors such as losing money in the stock market, not having enough money in retirement, growing inflation, and amassing too much debt. For example, many people have to work later in life because of a lack of enough money to live on in retirement. People may struggle with overcrowded housing, inadequate heating or air-conditioning, dangerous neighborhoods, etc.

Stress generated from changes in families – Stress can be the results of changes in the family such as parents’ separation, divorce, blended families, loss of loved ones, change in residence, birth of a child, adoption, changes in health of family members, and caring for aging parents. For example, people who are forced to care for aging parents often feel guilt, and are stressed because it takes time away from work and other family obligations.

Stress generated from changes at work – Stress can be the result of changes on a job, loss of work, changes in a role played at work, uncomfortable physical demands in the workplace, a lack of safety, interpersonal demands such as an abrasive supervisor or co-worker, and having too much work to complete. For example, a person who must work with an abrasive supervisor will feel uncomfortable most of the work day. In order to successfully deal with all of the various types of stress, people must find creative ways of coping. The exercises that follow will help you manage your stress and move forward to lead a happy, healthy life.

The stress experienced by seniors is greatly impacted by past lifestyle choices and the tools we have learned to cope with our stress. Stress Management – Past and Present will help clarify those skills that work well and those that do not.

Stress Management – Past and Present

The lessons we learned in our past inform us on how we manage stress now. Answer the following questions in your journal or discuss them with a friend. If you wish, click here to access a printable version of the worksheets.

In your past:

  1. Think back to your childhood. How did the adults in your life manage their stress?
  2. As a child or teenager, how did you manage your stress?
  3. What is a memory from your childhood or teen years when you managed stress in an unhealthy way?
  4. What is a memory from your childhood or teen years when you managed stress in a healthy way?

In the present:

  1. What was one way in the last month that you managed stress?
  2. When you are at home, what is one stress management activity that is immediately accessible?
  3. Who is one person in your life, who can support you in managing stress well?
  4. What is one goal or boundary that you can set to assist you in stress management?

How did the lessons you learned in your past inform how you manage stress now?

 

Physical Distress Symptoms

How you move and hold your body tells a great deal about your level of stress and physical wellness.  Look at the list of stress symptoms below. Which of these do you exhibit and when do you find yourself experiencing them? In your journal list the symptoms and write about when and with whom you experience them. Write about how you might overcome this. If you wish, click here to access a printable version of the worksheets.

Foot tapping (impatience)

Tight, hunched shoulders (anxiety or frustration)

Tightly folded arms (anger or disappointment)

Sagging shoulders (fatigue)

Biting nails (anxiety or worry)

Frowning forehead (worry or fatigue)

Clenched teeth (stressed)

Biting or Licking Lips (nervousness)

Downturned corners of mouth (disapproval)

What other physical distress symptoms do you exhibit? Write about those as well.

 

Stress Relief A to Z

Good coping skills are a must to handle the stress we all experience. On the left you will find a list of skills. In your journal write what you would do, following the A to Z pattern. If you wish, click here to access a printable version of the worksheets.

Stress Relief A to Z

Examples

Your Own Stress Relief A to Z Suggestions

 

Avoid negative people. A
Be yourself. B
Change your thought. C
Don’t think you know all the answers. D
Exercise often. E
Feed the birds. F
Give someone a hug. G
Hum a joyful song. H
Invite a friend to dinner. I
Join others when invited. J
Keep a journal. K
Look up at the stars. L
Make duplicate car or house keys. M
NO! Just say it with no excuses. N
Open a door for someone. O
Pet a friendly dog or cat. P
Quit trying to fix other people. Q
Repair things that don’t work properly. R
Stand up and stretch. S
Take a shower. T
Use time wisely. U
Visualize yourself relaxing. V
Walk in the rain. W
X–plore a new idea. X
Yak with a friend. Y
Zoom into a healthy restaurant. Z

To download a digital copy of these stress management worksheets, click here.

Sleep Issues: Exercises and Worksheets

Sleep :  Are we getting what we need from the sleep we get

We often hear how important it is to get enough sleep… the right kind of sleep. Even setting the alarm on a cell phone can trigger an electronic lecture. “Join us to learn better sleep habits.” Many of the suggestions we hear make perfect sense for dealing with sleep issues. Go to bed at the same time every night rings true to us. It follows that if we have regular bedtimes we will fall asleep easier. We know our bodies respond to habitual behaviors. We’ve trained them to do so. However, reality steps in and we find it almost impossible to get to bed at the same time every night, let alone get up at the same time each day. Where do we go from here?

sleep issuesThe following material is excerpted from the Coping with Sleep Issues Workbook by Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John Liptak, EdD.

Many people feel that their sleep issues are just a normal part of their everyday life. Sleep issues can be disruptive and leave one feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day. These issues can continue, get worse, and become a sleep disorder.

Identifying and awareness of your sleep issues will help. Things pertaining to your sleep habits that you take for granted may be okay, or they may not be okay. Use the following information to help you document your sleep issues.

If you know or live with someone with sleep problems, send them a link to this blog and ask the person to do the exercises. Even better, interview the person by asking the questions posed below, and writing the answers down.

Your responses will also serve as a guide to take to your medical provider who can guide you to healthier sleep.

Click here for a set of printable worksheets covering the following topics.

 

My Sleep Issues

Name ______________________________________ Date ______________________

How many of the items below that pertain to you and/or your situation? Describe your experiences in your journal or print out a copy for your use of the worksheet.

While Sleeping …

I am able to recall a frightening nightmare.

I am afraid I will leave the house when I sleepwalk.

I am confused upon waking after I sleep walk.

I am hard to console when I awaken after sleep walking.

I am often sleepy during the day.

I am sweaty and my heart is pounding after a bad dream.

I dream about doing work while I am sleeping.

I awaken out of breath.

I am confused if someone wakes me up.

I awaken feeling frightened.

I engage in aggressive behavior.

I awaken sweating and breathing fast.

I awaken with a dry mouth.

I awaken with a sense of panic.

I awaken with my heart pounding from fear.

I cannot fall back to sleep when I have a nightmare.

I do not respond to others when walking in my sleep.

I feel scared at the end of my dreams

I have difficulty staying asleep.

I often choke or gasp during the night.

I often have headaches in the morning.

I scream and shout.

I snore loudly.

I wake up and sit upright with a look of panic on my face.

I walk around while I am sleeping.

I will often scream while sleepwalking.

My dreams feel like they threaten my safety.

My dreams become more disturbing as they unfold.

My nightmares are so realistic they are scary.

Others say my breathing stops when I am sleeping.

 

Sleep issues can become worse if not treated. Treatment usually consists of a combination of cognitive-behavioral activities like the ones in this workbook as well as medication. Consult and bring the three pages that you just completed with you to a medical or sleep professional to ensure you are doing everything possible to treat your sleep issues.

 

My Self-Care Sleep Habits

Sleep habits are often dependent on wellness habits that you display during the day. Think about some of your wellness habits and how they may be negatively affecting your ability to sleep at night. In the chart that follows, write about how you can make positive change in your wellness habits.

Self-Care Habit My Present Self-Care Habits How I Can Take Better Care
Example

Eating habits

I eat a heavy snack an hour before bedtime.

 

I can take a light snack a few hours before bedtime.

 

Eating habits

 

 

Consistent bedtime rituals

 

 

Exercise

 

 

Intake of liquid

 

 

Medications/drugs legal or illegal

 

 

Nap during the day

 

 

Relaxation

 

 

Stress

 

 

Other

 

 

Highlight each Self-Care Habit you can change immediately to ensure healthier sleep.

 

Exercise for Better Sleep

There is a specific correlation between stress and a lack of sleep. Research has shown that exercise is critical in the reduction of stress. Physical activity earlier in the day can be a key factor in your ability to let go of some of the stress and sleep well. Answer the following questions in your journal or print a copy of the worksheet for your use.

  • What types of exercise do you do regularly (jogging, walking, swimming, aerobics, etc.)?
  • How much time do you spend regularly in the activities above?
  • Which types of exercise do you like best? Why
  • Which types of exercise do you like least? Why?
  • What exercise classes would you like to take?
  • What stops you from taking those exercise classes?
  • Are there any team sports that you could join?
  • Why don’t you exercise more? (Be honest!)
  • How can you compensate or overcome the reasons you do not exercise more?

 

Nutrition Influences of Sleep

Your food habits may have an influence on the amount and restorative power of the sleep you are currently experiencing. Journal about your current food habits, and then identify changes you would be willing to make. Note your current habits about the food group in question, and then identify the changes you want to make.

Proteins (example: milk, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, dried beans, oats, rice, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, cashews, broccoli, peanuts)

Fats (example: butter, cheese, chocolate, pork, bacon, beef, veal, hotdogs, margarine, mayonnaise, canola oil, lunch meats)

Bad carbohydrates (example: sugar, corn syrup, sodas, doughnuts, cookies, cakes, pies,sugary cereals)

Good carbohydrates (example: potatoes, sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, corn, oats, wheat, soybeans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans)

Vitamins (example: liver, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole-grain bread, milk, cheese, salmon, tuna, potatoes, poultry, peas, soybeans, whole-grain cereals, seafood, carrots, seeds)

Drinks (example: water, alcohol, coffee, sweetened fruit juices, sodas, hot tea, iced tea, lemonade)

 

Stress Management for Better Sleep

The relationship between stress and your ability to sleep well has been well documented. People who are experiencing a great deal of stress do not typically sleep well.

Write down the stress management techniques listed below that you will commit to trying.

  • Avoid hot-button
  • Be assertive with others – you have needs and wants too.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Do not try to control what cannot be controlled.
  • Eat nutritionally.
  • Enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
  • Express your feelings in a safe, effective manner.
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Forgive yourself and others.
  • Journal about your feelings associated with stress.
  • Keep and prioritize a to-do list.
  • Learn how to say “No” when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Look at the big picture of life and see where your issue fits in.
  • Manage your time well so that you have time for yourself.
  • Plan your time effectively.
  • Prepare and accept that unexpected problems will arise.
  • Relax with calming music.
  • Schedule time for Yoga or stretching exercises.
  • Spend less time with people who stress you out, if you can.
  • Take control of your own environment.

 

Sleep Concerns

People who have sleep problems or disorders often have concerns when retiring for bed because of some of the issues that go along with their sleep patterns. Going to sleep with these concerns, and worrying about falling asleep, can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Sometimes, talking or writing about the issues will help.

In your journal identify three of your concerns associated with your sleep.

 

Taking Worries and Fear to Bed

We often worry and fear things we cannot control. Read the Serenity Prayer out loud. Make photocopies of it, cut it out, and tape it to your bathroom mirror, by your bedside, or any places where you can easily see it and re-read it.

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things

I cannot change;

Courage to change

the things I can;

And wisdom to

know the difference.

 

Bed-Time Self-Care

Print out this page. Cut out the tips below that pertain to you, and those you need to remember. Post them in places that you will see them. (bathroom mirror, refrigerator, etc.)

Reduce your liquid intake before bedtime.

 

Refrain from eating a large meal or snack before bedtime.

 

Remember that your bedroom is for sleep and intimacy only.

 

Get at least seven hours of sleep.

 

Have a bedroom free of and electronic products.

 

Turn your alarm clock around so that you cannot see it from bed.

 

Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.

 

Go to sleep and rise at the same time each day – even on weekends.

 

Avoid watching television shows that are upsetting before bedtime.

 

If you aren’t asleep in 20 or30 minutes, get out of bed until you are tired.

 

Keep a comfortable room temperature. Cool, but not cold.

 

Think positive thoughts as you are falling asleep.

 

Establish relaxing bedtime rituals.

 

Maintain a healthy diet.

 

Consider the things you have to be grateful for as you are going to sleep.

 

Make sure that your bedroom is quiet.

 

Review the good things that happened during the day as you get undressed.

 

Free your mind as you get into bed.

 

Avoid alcohol before bedtime.

 

Use caution with sleeping pills that can become addictive.

 

Do not allow cats or dogs in bed with you no matter how much you love them.

 

Exercise regularly but not three or four hours before bedtime

 

If there are noises, use a fan or white noise to block out the sounds.

 

Avoid stimulants like nicotine and tobacco before bedtime.

 

Avoid caffeine several hours before bedtime.

 

Lower the lights a few hours before bedtime

 

Finish eating anything an hour before bed.

 

Reduce the number and time of naps during the day.

 

Make an appointment with a medical professional.

 

Make an appointment with a sleep professional.

 

 

Using Mental Imagery

Mental imagery (or guided imagery) harnesses our brain’s natural tendency to create vivid mental representations of our beliefs, desires, experiences and goals. It’s also a simple, inexpensive, and powerful tool for soothing symptoms and creating positive change. The use of mental imagery has been found useful with some sleepwalkers as well as people with other sleep problems.

Mental imagery is using memories of visual events to project a mental picture in your mind.

An example:

I picture myself at a beach in Delaware where I used to live. When I begin to feel anxious or stressed I can project myself back to that beach and begin to feel relaxed and sleepy. I just close my eyes and picture myself sitting in the sand. I notice how blue the water looks and how white the waves appear as they come in. I imagine walking along the beach looking for seashells. I smell the fresh air and hear the seagulls chirping above. The sun is warm on my body and I feel safe. With each breath I take I imagine breathing in the beautiful, vivid colors that are present. This is my personal paradise.

 Now, write out a pleasant imagery scene that you will like picturing and remembering.

Before going to sleep each evening, you can begin to imagine this scene vividly.

 

Support for My Sleep Issues

In overcoming any sort of sleep issue, regardless of how minor or severe, support is important, and sometimes critical. Support can come in many different forms and from many individuals in your life. In the following boxes, list people whom you can rely on to suggest healthy lifestyle changes and activities that allow you to have a healthy bedtime sleep.

Make a list in your journal of all those who could support and help you with your sleep issues. Note how you believe that person can help you. Possible supporters could come from medical professionals, sleep issue professionals, family members, friends and acquaintances in the community, people with whom you work at a volunteer job, spiritual sources, or other groups you might know. Print the worksheet for your use if you wish.

Click here to download printable worksheets related to this article.

LAUGH! Using Humor as a Stress Management Tool

Laugh laugh laugh laugh laugh…

Don't Get Mad Get Funny - Laugh

Expressions such as, “Oh, just laugh it off” or “Don’t be such a sour puss” don’t make me smile. They make me more annoyed than I was before someone tried to lighten my load. Furthermore, I often snap back with something pithy such as, “Great! What other trite expression can you offer?” Not helpful to anyone. Leigh Anne Jasheway in Don’t Get Mad Get Funny offers a path to find healthy laughter that actually works.  The following is excerpted from her book.

Finding Your Funnybone

Before you can begin to use humor as a stress management tool, you need to understand some things about your sense of humor and your ability and willingness to smile, giggle, or laugh so hard it hurts. Everyone has a different sense of humor and unless you are attuned to yours, you will end up missing many opportunities to use your humor skills to deal with life’s little unexpected miseries.

A recent study reported that the average American five-year-old child laughs out loud around four hundred times a day, while the average adult laughs out loud only fifteen. Young children are truly hedonistic – when something is no longer fun, they stop doing it. We adults call that a short attention span.

A boy laughs while readingReaching adulthood does require a degree of buckling down and getting serious. Let’s face it – there are things we have to do whether we want to or not. But so many of us have lost the sheer capacity for fun, joy, and laughter that even when we have the opportunity, we miss it.

Many adults face a debilitating disease that has never been medically diagnosed: humor impairment. Humor impairment is the inability to find humor even in situations that are funny to most other people. My personal term for this state is constipation, because if you can’t release your emotions through laughter, you emotional and spiritual systems are “backed up”.

Your level of humor constipation is often a result of the environment in which you grew up. If laughter was always present in your family, your ability and willingness to laugh with others is probably great. On the other hand, if, like me, you grew up in a family where laughter was frowned upon, you will probably find it more difficult to express humor in front of others.

But, as with any other behavior, you can change. I grew up in a family where expressing any type of emotion was seen as a sign of immaturity. As a result, I was a most serious child, preferring Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath to the daily comics. I married a man who believed that neither laughter nor tears were acceptable or desirable. Today, however, I make my living teaching laughter and comedy and performing as a stand-up comic. My background has truly taught me how bleak and unhealthy a life without humor can be. (By the way, I still love Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath, but now they rub shoulders on my bookshelves with books by Dave Barry and Rita Rudner.)

Take this short quiz to determine how willing and able you are to laugh at life and its foibles.

Your Laughter Profile

  1. During an average day, I laugh out loud, snicker or giggle:
    1. Once or not at all
    2. Two or three times
    3. At least once an hour
    4. Constantly, I’m under medication
  2. When I am alone and read, see, hear, or think something funny, I:
    1. Smile to myself
    2. Laugh out loud, but look around to see if anyone saw me
    3. Laugh out loud and find someone with whom to share the funny thing
    4. Take a cold shower
  3. In the past year, I can remember:
    1. At least one time I spent at least a whole minute laughing
    2. At least two to five times I spent at least a whole minute laughing
    3. More than five times I spent at least a whole minute laughing
    4. I can’t remember – what was the question?
  4. When I’m around other people, they laugh and joke:
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. I never hang around other people, they might laugh at me!
  5. When faced with daily crisis (the dog peed on the rug, I missed the project deadline again, my daughter needs brownies for school NOW!) I respond with a laugh:
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. Only if it’s someone else’s rug, deadline, or child
  6. I do things intentionally to make myself laugh:
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. That might hurt!
  7. The people I spend most of my time with:
    1. Leave me feeling drained and depressed
    2. Don’t really affect my attitude
    3. Make me laugh a lot
    4. Usually steal my lunch money
  8. I can name:
    1. One thing that almost always makes me laugh
    2. Two things that almost always make me laugh
    3. At least three things that almost always makes me laugh
    4. My closest relatives
  9. I laugh at myself:
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. Only when I’m not in the room
  10. I do silly things on purpose (wear strange buttons, make funny noises, and do things to see how others will respond):
    1. Never
    2. Sometimes
    3. Often
    4. No one ever notices
  11. When I hear people laughing at work, the first thing I think is:
    1. I wish I could get paid to goof off
    2. I wish I knew what the joke is
    3. How wonderful that they’re having a good time, I think I’ll join them
    4. That it’s Saturday and I shouldn’t even be here

How to score your laughter profile

Give yourself the following points for each letter: a=0 b=1 c=2 d=3. Then add them up to obtain your total score.

If your score is less than 5, you are suffering from humor malnutrition. Someone probably told you “Grow up, get serious!” and you did. In order for you to find the humor in daily events, you will have to start slowly – first by convincing yourself that humor is an acceptable emotion and one that is healthy when used regularly.

If your score is from 6 to 15, you occasionally have a good laugh, but your life lacks humor regularity. Remember, laughter is like exercise – you have to do it regularly to get the full benefit. Use it or lose it! You’re good at expressing humor when you find things funny, but your goal now is to try to find humor in those things that usually make you angry, annoyed, or irritated.

If your score is from 16 to 20, you are humorously fit! Not only do you approach life with the right amount of humor and benefit from it, you also probably make other people’s lives more enjoyable. You should become a friend and role model for people around you who need the healing power of humor yet who don’t seem to be able to use it in their lives.

If your score is from 21 to 33, you’re downright silly, aren’t you? Don’t stifle those childish instincts! Sure they told you in school that the class clown would never go anywhere in life. But they were wrong! Look at Chris Rock! He’s taking it to the bank.

Click here for a printable version.

Your Humor Compass: Where do you find the funny in life?

Friends laugh togetherNow that you have a better idea of your ability and willingness to use humor on a daily basis, it is important to understand the kinds of things that you find funny. After all, just as our taste in food or art varies, so does our taste in what is and is not funny to us.

An important note here: You do not necessarily have to laugh out loud to find something funny. One of my best friends and I went to a movie together a few years ago. I laughed so hard I couldn’t see through the tears. She sat there quietly. Afterwards, she said the movie was one of the funniest she had seen in years.

Ask yourself the following questions to determine the types of humor that you will be able to use to most effectively manage your stress.

  • Do you laugh more at the physical or slapstick humor you find in the Three Stooges, I Love Lucy, Perfect Strangers, and The Mask, or do you prefer verbal humor, or do you enjoy both?
  • Do you have a strong sense of humor ethics? In other words, do you find certain specific types of jokes to be offensive rather than funny?
    It is important for you to understand the types of humor that distress you rather than tickle you. They may include stereotypical jokes, put-downs, or humor about certain subjects that are too close to your heart for you to find them fanny at present.
  • Do you like jokes that focus on things you have in common with the comedian?
    Studies indicate that many people do prefer humor that speaks to their own personal experience, which means that we often prefer comedy from people who are similar in age, race, or gender.|
  • Do you like topical humor, jokes that build on current events?
    Late night humorists are scheduled to appear on television after the news to help people cope with the negative images painted during the evening newscast. If this type of humor is appealing to you, you can try, yourself, to find humor in your local newspaper and nightly news report.
  • Do you like wordplay and puns?
    An interesting thing that I have discovered is that different types of humor appear to be more or less popular in different parts of the United States. When teaching humor classes, I have noted, for example, that people from the Midwest tend to enjoy the humor of puns more than people from other areas of the country.
  • Do you prefer humor that stands on its own, or do you like props and gimmicks?
    Some people find Gallagher extremely funny (for those of you who don’t know, he’s the guy famous for smashing watermelons on stage). Others think he’s just silly.
  • Do you regularly find humor in things that aren’t necessarily meant to be funny?
    For example, do you make jokes about commercials, billboards, medical forms, or warning labels on food packages?

Answering these questions for yourself will help you identify the types of humor to seek out, as well as the types of humor you yourself may attempt in order to reduce your stress and have more fun in life.

Mental Health Issues: Erasing the Stigma

Erasing the Stigma of Mental Health Issues

Managing Intense Anxiety WorkbookExcerpted from Managing Intense Anxiety Workbook
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, EdD

Mental health stigma can be divided into two types. Social stigma is characterized by prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health issues. Perceived stigma is the internalizing by the people with mental health issues of their understanding of discrimination.

The following worksheets will help you learn to change the stigma of mental health issues and deal with their impact in a more effective way. Click here for a printable version.

The Stigma of Mental Health Issues

People who experience mental health issues in their lives are prone to reoccurring symptoms. When this happens, they often have a stigma placed on them by other people. Often the stigma attached to this issue stops one from moving forward—being unable to talk about it for fear of being judged or labeled. We can erase the stigma of any mental health issues by starting to discuss it with one person at a time, and taking the time to explain the anxiety you lived through in the past.

Let’s start with people with whom you have already shared your story.

With whom have you discussed your issues?

 

What did you say? What was this person’s reaction? What did the person say?

 

How did you feel?

 

Family

 

     
Friends

 

     
Acquaintances

 

     
People in your community or your house of worship

 

     
Other

 

     
Other

 

     

 

If any one of the above reacted in a negative way, to what do you attribute that reaction?

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

If we stamp out the stigma attached to mental health issues, shed the shame and eliminate the fear, then we open the door for people to speak freely about what they are feeling and thinking.

~ Jaletta Albright Desmond

Journal about what this quotation means to you. How can you do your part to erase the stigma of mental illness.

Glenn Close said, “The most powerful way to change someone’s view is to meet them … People who do come out and talk about mental illness, that’s when healing can really begin. You can lead a productive life.

Name a time when you have changed someone else’s view – about anything.

 

 

 

How did that feel to you?

 

 

 

 

 

Name a time you were tempted to talk about your anxiety issues, but didn’t? Why not?

 

 

 

 

 

Write about a situation in which you talked about your anxiety issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did that feel? How did it work out?

 

 

 

 

 

Who is a trusted person you can talk with and begin to heal? Anyone else?

 

 

 

Who is a trusted person you can ask for a referral of someone to talk with in order to begin to heal

 

 

 

Anyone else? In an ideal world, how can you lead a more stable life?

 

 

 

 

 

How can you contribute to changing stigma?

 

 

 

 

 

Ways I Am Treated

Think about some of the ways that people treat you because of the symptoms you show due to your mental illness. In the spaces below, write about those who treat you unfairly and why.

I am criticized by my family and/or friends …

 

 

 

 

 

I am ignored by my family and/or friends …

 

 

 

 

 

I encounter problems at work …

 

 

 

 

 

I encounter problems at home …

 

 

 

 

 

I am subjected to teasing or harassment …

 

 

 

 

 

I am laughed at …

 

 

 

 

 

I treat myself unfairly by …

 

 

 

 

 

I treat myself fairly by …

 

 

 

 

 

The Stigma of Going to a Mental Health Therapist 

Many people have pre-conceived ideas about anyone seeking therapy.

Do you know of anyone who has gone to a mental health therapist? Write what you know about

the experience. ______________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

Here are some facts about mental health and mental health therapy.

  • Mental health includes how you act, feel, and think in different situations.
  • Mental health problems can be caused by many different things including medical health issues, abuse (emotional, physical, verbal, sexual), stress, worry, loss of a relationship, food issues, ADHD, STD’s, family changes, addictions, traumatic event, problems, wanting to build up self-confidence, etc.
  • If someone goes to a mental health therapist, this does NOT mean the person is crazy. Mental health therapists treat people the same as any other medical doctor treats problems.
  • There needs to be a good connection between you and the therapist. Your therapist should be someone you feel you can trust.
  • This might take a few meetings and/or a few therapists, to find the right one for you.
  • Non-judgmental people who truly care about you will not judge you in a negative way. They will be proud of you for seeking help.
  • The therapist does not assume that you have a mental illness. The therapist assumes something is troubling you, knows that no one leads a perfect life, and admires you for trying to make changes in your life.
  • The therapist’s job is to help you understand what’s going on.
  • The therapist will not tell you how to live your life, or how to think, act, or believe.
  • The therapist is not an advice-giver, but will help you think about how to increase your quality of life.
  • The therapist may have some thoughts, and with you, will help you make changes.
  • The therapist can help you to increase your life management skills.
  • The therapist will help you recognize and express your feelings in a healthy way.
  • The only person who can “fix” your problems is you, but a therapist will help you with an action plan.
  • The mental health therapist may suggest that you see a medical doctor for medication.
  • Therapy can be a slow or long process. Being open and honest, and wanting to feel better, will make the difference.

Place an X by the facts that you were not aware of.

What are your concerns about talking with a mental health therapist?_ __________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

After learning about these facts, consider making a commitment to speak with a counselor or therapist.

National Military Appreciation Month

May is National Military Appreciation Month

Excerpted from Veterans: Surviving and thriving after trauma
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and Carol Butler, MS Ed, RN, C

Forward by John Sippola, LTC, ret., MDiv

Veterans front coverDeclared by Congress in 1999, May was selected National Military Appreciation Month as a month-long observance honoring the sacrifices of the United States Armed Forces.  There are more military related observances during the month of May than any other month, so it is an appropriate time to celebrate the men and women in uniform.  During May, we recognize Loyalty Day, VE Day (the end of World War II in Europe on May 8, 1945), Armed Forces Day, Military Spouses Day and Memorial Day.

War casts a long shadow. For far too many service members and their families, the initial expressions of welcome, joy and relief are soon overshadowed by hidden wounds to mind, body and spirit. Too many veterans find they are engaged in yet another desperate battle. And, in this hidden war after the war they discover enemies they feel ill-equipped to fight. Aftershocks of war-related trauma and dangerous undertows of depression sabotage their mission for a more satisfying life in community. Moral injury drowns the quest for inner peace, and substance abuse undermines hard-won gains.

Initially, homecoming is happiness, applause and affection, but reintegration to daily life does not resume as they knew it. Veterans, their partners and families have changed. The labor market may not welcome their skills; their finances may plunge. Statistics show alarmingly high suicide and unemployment rates.

Help abounds via the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Department of Defense, Wounded Warrior Project and numerous governmental and private agencies. Many veterans are reluctant to seek assistance due to the perceived stigma of asking for help; others are too overwhelmed, unaware of available resources, or receive little or no help for other reasons.

As more veterans return from combat, society is increasingly aware of their needs. They will be directed toward professional and spiritual counselors. Veterans differ from other abuse survivors; they have seen atrocities and experienced horrors most civilians cannot comprehend. Their intelligence, determination and resilience that served our country are now needed to save themselves, to heal their invisible and visible wounds.

One of the issues Veterans face is how to problem solve when they are overwhelmed with problems. They often need help finding a way to break their difficulties down to something manageable. The exercise, Problems Can Be Opportunities, will help them discover a way to prioritize their issues and work through a solution…a solution that works for them. A facilitator’s guide is supplied here.

A downloadable version of the exercise “Problems Can Be Opportunities” is found here.

 

Difficult People: How to Deal with Them

Types of Difficult People and How to Deal with Them

Excerpted from Coping with Difficult People
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, PhD

Coping with Difficult PeopleDifficult people are everywhere. Difficult people are those who frustrate us to no end. (In fact, others may view each of us as a difficult person.) We encounter difficult people at home, in the workplace, school, grocery market, anywhere. Often how much they affect us depends on our self-esteem, ability to recognize “hot buttons” and effectiveness of communication skills. Although one meets many different varieties of difficult people, we have suggested six types that seem to be the most common. These difficult people will have some or all of the following traits:

WHINERS are people who find fault in others and everything they do, blame others for what happens in their lives, and know for certain what should be done but rarely work to improve or correct a situation. They whine in a high-pitched tone, cry and grumble to complain about problems rather than working to fix them or find solutions for them. They are often able to see problems that need solutions, but choose to complain about the problems rather than working to solve them.

KNOW-IT-ALLS are people who think that they know more than everyone else. They believe they have more knowledge and expertise and have all of the answers, and they know they are always right. They do not like to be corrected and will often be impatient, defensive, defiant and sarcastic with people who disagree with them, or they shut down or argue without reason. They feel they are experts on all subjects, behave arrogantly and take exception to anything said to them.

AGGRESSIVE PEOPLE are often angry, impatient and explosive. They use strength, coercion, force, and power to make their point. They often intimidate others into agreeing with them or giving up their point of view. They are critical of people who do not agree with them, and they use ridicule, belligerence, accusations, and verbal, emotional, and/or physical abuse as a way of putting people down. People who interact with them feel a need to be cautious (as if they are walking on eggshells.)

PASSIVE PEOPLE are hard to understand and hard to get to know. They are usually shy, quiet and reserved; they simply want to blend in and not be noticed. They rarely share their opinions or assert themselves to get their views across. They do not talk or share a lot and do not feel the need to respond to questions, especially personal ones. They often appear aloof and detached.

NEGATIVE PEOPLE are usually pessimistic people who will always say such things as “that will never work” and “we have tried that in the past.” They are skeptical that anything will turn out right or be right. They drag others down and make everyone’s environment as negative and as pessimistic as they are. They are unable to see the positive in anything and will always believe that things will not work out.

YES-PEOPLE are super pleasant and agreeable. They usually promise something that they cannot deliver. They seek approval and are afraid to say no to other people, especially the important people in their lives. They say what people want to hear and will agree with each person’s opposing views or opinions.

Here is a model that you can use to build positive relationships with difficult people.

In this model, participants can deal effectively with difficult people in their lives by following a few critical steps including:

  1. Identify the person’s personality type and what makes the person so difficult for others to handle.
  2. Learn and utilize critical communication and listening skills to build a positive relationship.
  3. Cope effectively with the person.
  4. Learn skills to respond effectively and/or to confront the person.

Sounds simple. Now for some tools to help.

 

Interacting with Whiners
Don’t . . .

 

•       agree with the person’s complaints

•       get defensive

•       counter-attack

•       say “You’re such a whiner”

•       be tough on the person if it’s not their usual style

•       be sarcastic (“poor poor you”)

 

Do . . .

 

•       listen attentively

•       ask clarifying questions for precise information

•       ask “how could it be better?”

•       create a problem-solving scenario: “What if…”

•       be supportive

•       kindly point out the person whining when he/she might not realize it

•       listen for a bit and then try to solve the problem with the person

 

 

Interacting with Know-It-Alls
Don’t . . .

 

•       attack the person’s ideas

•       put yourself or your ideas down

•       ask the person cite their source debate

•       think the person doesn’t know a lot –they might!

•       try to make the person look bad

 

Do . . .

 

•       listen attentively

•       respect the person

•       paraphrase the person’s points

•       suggest alternatives to the person’s viewpoint

•       remain neutral throughout your conversations

•       keep your humor

 

 

Interacting with Aggressive People
Don’t . . .

 

•       argue

•       retaliate

•       escalate the hostility

•       fight against the person

•       try to win the argument

•       take the behavior personally

•       submit to their wishes

•       wait for them to run out of steam

 

Do . . .

 

•       divert attention, if possible

•       offer information that explains your situation

•       look for common interests and agreement

•       remain calm

•       acknowledge the person’s feelings

•       explain your feelings using “I” statements

•       set limits on violence and aggression

•       walk away if necessary

 

 

Interacting with Passive People
Don’t . . .

 

•       fill in the silence with conversation

•       exclude the person in activities

•       complete the person’s sentences

•       talk too much too soon

•       ask too many questions or appear nosey

•       exclude the person in conversations

•       assume the person is disinterested

 

Do . . .

 

•       ask open-ended questions

•       provide opportunity for the person to speak

•       wait in silence

•       be attentive

•       expect responses

•       find a topic the person has interest in

•       be playful, fun loving and friendly

 

 

Interacting with Negative People
Don’t . . .

 

•       agree with the complaints

•       get defensive

•       counter-attack

•       think it is a reflection on you

•       accept blame

•       spend more time with the person than you need

•       lose focus on your own energy and positivity

 

Do . . .

 

•       listen attentively

•       ask clarifying questions for precise information

•       ask “how could it be better?”

•       create a problem-solving scenario

•       be supportive

•       remain detached

•       say, “now tell be something positive”

 

 

Interacting with Yes-People
•       Don’t . . .

 

•       help them out by doing the work they agreed to do, and aren’t doing

•       get caught up in their need for approval

•       ask more of them than they can do, even if you know they’ll say yes

•       let them get you in the middle by saying yes to say yes to someone of a different opinion

•       give them praise when they say yes, again

 

•       Do . . .

 

•       help them turn down activities

•       be clear about priorities

•       show them ways to say no

•       if they do accept a task, help them create a timeline for completion

•       help them set boundaries

•       build a relationship and try to talk to them

•       make suggestions for alternatives

 

 

For each of these types of negative folks answer the following questions:

The person I know that behaves as a _____________________ is ______________. (It is suggested that you use code names that only you will recognize for this exercise.)

This person behaves_____________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

My strategy for dealing with this person has been ____________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

A better way I might deal with this person __________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

A downloadable version of the above is information is available here.

Self-care: indulgence or essential?

Self-care: indulgence or essential?

Many of us have been brought up with the idea that taking care of ourselves in any way but the most basic healthy eating and exercise is selfish. We should think of others first. We should take care of our kids, our community, our church, our friends, our coworkers, our pets before indulging ourselves. The list of priorities goes on and on. Where do we put taking care of ourselves? Self-care often winds up at the very end of the list…the place where we never arrive.

What we really need are what Nikisha Brunson, co-founder of Urban Bush Babes describes as “everyday healthy rituals that help keep your body and mind energized.” For one person it might mean spending an hour each day knitting, for another reading, for yet another a soothing bubble bath. Each of us is different except for that one outstanding issue: we need to care for ourselves to maintain the energy we need to care for others.

Yoga Class Self-CareSelf-care is not just for the self-indulgent “women who do lunch.” It is for every one of us. It is crucial to finding peace of mind and to finding what is needed within ourselves to give back in this uncertain and often scary world.

Self-care is especially important in times of grief. It is easy to bury oneself in the details that crop up when you have experienced a loss. The following exercises are excerpted from Griefwork: Healing from Loss by Fran Zamore, LISW, IMFT, and Esther R.A. Leutenberg. They are applicable to all of us, whether we are experiencing a loss or just experiencing our day-to-day life.

Are you doing enough for yourself? Download “Self-care Domains” and keep it handy. During the next couple of weeks fill in what you do for yourself in each of the five domains: Physical, spiritual, social, emotional, and intellectual. You will find that many activities are applicable to more than one domain.

Here are some examples:

Going to exercise class

  • Physical because it is good for my body and my health
  • Social because I have friends and/or acquaintances in the class
  • Emotional because I release some anger and/or frustration when I exercise

Walking/hiking

  • Physical because of health benefits
  • Spiritual because I walk in nature and find that to be my spiritual connection
  • Emotional because walking is a stress-buster for me

Self-Care Man ReadingReading

  • Intellectual because I’m stimulating my brain by thinking
  • Social because I go to a book discussion group
  • Emotional because I’m reading escape novels
  • Spiritual because I’m reading uplifting book

At the end of two weeks, review what you have entered in the self-care domains. Make an effort to add new things in areas you’ve neglected.

Self-Care Exercises

WAYS TO NOURISH (OR CARE FOR) MYSELF (Download here)

Check ‘nourishments’ that you would be willing to commit to do in the next month.

On the blank lines at the end add some of your own activities. Get involved in something new.

  • do a craft or hobby
  • write in a journal
  • exercise
  • call a friend
  • meditate
  • take a long warm bath & light a candle
  • go to a place of worship
  • listen to music
  • go to a movie, even if I cry
  • read
  • go to a museum
  • work in the garden
  • care for a pet
  • volunteer
  • __________________________ __________________________
  • __________________________ __________________________
  • __________________________ __________________________
  • __________________________ __________________________
  • __________________________ __________________________

Journal about your self-care. Remember you are writing for yourself. Don’t worry about spelling, sentence structure, and the like. Just write your thoughts as they come to you. Refer to this entry when you are feeling guilty for taking time for yourself.

Self-Care Man Hiking

LEISURE (Download here)

Leisure or recreational activities serve many healthful purposes, including self-care. Some can be intellectually stimulating and some promote socialization. Others are healthful because they are a physical outlet. Still others may provide a needed spiritual dimension.

ACTIVITY SUGGESTIONS:

Accomplish something…bicycle to the store

Be alone…meditate

Be a spectator…go to a sporting event or concert

Be sociable…accept an invitation to a social gathering

Be spiritually uplifted…take a walk in the park or go to a house of worship

Compete in a sport you like

Continue to learn…take an adult learning class for credit or audit

Exercise alone…walk on a treadmill at home or go for a walk in nature

Exercise with others…ask a close friend to go with you

Keep emotionally stimulated…discuss issues openly with trusted friends / family

Keep mentally stimulated…do crossword puzzles, play Jeopardy

Keep physically stimulated…join a health club

Relax…take some sunscreen, a magazine, and sit outside

Return to a hobby from the past…find an old train collection in the attic and set it up

Be creative…participate in arts, crafts, knitting, sewing, writing

Journal about your self-care. Remember you are writing for yourself. Don’t worry about spelling, sentence structure, and the like. Just write your thoughts as they come to you. Refer to your list when you are at a loss for something to do just for yourself.

Mindfulness Meditation and the Opioid Crisis

Mindfulness Meditation

Almost everyone in the US is aware of the current opioid crisis we are enduring. Millions of addicted are added each year. Since 1999 the use of opioids has increased five-fold. Statistics from 2016 (the latest available) show that 42,000 people died of opioid-related issues in just that one year.

What can be done to alleviate this crisis? In a paper titled “Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief: A mechanistic account”, Fadel Zeidan and David Vago report that research supports the claim that the widespread use of opioids to alleviate chronic pain has led to the exponential rise in misuse and addiction. Their paper further states that mindfulness meditation could very well be a narcotic-free tool to reduce chronic pain. (Vago, Zeidan, 2016.)

Mindfulness, research has learned, is an excellent complementary treatment for a variety of health and wellness concerns and aligns with scientifically-backed theories in modern psychology. The importance of increasing resiliency in the face of the inevitable difficulties, both physical and mental, can’t be reinforced too often. Although mindfulness-informed practices don’t magically change life circumstances, they can help cope with rapid change, life transitions, and physical symptoms (i.e. pain) as well as enable us to more fully savor success. (Torney, 2018.)

Mindfulness Meditation 30 ScriptsWith the above information in mind we present the following from 30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery & Inner Healing, Ed. 2, Vol. 1& 2 by Julie T. Lusk.

Relaxation and visualization can heal the body, mind, and spirit. Progressive muscular relaxation and conscious breathing help relieve tension and stress. Guided imagery encourages people to experience internal harmony, to heal emotional and physical upsets, to increase body awareness, to enhance relaxation, to get in touch with the healing source of energy for emotional and spiritual strength, to receive direction from their own inner guide, and to connect with the environment.

Here are some tips to help you use these mindfulness-meditation scripts effectively with your clients.

Working with guided meditations

Everyone is different, so each person will experience guided imagery uniquely. These individual differences should be encouraged. During a guided meditation, some people will imagine vivid scenes, colors, images, or sounds while others will focus on what they are feeling, or experience it as a concept. This is why a combination of sights, sounds, and feelings should be incorporated into the meditations. With practice, it is possible to expand your participants’ range of awareness.

By judicious selection of images you can help deepen their experience and cultivate their awareness in new areas that can enrich their lives. For instance, a person who is most comfortable in the visual area can be encouraged to stretch his or her awareness and increase his or her sensitivity to feelings and sounds. (See Flower Meditation below.)

Be careful, however, when presenting themes and techniques that are unfamiliar to you. Since people respond in a variety of ways to visualization, avoid generalizing about the benefits of any given script.

If your groups are composed of people who are emotionally ill or especially fragile, be sure you have the necessary special training or professional guidance before introducing them to visualizations.

Preparing the group or individual

Some type of physical relaxation sequence should be used prior to every guided meditation. Breathing properly is essential for complete and total relaxation. Unfortunately, very few people take full breaths, especially when under stress. When a person consciously uses deep breathing correctly, stress is reduced and the mind can remain calm and stable. It is important that people focus on their breathing, with full deep breaths through the nose. Before beginning any guided meditation, briefly describe the images you will use and ask if they make anyone feel uncomfortable. People who are afraid of water may find images of ocean waves to be frightening rather than calming. Be prepared with an alternate image. Let participants know that if they become uncomfortable, they may, at any time, open their eyes and tune out or change the visualization. As you read a script, people will follow you for a while and then drift off into their own imaginations. They will usually tune you back in later on. If they know this in advance, they won’t feel as if they are failing by being inattentive. So tell them this is normal and to let it happen.

Choosing the right atmosphere

Select a room that has comfortable chairs for sitting or a carpeted floor for lying down. Close the door and shut the windows to block out distracting noise. If possible, dim the lights to create a relaxing environment. Low lights enhance the ability to relax by blocking out visual distractions. If the room lights cannot be controlled to your satisfaction, bring along a lamp or night lights. Adjust the thermostat so that the room temperature is warm and comfortable. If the room is too cool, it will be hard to relax and remain focused. Suggest that people wear a sweater or jacket if they think they may get cold. If distractions occur—a noisy air conditioner, traffic, loud conversations—try raising your voice, using shorter phrases and fewer pauses, or incorporating the sounds into the guided meditation. For example, you might say, “Notice how the humming sounds of the air conditioner relax you more and more.” Or, “If your mind begins to drift, gently bring it back to the sound of my voice.”

Using your voice

Speak in a calm comforting, and steady manner. Let your voice flow. Your voice should be smooth and somewhat monotonous. But don’t whisper. Start with your voice at a volume that can be easily heard. As the guided meditation progresses and as the participants’ awareness increases, you may begin speaking more softly. As a person relaxes, hearing acuity can increase. Bring your voice up when suggesting tension and bring it down when suggesting relaxation. Near the end of the guided meditation, return to using an easily heard volume. This will help participants come back to normal wakefulness. You may tell participants to use a hand signal if they cannot hear you. Advise people with hearing problems to sit close to you. Another option is to move closer to them.

Pacing yourself

Read the guided meditations slowly, but not so slowly that you lose people. Begin at a conversational pace and slow down as the relaxation progresses. It’s easy to go too fast, so take your time. Don’t rush. Many script authors use ellipses…to indicate a brief pause. Spaces between paragraphs would suggest a longer pause.

Leader’s notes and script divisions should not be read out loud. Give participants time to follow your instructions. If you suggest that they wiggle their toes, watch them do so, then wait for them to stop wiggling their toes before going on. When participants are relaxed and engaged in the imagery process, they have tapped into their subconscious (slow, rich, imagery) mind—and they shouldn’t be hurried. When you’re leading the meditation, stay in your conscious (alert and efficient) mind. Pay careful attention to all participants. You may have to repeat an instruction if you see that people are not following you. To help you with your volume and tone, pace and timing, listen to a recording of yourself leading guided meditations.

As you reach the end of a meditation, always help participants make the transition back to the present. Tell them to visualize their surroundings, to stretch, and to breathe deeply. Repeat these instructions until everyone is alert.

Using music

Using music to enhance relaxation is not a new idea. History is full of examples of medicine men and women, philosophers, priests, scientists, and musicians who used music to heal. In fact, music seems to be an avenue of communication for some people where no other avenues appear to exist.

Your music should be cued up and ready to go at the right volume before you start your meditation. Nothing ruins the atmosphere more quickly than having the leader fool around trying to get the audio going. Jim Borling, a board certified music therapist, makes the following suggestions on the selection of music:

Tips on Music Selection

  • Custom select music for individual clients or classes whenever possible. Not everyone responds in a similar fashion to the same music.
  • Matching a person’s present emotional state with music is known as the ISO principle. If you can match the initial state and then gradually begin changing the music, the person’s emotional state will change along with the music. If a person is agitated or angry, begin with fast-paced music, and then change to slower-paced selections as relaxation deepens.
  • Choose music that has flowing melodies rather than disjointed and fragmented melodies.
  • Don’t assume that the type of music you find relaxing will be relaxing to others. Have a variety of musical styles available and ask your clients for suggestions.
  • Try using sounds from nature like ocean waves. Experiment with New Age music and Space music, much of which is appropriate for relaxation work. Classical music may be effective, especially movements that are marked largo or adagio.
  • Adjust the volume so that it doesn’t drown out your voice. On the other hand, music that is too soft may cause your listeners to strain to hear it.
  • Select music based upon the mood desired. Sedative music is soothing and produces a contemplative mood. Stimulative music increases bodily energy and stimulates the emotions.
  • Select music with a slow tempo and low pitch. The higher the pitch or frequency of sound, the more likely it will be irritating.

Processing the experience

You may wish to add to the richness of the guided meditations by asking participants afterwards to share their experiences with others. This can be facilitated by creating an atmosphere of trust. Ask the group open-ended questions that relate to the theme of the exercise. Be accepting and empathetic towards everyone. Respect everyone’s comments and never be judgmental or critical, even if people express negative reactions. 

Caution 

Do not force people to participate in anything that may be uncomfortable for them. Give ample permission to everyone to only do things that feel safe. Tell them that if an image seems threatening, they can change it to something that feels right or they can stop the imaging process, stretch, and open their eyes. Emphasize to participants that they are in total control and are able to leave their image-filled subconscious mind and return to their alert rational conscious mind at any time they choose. Likewise, clients may want to explore what feels uncomfortable to them in the safety of the experience. Advise participants that it is not safe to practice meditation or visualization while driving or operating machinery.

Integrating the mind, body, emotions, and spirit opens up vast inner resources of intuition, wisdom, and personal power. The mind and body are one, and what you believe and feel is reflected in your body. Sometimes your thoughts may lead to illness, aches, and pains; and other times, they lead to exhilarating feelings of joy, pleasure, and peacefulness. Likewise, the condition of your body and the way it is feeling affect your thoughts. This is why it is impossible to worry when you feel relaxed.

So many of us live as if fragmented—thinking of one thing, saying something else, acting one way publicly, while feelings, moods, and emotions provide a constantly changing and inconsistent undertow. Guided meditations will help you focus on using the mind body connection to heal the body and emotions and to bring thoughts, words, actions, and feelings into harmony and alignment.

A definition of mindfulness

Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment attention to the present without judgment or reactivity. Mindful breathing and other mindfulness practices help you to achieve moment to moment awareness in a non-judgmental, detached way, thereby increasing the amount of time per day spent in rest and digest mode. Conscious attention to breathing is common in many forms of meditation and is used by top athletes to enhance performance. The following exercise will help your clients breathe mindfully. Download the following Mindfulness Breathing exercise here.

Exercise:

  • Sit in a comfortable position either on a chair with your feet on the ground, or on the floor with your legs comfortably crossed. Sit tall with your spine extended so that your breath can enter your entire torso. Relax your shoulders down and move your shoulder blades towards each other.
  • Place one hand on your abdomen and the other above your chest near your collarbone.
  • Inhale deeply from the bottom of your abdomen. Feel the expansion pressing against your lower hand.
  • Continue to fill your torso until you feel the hand on your upper chest expand. Hold the breath for one second.
  • Release the breath from the chest to the abdomen. Picture a cup of water emptying from the top to the bottom as you exhale. Note how it feels to be empty of breath just for a second before your next inhale, then repeat this long, slow even breath nine more times. Return to the breath count as your mind wanders, which it naturally will.
  • Return to natural breathing. Take a moment to stretch, and write about your experience in your centering journal. Don’t worry if mindful breathing feels awkward or uncomfortable. It will feel more natural the more you practice. Remember, these are muscle responses. You can’t throw a football like Tom Brady or play the trumpet like Wynton Marsalis right off the bat, either. Practice, practice, practice.

Now your client is relaxed and breathing properly, try reading one of the following scripts, using the tips above to make it as effective an experience as possible.

 

Flower Meditation (Download Flower Meditation exercise here)
Julie T. Lusk
Excerpted from 30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery & Inner Healing, Ed. 2, Vol. 1
By Julie T. Lusk.

Time: 20 minutes

In this visualization script, participants increase their ability to imagine seeing, touching, smelling, and feeling.

Note: Obtain fresh flowers for participants before using this script.

Feel free to modify this script. For instance, flowers could be substituted with pine cones, sea shells, etc.

Script

Visualization

Place the flowers at eye level in front of you … Gently gaze at them without straining your eyes … Look softly at the shapes of the flowers, stems, and leaves … Become aware of their shapes and sizes. See their colors.

After you have spent a few minutes looking carefully at the flowers, close your eyes and visualize the flowers in your imagination. When the visualization becomes difficult, open up your eyes and look at the flowers once again. Close your eyes once more and recreate a vision of the flowers. Repetition will increase your ability to visualize images in the mind’s eye.

Touching and Feeling

Reach out and touch the flowers, stems, and leaves. Take your time to discover how the flowers feel … Explore the softness of the flowers and the feel of the stems and leaves. Discover their moistness, noticing the variety of textures.

Investigate the physical sensations of touching the bouquet of flowers. Run your fingers through the bouquet and listen to the sound of touching them … Allow the sense of touch to sink in through your fingertips and into your memory.

Stop touching the flowers and close your eyes. Experience the sense of touch through your memory … When the memory of touch begins to fade, reach out and touch the flowers with your fingers. And then imagine touching the flowers once again.

Smell

Bury your nose and take a full, deep breath. Let the flowers tickle your nose. Smell the fragrance and the freshness of the flowers. Enjoy.

Remember how the flowers smell and recreate the aroma in your imagination. Keep practicing until you are able to imagine the scent of the flowers from memory.

Thoughts and Feelings

Sit quietly and reflect upon the magnificence of the flowers. Open yourself up for new insights and realizations.

Integration

Relax, close your eyes, and imagine looking at a glorious bouquet of flowers … You may imagine any kind of flower you wish…roses … daisies … mums … baby’s breath … marigolds … bird of paradise … any type of flowers you wish.

See the radiant colors … the rich reds … luscious yellows … deep purples … pure whites … soft pinks … gorgeous oranges … all the shades of green.

Become aware of the textures … patterns … and shapes of the petals … Look at the leaves … and the stems … Observe the flowers in their various degrees of unfolding.

This time, imagine reaching out and touching the flowers … .Feel the softness … their moistness … the texture of the petals … leaves … and stems … Imagine rubbing the flowers with your fingers … Touch the flowers … Feel them.

Experience touching the flowers … Run your fingers through the flowers and listen to what you hear.

Now imagine the scents and fragrances of the flowers … Breathe in their perfume … Smell the aroma … Fill up your lungs with the fresh smell of the flowers.

Take some time to reflect on the diversity and beauty of the flowers that grow for our enjoyment … Think about the life cycle of the flower … Enjoy.

Pause

When you’re ready, open your eyes and stretch.

Repeat the above instruction until everyone is alert.

 

Sun Meditation for Healing (Download Sun Meditation for Healing exercise here)
By Judy Fulop and Julie T. Lusk
Excerpted from 30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery & Inner Healing, Ed. 2, Vol. 1
By Julie T. Lusk.

Time: 10 minutes

In this script, participants experience the healing power and energy of the sun as they imagine it warming and relaxing them.

Script

Allow yourself to become as relaxed and comfortable as you can … Let your body feel supported by the ground underneath you.

Slowly begin to see or feel yourself lying in a grassy meadow with the sun shining it’s golden rays gently upon you … Let yourself soak in these warm rays … taking in the healing power and life giving energy of the sunshine.

This magnificent ball of light has been a sustaining source of energy for millions of years and will be an energy source for millions of years to come … This ancient sun is the same sun which shined down upon the dinosaurs … upon the Egyptians while they built the pyramids … and it now shines upon the earth and all the other planets in our solar system and will continue to do so forever.

As the sun’s rays gently touch your skin, allow the warmth and energy to flow slowly through your body … pulsing through your bones … sending healing light to your organs … flowing to your tissues … recharging every system … and now settling into your innermost being … your heart center.

Sense your heart center glowing with this radiant energy. If you wish, give it a color … Take a few moments to allow this warm and healing energy to reach your innermost being … physically… emotionally … mentally … and spiritually.

Pause for 30 seconds

As this healing energy grows and expands, allow yourself to see, feel, and sense this energy surrounding your being … growing and growing … Allow this energy to grow further and fill this room … this building … surrounding this town … spreading throughout our state … to our country … and out into the world … and finally throughout the universe … reaching and touching and blessing all.

Pause for 30 seconds

You may share this healing energy and power with anyone you’re aware of right now … Mentally ask them if they are willing to receive this healing energy … If they are … send this source of healing energy to them … giving them the time they need to take in this energy and make it theirs in their own heart center.

Pause for 30 seconds

Now take your attention back to your own heart center … Find a safe place within you to keep this healing and powerful energy … a place to keep it protected and within your reach … Give yourself permission to get in touch with this energy whenever you wish.

With the warmth of this energy in your being, begin stretching, wiggling, and moving … Slowly open your eyes, feeling alive, refreshed, keenly alert, and completely healthy.

Repeat the above instructions until everyone is alert.

Conflict Management Styles

What is My Conflict Management Style?

Excerpted from The Conflict Management Skills Workbook
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John Liptak, PhD

In many ways, conflict is a basic fact of life. We have all experienced conflict in our personal and professional lives. Because conflicts are disagreements resulting from people or groups having differences in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs, there will be times when conflict is inevitable. People experience differences in any relationship. That conflict exists is not a bad situation, as long as the conflict is managed effectively. Resolving conflicts can be beneficial and lead to growth and maturity. Outcomes of constructive conflict management will increase confidence in several aspects of life management:

  • awareness that problems exist and need to be solved
  • creative problem solving and decision making
  • sense of well-being
  • motivation and energy to take action
  • implications / attitudes / responses of empathy and caring
  • commitment to relationships
  • impact of respect, trust and commitment.

Any conflict has the potential to be incredibly destructive to a relationship. Managed in the wrong way, it can lead to extreme differences between people that can quickly spiral out of control. Each person will experience this Negotiations Model based on their point of view in a conflict as they use the following format to help them resolve their issues / problems:

Negotiations Model Conflict Management

The following are types of conflict management styles. Read the short description of each style and then journal about the following three questions for each one.

What I like about this style.

What I don’t like about this style.

When does this style work, or not work?

Compromising

People with a Compromising Conflict Management Style try to find a solution that will partially satisfy everyone. This is often called the middle-ground approach because participants are willing to negotiate and come up with a compromise in the situation in which both people feel satisfied. They may also be willing to sacrifice the compatibility of their relationship with others in order to reach an agreement. They give a little to get a little, and they believe that both sides should make concessions in order to reach a resolution. They have discovered that it is important to back off from some issues in order to gain on other issues.

Competing

People with a Competing Conflict Management Style attempt to achieve their goals at all costs and as quickly as they possibly can. They take a firm stand and know what they want. They usually insist that the other people let them have their way, regardless of how much it affects their relationships with others. They operate from a position of power and are usually more concerned with having their way than with the feelings of others. No matter what the cost, winning is the most important thing for them. The use of this style can leave people feeling unsatisfied and resentful.

Avoiding

People with an Avoiding Conflict Management Style usually are willing to give up their own goals to maintain relationships with other people. They would rather hide from and ignore conflict than resolve it. They may give up personal goals and display passive behavior creating a personal loss situation. To do so, they generally avoid conflicts within important relationships. They may avoid other conflicts by physically removing themselves from the environment or by not coming into contact with the others who represent the potential for conflict. They may avoid others psychologically by not speaking or by ignoring them and another conflict situation, and subsequently, the conflict often goes unresolved.

Giving-In

People with a Giving-In Conflict Management Style usually give up their personal and professional goals so that other people can achieve their goals. They usually value their relationships with others so much that they attempt to smooth over the situation and give them their way. For them, the goal is often of no importance but the relationship with the others is of high importance. By giving in, they avoid the risk of a confrontation so they can continue to get along with the other people.

Collaborating

People with a Collaborating Conflict Management Style tend to want to meet the needs of all people involved in the conflict. They can be highly assertive, but are more than willing to cooperate effectively and acknowledge the importance of everyone involved. They are interested in bringing together a variety of viewpoints to get the best possible solution for everyone. They want all sides to be satisfied. They support open discussions, brainstorming and creative problem solving to come to a consensus.

Please enjoy these three conflict management worksheets and exercises:

Conflict Management Quotations
Conflict Management Process Steps
Causes of Conflict

National Nutrition Month – Seven Steps and Downloadable Worksheets

March is National Nutrition Month

Healthy Food National Nutrition MonthIn that spirit we hope the following article, along with the available downloadable worksheets, will help you reach out to your clients struggling with this issue. Much of the information is excerpted from the Nutrition chapter in Physical Well-Being Workbook by John Liptak, PhD, and Ester R.A. Leutenberg.

In today’s world one would think that with information provided by schools, health care professionals, and social media everyone would be aware of what to eat and what not to eat: The basics of good nutrition. Not so. The U.S. Department of Health and Human services offers the following information about the nutritional status of our citizens.

(Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html on March 7, 2018).

  • Typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat.
  • Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.
  • About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.
  • Reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200mg per day on could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.
  • Food available for consumption increased in all major food categories from 1970 to 2008. Average daily calories per person in the marketplace increased approximately 600 calories.
  • Since the 1970s, the number of fast food restaurants has more than doubled.
  • More than 23 million Americans, including 6.5 million children, live in food deserts – areas that are more than a mile away from a supermarket.
  • In 2008, an estimated 49.1 million people, including 16.7 million children, experienced food insecurity (limited availability to safe and nutritionally adequate foods) multiple times throughout the year.
  • In 2013, residents of the following states were most likely to report eating at least five servings of vegetables four or more days per week: Vermont (68.7%), Montana (63.0%) and Washington (61.8%). The least likely were Oklahoma (52.3%), Louisiana (53.3%) and Missouri (53.8%). The national average for regular produce consumption is 57.7%.
  • Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of total daily calories for 2–18 year olds and half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
  • US adults consume an average of 3,400 mg/day [of sodium], well above the current federal guideline of less than 2,300 mg daily.
  • Food safety awareness goes hand-in-hand with nutrition education. In the United States, food-borne agents affect 1 out of 6 individuals and cause approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths each year.
  • US per capita consumption of total fat increased from approximately 57 pounds in 1980 to 78 pounds in 2009 with the highest consumption being 85 pounds in 2005.
  • The US percentage of food-insecure households, those with limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, rose from 11% to 15% between 2005 and 2009.

National Nutrition Month – Seven Steps and Downloadable Worksheets

In their book the Physical Well-Being Workbook Ester Leutenberg and John Liptak, PhD, offer a seven step plan to foster better nutrition among our clients. Downloadable worksheets for each step are available by clicking here.

The first step is to assess the level of the client’s knowledge about nutrition and what habits they have – good or bad – that can be identified. A downloadable assessment tool is attached to this article that asks questions such as do you start your day with a good breakfast? Do you make good low-fat food choices? What kind of snacks do you eat? Do you plan your meals ahead or wing it? How much salt do you consume? Do you limit the amount of sugar consumed each day? The tool is quite comprehensive and can be scored by the client. A range of scores and what they might mean is included.

The next suggestion is to develop a group of people who will support the client upon his or her journey. Not all friends will do so. We all know folks who say things such as oh come on, one more bite or beer or piece of pizza or chocolate or cookie or cake or whatever won’t hurt. It’s just one more. Finding people who are supportive is one of the most important steps. Just as AA provides sponsors for recovering alcoholics, those recovering from bad nutritional habits need someone to call when their resistance is low, when the call of that chocolate cake becomes too much to withstand.

Step number three is to begin a nutritional journal. Questions such as the following, among others, can be pondered and answered by the client:

  • How can I improve my all over plan?
  • How can I plan better meals?
  • How can I choose healthier but satisfying snacks?

Next the client is asked to set goals for themselves. Using the SMART acronym (specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific) goals are selected. How will the goal be measured, how attainable and/or realistic is it, within what deadline will it be accomplished, and how will this help are entered in a chart that can be posted in a handy place to remind the client of where they are going. There is a tip chart supplied for those who are having trouble identifying their goals.

In step five the client is guided through the process of monitoring their success. Both by charting and journaling the client explores what they are doing, what they accomplished, and how they felt when they accomplished a goal. Reminding ourselves of what we’ve done right and how that made us feel is important to being willing to take the next step. When we are dying for a taste of a Mimosa for breakfast on a Sunday morning we need to remember how it felt last week when we didn’t have one but ate a fresh orange instead. A ripe, tasty orange, fresh and full of juice, can be satisfying. Remind your clients to record the tactile sense of what they are doing as they accomplish their goal. How did the orange smell, look, and feel in their hand as they peeled it? Did they see the squirts of juice reflected in the sunshine coming in the window? Did they get sticky from the juice? Was is sweet or sour?

When having difficulty sticking to the next goal, advise the client to re-read their journal and/or behavioral change chart. Suggest that they sit quietly and remember the sensations they recorded and experience them again. It will give them the strength to step up to the plate again.

Rewarding oneself is next. What kind of rewards will work the best for the individual client? Ask them to brainstorm what they would find fun yet still within the pursuit of better nutrition. Perhaps tickets to the local pro team might not be a good choice if the client has indicated that part of going to a game is to pig out on hot dogs and beer. The same would hold true for a trip to the symphony concert if it includes cocktails and dessert following the concert.

What small rewards would work? Large rewards? Things they can do alone and still be fun? Things they can do with others who are also seeking to improve their nutrition. Remind them that affordability is important.

Self-affirmations are also good rewards. A list is given of possible phrases such as I shopped today for the whole week, or I drank more water today. The client is asked to write them down on sticky notes and paste them where they will frequently be seen.

The final step gives tips for motivating behavior modification as the client seeks to improve their nutritional planning habits. Many of these seem quite simplistic, but not many of us observe them all, all of the time. Here’s a sample list:

  • Read food labels
  • Rely on your social network created in step two.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • Keep your fridge clean, store food in the wrappers in came in or other suitable containers.
  • Use paper towels to dry food off and throw them away afterwards.
  • Don’t leave food sitting out. Put it in the fridge.
  • Pack a good lunch that you like to avoid the pitfalls of fast food.
  • Plan, plan, plan!
  • Avoid too much salt.
  • Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat low fat evening snacks such as popcorn, yogurt, fresh fruit
  • Plan a balanced diet
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Use the internet to find reliable and complete food information.

If your clients follow these seven steps (download worksheets here) they will find the path to better nutrition. Here is another great source for good nutritional information: https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/eat-healthy/how-to-eat-healthy/index.html.

Ten Principles for Using Icebreakers

Excerpted from Icebreakers a la Carte

By Sandy Christian, MSW and Nancy Loving Tubesing, EdD

All groups need icebreakers. The world is full of shy people who need focus and a very specific way to talk frankly about themselves. Icebreakers provide a vehicle for sharing select personal information, freeing people from constraining anxiety, and guiding participants into authentic, purposeful, often touching conversations.

Icebreakers are not just for getting acquainted. They are especially useful for groups of strangers; but even well-acquainted groups can use icebreakers to ease into a course or group discussion, provide focus for group activities, and establish the proper climate for learning. From first meetings to final farewells, icebreakers pave the way for people to be real.

Icebreakers make the group, and its members, attractive to participants. Not everyone will like everyone else in a group, but the more people are attracted to other participants, and discover common interests, goals, and values, the more eager they will be to participate. Icebreakers induce people to share in spontaneous ways that stimulate lively interaction and draw people to one another.

Icebreakers affirm the rights of participants. Everyone who joins a group has human rights: to be recognized as individual, to have input into some group decisions, to have an equal opportunity to participate in the group, to establish goals and work towards them, to have others respect personal privacy, and to have the group be a safe, secure place in which not one is belittled or degraded. Icebreakers direct participants into activities and behaviors that uphold and affirm these rights in words and actions.

Icebreakers should be relevant to all participants. Everything you do should be relevant to the culture of the group, and its members. Icebreakers as well as other group activities should be presented in the context of participants’ life experience and be relevant in language, values, and style.

Trust is the most important variable to consider when using icebreakers. Icebreakers help establish trust and contribute to its strength throughout the life of the group. The bottom line is, “Can I be honest here and say what I really think and feel?” If the answer is no, the group is constrained from lively, spontaneous communication and deterred in its purpose. Icebreakers remind people, over and over, that open, heart-searching communication is like a wind blowing the group spirit in the right direction.

Icebreakers are vehicles for shaping open group systems. The best environment for learning is an open system, one that accepts and welcomes diverse people, invites honest communication, expresses warmth and affection freely, challenges individuals to grow, shares warmth and affection freely, challenges individuals to grow, shares power and will its members, provides support for people who need it, respects personal boundaries, and honors the limits of the group itself.

Icebreakers provide a way of quickly introducing these values to the group in action and words. Since the rules of the system are often decided in the first few minutes of interaction (without ever talking about them, just by watching each other and the group leader for clues about how to behave), it’s all the more important that icebreakers be used early on to lay the foundation for an open system.

Equal, active participation is an implicit goal of all icebreakers. Successful groups are the responsibility of all participants. The more you inform people about their choices, the more they can take responsibility for group learning. Knowing what the leader has planned, why a particular activity was chosen, and what their roles want responsibilities will be, helps group members make clear decisions about how they want to participate.

Most groups need a balance of activities. Too much of any one thing creates a lop-sided group; overly friendly, chatty groups may never get down to business, while “all work and no play” groups may suffer from boredom. Most groups function beset with a mixture of activities, some light-hearted, others serious.

Experiential, holistic learning is ideal. Learning involves the whole person: mind, body, spirit, relationships, and emotions. When group activities incorporate all these aspects of learning and accommodate the different learning styles of individuals, the chances are great that group members will have a complete experience, one they can integrate with previous experience and apply to everyday life, resulting in a genuine change of attitudes, perceptions, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

*For use with your clients: Cartoon Captions, a zippy method of applying humor to challenging situations. Be sure to check out the two variations.

Icebreakers a la Carte

Sexual Harassment – Have We Turned The Tide?

The current spate of prominent figures being accused of sexual harassment and then fired from their positions of power gives the impression that the tide has turned…cases of sexual harassment will be heard and appropriate action will be taken against the perpetrators.

According to NPR in an article by Yuki Noguchi,

…in actual courts, such cases filed by workers against their employers are very often dismissed by judges. The standard for harassment under the law is high, and only an estimated 3 percent to 6 percent of the cases ever make it to trial.

That stands in stark contrast to the large pool of people who say they have experienced sexual harassment. In surveys, a quarter to half of women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment at work. But only a small fraction — estimates range around 5 to 15 percent of women — report their complaints to their employers, largely due to fear of retaliation. Legal experts say the high dismissal rate of sexual harassment cases also has a chilling effect.

-Yuki Noguchi, National Public Radio Correspondent

Legal standards for harassment are tough. The same article from National Public Radio continues:

In a 1986 decision, the Supreme Court said the behavior needs to be “severe or pervasive” in order to qualify as harassment, whether it’s on the basis of sex or race. …judges’ interpretations of what qualifies are out of step with common sense and standard office policies.

-Deborah Rhode, director of Stanford’s Center on the Legal Profession

It often takes a kind of cultural consciousness raising moment like the one that we’re having now to force a reevaluation of standards. Everything that we’ve seen on the #MeToo hashtag suggests that there’s a lot of pent-up fury out there, and more of these women are going to seek legal recourse and attorneys in this social climate are going to think they’re more likely to win and get substantial damages.

Sexual Harassment

Indeed, Cincinnati employment attorney Randy Freking says his office recently has seen an uptick in potential clients alleging sexual harassment, against the backdrop of more and more allegations going public.

Freking says he only takes cases that have a decent shot at winning, and warns his clients that even the strongest cases always have a good chance of getting dismissed. And the emotional cost can run high.

Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/11/28/565743374/sexual-harassment-cases-often-rejected-by-courts January 18, 2018

Very few people realize that judges just have this power to toss cases out, despite the fact that the Constitution has a right to a trial by jury,” Freking says. “And for a woman who has been sexually harassed, and been victimized by their employer like that, and then just have that OK’d by some federal judge? It just absolutely rocks your world.

-Yuki Noguchi, National Public Radio Correspondent

But…times they are a-changin, right? And things are improving for those who need protection of the law. Somewhat. One of the difficulties is addressing the myths of what is and isn’t sexual harassment. Another is making sure that employees recognize the gender power structure that is there.

While we wait for the courts to catch up with reality here are two exercises, from the book Confronting Sexual Harassment, that you can use in the workplace or with your clients to help get a handle on the complicated issue of sexual harassment. The first exercise deals with the myths that abound about what it is and what it isn’t, who is and who isn’t being sexually harassed.

The second exercise helps participants examine gender power and its relationship to sexual harassment. Participants create their vision of a model equal gender power organization.

 

Reducing Bedtime Anxiety: Steps, Worksheets, and Activities

Worn out from the holidays? Having trouble sleeping?

Bedtime Anxiety

Bedtime Anxiety woman trying to sleep

Excerpted from Coping with Sleep Issues
By Ester Leutenberg and John Liptak, EdD

What keeps you awake when you want to be sleeping?

Bedtime anxiety keeps everyone awake at times. Below is a set of steps that you can use at bedtime to dramatically reduce your feelings of anxiety and begin to effectively cope with them. These steps are designed to help you cope with anxiety from its onset. Think of something you are anxious about, describe it, and then try these six steps to conquer anxiety before bed time.

  • STEP 1 = Reduce physical tension by taking a deep breath and holding it for five seconds. Do this ten more times. How did that feel?
  • STEP 2 = Stay in the present by bringing your thoughts to the here-and-now (as if the future does not exist!). How did that feel?
  • STEP 3 = Start the calming process by forming a mental image of a calm place. Close your eyes and picture yourself in this calm place. Use your senses of smell, touch, taste and hearing to make the image real. How did that feel?
  • STEP 4 = Continue calming your body and achieve a sense of deep relaxation. Start at the bottom of your feet and begin relaxing all of your muscles until you reach the top of your head. How did that feel?
  • STEP 5 = Realistically assess the accuracy and rationality of your thoughts. STOP any negative statements and replace them with positive statements. How did that feel?
  • STEP 6 = Repeat several positive affirmations that will help you to stay in the present moment. Affirmations might include statements such as “My thinking is peace-filled.”

Click here for a printable version of Bedtime Steps to Reduce Bedtime Anxiety

The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it’s your thoughts that create these false beliefs. You can’t package stress, touch it, or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking. ~Wayne Dyer

Activities to Reduce Bedtime Anxiety

There are many ways to reduce anxiety before it spirals into a heightened, debilitating state. These distractions allow you to get out of your own head and focus on things outside of yourself.

  • Physical Exercise Early in the Day (jogging, walking, etc.)
  • Enjoyable, Nourishing Activities (hobbies, family activities, etc.)
  • Creative Expression (garden, scrapbook, journal, etc.)
  • Relaxing Activities (Yoga, meditation, etc.)

Click here for a printable version of Activities to Reduce Bedtime Anxiety.

Man with sleep problems rubbing eyeMy Negative Thoughts and Feelings

Consider all of the negative thoughts and feelings you are experiencing today. How do you think the above negative thoughts and feelings will affect your sleep?

Emotional Pain

Negative thoughts and emotional pain get in the way of a solid bedtime sleep. To relieve emotional pain, you need to deal with it!

Explore the various reasons that you are experiencing your emotional pain. (Example: feeling guilty about something you did or did not do.) What is on your mind?

  • Step 1: Acknowledge your feelings.
  • Step 2: Accept what happened.
  • Step 3: Feel it.
  • Step 4: Don’t mask it.
  • Step 5: Learn from it
  • Step 6: Overcome it.

Use these six steps when you are emotionally troubled.

Click here for a printable version of Emotional Pain.

Creative Arts Can Help with Bedtime Anxiety!

Woman paintingThe creative arts can help you in this process! Create a poem, write a song, create a short story, or draw something that describes what you’re feeling and going through. Remember, this is for you and only you to read or see. Don’t worry about rhymes or meter, sentence structure, or how professional your art is. Do it for yourself, and yourself alone. Try going through this process a few hours before going to sleep.

Click here for a printable version of Creative Arts.

Regretful Feelings: True or Not True?

It’s often hard to know whether feelings about incidents one regrets are based on truth, or what one believes to be true. Evaluate your level of responsibility for what really happened.

  • What situation do you regret feel guilt, sad, embarrassed, ashamed, angry, or afraid?
  • Who else was involved?
  • How much control did you have over the situation?
  • Were you really responsible?
  • What could you have done differently?
  • How can you forgive yourself and let it go?

Click here for a printable version of Regretful Feelings: True or Not True?

Distractions from Dwelling on Mistakes

All people make mistakes! It’s time to move on from the emotional pain of having made a mistake. Distract yourself from thinking about the mistake by forgetting it and letting it go.

  • What recreation-time experiences that bring you pleasure?
  • What activities do you like to do that bring you a sense of deep relaxation?
  • What activities do you enjoy that bring you a sense of accomplishment?
  • What activities do you enjoy so much that you actually lose awareness of time?
  • What activities do you feel passionate about, activities that bring you meaning and a sense of purpose when helping others?

When lying in bed trying to go to sleep, distract yourself from negative thoughts by thinking about these activities.

Click here for a printable version of Distractions from Dwelling on Mistakes.

Affirmations

The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, originally meaning “to make steady, or to strengthen.” Affirmations help purify our thoughts and restructure the dynamic of our brains so that we truly begin to think anything is possible. Which affirmations resonate with you? Write them down and keep them in places that you look at it often, on your night stand, mirror, refrigerator, dashboard, etc.

  • I will not struggle. I am peace filled.
  • I forgive myself!
  • I am setting myself free.
  • I choose peace of mind.
  • I am living in the present.
  • I connect with the calm of this present moment.
  • Tomorrow I will enjoy each and every moment.
  • I am relaxing, clearing my mind, and going to sleep.

Repeat one affirmation of your choice as you are going to sleep.

Click here for a printable version of Affirmations.

Spiritual Moments – Developing Spirituality in Children

Spiritual Moments

Excerpted from Nurturing Spiritual Development in Children by Understanding Our Own Spirituality

By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and Deborah L. Schein, PhD

Introduction

Nurturing Spiritual Development in Children by Understanding Our Own Spirituality

Caregivers should be aware of the importance of spirituality and to realize that spiritual development can be nurtured at very young ages.

In this blog the term caregiver refers to biological, adoptive, step or foster parents; family members; child-care educators; day-care workers and nannies; and other people who are in the position of being responsible for the care of young children.

A caregiver can begin instilling spirituality even before a child is born. Singing and other sounds are felt as vibrations and possibly as sounds by a fetus in the womb. During this time frame, an infant is most vulnerable to the environment. A baby absorbs and adapts to time, place, region, and local norms and culture. The spiritual embryonic phase begins here and continues throughout one’s lifetime.

Spiritual development is vital for all caregivers. There are aspects of spiritual development that are common to all people. The intent of the authors is to provide opportunities to evoke and strengthen each caregiver’s spiritual development, and ultimately, influence the spiritual development of the children to whom the adults are giving care. Readers will find information about various aspects of spiritual development. Caregivers are encouraged to spend time in reflection and journal writing. This will provide opportunities to evoke and strengthen the spiritual development that will enhance the spiritual development of the children the adults are nurturing.

Truisms – Young Children and Spiritual Development

  • Spirituality is an innate human trait.
  • This innate trait must be nurtured in order to flourish.
  • All children require love and attachment at the beginning of life to awaken this innate spirituality, so that it can be nurtured and developed.
  • All children need interesting and beautiful spaces in which to experience life. This space can be as big as a park, and as small as a corner of a room.
  • Young children are extremely competent learners because they have absorbent minds with exceptional ability to learn culture, language, and nuances from the environment and the people in that environment.
  • Spiritual development plays an important role in promoting learning and growth for all children, and is inter-related with all other domains of development.
  • Children will develop spirituality far more easily when the adults in their lives are spiritually grounded.

Important definitions to keep in mind:

Complex disposition is reflected in how one acts toward others by caring, kindness, empathy, and reverence.
Basic disposition is the internal feeling triggered by moments of wonderment, awe, joy, or inner peace.

Spiritual Moments Happen Every Day

Spiritual Moments at Machu PichuI was co-writing a book about spirituality and on the way to a restaurant with friends, I asked the husband if he was religious, spiritual, spiritual and religious, or none of them. He gave me a confused look, and said, “What is spirituality?” I told him that it is different for everyone. I said, “For me, when I look at the mountains beyond my backyard, I have a sense of wonderment, of being a small part of the universe. It swells my heart.” His response was, “I have no idea what you are talking about.” We enjoyed our dinner, saying no more about it.

Driving home, he said he had been thinking. When he was at Machu Picchu, atop the Andes Mountains in Peru, he recalled an unbelievable feeling of awe. He reflected at that time upon his wonderment of the world. In the twenty-five minutes it took us to drive home, he told a half a dozen other stories like that. His wife’s mouth was wide open. She, in fifty years of marriage, had never heard these stories. That one question opened him up to reflect and to recognize his spiritual moments and to consider his own spirituality.

~ Ester R.A. Leutenberg

Spiritual Moments in Time

Spiritual moments in time are quiet, calm moments with extended time for children to play and explore – these moments are most felt when children live their lives within a set routine and within environments that provide order. Such environments invite children to predict, know, and feel secure within a day, a week, or more.

Think about moments that have given you feelings of peace and contentment; moments when you felt as if time was simply stretched out before you and you had no need to hurry.

  • What are you doing in these reflective moments?
  • What ties these reflective moments together?

Click here to for a printable worksheet.  

Spiritual Moments in Space

Spiritual moments in space describe young children’s play environments that are aesthetically pleasing and a beautiful space where real objects, real experiences, and rich language are intentionally provided. This type of environment is often filled with moments of wonder, awe, joy, and inner peace that can fill each child’s basic disposition.

  • What would you consider to be a beautiful learning space. What qualities would that space need?

Click here to for a printable worksheet.

Spiritual Moments in Relationships

Children with pet dogMost children enjoy interactive relationships that are not stagnant, but that change in ways that stimulate their senses, intellect, and inner person. Such moments can help children to strengthen their will to self-regulate, be mindful, and take on responsibilities such as caring for a plant or garden, a pet, or helping to keep a room clean and organized.

We all have special people in our lives.

  • Think about the special people who were important to you as a young child. What made them so important to you?
  • Who are the special people in your life now and what makes them so important to you?
  • Describe how the qualities of the important people in your life, from your childhood to now, are the same or how they have changed.

Click here to for a printable worksheet.

Spiritual Moments in and with Nature

Many research studies have been conducted on nature’s impact on human development. Kindness, respect, empathy, harmony, and being welcoming to others, are just a few of the benefits children engage in as they experience the natural world. As they explore the outdoors with nature, nature is also brought indoors for close-up exploration. Spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and one of the first windows leading to wonder is the natural world. In general, nature is an amazing source for wonder, awe, joy, inner-peace, and relationships. It eventually provides an environment for the emergence of big questions.

Go for a walk outdoors and look for moments that touch you spiritually.

  • Why do you think this is happening?
  • Try to put words to your feelings.

Click here to for a printable worksheet.

Spiritual moments under a large treeSpiritual Moments with Big Questions

Big questions are capable of taking one beyond oneself. When one engages in big questions, one is able to feel one’s own place within the universe. If one believes in transcendence, then a big question can take the person to that place. If one does not, the big question can provide feelings of humility, smallness, and a feeling of a place within the vastness of the universe.

Young children are capable of big questions, also. You can see the question in a child’s body posture, eyes, and expression. Through exploration of the world a myriad of questions come alive for a child. It is through big questions that a child is capable of seeing that the world exists way beyond oneself.

We all have big questions about life and how we see ourselves in the big picture!

People often have big questions involving these aspects of life:

  • Spiritual Moments
  • Caregiver Love
  • Self-Awareness
  • Mindfulness and Mindsight
  • Disposition
  • Wonder
  • Kindness
  • Openness and Imagination
  • Gratitude
  • Breath and Presence
  • The Big Picture: Spiritual Development

Although children may not be able to completely articulate their big questions, they hold curiosities and questions about how life works.

Examples might be:

  • Where does the sunlight come from?
  • Why does light go away at night?
  • Where do my shadows come from?
  • Who creates a rainbow?
  • An example of a big question from an adult might be:
  • What happens to a person when the person dies?

A Big Question can lead you to explore spirituality from a personal perspective.

  • What is one of YOUR big questions about life in general
  • that in some way involves one or more of the items listed on the prior page?
  • Why is this big question important to you?

Click here to for a printable worksheet.

The Relationship of Rituals and Spiritual Moments

Spiritual Moments boy prayingA ritual is a ceremony or regular occurrence consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order and a set time. Some common rituals are saying good morning to someone when waking up, or singing a song to a child before going to bed. One’s life is filled with rituals that strengthen one’s spirituality.

  • What are some rituals that were shared with you as a child?
  • At the time, how did you feel about those rituals?
  • How did it make you feel to participate in those rituals?
  • How do rituals strengthen your spirituality?
  • What are some of the rituals you share with a child in your life?

Click here to for a printable worksheet.

Spiritual Moments: Thought-Provoking Quotations

Spiritual moments happen every day. All you need to do is to know how and when to recognize them.

~ Ester R.A. Leutenberg

Spiritual moments are created in relationships with others, in awareness and appreciation of self, in and with nature, and in dialogue with big questions capable of taking one beyond oneself.

~ Deborah L. Schein

Click here to for a printable worksheet.

Spiritual Moments

Ideas, Activities, and Moments for All Caregivers to Share with Children

Spiritual moments can sometimes happen by chance. More often, though, they need to be created by establishing nourishing connections. Here are some ways to provide spiritual moments for the children you know, and for yourself as well. Such moments can strengthen the spiritual development of everyone. • Answer questions in a patient, thoughtful way.

  • Ask the child to tell you a story. Then, ask questions about it.
  • Breathe slowly with a young child, putting each of your hands on each other’s heart.
  • Clean up toys together.
  • Create time in the day to simply be with the child.
  • Dance together.
  • Discuss the importance of friendship.
  • Encourage quiet time.
  • Enjoy reading with a child.
  • Find a caterpillar and wonder together where it came from and what it will become.
  • Find a spider’s web and talk about it.
  • Keep play spaces decluttered and organized, but expect them to get messed up.
  • Laugh together.
  • Limit saying No when you can – offer Yes or Yes, but, and don’t be afraid to say no when it is truly needed.
  • Look at the brown on a banana and together, wonder why it’s there.
  • Notice and discuss the wag of a dog’s tail.
  • Offer children time to play alone or with other children without any interruptions.
    • Do not interfere.
    • Do not show the child what to do.
    • Do not suggest to the child to do something different than what the child has chosen to do.
    • Do not talk.
  • Pay attention to the environment, make it beautiful and inviting.
  • Play together.
  • See a shooting star, watch the moon, clouds, sunrise, or sunset.
  • Show appreciation and respect when a child repeats something over and over again.
  • Sing together.
  • Stop and smell the roses.
  • Support a child’s right to have open time to play.
  • Take time to answer children’s questions.
  • Talk about things for which to be grateful.
  • Together, look at the shadows cast by the sun.
  • Walk together.
  • Watch and discuss a worm squiggling on the ground.
  • When hearing a siren, say aloud, “We are wishing good thoughts to the person in the ambulance.”

Click here to for a printable worksheet.

Chronic Sleep Problems Affect 50 To 70 Million Americans

50 to 70 Million Americans Struggle with Chronic Sleep Problems

Excerpted from Coping with Sleep Issues Workbook
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, EdD

Man with sleep problems rubbing eyeMost people, at one time or another, have experienced trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Inability to sleep occasionally is normal and is often the result of some sort of stress in life. However, when sleep problems become a regular occurrence and begin to affect one’s ability to function in daily life, the person may have developed a sleep disorder.

A lack of adequate sleep may not seem like a big problem, but it can seriously affect one’s performance at school or work, ability to concentrate, ability to control emotions, and ability to handle stress. Lack of sleep is a challenge to one’s own general health and well-being.

Adequate sleep is a great buffer that helps to protect people from everyday stress. Sleep is a vital support for one’s ability to rejuvenate the mind and body.

Any type of sleep deficiency can seriously increase one’s vulnerability to a variety of physical disorders and to a host of negative feelings, emotions, and behaviors such as:

  • anger
  • anxiety
  • frustration
  • irrational thinking
  • irritability
  • sadness

Inadequate sleep can result from two things:

  • A reduction in the amount of sleep one experiences. This occurs when people find that they are not sleeping enough hours each night.
  • A reduction in the quality of sleep one is receiving. This occurs when people find that they are having a hard time falling asleep, often awaken, and then may difficulty going back to sleep. This reduction causes a dramatic break in the sleep cycle.

Click here for a printable handout: What is the Sleep Cycle?

Over the years many folks have written about getting a good night’s sleep. Here are a few. Journal a few lines about each one and how you feel about it. Do you have other favorite quotes about sleep? Jot them down in your journal and write about how you feel about them. It is important to understand your (and your client’s) attitude to sleep problems so you can provide a guide to better sleep that may include anything from easily made changes to routines to participating is a formal sleep study.

Woman with chronic sleep problems

Control what you can control. Don’t lose sleep worrying about things that you don’t have control over, because at the end of the day, you still won’t have control over them.

-Cam Newton

Though sleep is called our best friend, it is a friend who often keeps us waiting.

-Jules Verne

If you have difficulty sleeping or are not getting sleep or sleep of good quality, you need to learn the basics of sleep hygiene, make appropriate changes, and possibly consult a sleep expert.

-Andrew Weil

Sleep is the best meditation.

-The Dalai Lama

My father said there are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.

-Marlo Thomas

Click here for a printable worksheet on quotes about sleep for your clients.

Possible Causes of Sleep Problems

Some clients feel overwhelmed when they try to analyze why they are having trouble sleeping. There are so many possibilities. This list of suggestions can help them narrow down the choice. For example, this is a list of possible causes of sleep problems.

  • Acid reflux
  • Allergy
  • Anger
  • Anticipation that something might happen
  • Certain medications
  • Anxiety
  • Bedroom cluttered
  • Caregiving responsibilities
  • Disappointments
  • Disease
  • Electronics (tablet, cell phone, games) in bedroom
  • Emotional stress
  • Family issues
  • Fearfulness
  • Friend relationships
  • Frustration
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Hot flashes
  • Hurt feelings
  • Indecisive
  • Isolation
  • Jealousy or envy
  • Job issues
  • Medical issues of self or loved one
  • Mental health issues
  • Overwhelmed
  • Partner
  • Phone use in bedroom
  • Physical ailment or pain
  • Regrets
  • Relatives or in-laws
  • Sadness
  • Social life
  • Stimulants
  • Substance abuse
  • Suspicions
  • Time constraints
  • Too warm or cool in the bedroom
  • Trauma
  • Uncomfortable bed and/or pillow

Click here for a printable worksheet version.

Man with chronic sleep problems asleep at the wheelSuggesting small changes that can make a difference is a good start. Some are more difficult to achieve than others. Start with the easier ones and move on from there.

  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine before bedtime
  • Avoid extreme exercises before bedtime
  • Avoid rich and spicy foods before bedtime
  • Be sure the bed, mattress, and temperature are comfortable
  • Do easy stretches before bed
  • Do something mildly stimulating after dinner to avoid falling asleep too early
  • Don’t watch scary television shows before going to sleep
  • Drink enough fluid at night so as not to wake up thirsty, but not so much that you frequently need to go to the bathroom
  • Eat nothing or something light before bedtime
  • Eliminate loud noises
  • Engage in deep breathing exercises
  • Enjoy a pleasant book on tape
  • Get up at the same time each day
  • Go to sleep at the same time each day
  • Have the same sleep routine on weekends
  • If something is on your mind, write it on a paper next to your bed and then fall asleep
  • If you wake up and can’t fall back asleep in 30 minutes, get out of bed until you are tired enough to sleep
  • Consume no caffeine after noon time
  • Keep the bedroom cool
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Maintain a bedtime routine
  • Make preparations for the next day before going to bed
  • Meditate
  • Nothing in the room but sleep and intimacy
  • Progressive relaxation exercise
  • Read a pleasant book or magazine
  • Save vigorous exercise for during the day
  • Stay away from big meals close to bedtime
  • Take a nap way before bedtime
  • Take a warm bath or shower before bed
  • Take prescribed medications
  • Turn off electronics or technology (other than an alarm clock, turned backwards)
  • Use earplugs to block out noise
  • Use guided imagery
  • Wind down the evening with a favorite hobby, calm music, fun television, or book
  • Write in a journal

Click here for a printable worksheet version.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans face chronic sleep problems. Sleep deprivation is associated with injuries, chronic conditions such as obesity, mental illnesses, poor quality of life, increased healthcare costs and lost work productivity.

Tired eyeMost adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Getting less than that daily amount can cause a serious sleep deficit over time. While some sleepless nights may be the result of too much caffeine or thinking about something that’s worrying, chronic sleep deprivation is often the result of a sleep disorder such as:

  • Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder is a disorder in which a person’s sleep is delayed by two or more hours beyond the conventional bedtime. This delay in falling asleep causes difficulty in waking up at a desired time.
  • Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder. Some of the symptoms of insomnia include difficulty getting to sleep, waking many times during the night, and often waking before it is time to actually get up. Insomnia can affect normal daytime activities. Insomnia is most often caused by stress, anxiety, certain medications, depression and/or inadequate sleep habits.
  • Narcolepsy occurs when people feel excessively sleepy in the daytime. The sleepiness felt with narcolepsy is overwhelming. Some people with narcolepsy have uncontrolled sleepy periods that can occur regardless of what they are doing, while others have constant sleepiness throughout the day. The person has this feeling for a period of time longer than three months, and it is accompanied by a higher than usual percentage of REM sleep.
  • Nightmares are frightening dreams that occur during deep, REM sleep.
  • Periodic Limb Movement Disorder is the movement of hands, arms, feet, and legs during sleep that frequently causes arousals and disturbs the sleep cycles. Whether the person remembers waking or not, the brain often shifts from sleep to wake in a response to the jerking of the limbs causing the sleep cycle to be disrupted and increase excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome occurs during wake hours and is often worse in the evenings and before bedtime, which can lead to sleep onset insomnia. This discomfort can come in the form of an urge to move one’s legs and feet to get relief. People find themselves experiencing excessive and rhythmic movements while they are sleeping.
  • Sleep Apnea occurs when soft tissue covers the airway, either partially or completely, causing a cessation of breathing for ten seconds or longer repeatedly through the night. This can cause frequent arousals and disruption of the desired sleep cycle. These disruptions cause those suffering from sleep apnea to be very tired during the day.
  • Sleep Talking is a sleep disorder defined as talking during sleep without being aware of it. Sleep talking can involve complicated dialogues or monologues, complete gibberish, or mumbling. The good news is that for most people it is a rare and short-lived occurrence.
  • Sleep Terror Disorder occurs mostly in children, but can be found in adults. Night terrors are frightful images that appear in a person’s dreams, but are often difficult to remember upon awakening.
  • Sleepwalking is a disorder that causes people to get out of bed and walk while they are sleeping. It usually happens when a person is going from the deep stage of sleep to a lighter stage, or into the wake state. The sleepwalker can’t respond during the event and usually does not remember it.

Clients suffering from serious sleep disorders might be helped by a visit to a sleep center. Contact the American Academy of Sleep Medicine at https://aasm.org/ to find an expert near you.

Coping with Sleep Issues Workbook and Card DeckA book such as Coping with Sleep Issues Workbook from where most of this material has been excerpted can be of invaluable help to you and your clients. It can be found at https://wholeperson.com/store/coping-with-sleep-issues-workbook.html.

Mindfulness?

Mindfulness?

Excerpted from Mindfulness for Emerging Adults: Finding balance, belonging, focus, and meaning in the digital age

By Donna Torney MA, LMHC, RYT

Mindfulness has become a household word in popular culture causing some of us to see it as just another fad. But emerging adults can trust in mindfulness practices thanks to the large body of scientific evidence proving the benefits of this once esoteric idea. Recent studies have shown that mindfulness practices can help us manage stress and anxiety, better communicate with friends and co-workers, and build our ability to give and receive love and compassion.

Emerging Adult in a moment of MindfulnessMost researchers define mindfulness to include these two main components:

  1. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing yourself back to the present moment, over and over. Our minds are wired to have a sometimes anxiety-provoking bias toward planning for the future or remembering the past. Mindfulness practices tame this bias.
  2. Mindfulness is reacting to the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness practices help us build the capacity to notice, without self-criticism, when we lose sight of the present moment.

One emerging adult I work with describes mindfulness as the ability to be with one’s current set of circumstances without freaking out. She tells me that mini-mindfulness breaks at her workplace help her notice when she is having an automatic negative reaction to a situation, something that was getting in the way of her success at work. By employing mindfulness she found that she was better able to stay open to present moment experience in a way that helps her feel less threatened by new people and places. This skill, in turn, helps her with making conscious choices about her future and building more successful connections with peers.

Starting in the mid-20th century, in a time when millions of people were healing from the aftermath of two world wars, theories that elaborate on optimum human development began to emerge. These theories expanded on child development to acknowledge that adults continue to grow and evolve psychosocially way beyond the point of reaching full physical maturity. But this perpetual maturing only happens if we are willing to continue learning from life experiences and adapt in healthy ways – a process that demands mindfulness.

Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development

Young man emerging adult on campusErik Erikson’s classic model of psychosocial development has been used as a frame for exploring human growth beyond childhood by many prominent social scientists. Erikson’s model measures timeless developmental struggles and serves as a good frame when thinking about using contemplative exercises to foster positive adult maturity. Erikson went well beyond Freud’s focus on unconscious drives, seeking to legitimize theories of human altruistic potential.

Most scholars of human development see Erickson’s stages as flexible, to be expanded or contracted based on current cultural norms. They are not necessarily completed fully and sequentially. As balance is gained in one area of psychosocial development, it will affect the next area. This is good news! Life presents many twists and turns and often we must abandon straight-forward developmental maturity in order to survive. The beauty of Erikson’s model is that it acknowledges that individuals can circle back and revisit certain developmental processes.

Summary – Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development
Life stage Conflict Resolution or value attained Manifestation in adult life Example
Infancy (0-1 year) Learning basic trust vs. mistrust Hope Appreciation of human interdependence I accept help and trust that it is available.
Early childhood (1-3 years) Autonomy vs. shame and doubt Will Acceptance of the life cycle and impermanence I can manage disappointment
Play age (3-6 years) Initiative vs. guilt Purpose Humor, resiliency, compassion I don’t take myself too seriously; I take time to enjoy life.
School age (6-12 years) Industry vs. inferiority Competence Humility, accepting unfulfilled hopes I have both strengths and weaknesses.
Adolescence (12-19 years) Identity vs. role confusion Fidelity Merging of complex thought and emotions I take both emotions and logic into account.
Early adulthood (20-25 years) Intimacy vs. isolation Love Acceptance of the complexity of long-term relationships, openness, loving-kindness I am willing to work to maintain important relationships.
Adulthood (26-64 years) Generativity vs. stagnation Care Caring for others, empathy and concern My life has more meaning when Icare for my community.
Elderhood (65+ years) Ego integrity vs. despair Wisdom A sense of identity and integrity that tempers physical limitations I feel content and I accept the aging process.

 

A printable version of this chart can be found here.

The famous Harvard-Grant Study of Adult Development uses many of Erikson’s ideas. The Grant study followed a cohort of men who entered Harvard in the late 1930s, along with other less privileged young men. For over seventy-five years, this study has measured everything from blood pressure, to alcohol intake, to coping styles, and more recently, to brain activity. The study compares these measurements with the participant’s satisfaction and success in work and in relationships. Researchers involved with this longitudinal study are still collecting data and refining its findings on test subjects who are now in their eighth decade of life.

Most scholars of human development see Erickson’s stages as flexible, to be expanded or contracted based on current cultural norms. They are not necessarily completed fully and sequentially. As balance is gained in one area of psychosocial development, it will affect the next area. This is good news! Life presents many twists and turns and often we must abandon straight-forward developmental maturity in order to survive. The beauty of Erikson’s model is that it acknowledges that individuals can circle back and revisit certain developmental processes.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults Book Release

Because of the current elongated road to adulthood, (see “Are We There Yet”) there is often a blending; some might say a clash, of the adolescent and emerging adult developmental milestones of finding identity and finding intimacy. George Vaillant, long-time director of the Harvard-Grant study, states that we must first master identity before finding true intimacy. Vaillant defines mastery of identity as achieving economic, social, and ideological independence from one’s parents.

Mindfulness for Emerging Adults: Finding balance, belonging, focus, and meaning in the digital age By Donna Torney MA, LMHC, RYT is a new Whole Person Associates book. Now available for order at WholePerson.com.

Using Poetry to Explore Thoughts and Feelings

Creating a Healthy Balanced Life WorkbookPoetry exercises excerpted from Creating a Healthy Balanced Life

By Sandra K. Negley, MTRS, CTRS and Ester Leutenberg

Looking for an interesting way to lead your clients as they explore their thoughts and feelings? Something different and introspective? Try poetry.

Poetic Thoughts and Feelings – exploring through poetry

One creative way to explore thoughts and feelings is through the writing of poetry. Don’t worry, this does not mean a person has to be a great poet or writer to have fun with this unique and ancient art form. The key is to be open, enjoy, explore, and look soulfully at one’s deeper thoughts and feelings. Writing poetry can assist a person to focus thoughts, stop circular thinking, and begin to look at life from a different perspective. A variety of creative writing techniques will work with most people and most ages; here are four styles to initiate participants’ creative thinking.

Technique #1

Haiku is a unique ancient Japanese style of writing that uses 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.

River inspiring poetryExample:

River flows gently

Water moves sand and rock

Forgiveness begins

 

Technique #2

Five-line poetry while similar to Haiku is less restrictive and for some allows a more creative exploration.

Title of Topic (1-word) Describe Topic (2 words) Action Occurring (3-words) Feelings—how it makes you feel (4-words) Summary (1-word)

Example:

Friendship

Honesty, acceptance

Evolving through time

Creating more fulfilled experiences

Forever

 

Technique #3

Pass Around Poem

A fun exercise in poetry writing can come from a less threatening approach that lends itself to creative and critical thought. This opens the door for participants to have interesting and inquisitive discussions on the coincidences in life.

Poetry book and notebookInstructions: Distribute one poetry book, a pen, and one piece of paper to each participant. Instruct participants that when you say, “start” they will follow this process:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Open the book
  3. Place one finger on a spot in the book
  4. Open your eyes
  5. Write a line of poetry from where your finger landed (one line)
  6. Give participants an example

The facilitator gives participants 30 seconds and then says “pass.” Participants will pass their book to the right and repeat the process. The number of lines of the poem will be determined by the number of participants. (Keep in mind some people may need more time than others, waiting can be unsettling and/or break the magic with boredom. Consider facilitating with smaller groups.)

 

Technique #4

An I Am Poem can be used as an introspective exercise for participants to increase self-awareness while also connecting with other members of the group. The I Am Poem is a creative way to also teach and explore current issues, science, art, and conceptual thoughts. There are two ways to approach this form of writing:

Form One — Instruct the participants that to write this poem only requires one instruction; each line of the poem must start with “I am . . .” The poem can be as long as they choose and reflect as much about themselves as they would like to share. The poem may include such things as gender, ethnicity, interests, family traditions, mottos, memories, or future goals. Encourage participants to be creative in defining who they are and how they express themselves. Remind them that it does not have to rhyme.

Example Format:

I am a woman

I am multidimensional

I am strong and industrious

I am vulnerable and emotional

I am an advocate for individuals with disabilities

I am a listener

I am a mother, grandmother, teacher, friend

I am a woman

 

Form Two — This poem follows a more directed and structured format. Begin with the I am statement — two characteristics of the person. This statement can be repeated throughout the poem as a line opener and then repeated as the last line of the poem. The writer can have as many stanzas to their poem as they choose. As the facilitator, you can prepare a format for participants or you can list a variety of suggestions and let participants develop their own format.

Example Format:

I am (characteristics of the person)

I wonder (something the person or thing could think or be curious about)

I hear

I see

I dream

I am (If you wish repeat first line of the poem, every 4-5 statements)

I fear

I love

I understand

I hope

I am (end poem with this line)

Additional Suggestions

I care                     I feel                      I want                     I touch

I pretend               I respect                I cry                       I laugh

I worry                   I unfold                  I release               I forgive

I say                        I hope                    I honor