Category Archives: Individual Therapy

Why Seeking Therapy is an Investment in You

Posted December 16, 2021

A new patient receives assessment from a licensed mental health professional from Mental Health Systems

According to a 2019 report from the Center for Disease Control, 9.5% of adults in the U.S. receive therapy or counseling provided by a mental health professional. Within two years, this number more than tripled, with a reported 30% of adults seeking out therapy services in 2020 and 2021. It’s no surprise that more people are investing in therapy — it’s gradually shifted from a taboo topic to a point of pride. Rather than feeling ashamed of mental health struggles, many people are happy to take the initiative in improving their own wellbeing — as they should. If you’re considering therapy but are unsure whether it’s the right choice, read on to see how mental health therapy may benefit you.

Is Psychological Therapy a Good Investment?

When considering therapy, one of the first questions you may ask is whether or not it’s a good investment. It’s a reasonable question, considering the fact that therapy can be expensive. Therapy can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per session or more, which can quickly add up if you’re scheduling weekly appointments. Though some insurers offer mental health coverage, it’s often still difficult to obtain approval for therapy sessions in Apple Valley, MN.

Finances should never stand between you and your mental health, though. The benefits of accessible and affordable treatment are worth the effort it may take to find the right therapist. Therapy is ultimately an investment in yourself. If you are dealing with struggles such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the impact can be monumental, causing a ripple effect of consequences throughout your life. Some of these repercussions can include:

  • Difficulty at work or inability to hold a job
  • Indulgence in unhealthy coping mechanisms
  • Alienation from friends, family, and loved ones
  • Deteriorating health and wellbeing
  • Development of self-destructive habits

If any of these experiences describe what you’re going through, there is help available. Therapy can alleviate these and other struggles by equipping you with the confidence and healthy coping mechanisms you need to overcome challenges. If you’re wondering if therapy is a good investment, consider the impact it could have on your life, and you’ll see the answer is yes. You and your well-being are worth investing in.

Is Therapy Worth My Time?

Money isn’t the only resource you’ll be investing when you commit to therapy. It’s important to consider, too, the time commitment that counseling requires. Most therapists recommend weekly sessions that are 45-minutes to an hour. In some cases, a therapist may even want to see you for appointments twice a week. In addition to the time spent in your sessions, it’s common for therapists to assign clients “homework” or reading to further apply the concepts discussed in appointments. Time spent completing these tasks can be several hours each week.

In total, you can reasonably expect to commit four to six hours per week to therapy and its related obligations. When weighing whether therapy is a good investment of your time, you must consider the total amount of time you have available in a given week. How many hours are spent in school or at work? How much time should you allot to social engagements? If you don’t have six hours to spare in your week, is there any obligation that you can reduce or remove from your schedule? Intentionally making time for therapy is the only way to see progress and ensure that your investment pays off.

Ultimately, whether therapy is a good investment of your time depends on how much time you’re willing to commit. Clients who attend weekly sessions but neglect to complete their therapist’s assignments are cheating themselves out of the payoff of their investment. Similarly, if you don’t make time to practice the principles discussed in sessions, you’re unlikely to see any fruit from your labor. The more time you are able and willing to put into therapy, the more likely your investment will be worthwhile.

How Do I Make Therapy Worthwhile?

Investing time is just one way that you can make therapy worthwhile. Many different therapy modalities rely on a range of different theories, but it will require effort on your part no matter which you choose. One of the most effective forms of therapy is dialectical behavior therapy or DBT. This form of therapy focuses on enhancing specific life skills, including interpersonal relationships and emotional regulation. DBT has been proven to be incredibly effective in improving clients’ wellbeing and mental health, but it’s only as effective as the effort you’re willing to put into it.

If you want to ensure that therapy is worthwhile, you can employ a few strategies to get the most out of each session. Some of these strategies include the following:

  • Ask for clarification from the therapist when you don’t understand
  • View therapy as a collaboration between you and your therapist
  • Do all of the reading and homework that’s assigned to you
  • Set specific goals and define how you intend to meet those goals

Each of these actions can massively improve the efficacy of your therapy and ensure that the investments you are making pay off. If it seems like your progress is slowing, revisit these principles and ensure you’re doing everything you can to be productive.

If you’re doing all of these things and you still feel as though you’re not making strides towards your mental health goals, it’s possible that you need to find a new therapist. Therapy is a relationship that requires understanding and empathy from both parties. Taking the time to find the right therapist is the best way to ensure that you’ll continue making mental health progress.

DBT Therapy Options for Mental Health

Mental health is a common point of discussion, but it can be hard to make the jump from talking to treatment. DBT is an accessible and effective therapy option that offers promising recovery for people suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a range of other mental health struggles. Mental Health Systems takes pride in providing our Apple Valley, MN clients with life-changing resources. Call us at (952) 835-2002 or request an appointment online.

Image Source: BlurryMe / Shutterstock

Staying Firm in Establishing Boundaries

Posted December 16, 2021

A stern young woman holds her hand out to stop someone and stays firm in her boundaries

We’re taught an array of practical life skills from childhood, such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting, and driving. Rarely, though, are kids taught the skills of emotional regulation that help you build healthy relationships and protect your mental health. As you get older, the importance of these skills only becomes more apparent, but building them isn’t an easy task. How do you get better at assertion and self-confidence? Establishing healthy boundaries is one of the most important abilities a person can have. Learn how to develop this essential life skill and improve your mental wellbeing in the process in Apple Valley, MN.

How to Establish Boundaries

In psychology, a boundary is defined as an imaginary line marking a person’s limits. Establishing boundaries is a complex process. Though it happens in the context of communication with another person, it starts with you. Before you can set a boundary, you need to engage in honest introspection to determine its significance. Ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • How do I define this boundary for myself and others?
  • Why is it important for me to maintain this boundary?
  • How will I enforce this boundary in interactions with others?

Asking yourself questions such as these is the first step towards healthy and sustainable boundaries. There are many different areas of your life that you can and should set boundaries in. Some examples include:

  • Personal space
  • Emotions and ideas
  • Personal belongings
  • Sexual situations
  • Emotional and physical energy
  • Time-sensitive commitments
  • Cultural and religious issues

Each of these areas is a part of your life that you may handle differently than others do — and these differences can lead to interactions that feel disrespectful or violating if you don’t set clear boundaries with people.

Establishing boundaries offers a range of benefits to both you and those on the other side. One of the best benefits is the increase in self-esteem that often follows. Creating a boundary is a way of investing in yourself and preventing situations that may cause stress or harm. Boundaries also benefit relationships by establishing a line of communication between yourself and your partner. It also encourages those around you to be clear in their boundaries, thus creating an environment of mutual respect and open communication.

How to Set Boundaries

Once you’ve identified and established a boundary that’s important to you, maintaining it can be another separate challenge. Simply establishing your boundaries often isn’t enough. You will likely need to remind those around you about them, too. This can be difficult if you’ve never had a conversation about boundaries before, but it’s an important step in protecting your wellbeing. Maintaining boundaries requires that you be assertive, understanding, and communicative with the people who surround you.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to practice self-advocacy. Self-advocacy entails taking responsibility for your communication with others, voicing your concerns, and listening to others’ feedback. Most importantly, though, it is the explicit expression of your needs. If you are engaged in a project with somebody, for example, and they tell you that it will require a longer time commitment than you initially agreed to, this is an opportunity to practice self-advocacy. Keep the following principles in mind while doing so:

  • Be assertive without being aggressive
  • Be clear and direct when you state your needs
  • Do not feel pressured to justify your boundaries
  • Present with confidence and calmness

Maintaining your boundaries may take practice, but it’s a worthwhile exercise. Remember, too, that people cannot read your mind — so if you do not make your boundaries known, the people around you may unknowingly violate them. This can lead to resentment and the breakdown of a relationship, so It’s vital to make your needs known before your boundaries become a source of conflict.

When to Push Back When People Disregard My Boundaries

Unfortunately, people will resist your boundaries, even if you convey them with respect and clarity. People do this for many reasons, but the result is the same regardless of the motive — you will find yourself at a crossroads. You will either fold to avoid confrontation, or you will need to find a way to reassert your boundaries. Neither of these options is easy, but it’s a situation you are likely to find yourself in if you are committed to setting boundaries with people.

Determining when to push back can be a complicated issue, though. If a friend asks you to stay five minutes longer than you’d planned to help finish a task, is this a violation of boundaries that’s worth acknowledging? The answer depends on the firmness of your boundaries. Sometimes it’s okay to maintain soft boundaries that are flexible based on the situation you’re in. Other times, you need to be firm for the sake of your safety and wellbeing. Determining the rigidity of your boundaries is essential to effectively enforcing them.

When you have rigid boundaries, and you encounter a person who continuously violates them, even after you’ve made your needs known, you can employ any of the following strategies:

  • Minimize the amount of time spent around that person
  • Avoid conversations and interactions with them
  • Hold them accountable by seeking support from others
  • Do not escalate the situation with emotional responses

No matter which approach you use, you should be clear with the person and communicate the consequences that will follow if they continue violating your boundaries. Still, some people are unable or unwilling to respect boundaries, no matter how clearly you state them. When dealing with people like this, you may have to find a way to remove them from your life.

Mental Health Support That Works

Establishing clear boundaries takes work, but you don’t have to do that work alone. Partnering with a mental health professional can help you develop the tools and confidence you need to protect your wellbeing more effectively. Mental Health Systems has been serving clients throughout Apple Valley, MN, since its founding in 2002. We offer dialectical behavioral therapy to help you overcome life’s challenges. Call us at (952) 835-2002 or schedule an appointment online.

Image Source: Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock

How to Be Alone but not Lonely

Posted October 22, 2021

A well dressed woman walks alone down a bridge on an overcast day as Mental Health Services explains how to spend your alone time and not feel lonely

There are times in life when you will have to spend more time on your own, without a partner, your children, other relatives, or friends nearby. Sometimes, you may find yourself alone after a spouse’s death, a pet’s passing, the end of a relationship, or your children going off to college or work. Or maybe you recently relocated to a new city and live alone for the first time in your life.

Feeling alone during some of life’s most challenging transitions is normal. The key to spending time alone in a healthy way is to focus on positive habits and emphasize self-care. It’s possible to be alone without experiencing loneliness. At Mental Health Systems, providers can work with clients in the Apple Valley, MN area to help reframe those time periods of being alone.

How To Be Alone and Not Feel Lonely

In the past two years, the social circle of friends and family members has tightened and closed up. With sporadic quarantines, pandemic shutdowns, more teleworking, and an increase in virtual events, there are more people than ever spending a lot of time alone. For some, this sharp increase in alone time has led to higher levels of stress and feelings of isolation. Adults, teens, and children have all reported more depression symptoms.

As society continues to look towards recovery after the pandemic, the stark reality is that for some, alone time is here to stay. Many workplaces and gathering places have changed permanently in favor of virtual options for sharing ideas and collaborating. Alone time is also pretty standard for empty nesters, widowers, and many elderly people across the country. At MHS in Apple Valley, MN, our approach to alone time is that it’s not about surviving the time you spend by yourself; it’s about thriving.

Thriving during your alone time means focusing on the positive side of having time by yourself. Your alone time can also allow you to develop better habits and practice mindfulness. When you’re feeling alone, you can reframe your attitude and work to combat loneliness or boredom. This is the time to start working on new skills, looking for new creative outlets, exploring your interests, and learning to love and care for yourself.

Signs of Loneliness

If you are often alone, you have to be careful not to confuse the ideas of feeling alone and lonely. Being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, loneliness can be a sign of a bigger issue or part of some common depression symptoms. A person experiencing loneliness may have insomnia, restlessness, irritability, and a lack of motivation. Being lonely doesn’t always mean you’re physically alone. Some people may be surrounded by friends and loved ones and still struggle with loneliness. MHS in Apple Valley, MN, offers resources and help if you are having difficulty with loneliness.

Activities To Keep You Feeling a Part of Your Surroundings

It’s important to be proactive, so your status of being physically alone doesn’t turn into sadness and loneliness. A great way to take action during your alone time is to take up new activities and hobbies. If you have a lot of extra time in your schedule, aim to fill some of the hours up with your passions and pursuits.

One healthy option is to get outside and try outdoor activities to get more in touch with your surroundings. If you spend all of your time indoors by yourself, you may have more negative thoughts about feeling alone. Instead, opt for a change in your scenery by taking walks regularly, buying a bike for exercise, or exploring local parks.

Alone time can also be broken up by pursuing your interests and hobbies. Use this time to develop a new skill, learn a new language, take a class, explore your city, or test out new restaurants and cafes in the Apple Valley, MN area.

It’s Okay To Be Alone, Do Things Alone, and Live Alone

It’s also important to keep in mind that being alone is okay. There’s nothing wrong with spending a lot of time by yourself. Getting used to being alone, doing things by yourself, and living on your own can be an adjustment if you’re used to always being around friends and family.

You also may be able to find some benefits in your new solo status. If you’ve always lived with a family, a partner, or your kids, the first time you live alone may be a little daunting. Eventually, many empty nesters or people living alone for the first time may start to really enjoy it. Living alone means you can decorate your space exactly how you like it. You can come and go as you please, and you don’t have to worry about catering to anyone else’s needs.

Doing things alone may also feel strange at first, but you can gain confidence in your time by yourself over time. Going out to eat by yourself can be liberating as you discover new places and new tastes. Solo travel is another activity that can open up a new world to someone who recently started living independently. Taking a trip on your own can help you learn more about yourself and unique destinations.

It’s Important To Stay Connected to the Outside/People/Neighborhoods

Also, just because you live alone or are an empty nester doesn’t mean you have to spend your time all by yourself. A great way to fend off any potential feelings of loneliness is to build connections with the people and organizations in your neighborhood. Getting a dog is one of the top ways to get yourself out there meeting new people. You and your pup can explore the area’s dog parks and connect with other dog owners in your neighborhood. At home, a new pet provides excellent company to someone living by themselves.

Another way to keep yourself from feeling alone and bored is to work on connecting with more people and rebuilding your social network. Look online for groups and clubs dedicated to your favorite activities and aim to meet up for local in-person events to meet new friends. You can also reach out to potential romantic partners and network with online dating tools.

Take time also to get involved in your community. Consider volunteering for a good cause in your city or town to help those in need. Doing regular volunteer work at the same organization can also help you expand your network of friends and acquaintances. Avoid relying too much on electronic devices to stay connected to friends and family. Instead, opt to talk face to face to those you care about so your bonds stay strong, and your relationships continue to grow.

Reach Out Today

Learning how to be alone and not feel lonely is not something that happens overnight. At Mental Health Systems, we can help you navigate this journey to self-realization during your alone time. We specialize in dialectical behavioral therapy for our clients. Contact us for more information about our services to help you thrive.

 

Image Source: Serkant Hekimci / Shutterstock

Why Do Many People Leave Therapy Before They Are Ready?

Posted August 12, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Therapy can be life-changing and even life-saving for people struggling with depression and other mental health conditions. However, many clients discontinue treatment too soon. As you read this blog, you’ll begin to understand the following:

  • Many people start to feel better and believe that it’s okay to leave therapy.
  • Sometimes clients have unrealistic expectations about how treatment works and discontinue therapy when the reality doesn’t match up.
  • The cost of treatment can be a barrier to keeping clients in therapy.

Why Do Many People Leave Therapy Before They Are Ready?

It can be challenging for therapists and patients to know when the time is right to end treatment sessions. In general, when clients reach their therapeutic goals, it may be time to wrap up the treatments. Sometimes, therapy stops when it becomes clear that this particular patient/therapist relationship will not achieve those goals. Continue reading

8 TIPS to Help Clients Do Homework

Posted June 6, 2018

Dr. Lane P.: Hi, I’m Dr. Lane Pederson. One of the most common questions I get from participants in my seminars is, How do I get clients to do homework? In this short video, I’m going to share with you eight tips that I find to be very effective. Continue reading

Preparing for a Provider Appointment

Posted October 23, 2017

It can be sometimes feel daunting to get all of your goals met during your provider appointment. Between your questions and goals, the treatment planning of the provider, and limited appointment length it can feel like there isn’t enough time to get everything accomplished. This can be frustrating and disheartening for individuals who experience chronic pain and medical conditions. To avoid feeling shut down during your appointments, it is important to take active steps in preparing for these meetings. This planning can help to build confidence and sense of control, in addition to working towards efficiently meeting your goals.

Prior to your appointment, take some time to plan ahead. Write down your list of questions and goals. Gather any medical history, medication lists, and any symptom tracking details you have been collecting. It can be helpful to store these details in a folder or binder. Plan out your transportation, and make sure to allow for plenty of time for unexpected traffic or road construction. Will there be parking on or off site? What is the schedule or call ahead policy for scheduling transportation? When you arrive at your appointment, ask your provider to establish the timeline, and share the tools you have gathered and your top priority goals for that meeting. Bring a notepad and pen, and make sure to write down any questions or next steps recommended by your provider. These tips can allow you to not only increase your experience of feeling heard during the appointment, but can also increase your ability to understand the treatment and to follow through effectively afterwards.

Written by:
Morgan Cusack, PsyD
Program Coordinator of Thrive for Mental Health and Chronic Pain Management at MHS

10 Days to a 10-Minute Meditation Practice

Posted March 23, 2017

Pain 1Developing a Meditation Practice Can Seem Impossible…Until You Discover How Doable It Can Be! Taken from Dr. Lane Pederson’s new second edition of The Expanded Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Manual, these free handouts explain a step-wise and doable method for bringing a brief meditation practice to your and your clients’ lives. Start today!

Click HERE to view the handouts.

Mindfulness Exercises: 73 Ways to Practice the Technique

Posted March 16, 2017

UPDATED: October 17, 2019

Mindfulness is one of the pillars of DBT and has become increasingly important across contemporary therapies. Yet many therapists are at a loss for examples to suggest and use with their clients. Mindfulness Exercises for DBTTaken from Dr. Lane Pederson’s new second edition of The Expanded Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Manual, enjoy this free list and handout you can use with any client looking for mindfulness exercises…and remember, mindfulness is not what you’re doing, but how you are attending to what you’re doing!

Mindfulness Exercises

CORE CONCEPT: Use these exercises to practice your mindfulness skill

These mindfulness exercises will strengthen your ability to practice mindfulness and happen to be quite enjoyable too! With all of the exercises, remember to engage each of your senses and to take your time. The text following each exercise just scratches the surface. Go deeper and make the exercise your own! During your practice, when judgments, other thoughts, or any other distractions occur, do not fuss over them, but gently turn your attention back to the exercise.

  1. Explore a fruit: Use Observe and Describe to explore an orange. What are the visual features, what does it feel like, and what does it smell like? Now, slowly start to peel the orange and continue to tune in to each sense. Notice any emotions, thoughts, or other experiences that you have during this process, but cling to nothing, instead of staying engaged in the activity. Ultimately, you may choose to mindfully eat the orange.
  2. Create with Play-Doh: Study the Play-Doh container, noticing the writing, colors, and design elements. Slowly peel the lid off the container, and notice the smell. What comes up for you? Notice any associated feelings, memories, or other experiences, and then tum your attention back to the Play-Doh. Feel it in your hands and begin to knead and work it. Notice the texture, the temperature, and whether there are changes in its flexibility as you handle it. Experience the Play-Doh without the need to create anything. (Alternatives: Create what you choose with the Play-Doh, be it an animal, a sculpture, or something else. Let go of judgments as to how the creation is shaping up. Or, imagine you are a child experiencing Play-Doh for the first time. Allow yourself to be immersed in this discovery!)
  3. Connect with a sound: Put on music; listen to the sounds of waves, nature, or another soothing sound; or pick up on the naturally occurring sounds around you (the hum of an appliance, the sound of traffic, or the bustle of a workplace). Close your eyes and tune in to your chosen sound. Stay with the sound, returning to it when a distraction happens, and perhaps notice how you breathe along with it
  4. Guided imagery: Use imagery from a CD, from a website, or recorded from your therapist or another person. Visualize that you are in the place that is being described, hearing the sounds, and feeling the other sensations. Lose yourself in this experience, and, when the exercise is over, bring its benefits back to the present moment.
  5. Create a safe place: Similar to guided imagery, create a place that is safe and comfortable. It may be a room, a cabin in the woods, or an imaginary land where you are protected by fire-breathing dragons! Use your senses to fully enter the safe place. Notice how it looks, paying attention to even the smallest details. Notice the sounds or the silence. How does it feel? Stay in this place for a while, and go there whenever you need to soothe and calm yourself.
  6. Sounds of a bell: Strike a bell or chime, or clang mini-cymbals to create a tone. Listen to the sound until it fades into complete silence. Repeat as many times as you wish. This can be done anytime during the day, before meetings, before meals, or at any other time that you want a break or to return to the moment.
  7. Mindful eating: Strive to eat mindfully each time you sit down to eat. Notice your food, seeing the shapes, colors, and textures. Smell the aromas. Take it all in before experiencing your first small bite. Our taste buds register tastes more vividly during the first few bites. Eat these bites slowly, experiencing the tastes, smells, temperature, and textures of each bite. Chew slowly, noticing the release of flavors and the sensations associated with eating. Continue thoughtfully, deliberately, until you notice feeling satisfied, and then stop and reflect. As they say, if you love food, spend some time with it!
  8. Mindfulness of smell: Gather a variety of scented candles or essential oils and spend some time exploring the smell of each one. Notice the differences and any reactions you have to each kind of smell. Alternatively, disguise the labels on your candles or oils and see whether you or others can guess each scent.
  9. Mindful listening: Pick a song, close your eyes, and listen closely to the music. Follow the lyrics, notice the different instruments, or take in the song as a whole experience. If you have heard the song before, did you notice anything new? Alternatively, pick a song that has a repetitive lyric, phrase, or melody line. Count how many times you hear the reoccurring detail.
  10. Mindfulness of touch: Take any object into your hands. Explore the object with your hands and fingers, feeling the shape(s), texture(s), and temperature of the object. This can be done in combination with vision or done with your eyes closed, focusing exclusively on touch. Alternatively, gather various fabrics such as silk, cotton, wool, and velvet and experience the different feels. Of course, this exercise can be done with any collection of objects (e.g., stress ball, worry stone, sandpaper).
  11. Mindfulness of nature/thunderstorms: Put on a nature CD or the sound of a thunderstorm. Listen and notice what emotions, thoughts, and sensations start to come up.
  12. Mindful walking: Take a walk outside or around your room. Pay attention to the sensation of your feet in contact with the ground. Let go of thoughts, emotions, and other distractions and just walk, as if being mindful of every step is vitally important. Alternatively, play a game and avoid cracks (or step on them) or count steps between fixed objects such as light poles or mailboxes.
  13. Mindful nature walk: Take a walk outside through nature. Notice the sounds and smells. What do you see? Take this time to observe, as if this is the first time you have experienced this scenery and the surrounding elements of nature. When you find yourself getting distracted, come back to the scenery around you.
  14. Objects in a bag: Take a bag and add in various types of objects. Make sure the objects are different in texture and shape. Pass the bag around and take turns using your sense of touch to guess what each object is. Observe and describe the sensations.
  15. Making sounds: Go around the group making funny sounds, one person at a time. Pass the sound from one person to another. Notice and release judgments, staying with the game. Alternatively, break into small groups or dyads and create a mantra (word or phrase to repeat) for relaxation, connection, energy, teamwork, or some other concept. Share your mantras and repeat them as a large group for 1 minute each, noticing the connection between the mantra and the resulting emotions and experience.
  16. Meditate on an object: Find something in the room to focus on and use that object to ground you while you breathe. It could be a painting, a vase, or any ordinary household object. Fix your gaze on your chosen object, staying with it as you breathe. If you get distracted just pull yourself back to the object of focus.
  17. Spaceship: Imagine you have a spaceship that can rocket you to your favorite place, real or imagined. Climb into your ship and count down from 1 0 to 1 and then blast off to your destination. Stay at your destination awhile and practice breathing, and then ride back home via your rocket ship or another means feeling relaxed and refreshed.
  18. Easy and enjoyable sitting meditation: Sit in a comfortable chair, on a park bench, or out on your deck or porch. You are alive! So breathe the air, see your surroundings, listen to the sounds, and feel bodily sensations such as your physical connection to your seat, the air temperature, the breeze, etc. You have no place to be but here. Keep it simple.
  19. Mindfulness apps: Search your smartphone, tablet, or computer for free or inexpensive mindfulness apps. Practice each one you find several times, and share them with your friends and family.
  20. Breathing colors: Choose two different colors, one to breathe in and one to breathe out. Blue works well for the in-breath since it matches the cool feeling of the air coming in. Red works well for the out-breath, as it matches the warm feeling of the air leaving your body. However, choose the colors you want, for the reasons you want. Close your eyes and pair each color with its breath.
  21. Square breathing: Start by breathing in for four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds, and . then breathe out for another four seconds. Repeat four times.
  22. Deep breathing: Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. To increase focus and quiet the mind, you can use a mantra such as “in” for when you breathe in and “out” for when you breathe out.
  23. Belly breathing: Lie down on your back on the floor or in bed (preferred), or sit upright in a chair. Place a hand on your belly, and as you breathe in watch how your belly expands. Breathing in this way promotes deep breathing, which helps to get oxygen into your system. More oxygen helps us relax our bodies and think more clearly. Set an alarm and breathe deeply for a minimum of 1 minute.
  24. Progressive muscle relaxation: Use the classic “squeeze and release” relaxation technique, beginning with your toes and working all the way up to your face. Squeeze each part of your body, holding the tension for a couple of seconds, and then release. Notice both the state of tension for each body part as well as the state of release. Although this exercise works best using your whole body, it can also be condensed to use fewer body parts, such as just squeezing and releasing your hands (making fists and then shaking them out), or by just scrunching up your face before relaxing it. For more directions, search for progressive muscle relaxation scripts online or on YouTube.
  25. Body scan: Use Observe and Describe to scan your body from top to bottom, noting areas of tension and discomfort. Gently dismiss judgments that arise, and take a deep breath into each area of the body where this discomfort exists. Do not have an agenda about changing how these areas feel, but do notice differences that happen as you continue to breathe and connect. Also, notice areas of your body that feel relaxed and comfortable. Breathe into these areas too.
  26. Rigid body/relaxed body: Stand and tighten your body, assuming a rigid and stiff stance. Hold that pose for 10 seconds or more. Then, relax your body and assume a loose, flexible, and comfortable stance. Identify the different emotions and sensations that came up with each pose.
  27. Half-smile (or full smile): Sit in a chair and take a couple of deep breaths. As you continue to breathe, slowly start to turn the sides of your lips upward to make a small smile. Relax your face and take on this more serene look. Notice whether your emotions begin to change, as your face communicates acceptance to your brain. Alternatively, look in a mirror, make a peace sign with your first and middle fingers, and use those fingers to push up the sides of your mouth into a goofy smile. This moment need not be so serious, even if your life sometimes ist
  28. Positive memories: Remember a positive event from your life, and use your imagination to transport yourself back to that time and place. Play it in your mind as if it is a movie, and tune in to your senses to fully enter into the memory. Notice what emotions come up as you immerse yourself in the experience. Let this positive memory have an impact on you.
  29. Compassion for others: Think of a person who has offended you or others with his or her behavior. Imagine what factors would lead a person to behave in ways that hurt or put off others. Or imagine that person as a child or a baby with innocence. Send this person compassion from your heart, wishing them well in this world. Does sending compassion feel different from holding on to painful feelings about this person?
  30. Pictures and judgments: Look at photos in a magazine and describe what comes to mind. What judgments do you notice? Now take a second and describe what you see in a matter-of-fact manner, sticking to the facts. Notice the difference in the experience.
  31. Gratitude lists: Make a gratitude list with everything you can think of on it, both big and small. Mediate on the list for several minutes. Note any changes in your emotions. Alternatively, write a thank you letter to someone, being specific about what the person did to receive your gratitude.
  32. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 senses: To increase your awareness and ground yourself in the present moment, list five things you see, four things you hear, three things you feel, two things you smell, and one thing you taste.
  33. Standing like a tree: Stand up and pretend your legs· are the roots of a tree, reaching your arms up to be the branches. Start to sway side to side as if you are blowing in the wind. Notice that your legs don’t move, keeping you grounded. Imagine yourself being a tree when the winds of life whip up. Be flexible yet grounded, like strong tree weathers a storm.
  34. Finding your center: Sit upright in a comfortable position and take several deep breaths. On the next exhale lean as far to the right as you can without falling over. Inhale and return to center. Then exhale and lean far to the left. Inhale to the center. Slowly start to repeat, leaning less and less every time. When you finally reach the middle, your center, take several deep breaths and notice what it feels like to be in balance.
  35. Seeking clarity: Take a jar, fill it with water, and put in fine sand, glitter, or another substance that can be shaken up. Once the lid is tight, shake up the jar. Notice the chaos as the sand or glitter moves about the water, with the water being cloudy or unclear. Then, mindfully watch as everything slowly settles, ultimately bringing clarity to the water. Think about the parallels between Emotion Mind and chaos compared to Wise Mind and clarity.
  36. Yoga: Take 5 minutes and assume simple yoga poses (check out a book or video on yoga). Notice your body and remember to breathe as you hold each pose. Just notice emotions, thoughts, and sensations that arise, clinging to none. With practice, this exercise is grounding and relaxing and promotes regulation of body and mind.
  37. Mandalas and coloring books: Mediate on the process of coloring, losing yourself in the activity.
  38. Simon says: This game is all about focusing and sustaining attention. Remember to let go of judgments and have fun!
  39. Jenga: Focus with one mind as you remove blocks and build the tower higher and higher. Notice your connection to removing and stacking the blocks, immersing yourself in the activity. When the tower tumbles, remember that this is the natural outcome of the game.
  40. Categories: Pick a category such as animals or foods and list as many items from that category as possible. In a group setting, go around the circle with each person repeating the items already listed before adding to the category.
  41. Picnic game: Start with the phrase “I am going on a picnic and I’m bringing . .. ” Go around the circle with each person adding something they are bringing, but only after he or she has said all the items that were mentioned before, in order. For an added challenge, this game can be played listing items from A to Z.
  42. Riddles: Buy a book on riddles or search for them online. Contemplate possible solutions. An example: ” I am an ancient invention that allows people to see through walls. What am I?”
  43. 20 Questions: Play 20 questions with a friend, a child, or your family.
  44. Untie knots: Start with string or a shoelace that has been tangled and knotted up. Start to untangle and untie the knots. What emotions come up. Frustration? Impatience? Breathe and practice acceptance as you mindfully complete this activity.
  45. Blow bubbles: Blow bubbles and watch as they float through the air, eventually popping. Notice sensations, such as your breathing, the air you blow into the bubble, and any emotions that arise from the activity.
  46. Play catch: Play this simple game with the goal of being in the moment.
  47. Play catch with categories: Take one ball to throw around a group of people standing in a circle. Pick a category such as countries, music artists, or movie stars. Every time someone catches the ball, they add to the list. If a person cannot add to the list, he or she can create the next category and continue the game.
  48. Energy ball: Imagine a ball as a source of negative emotional and mental energy. Hold on to the ball in your hand and take some time to process what it is like to hold on to your negative energy. Do you want to continue to hold on to it? Tell yourself that you have the choice to let the ball go and put it down. Alternatively, decide to bounce the ball off the floor or wall, imagining the negative energy leaving the ball with each bounce until the ball becomes neutral again.
  49. I spy memory game: Find a page in a magazine full of various objects and take 1 minute to mindfully look over the page. After the minute is up, close the magazine and write down all of the things that you remember.
  50. Write with your nondominant hand: Create an encouraging or coping statement and write it out 10 times with your non-writing hand. Notice any frustrations or judgments that come up and practice releasing them. Engage in the process, noting the level of focus needed to have the writing be legible . ..
  51. Attention to small moments: Small moments in our lives include those that we do not typically notice and those we take for granted. A small moment may be having a cup of coffee or a cool glass of water, spending a moment with a child or pet, or performing any everyday activity that goes by without our attention. Enjoyment, peace, and serenity in life happen in the small moments. Each hour, orient yourself to the small moments that you might otherwise miss.
  52. Focus on senses: Take time to notice what comes through your five senses: what you see, hear, smell, taste, and/or touch. Your senses are your gateway to the world. (See Self-Soothe in Module 3: Distress Tolerance.)
  53. Breathing: We all breathe, and we can all breathe more effectively. Our breath is our anchor and is an excellent way to center ourselves. Take time to breathe mindfully in and out. Stay focused on the sensation of the air coming into your air passages and lungs, holding it, and then letting it out. Use a mantra, such as ” in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out, or count each breath from l to 10, starting over when you reach 10 or if you lose count.
  54. Breathing life cycle: Another way to breathe mindfully is to notice the beginning, middle, and end of each inhalation and exhalation (like how you can hear the beginning, middle, and end of sound another mindfulness exercise). Concentrate on the life of each breath going in and out.
  55. Quiet/still time: Set time aside each day to be quiet and to experience that quiet. Be One-Mindful with the stillness, finding your center and noticing comfort in the moment.
  56. Your favorite song (or album): Listen to your favorite song or album with your full attention. Listen closely to the lyrics and their meaning. Be mindful of each word and phrase. Listen to the sounds of the different instruments. Pay attention to the guitar, bass, drums, vocals, or any other instrument that is central to the music. Notice the production values: Is the song basic or elaborate? Barebones or highly orchestrated? Be mindful of things you have never noticed in music you have listened to many times.
  57. Your favorite show: Watch your favorite TV show, paying attention to the small details. Notice what the actors are wearing, how the sets are designed and decorated, and other elaborate details that go into your show.
  58. The room you know so well: Observe and Describe details that you never noticed about your bedroom, living room, office, or any other place in which you have spent a significant amount of time.
  59. 10 details: Anyplace, Anywhere, pause and Observe and Describe 10 details you would not have otherwise noticed.
  60. Turn down the noise (or embrace it): Turn off all extra sources of noise in your home. If you are not mindfully listening to the radio or TV, turn it off. Work on being present without the competition for your attention. If you are unable to turn down certain noises, practice being mindfully aware of them, noticing them without judgment.
  61. People (or anything) watching: Be a watcher of people, or of anything that might hold your interest. Remember not to judge what you see, but simply let it into and out of your experience like clouds floating through the sky. –
  62. One chore/one task: Do one chore or one task, such as washing the dishes or folding laundry, with all of your attention and care. Be One-Mindful with the experience without adding or subtracting.
  63. “Holding” a feeling: Hold your present feeling like it is a baby. Calming a distraught baby involves compassion and One-Mindfulness. Babies can tell when we are either frustrated or do not want to be with them in the moment. Our feelings are like babies: They too can tell when we either reject them or are not fully present with them. Holding your feeling and being mindful of it will usually cause it to diminish in intensity. If not, consider distraction skills.
  64. Interconnection: Contemplate how you are connected to all of the items around you, to your surroundings, to all of the people in your life, and/or to the universe in general.
  65. Relative thinking: Contemplate the upsides and downsides of any judgment without sticking to any conclusions. See how “good” and “bad” depend on the circumstances and are not fixed.
  66. 5/60: Plan 5 minutes out of every hour to engage in a mindfulness activity. This may include breathing, doing a scan of your body for tension and then relaxing, or one-mindfully accomplishing any task.
  67. Find your center: Before engaging in thoughts and behavior, spend a moment to breathe and find your center. Know that finding your center helps you to access your Wise Mind. Practice the directives of the mantra: Pause, breath, center . . . enter.
  68. Write and release: Write what you would like to let go of on paper and shred it, burn it, or place the paper underwater and watch the ink wash away and disappear.
  69. Lie in the grass: On a day with nice weather, find a patch of lush, green grass in your yard or a park. Lie down, close your eyes, and turn your attention toward the connection and sensations between your body and the grass, feeling yourself supported by the ground. Breathe in the sensations and stay there awhile. Following the exercise, notice what you are feeling. Alternatively, keep your eyes open and gaze at the sky, watching the clouds float into and out of your field of vision. Contemplate the connection between yourself, the earth, and the sky. Take your time in this place, and breathe.
  70. Practice compassion for yourself and others: Sit or lie down in a comfortable spot, and turn your attention to your breathing. As you breathe say to yourself over and over, “May I experience peace and happiness.” Once you have settled into meditating on this mantra, change the mantra to focus on another person by saying, “May (Person) experience peace and happiness.” Continue to breathe as you meditate on this thought from your heart. Extra credit: Make the person you wish peace and happiness to someone you dislike.
  71. Report on your experience or surroundings: Write or narrate what is happening right now with your emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and/or behavior. In doing so, pretend that you are a reporter giving an objective account to your audience. Notice what it is like to Observe and Describe your experience in this somewhat detached manner.
  72. Explain a task (and then participate in it): Take any daily task or chore, such as making coffee, sweeping a room, or watering plants, and break it down into its component steps. Imagine that you would have to explain how to do this to a child or even an alien, and go into minute detail. Now, actually engage in the task or chore, noticing each step and participating in it mindfully.
  73. Look through a new window: Pick a window in your home, school, or office that you never (or almost never) look through. Sit down and spend 5 or more minutes gazing through the window, observing what is outside. Notice the scenery and whether anything is happening outside the window. Describe the scene and/or action to yourself and connect with it. Extra credit: Contemplate the “windows” in your life you do not or refuse to look through. Wlrnt would you notice if you chose to look through one or more of these windows?

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5 Tips for Completing Paperwork on Time

Posted January 30, 2017

Consult 1Paper cuts are becoming outdated with new mandates for electronic medical record keeping, but that does not mean all our paperwork woes have vanished. As a professional, there is no avoiding paperwork because of it being so important, but it can also be the first thing to slide when things get hectic. Here are some tips to help you get your paperwork done more efficiently.

1. Routine
Work to develop a routine and stick to it! Completing your notes in session or making sure your notes are complete by the end of each day is ideal. Figuring out what works for you and establishing a routine takes energy on the front-end, but will likely pay off.

2. Consistency
Once you have developed your routine, make sure that you stay consistent. Scheduling time for paperwork on your calendar is a great way to do this if you can stick to it!

3. Backup Plan
We work in a field where things can be unpredictable and throw off our game plan. Make sure to have a backup plan when these things happen. Sometimes we need to be flexible to meet the needs of our clients!

4. Support
If you are struggling to get paperwork done on time and have tried implementing these strategies reach out for support. Sometimes we need some support, problem-solving advice, or even accountability to help manage our workload.

5. Reward
We all know about reward and reinforcement, right? As professionals, we can use this on ourselves as well. When you complete your paperwork, find a way to reward yourself. Go for a walk, have a cup of tea, or chat with a co-worker.

We do very important work, but no one can see that if we do not get our paperwork done in a timely and complete fashion.