Adolescence Feelings Mental Health Self-Care Stress

Art: A Healthy Outlet for Difficult Emotions

Art Therapy 5 centsArt is a wonderful outlet for your difficult emotions like stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration. You don’t have to be Basquiat or Banksy, Ruth Bernhard, or Diane Arbus, Steinbeck or Tolstoy; you just have to be yourself. One definition of art is: “works produced by human, creative skill and imagination.” In other words, your options are limitless.


Earlier this week, I wrote about self-regulation and self-care.  Finding your artistic outlet is a wonderful way to self-regulate.  So, what will it be?


  • Are you inclined to write? Start a journal. Or write a short story or poem.
  • Is painting your thing? Maybe start with a skeleton of an idea (a feeling, smell, site, or sound) and let your paintbrush or fingers lead the way.
  • Maybe music is your emotional salve. Play for the sake or playing, or sing for the sake of singing.
  • Perhaps photography moves you. Make a random list of things (pirate, horseshoe, laughter, etc.) and go on a photo adventure to find those things.


All of these artistic endeavors create space within. Allowing yourself to be creative is a great way to get out of your head and into your heart. Creating art is a magnificent, non-verbal way of processing feelings that can otherwise be too big.

Susan the Art Lady guides and encourages our kids to get into their “art brain,” so to speak, and some of the pieces I’ve seen as a result of their creative sessions have been phenomenal. It’s amazing what happens when we let go. It’s inspiring when we can set aside our judgments of others and ourselves and feed that energy into creating something that is uniquely ours.


So as we continue this path of self-regulation and self-care, we can add art to our list of resources. There’s something truly wonderful when we access our right brains and relinquish some of our control. There’s infinite healing in paint, in light, in putting pen to paper, and in a coloratura. Art is part of heart, after all.


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Helpful Tools for Self-Regulation

Calm Lake (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Developing tools for self-regulation allows us to tap into our internal resources so we can be less reactive. Self-regulation will increase our ability to navigate difficult situations or work in challenging environments.  Self-regulation requires us to tap into our mind and body connection. When someone is dysregulated, they are disconnected. One of the steps to self-regulation is learning to connect with our physical sensations and our bodies. Think of it this way: When we are dysregulated, we are reactive rather than responsive. Likewise, when we are self-regulated, we are responsive rather than reactive.


Often times, parents have a tough time regulating their emotions. Imagine this: your child has done something infuriating—perhaps he’s lied, or she’s ditching school or doing drugs—and you respond by yelling. You are frustrated, and perhaps even triggered. You are dysregulated. At this point, you are ineffective in your parenting and your kids are apt to be dysregulated as well. You are essentially communicating with metaphorically closed fists. Stress and trauma both send the sympathetic nervous system into the fray.  However, self-regulation will engage the parasympathetic system, which is the body’s natural way of applying a salve. Your action here is to take a time out. Get yourself to a quiet space so you can begin to self-regulate.


The three main tools of self-regulation are:

Grounding, Resourcing, and Orienting.


Grounding allows you to reconnect with your emotions and physical sensations. Paying attention to your feet on the floor, or placing your hands on something solid can help you get back into your body. Taking deep breaths while you are doing this can help you track the sensations mindfully. Taking a time out when you are dysregulated is the first step to getting grounded.


Resourcing is the way in which you ground. We all have resources within us or outside of ourselves. Resources are tools with which we can reconnect with ourselves. For example, breath can be a resource. Your hands on your belly or lap can be a resource. Your pet can be a resource. A resource is something that helps you feel good when everything around you is dismal.


Orienting is a way of checking in with your surroundings. When we are not self-regulated, we check out. It can be a very disembodying experience–one that feels determinedly unsafe and out of control.  So when we orient, we do so by consciously noticing our surroundings: looking around the room, noticing where we are, where we are sitting, et cetera.


All of these tools help us self-regulate and all of these tools can be taught to our kids regardless of their age or stage of development. In very young children, it starts with self-soothing and bringing awareness to feelings. As kids get older, the language can shift and become more detailed. Being a teen is frightening developmental state; they experience life more intensely because of where they are developmentally. Teens can learn to slow down. Count to 10 before you respond to something provocative, or take a deep, mindful breath. You may find that what you thought you had to say changes. You may discover that what you need to say comes out softer and kinder. Using your breath this way is a means of grounding and resourcing. When we do this, we are developing skills to be in relationship with our impulses and feelings. By reinforcing this awareness, we gain opportunities to change.  Self-regulation is a doorway to self-care. In caring for ourselves, we can more aptly care for others.


Parents, you can act as the conduit for this shift. Your kids want to learn from you, even as they push away. By developing these self-regulating tools yourself, your kids may follow. Teach by example, not by hard hands. By doing so, you will no longer communicate with closed fits; you will communicate with open palms and an open heart.

Read this for inspiration:

Getting to the Root of it All – Hala Khouri, M.A.

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Cold Season: Invokes a Deeper Need for Self-Care

Folks, it’s cold season and that means now’s a great time for some extra self-care. The changing of the seasons always brings about a higher chance for allergies and colds and even the flu. With a few self-care tips, we can slow down, lessen the severity of, or even prevent a cold. Keep in mind that colds are airborne, so it’s nearly impossible to avoid them. We can, however, bolster our immune systems in the following ways as a preventative. Check it out:


  • Lower your stress. Start with taking more walks, taking time outs in situations that overwhelm you, or saying no more often. When we push ourselves beyond our bounds for long periods of time, our nervous systems get taxed and that will have an effect on our immune systems. Self-care is imperative, especially as a means of overcoming chronic stress.
  • Sleep! If you are sleep-deprived, your immune system gets stressed out, which increases its vulnerability to stress, illness, and burnout. They say no less than 6 hours a night and no more than 8 is a good start. Sleep helps your body function optimally.
  • Eat more antioxidants, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. With the accessibility of so many healthy food options, eating wisely and sustainably is easier than it once was. Nourish yourself with sustaining foods like hearty soups– chicken soup still has magical qualities when you feel a cold coming on!
  • Smoke less, or don’t smoke at all.  Smokers, you are at high risk. Smoking damages the lining of your nose and throat, eliminating the protective barrier, which is there to prevent infection. As a result, smokers get more upper respiratory infections than non-smokers. Those frequently exposed to second-hand smoke will have similar vulnerability.
  • Wash your hands. A lot. Remember how I said colds are airborne? Well, doorknobs, railings, shared computer keyboards are places viruses like to hang out.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Drink a minimum 8, 8 oz glasses of water a day. Some say, drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. Your total intake of water will vary based on activity levels, etc. But the base rule is that minimum. Water moistens the respiratory tract and helps it do its job. Drink up!
  • Be kind to yourself. Getting sick is not an opportunity to beat yourself up.
  • Ask for help. Time to call in the troops and tap into your resources.
  • Stay at home if you get sick. In this case, sharing is NOT caring.

It happens: we get colds. We are in shared spaces at school, work, and home, and this doesn’t include all of the public places we traverse during our days. Invoking a sense of self-care and having a heightened awareness of how to do so will benefit you in the end. You may prevent a cold, lesson its intensity, or brave the misery with more compassion than you thought possible. Taking care of ourselves is another piece to the recovery puzzle.  Be well!

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