Category Archives: Exercises

Thrive Behavioral Coping Skills for Teens

Teens ~ Out-of-the-Box Coping SkillsExcerpted from Teens ~ Out-of-the-Box Coping Skills

By Ester R.A. Leutenberg & Carol Butler, MS ED, RN, C

It’s already August. Teens, whether they have been working, getting ready to go away to college, or just hanging about the house, are bored. They grunt in response to questions, don’t want to go anywhere with the family (pa-leeease, Mom!), have their noses in social media of all kinds at all times, and are, in general, no fun to be around.  They need to find some way to cope with the last of summer. We need them to find a way to cope.

Assuming that they already have a firm foundation in the coping skills we teach to our teens, let’s take it a step further and take a look at how teens can thrive by becoming part of a larger cause. We can guide participants to interact with their community by engaging in activities they are passionate about.

I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.

-Oprah Winfrey

Poems About the Earth

Clean it Up

Clean up the earth,
so it could be a sparkling clean place for us all!
Clean up the earth,
so we can see the gorgeous blue and green on our planet.
The blue and green will shine in our eyes if we clean it up.
So clean it up,
so that we don’t see any garbage ~
any time or any day.
Clean it up
and live in a world of happiness.
The world we live in can be cleaned up and we can be happy!

-By Allie ~ 9 years old from
Ms. Siegelman’s Third Grade Class
Nassakeag Elementary School – Long Island, NY

In the Future, My World …

I will live in a country of my own making.
In the future,
Environmental destruction will be the norm.
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this Earth.

-Excerpt from The Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed

Before the session begins, place a small globe or a picture of the earth in a covered box.

  • At the start of the session, have a volunteer take the picture out of the box and show it to the group.
  • Ask the participants what is represented (our world).
  • Ask what it means to live in one’s own little world. (Caring only about oneself and one’s close associates.)
  • Point out that teens might have a wider view of the world – school, community, etc.

 

Distribute the handout of Earth Poems. (Click here for printable handout.)

  • Have a volunteer read Jonathan Reed’s poem aloud.
  • Ask the participants what it means to them. Discuss.
  • Have another volunteer read it again, this time from the last line to the first. (Not each word, each line.)
  • Ask the participants what it means now.
  • Why did the poet want us to hear it both ways?
  • Which way do the participants want to see going forward?
  • Can we achieve this?
  • Ask participants for suggestions on how we can achieve a world where environmental destruction will be rare and folks will care for and cherish the earth.

 

Point out the list of causes on their handout. Ask what other causes might be added to the list.

Animal advocacy Health issues School
Children’s needs Homeless assistance The arts
Community Literacy Veterans
Cultural rights and equality Political issues Violence prevention
Faith-based organizations Safety

 

  • Ask them to choose a cause and write a poem about it. As they see from the examples, the lines do not have to rhyme, nor does the rhythm need to sound like that of Robert Louis Stevenson. Write their thoughts about an issue important to them and that causes them concern.
  • Have volunteers read their poems aloud. It might help to write one of your own and read it first to break the ice.
  • Discuss what ways there are to use their various abilities to support their chosen cause.
  • Debate the pros and cons of peaceful demonstrations.
  • Identify other ways a message might be conveyed.
  • Discuss how to raise funds to support a cause.
  • Identify the benefits received from volunteering.
  • Help each participant create and share a plan to follow through on advocacy or humanitarian efforts they care about.
  • Discuss the value of volunteering for a charity, faith-based or public service organization? Does it negate your contribution if you benefit as well as your cause?

Enrichment Activities

 Initiate discussion about these questions; possible responses are in italics.
  • How can teens use their artistic or literary skills to promote their causes?
Posters, postings, and pictures on social media, letters to editors, petitions, etc.
  • I what other ways can a message be spread about a particular need?
Songs, movies, television programs, documentaries, stage plays, etc. about the topic.
  • What are the pros and cons of parades and peaceful demonstrations?
Pros – publicity, educate the community. Cons – may be difficult to organize.
  • What are some ways to raise funds?
Sales (baked goods, rummage, etc.), services (cut lawns, wash cars, etc.). Donate the proceeds.
  • What is the value of volunteering for a charity, faith-based or public service organization?
 A natural high from helping others, make like-minded friends, work experience for a resume.
 
Prompt teens to make plans to follow through on one or more of their ideas. 

Post Traumatic Stress – Grief and Survival Guilt

Grief and Survival Guilt

As veterans make the transition from deployment to civilian life, from military housing to home, from loneliness to being in the heart of their family they often experience grief and survival guilt. Survival Guilt JournalingIf you are doing this exercise with a group, ask them to share what the phrase “shock and awe” means to them both as a military term and as a generic phrase. If you are doing this exercise alone, journal about what the phrase means to you. Remember, journaling is for your eyes only. Don’t worry about your writing style. Just jot down your thoughts as they come to you.

The death of a comrade in arms or the death of anyone close to you often leads to feelings of being overwhelmed, of not having the strength to go on, of feelings of guilt…why am I here and he/she isn’t.

Read the following with your own feelings in mind.

Excerpted from Veterans: Surviving and Thriving after Trauma

By Ester R. A. Leutenberg and Carol Butler, MS Ed, RN, C

Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe is a military doctrine of rapid dominance; the use of overwhelming power and spectacular force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy their will to fight.

  • Shock, disbelief and denial are usually the first reactions to death.
  • Awe involves fear and dread, natural reactions to loss, especially sudden death.
  • You may grieve the loss of your former identity, the loss of innocence after combat, the loss of a dream if you change careers due to emotional or financial problems, and so on.

The grief process is individualized. Stages have been theorized, but people do not go through all the same stages and no specific time frames exist.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross named five stages of grief:

  1. Denial, a defense mechanism that buffers immediate shock.
  2. Anger, we resent the pain and loss, and then are guilty about being angry.
  3. Bargaining, If only I had been better toward them; or if they are still alive, we tell our Higher Power, if they are saved I promise …
  4. Depression, sadness, about practical concerns and the loss.
  5. Acceptance, new normal, easier after a long illness or advanced age; harder to accept when a soldier dies in the prime of life.

GriefWork ~ Healing from LossGriefWork ~ Healing from Loss lists three markers along the Healing Pathway:

  1. Shock ‒ The reality of the loss has not sunk in.
  2. Disorganization ‒ The reality of the loss is real.
  3. Reorganization ‒ Rebuilding a satisfying life ‒ a New Normal.

Survival Guilt compounds grief among many veterans.

  • Some ask, why wasn’t it me who got hurt or killed.
  • Some take responsibility or blame, it’s my fault.
  • Some think, the dead person deserved to live and I deserved to die.

Survival Guilt can be mitigated if you accept the following statements to be true:

  • Admit to your feelings
  • Realize that survival guilt is common, but not comfortable
  • Seek others who understand, veterans, support groups, family
  • Mourn the loss, possibly having a ceremony or some other way to commemorate the person’s life
  • Act and live as they would have advised; make a contribution, hold a fundraiser, give blood, time, and energy to the causes they believed in

Warning Signals

Some symptoms are dangerous and require professional help. Make note of those symptoms of depression or complicated grief that apply to you.

  1. Thoughts of harming or killing yourself or others.
  2. Inability to trust yourself or others.
  3. Persistent belief that you deserve(d) to die.
  4. Inability to function months after the death; cannot perform at work or school; unable to care for children or household responsibilities.
  5. Severe depression and hopelessness about the future; feeling worthless.
  6. Inability to eat or sleep or take care of personal health and hygiene.
  7. Feelings of extreme guilt, rage or bitterness.
  8. Substance abuse, including taking higher than recommended doses of prescribed medications.
  9. Extreme physical reactions like nausea, aches and pains, lowered immunity.
  10. Very slow thinking, speech, and body movements.
  11. Seeing or hearing things that are not there.
  12. False beliefs that the person still lives; searching for them, or thinking you recognize them in familiar places.
  13. Envy toward others who are not suffering, or not caring about others.

Veterans front cover*Here are two exercises from Veterans: Surviving and Thriving after Trauma that may help those working through grief and survivors guilt:

Carry the Torch

Shock and Awe – Journaling Suggestions

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness

Excerpted from Managing Moods Workbook, by Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John Liptak, PhD

Managing Moods WorkbookMay is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is important that facilitators keep an open mind about mental health issues and the stigma attached to people experiencing these issues. Rather than thinking of people as having a mental disorder or being mentally ill,  Erasing the Stigma of Mental Health Issues through Awareness helps facilitators to diminish the stigma that surrounds people suffering from these issues. Stigmas occur when people are unduly labeled, which sets the stage for discrimination and humiliation.

People who stigmatize and /or stereotype others bring about unfair treatment. This unfair treatment can be very obvious. For example, people make negative comments or laugh. On the other hand, this unfair treatment can be very subtle. For example, people assume that a person with mental health issues is dangerous or violent.

Stigmas affect a large percentage of people throughout the world. Some of the more common stigmas are associated with physical disabilities, mental health conditions, age, body type, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, family, ethnicity, race, religion, financial status, social sub-cultures and conduct. Stigmas set people apart from society and produce feelings of shame and isolation. People who are stigmatized are often considered socially unacceptable and they suffer prejudice, rejection, avoidance and discrimination.

Mental Health Awareness – An Introduction to Stigmas for your Clients

Intense Anxiety - Mental Health AwarenessA stigma is extreme social disapproval of some type of personal characteristic or a belief that is not considered socially acceptable. Fear of judgment and ridicule about mental illness often compels individuals and their families to hide away from society rather than face criticism, shunning, labeling and stereotyping. Instead of seeking treatment, they struggle in silence. Here are some ways you can combat the stereotypes and stigmas that are associated with mental illness.

  • You and your loved ones have choices. You can decide who is to know about your mental illness and what to tell them. You need not feel ashamed or embarrassed.
  • You are not alone. Remember that many other people are coping with a similar situation.
  • Seek help and remember that treatment from medical professionals can help you to have productive careers and live satisfying lives.
  • Be proactive and surround yourself with supportive people – people you can trust. Social isolation is a negative side effect of the stigma linked to mental illness. Isolating yourself and discontinuing enjoyable activities will not help.

Mental Health Awareness Month – Printable Exercises

DE-STIGMA-TIZE with the Facts About Mental Health Issues

Myth: Mental health issues are rare.
Fact: Mental health issues are not rare and affect nearly everyone either directly or indirectly.

Myth: People with mental health issues are unable to lead productive lives.
Fact: Most people with a mental health issue respond to treatment, learn to cope with and manage their problems, and go on to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Myth: People who have mental health conditions will not get better.
Fact: Once diagnosed, mental health issues are treatable. While they are not always cured, they can be managed effectively. Most people with mental health conditions live productive and positive lives while receiving treatments for their mental health issues. As is the case with any illness, individuals with severe or persistent mental health conditions who respond poorly to available treatments may require more support and may not function as highly as others.

Myth: People with serious mental health issues are violent and unpredictable.
Fact: While some people who suffer from serious mental health issues do commit antisocial acts, mental health issues do not equal criminality or violence – despite the media’s tendency to emphasize a suspected link. People with mental health issues are no more likely to commit violence than anyone in the general public, but they are more likely to be victimized and are more likely to inflict violent behaviors on themselves.

Myth: Mental health issues happen because of bad parenting or personal weakness.
Fact: The main risk factors for mental health issues are not bad parenting or personal weakness but rather genetics, severe and prolonged stress (such as physical or sexual abuse), or other environmental influences (such as birth trauma or head injury).

Myth: Treatments for mental health issues are not usually effective.
Fact: The effectiveness of any treatment depends on a number of factors including the type of mental health issue and the particular needs of the individual. A combination of psychiatric medication and psychotherapy, or social interventions is the most effective way to treat mental health issues.

Myth: Mental health conditions are caused by everyday stressors.
Fact: It may seem that stress is responsible for mental health conditions; however, there is no one clear cause of mental health issues. Rather, it is a result of complex interactions between psychological, biological, genetic, and social factors. Stress, stigma, and lack of support can make it worse on the individual.

Myth: Mental health issues are always hereditary.
Fact: Some mental health issues include a genetic component, which results in a predisposition or vulnerability toward the mental health problems among children and siblings, but environment also plays a key role in the development of certain conditions. If someone in one’s family has a mental health condition, that person will be a higher risk.

Click here for a printable version DE-STIGMA-TIZE with the Facts About Mental Health Awareness Issues

Mindfulness Defined

What is mindfulness and why is it a good thing?

According to Donna Torney, MA, LMHC, RYT in her upcoming book Mindfulness for Emerging Adults:  The Center Points model for well-being, mindfulness is:   “…paying attention to moment-to-moment experience without judgment. [It] is a fantastic aid in the process of exploring values and identifying strengths, as well as increasing the rich direct experiences of everyday life.  Engaging in practical mindfulness in this way leads to more contentment and calm, whether you are young or old, paying bills or socializing.”

In a study reported in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research:  Neuroimaging M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after participants’ meditation regimen support these claims.  They show increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

What kind of meditation works? Britta Hölzel, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author, said the participants in the study referenced above-practiced mindfulness meditation,  just what Donna recommends.

Try this Centering Points exercise working toward mindfulness and focus.

Woman sitting on the ground mindfulnessBut it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is, I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?—Henry David Thoreau

Focusing basics for the severely distracted

Goals:

  • Taking a look at small and easy ways to build mindfulness and focus
  • Rating exercises from most to least accessible/doable in your daily life

Starting a meditation practice is a great idea especially with all the research that shows the mental and physical benefits it can bring.  But there are times in life (usually when we most need it) when sitting still and calming the mind can seem like a feat of Olympic proportions.

Exercise:

Here are some ideas to find moments of tranquility, even in the most hectic of times.  Read through each mini-exercise, then rate them by assigning three stars to the exercise you would be most likely to try today, two stars to an exercise you are willing to try tomorrow, and one star to an exercise you can commit to trying by the end of the week.  Commit to completing a three star exercise as soon as possible.

Take note of what is distracting you – If you don’t feel ready for a meditation practice it’s okay. Start by noticing what is distracting you.

  • Are your distractions fear-based; are you worrying about some future outcome?
  • Are your distractions fantasy-based; is there something you don’t have that is stopping you from living your life in the here and now?
  • Start by noting what takes you out of the present moment. Just taking note of what is keeping you in a state of distraction is a step toward more mindfulness.

Perform a single routine task mindfully – fold laundry, wash dishes, feed the dog, without slipping into autopilot.  So often, we get up in the morning and do our routine in zombie mode.

  • Get out of bed and stretch for half a minute.
  • What is the first thing you usually do in the morning? Can you do it with all your senses engaged?
  • Resist automatic thoughts and mentally rehearsing your to-do list.
  • You might find that the routine task is actually enjoyable, or you may decide to change the start of your day so that the very first task is something that feels pleasant, like reading a few pages in a good book versus checking your email.

Take a slow walk or run – Routine exercise is another place where we can easily check our focus.

  • Take your walk or go to the gym as usual, but consciously slow down your pace.
  • Notice something new about the gym or the walking/running route you are on.
  • Refrain from projecting into the future or thinking about the past. You may burn a few less calories by slowing down, but what you gain in tranquility and calm will make up for it.

Puppy MindfulnessPet or play with an animal – If you have one, your dog or cat can become your Zen master.

  • Take time out today to be with your pet and just with your pet. Animals are experts in being in the present moment.
  • Get down on the floor and get on your pet’s level. Gaze into their eyes as you play with or pet them.
  • Thank them for being your Zen master.

Belly breathe with a baby or small child – Babies and young children can also anchor us to the present moment in a special way.

  • If you have an infant in your life, take some time to watch them while they nap. Babies have not learned the bad habit of taking shallow breaths.  Take long, slow breaths like a baby.
  • If you have a toddler in your life, ask him or her to lie on the floor next to you. Place pillows on your bellies.  Watch them as they float up and down on your belly as you take long, deep inhales and exhales.
  • Take some time to giggle with your toddler as the pillows rise and fall.

Walk barefoot – If the temperature allows, kick your shoes off and walk in the grass for a few minutes.

  • Walking barefoot requires mindfulness to avoid sharp objects or other outdoor goop.
  • It is immensely grounding and healing.
  • Focus on how it feels to connect directly with the earth.

Meet your energy level with self-compassion. If you are low on energy, or going through a stressful time, it can be counter-productive to try to force yourself to concentrate harder.  Use the above suggestions to anchor yourself in the present moment in small doses that will add up to improved mood and concentration.  By practicing small doses of mindful focus, the fog will lift and you will feel more energized.

Which exercise can you commit to today? Choose a few of the focusing exercises that seem most accessible to you.  Write a plan stating how and when you will try the exercises. Journal about them.

Click here for a printable version of this exercise.

Perception and How It Can Be Used as a Coping Skill

Perception

Adapted from an exercise by Donald A. Tubesing, PhD, MDiv, and Nancy Loving Tubesing, EdD., Structured Exercises in Stress Management, Volume 2.

“Beware,” the soothsayer says to Caesar through Shakespeare’s pen, “Beware of the Ides of March!”Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798,

Thunder and flashing lightening…everyone lookout, beware, danger! When Shakespeare penned the phrase it was only foreboding because the actor made it so. Now-a-days, just those words can strike dread in the hearts of some folks. Recited in tones of doom, and thanks to a few hundred years of history, it can plunge listeners into a dismal mood. In Shakespeare’s version the worst happens. Caesar is murdered by two of his friends on that day. “Et tu, Brute.” We fear the worst might happen to us, too.

Looking at it on one hand it is a dark and dismal threat. On the other hand, it is simply an indication of a date in the middle of March. Why does the same phrase strike people so differently? Because our perception is different. It isn’t the words themselves that engender fear, but the emotions that we ascribe to those words.  Some folks feel a sense of dread. For others, the Ides of March is simply March 15th and it doesn’t disturb them at all. April 15th, maybe, but not March 15th.

How we see and feel things, or our perception of them, greatly affects our stress level. Perception can be defined as “a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.”

Attitude Adjustment Hour

Try this exercise that demonstrates the role of perception in the management of stress and helps us practice making conscious shifts in perceptual patterns. You can use it by yourself, or gather a group of your friends or family.

Discuss or journal about the following:

  • Any life event, major or minor, can become a cause of stress if we view it as a threat. Stress is our reaction to whatever dangers we see around us. Perception is the key to stress management. Our stress level is determined by the way we label events (perception). If we see safety we remain relaxed. If we see danger we fight back with stress.
  • Incredible as it sounds, most of our stress comes from between our ears. If we don’t like it, we can get rid of it, by changing our mind.
  • It’s no phonier to be “Pollyanna-ish” (seeing the rosy side of very tough problems) than it is to be cynical (seeing the negative side of positive opportunities)
  • At any given moment, we always have numerous perceptual options available to us – many ways to view our situations. Our choice of viewpoints, to a large extent, color the quality and feeling tone of our daily experiences.
  • In our society, attitude adjustment hour is synonymous with drinking alcohol. Yes, alcohol does alter people’s mood. But true attitude adjustment comes only from making the choice to change our perception. This exercise offers an opportunity for you to practice the skill of seeing your life from many different possible viewpoints.

1.    If you are able, find a friend or family member to join you in the exercise describe his or her day to his or her partner. If you are doing this early in the day, describe yesterday. If you are doing this alone, journal about the questions and answers.

2.    Now you will be challenged to “adjust your attitudes” by re-describing your day using one of the viewpoints listed below. Take turns using one of the eight possible attitudes listed below. If you are doing this alone, write it down.

  • A situation comedy – a big joke and the joke is on you.
  • A Greek tragedy – as if you were meant to suffer and you surely did.
  • A soap opera – of heroic proportions, with all the subtlety, intrigue, and drama of daytime TV.
  • A fairytale – perfectly positive and enjoyable, everything is rosy.
  • A bore – no expressions, dull, ho-hum, nothing much interesting
  • An athletic contest – using sports metaphors as you “drive for the goal,” “take a time out,” “strike out,” “hit an ace,” and so on.
  • A pitiful mess – you’re lousy and you mess everything up, and your life stinks.
  • A trap – everyone’s out to get you and you have a lot to complain about.

3.   Repeat step 2, two or three times, allowing the opportunity to review your day from several perspectives.

4.   Consider the following:

  • How did the changed viewpoint alter your feelings?
  • How do you normally choose to tell your day’s story?
  • What difference would it make in your life if you regularly sat down at the end of the day for an “attitude adjustment hour” in which you told and retold your day’s story from different perspectives?
  • How can you incorporate the principles of perception into your day right while it is happening?
  • How can you incorporate the same principles after the fact?

Signs and Symptoms of Intense Anxiety

Intense Anxiety

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

Managing Intense Anxiety WorkbookAnxiety is an inevitable part of everyday life for most people. Some anxiety is actually an appropriate emotional response to a variety of situations that people encounter. It manifests itself in the life of most people in many different ways. Some of the most common types of everyday, “normal” anxiety:

  • Situational Anxiety – Feelings of apprehension and dread related to a specific situation such as starting a new job, moving to a new community, or learning about a new illness.
  • Anticipatory Anxiety – Feelings of apprehension and dread when one confronts something that has been frightening in the past, or that has resulted in a negative experience such as speaking in front of a large group of people.

Anxiety Disturbances – These can be distinguished from the everyday, “normal” anxiety because they are more intense (panic attacks), last longer (often months or years instead of going away after an anxiety-producing situation), and interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively in daily life (i.e., inability to function in a job).

Different types of disturbances related to thinking and behavior are conveyed and expressed in different forms:

  • Panic Disorder: People have feelings of extreme terror that strike suddenly and often without any warning. People with panic disorder often experience sweating, chest pain, and/or heart palpitations. They feel as if they are out of control during one of their attacks of fear, and they attempt to avoid places where panic attacks have occurred in the past.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: People have feelings of overwhelming worry and experience extreme self-consciousness in everyday social situations. These worries include the fear that others will judge them harshly, they will do something that may be embarrassing, and the fear of being ridiculed by other people. People with this disorder often are very anxious being around people and have a difficult time talking to others. They will stay away from places where there are other people and have a hard time making and keeping friends.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: People exhibit excessive, extreme, and/or unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is nothing (or very little) to be worried and/or tense about. People with this disorder may be worried about just getting through the day and doing everyday tasks. They often have trouble falling and staying asleep, inability to relax, and trouble concentrating.
  • Specific Phobias: People experience intense, unwarranted fears about an object or a situation. The fear involved in a phobia is usually inappropriate for the object or the situation and may cause people to avoid specific everyday situations in order to avoid the object or the situation. Some common phobias include snakes, speaking in public, clowns, fear of situations where escape from bad things is perceived as difficult. This represents an intense fear resulting from real or imagined exposure to a wide range of situations.
  • Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder: People experience anxiety caused by substance utilization or withdrawal.
  • Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition: People have anxiety attacks that can be directly attributed to an existing medical condition (often diagnosed with cancer), and it often parallels the course of the illness.

Intense AnxietyWhen to Worry?

Symptoms related to intense anxiety can be very complex and difficult to cope with. The good news is that people can develop the skills needed to manage the symptoms and progress forward to begin enjoying life more. Undergoing the stress that accompanies many of the mental health issues can be a very frightening way to live. People who experience intense anxiety and stress over time are at risk of developing a serious mental or physical illness and need to seek a medical professional.

Suicide Warning!

People who experience intense anxiety may feel suicidal, have suicidal thoughts, and make plans for committing suicide. Sometimes they think that the only way to escape the physical, psychological, and emotional pain is to attempt suicide. Remember to take any talk about suicide or suicidal acts very seriously.

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

  • Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
  • Engaging in reckless actions
  • Expressing feeling of being trapped with no way out
  • Expressing severe hopelessness about the future
  • Giving away possessions
  • Increasing use of harmful substances
  • Talking about killing or harming oneself
  • Making a plan for dying by suicide
  • Purchasing a weapon
  • Putting legal affairs in order
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities of interest in the past

Serious Mental Illness

If there is a serious mental illness present, much more must be done than complete the assessments, activities, and exercises contained in this workbook. Serious mental illness must be taken seriously and professionals can take an active role in finding help immediately. All disturbances related to intense anxiety need to be thoroughly evaluated by a medical professional, and then treated with an appropriate combination of medication, and group and/or individual therapy.

*To download four PDF exercises from Managing Intense Anxiety Workbook, click here.

Take a Moment to Relax – Give Yourself a Break!

Give Yourself a Break!

Candles in the dark

The holidays are upon us and many are stressed to the max. Our expectations are over-the-moon. Give yourself a break. Choose a couple of things from your to-do list and pare them down or cross them off. You really don’t need to make 5 dozen each of a dozen different kinds of cookies. The season will go on even if you don’t get the most elaborate ever gingerbread house made.

Studies show that one of the ways to handle stress is to do small things for others. Adding a few new things to your list of nice things you already do for others will help manage your stress. Here’s a list from Peg Johnson, Editor, WPA, of things that are easy to do:

  • Say thank you to someone you don’t usually…coworkers, service personnel, your family.
  • Pay for the person behind you in the fast food line.
  • Hold the door for someone.
  • Let someone who only has a few things go ahead of you in the checkout line.
  • Leave a thank you note and maybe a gift card for your mail carrier and paper deliverer.
  • Leave a thank you note taped to the garbage can when you put it out for collection.
  • Let the person behind you have the next open parking place.
  • Go out of your way to carry someone’s packages for them.
  • Give up your seat on the bus to someone else.
  • Next time you get good service in a retail establishment ask to see the manager and report the excellent service you received.
  • Drop off a small bag of cookies at your neighbors house.

Now you’ve tried a few of those, here’s a relaxation script you can do right at your desk. Keep practicing until you can feel the benefits by just remembering how good it felt.

Laptops on a deskGive Yourself a Break – Relaxation at Your Desk

Time: 10 minutes

This quick routine can be done almost anywhere: your desk at work, in bed, in the line at the grocery store, while riding in the car, while watching TV, while listening to a lecture, at that interminable choir concert at your child’s school. It combines the benefits of deep breathing with progressive muscle relaxation.

Script

Turn off your phone and put your computer on screen saver. . . Get comfy in your chair and close your eyes.

Draw in a long, slow breath while you imagine it filling your body.

Blow it out in a long, slow stream. . . Imagine that all the toxins in your body are leaving with it.

Draw in another long, slow breath. . . Think of the oxygen filling your cells with new life and energy.

Again, blow it out in a long, slow stream as you picture your stress going with it.

Draw in another long, slow breath. . . imagine peace entering your soul.

As you blow it out, imagine all the restlessness in your body going with it.

You are relaxed.

Pause

Now, beginning with your toes, tighten and release your muscles… Breathe in as you tighten them, out as they relax. . .Now do the same with your feet, ankles, calf muscles, and your thighs. Breathe in and out slowly as you pay attention to each muscle group.

Pause

Continue with your abdomen. . . Let it expand with good, clean, oxygen-filled air. Blow it gently out as you relax. . . Do the same with your chest, arms, hands, neck, and face.

Pause

Rest. Breathe in a normal, relaxed way. Enjoy the relaxed feeling of your body and mind.

Sit as quietly as you can for five minutes. Then open your eyes and rejoin the world, feeling relaxed and ready to face anything that lands on your plate.

Click here for printable version. Enjoy the last few weeks of the holiday season! May peace and joy be with you in the New Year.