Friday, September 20, 2019

How to Build a Self-Care Box

When mental health declines, we’re in an emotional slump, or things just keep going wrong, we are not always focusing on self-care. Thinking ahead and being proactive in wellness is key. That’s why I want to help you get started on your self-care box.

A self-care box is a container—usually a box but could be a basket, tote, or bag—that is filled with items to promote self-care when it’s hard to do. There are vast arrays of items that can be included and whatever you come up with is meant to be uniquely suited to you.

Let’s look at what might go inside a self-care box.

Paper—This paper isn’t blank. The paper in your box should include uplifting notes from yourself and others, inspiring quotes, and reminders of the positive in your life. It’s easy to focus on the negative when life gets hard and these reminders can be just the thing to bring awareness to the good in life and you. Be sure to utilize your positive days when you can appreciate yourself and/or the world, and write it in a note for future you to find comfort in.

Something soft—Soft is soothing. Include a soft, soothing object that fits you. Need something to squeeze? Go with a stuffed animal or pillow. Want to wrap up in warmth? Include a blanket or special set of PJs. Fuzzy slippers may be just right for you.

Smell good stuff—Candles or incense (if you’re safe around fire), essential oils, bath bombs, soaps, scented waxes for warmers, lotion…items that provide a soothing-scented atmosphere and engage you in self-care. Whether these items prompt you to relax, meditate, or take a bath, connect the smells to wellness.

Audio items—If you still have CDs, include one or more of them in your box that you know will reduce your stress and improve your mood. If not, make a list self-care playlist and write a reminder to listen to it. Not into music? Try nature sounds.

Spiritual supports—If you are spiritual in any way, you likely find peace in a spiritual word or practice. Include the written word of your religion, healing crystals, meditation guides, a smudge stick, religious symbols or artifacts (like a rosary, for example), or cleansing spells.

Snacks—Non-perishable, long lasting items like tea, dry soup mix, and chocolate are some option. The intent is not to increase stress eating but, rather, provide yourself with a treat that lifts your mood and calms you down.

Interest items—Think - something you enjoy that inspires you, incites positive feelings, or just makes you smile. Maybe you’ll stash a comic from your favorite series, add some decorations from your favorite season or holiday, include glitter and other pretty things…the list goes on.

Sensory items—Grab a stress ball, make slime, fiddle with a fidget cube—if you put them in your box, you can do any of these and more. Sensory items don’t just appeal to touch as the aforementioned do, they can be visual or auditory, too. The snacks should take care of taste!

Safety network—Include a list of people and numbers you can call or go see for support. This can include friends, family, local crisis hotlines, national crisis hotlines, a therapist, and local ER. You may even want to put them in order of who you’ll want to start with first.

Now go find your box! How big or small it needs to be depends on what you intend to put in it and how much. Keep it simple or decorate it. Make it large and full or make it small and reserved. However you decide to make it, it should be suited to work for you.

What’s one self-care item that’s a must have in your self-care box? Share in the comments below, interact with me on Instagram, or re-tweet on Twitter with your answer!

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Friday, September 13, 2019

How Therapy Works

A guide for getting more out of the therapeutic process.

I’m no stranger to what therapy looks like in the media: a therapist running off with their client and abandoning their work (this is illegal in many places and unethical), laying on a couch as a therapist mhmm’s indiscriminately, or an in-your-face confrontation of what the reality is and how you need to deal with it. Not only is none of this typical of therapy, it also sets people up to be confused about how it really works. Truth is therapy is a challenging, boring, thoughtful, and exceptionally rewarding process that looks nothing like what the media is selling.

I’m going to tell you what you can (typically) expect from therapy and how to utilize it.

It’s a slow start.

While some therapies, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, are known to be briefer in nature, the beginning will still be a slow crawl. The first session—or couple of sessions—will likely be an intake session. Meaning there will be a lot of questions and information gathering. It’s unlikely you’ll get into resolving any issues right away. In fact, the therapist completing your intake may not even be your primary therapist.

This is followed by a period of rapport-building where you’ll typically be talking in more detail about what you need. However, you will only begin to build trust so it may be difficult for you to delve deep. Since the therapist will adjusting to you, they will follow your lead and meet you where you are.

The way to move it forward—Come to the intake session with as much information as you can about your symptoms and current situation. If it helps, write down what you think it is important for the therapist to know so you don’t forget. You want to provide the concise, vital information and be ready to answer anything else the therapist needs to know.

Give your therapist a few sessions to get going. It takes time to build any relationship and therapy is based on a relationship between client and therapist. If you don’t think it’s working, let them know. They may be able to change how they approach you to build a better relationship. If not, they should be open to providing appropriate referrals.

If you’re looking for advice, you’re in the wrong place.

I’m not going to pretend that no therapist out there gives advice. They probably do. Most I know don’t, myself included. (Advice is different from clinical recommendations which can include referrals to medication prescribers, higher levels of care, and other supplementary mental health programs or groups.)
A therapist can’t make a decision for you. They can help you find options, provide different perspectives, and even teach you new concepts. However, the choice should be up to you so advice defeats the purpose of honoring your autonomy.

Instead of asking for advice—Ask your therapist if they’ve thought of any other options. Be willing to brainstorm with them and take feedback. Leave room in your session for them to provide reflections back to you. Sometimes hearing your words and experiences said by another person can help you find insight and direction.

Therapy is hard.

Speaking as a therapist and a consumer of therapy, it’s a difficult process. You may feel better and exhausted after a session at the same time. After all, you’ll probably be exploring concepts you rarely or never do in daily life and it can be emotional. Emotional or not, good therapy tends to challenge you mentally.

It’s hard but it’s doable—A good therapist will try to help you keep sessions balanced so it doesn’t move too far too fast. They will both push you and pull you back. This also depends on how much you push yourself or hold yourself back. Communicate and let your therapist know if a topic has become too much or if you need a session to work on less emotionally threatening topics. Communicate if it is the opposite and you’d like to move into deeper processing.

Your therapist wants to hear from you.

As a training therapist, I thought all clients would sit down and just start talking. It turns out that many come to session not knowing what to talk about. It takes time to build up awareness skills to know what to bring to session. Many people expect the therapist will direct them to what they need to talk about. While a therapist may suspect what is most needed, they aren’t the expert on you, you are!

Come ready to talk—Be aware of emotions, thoughts, and reactions to occurrences happening outside of session. Use a mood tracker. Journal or write down points that arise between sessions. Work with your therapist to develop “homework” for you to work on between sessions and process the next time you meet. Find what helps you come to session prepared to make the most out of your time.

Having the appropriate expectations of therapy and the know-how to use it is a great start to the process. While it’s great to be prepared, also remember to be open to learning. It isn’t always obvious what you need from therapy. How therapy works is similar and different for each individual all at once!

Is this information helpful? Let me know in the comments and/or check boxes below. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter to stay updated on new posts and news about the blog!

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