The Invisible String

Sometimes you find a book that's a true "keeper!"  I love The Invisible String by Patrice Karst for its relevance to so many ages and life challenges.  I know many families face separation anxiety and grief/loss and would benefit from this metaphor of an invisible string attaching loved ones no matter distance or time. The story is simple enough for very small children, and relatable enough for all ages.  I use this in session with clients and families and often incorporate a memorable activity to drive home the message.  This book is listed on my Resources page- check it out to see what else I use recommend and use often.

Instructions for a Bad Day

We all have bad days.  Here is a delightful little video that will help get you through. 

"There will be bad days.

Be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now. Let go.

Be confident. Know that "now" is only a moment, and that if "today" is as bad as it gets, understand that by tomorrow, "today" will have ended.

Be gracious. Accept each extended hand offered, to pull you back from the "somewhere" you cannot escape.

Be diligent. Scrape the gray sky clean. Realize every dark cloud is a smoke screen meant to blind us from the Truth - and the Truth is, whether we see them or not, the Sun and Moon are still there and always there is Light.

Be forthright. Despite your instinct to say "it's alright, I'm okay" - be honest. Say how you feel without fear or guilt, without remorse or complexity.

Be lucid in your explanation, be sterling in your oppose. If you think for one second no one knows what you've been going through; be accepting of the fact that you are wrong, that the long drawn and heavy breaths of despair have at times been felt by everyone - that Pain is part of the Human Condition, and that alone makes you a legion.

We hungry underdogs, we risers with dawn, we dissmisser's of odds, we pressers of on - we will station ourselves to the calm. We will hold ourselves to the steady, be ready player one. Life is going to come at you armed with hard times and tough choices, your voice is your weapon, your thoughts ammunition - there are no free extra men, be aware that as the instant now passes, it exists now as then. So be a mirror reflecting yourself back, and remembering the times when you thought all of this was too hard and you'd never make it through.

Remember the times you could have pressed quit - but you hit continue.

Be forgiving. Living with the burden of anger, is not living. Giving your focus to wrath will leave your entire self absent of what you need. Love and hate are beasts and the one that grows is the one you feed.

Be persistent. Be the weed growing through the cracks in the cement, beautiful - because it doesn't know it's not supposed to grow there.

Be resolute. Declare what you accept as true in a way that envisions the resolve with which you accept it. If you are having a good day, be considerate. A simple smile could be the first-aid kit that someone has been looking for.

If you believe with absolute honesty that you are doing everything you can - do more. There will be bad days, Times when the world weighs on you for so long it leaves you looking for an easy way out. There will be moments when the drought of joy seems unending. Instances spent pretending that everything is alright when it clearly is not, check your blind spot. See that love is still there, be patient.

Every nightmare has a beginning, but every bad day has an end. Ignore what others have called you. I am calling you "friend". Make us comprehend the urgency of your crisis. Silence left to its own devices, breed's silence. So speak and be heard. One word after the next, express yourself and put your life in the context - if you find that no one is listening, be loud. Make noise. Stand in poise and be open. Hope in these situations is not enough and you will need someone to lean on. In the unlikely event that you have no one, look again.

Everyone is blessed with the ability to Listen. The Deaf will hear you with their Eyes. The Blind will see you with their Hands. Let your Heart fill their news-stands, let them read all about it. Admit to the bad days, the impossible nights. Listen to the insights of those who have been there, but come back. They will tell you; you can stack misery, you can pack disappear you can even wear your sorrow - but come tomorrow you must change your clothes.

Everyone knows Pain. We are not meant to carry it forever. We were never meant to hold it so closely, so be certain in the belief that what pain belongs to now will belong soon to then. That when someone asks you "how was your day", realize that for some of us, it's the only way we know how to say "be calm".

Loosen your grip, opening each palm, slowly now - let go."

Comfort Inward / Dump Outward

Often when I meet with clients and families going through a stressful time, they are especially exasperated about how to manage the reactions of their friends and families.  Often their support network does not seem so... supportive.  It's easy to feel helpless and to worry about saying the wrong thing.  It is immensely difficult to see a loved one in pain, and sometimes the natural venting of this pain gets misdirected at the person or family actually going through the crisis.  Enter the Ring Theory!  This is a lovely reminder to pour comfort inward and then to process a reaction with people in outer rings.  This article, written by a therapist who had cancer, is a great read for those needing to set boundaries with loved ones as well as those looking for a way to help. 

Feeling Anxiety in the Body

If you've had anxiety, you know that along with your thoughts and emotions, there are some clear physical symptoms too. Maybe you've watched your child go through this and it just seems to come out of nowhere, which can make it even scarier. People can feel dizzy, tingly, or have a heard time breathing. It can have kind of a feedback loop- "My heart is racing! I'm panicking now because I feel my heart racing! I can't stop my heart from racing because now I'm panicky!" Sometimes there is a sensation in the body, like dizziness from standing up quickly, and the loop starts all on its own without anything really scary setting it off. The animation on this website by GoZen.com shows what to do to stop the feedback loop. Spoiler alert: It's breathing.  :-)

Knit one, Purl two, Relax three

I bet last year about this time I posted something about handicrafts and mood.  Fall opens up knitting season in my household, so crafts are on my mind.  The NY Times article, The Health Benefits of Knittingspells out how knitting is literally on my mind!  It's not just fun, it's science, people.  Not only do cortisol levels go down, but when our hands are busy we have less brain space to focus on worries or snack mindlessly.  The research fascinates me, and I'm sure it can apply to lots of other crafty pursuits. Don't know how to knit? There are tons of good free youtube videos out there with tutorials. And, I bet you know someone who could give you a lesson or two.

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"How was school?" ... (shrug) "Fine."

I've never met a kid who responds to the question "How was school?" with a long list of events and insights.  And yet, we keep asking that question.  Adults want to connect with kids after school but this type of question often shuts the conversation down.   I stumbled across a fun app called Povi that gives a daily conversation starter for different ages and stages.  These discussions are designed to enhance your child's 'Emotional IQ' with things like creative thinking, confidence, and perspective taking.  The app also has space for you to record their response.  Some examples of questions:

  • Would you want to be able to predict the future? Why or why not?

  • Who did you help today?

  • What are you happy that you did today?

The Decline of Play (And what that might mean for your child)

If you have a child in your life, this might be one of the most important videos you will ever watch! Children need to form an internal sense of control and play is the way they naturally develop it. 

The synopsis from TED talk: "In this talk, Dr. Peter Gray compellingly brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual but, overall dramatic decline in children's freedom to play with other children, without adult direction. Over this same period, there has been a gradual but overall dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, suicide, and narcissism in children and adolescents. Based on his own and others' research, Dr. Gray documents why free play is essential for children's healthy social and emotional development and outlines steps through which we can bring free play back to children's lives."

Play Therapy Works!

I love this video!  Sometimes adults assume that kids should be able to express all their thoughts and feelings verbally.  Like... adults do.  We know that developmentally this isn't appropriate. Even if you have a talkative kiddo on your hands who has a wide vocabulary, play and creative expression are still their primary languages.  Lot of talking happens during play therapy, but it's really the play that shows the things that are hard to put into words.  To learn more about the Association for Play Therapy, you can go to http://www.a4pt.org. 

Rainy Day Surprise

What if you had to wait for a grey, rainy day to see something truly magical? Would you look forward to those days?  Sometimes rainy days (metaphorical or not) force us to slow down, to look inward, and to take a break. By now you've probably seen this video:

A great idea, right? Especially for those of us that live in this rainy place.  Are there grey days ahead for you? Do you have a little something that you can insert into them to make them a little brighter?

Are your eyes glued to your phone?

You've seen it too- a family out for dinner, and everyone is sitting at the table together looking separate screens.  I freely admit that I'm guilty of checking my phone all the time. What are we missing out on when we play Candy Crush or text with friends?  

A recent  GeekWire article surveyed children around the world and found some (perhaps unsurprising) results about their parents' smartphone usage. 

It turns out that about a third of kids are feeling 'unimportant' when their parents are distracted by their phones.  Half of the kids wished that parents didn't use the phone so much, and the parents agreed.  Put yourself in their shoes for a minute, and remember how much you valued time with your own parents.

The antidote?  Commit to putting the phone down when your kids are around!  It's a hard habit to break, especially because apps and features are designed to engage us almost addictively.  Set your phone to a mode that allows only important calls and notifications to come through. If you are not even aware of how often you use your phone, a simple app called Checky will monitor your use. (It's eye opening, trust me) 

Just Breathe...

How do you handle anger and other intense emotions?  The children in this video do a great job of explaining what happens inside their bodies when they are angry.   Seriously, a great job.  Do YOU know how to pronounce amygdala?  

Their easy solution?  Slowing down and taking some deep breaths.  Be mindful of the moment.  Sounds simple, but check out how well it works!

 

A Handmade Mood

What if you got a prescription for a craft project instead of a mood stabilizer?  Would you think your doctor is insane?  Well, not that I'm suggesting this should be the new standard of care, but I certainly believe that making something with one's hands can dramatically improve mood.  (I bet even the craftfails..they are good for a laugh, right?)

This article from the American Craft Council points to some academic research that shows the repetitive motions of knitting relax the part of our brain that control the flight or fight response.  Other craft activities have been shown to light up the pleasure center.  More simply, the act of making something can feel like progress in a time when you feel adrift.

So, if you are feeling down, it might not be the time to attempt a sweater if you are a new to knitting.  Start small with something fun!  Pick something that is in your crafty wheelhouse, or a friend can show you how to do.