Self-Regulation with Cookie Monster!

We all benefit from learning to regulate ourselves; whether it’s regulation of our emotions, impulses, or actions.

Within the video above, Cory Turner and Anya Kamenetz speak with Cookie Monster about a couple self-regulation skills, which include deep breathing (belly breath), distraction (discussing Dr. Zhivago), and STOP (Stop and Think).  These are also skills taught within Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and are discussed within Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Mindfulness.

Deep Breathing, or “Belly Breath” is a way to increase focus on our physical bodies and help to flip our bodies from a sympathetic nervous system reaction (fight/flight/freeze) into a parasympathetic response (rest/digest).  This allows us to calm ourselves move into a logic and rational focused mindset.  Deep Breathing is present throughout numerous coping skills (we’ll see it again with STOP).

Distraction is next up, with the focus being on directing our attention toward anything but the identified stimuli; for example chronic pain, an impulse purchase, or maybe even cookies.  Distraction can be any number of things, including in our Cookie Monster video, discussing Dr. Zhivago.  Other examples could include playing a game, completing a puzzle, listening to emotional music, or doing a grounding exercise (in DBT this is the ACCEPTS skill).

Finally we reach the STOP skill from DBT, referred to in the video briefly as “Stop and Think.”  “Simple” concept, harder to use when in our feelings.  STOP is an acronym that details the four steps of the skill.  1) Stop.  2) Take a deep breath (there’s that deep breathing again).  3) Observe (what is going on).  4) Proceed mindfully.  This is basically a way to catch ourselves, re-center our minds, and then proceed with intention rather than impulse.

Each of these skills requires practice.  While they sound simple in theory, they can be difficult to get right.  In fact, you won’t always get it right, there will be times when you act on that impulse buy, and that’s ok.  Just keep practicing!

Play is Necessary

Play is an essential part of everyone’s life and is necessary for a healthy mind and body.  Though you may feel like spending 30 minutes of creating a Minecraft fortress is a waste of time, numerous studies and researchers have shown otherwise (1).  In a general sense, playing video games (in moderation) has been shown to help with executive functioning, creativity, and persistence (2).

Whether you enjoy Candy Crush or Tetris they can be a positive (with moderation).  Each of these specific games has been shown to assist with various aspects of our mental health.  For example playing Tetris following exposure to a traumatic event can disrupt the steps that would take place to file a traumatic memory into long-term memory, decreasing the long-term effects and potential for intrusive memories.  It’s also been found that playing World of Warcraft assist individuals experiencing Autism Spectrum Disorders in building emotional comprehension (3).

Check out the video featuring Jane McGonigal below for more information on how all of this works.


Wasn’t sure what I was going to post on here today, then I came across whatever the hell this is. I present to you, Robert Downey Jr. In a bunny suit. No context. It’s confusing and makes me laugh.

Robert Downey Jr. in a bunny suit, in front of some alpaca. You’re welcome.

Robert Downey Jr. in a bunny suit, in front of some alpaca. You’re welcome.

UPDATE: So this is from RDJ’s Omaze campaign, which occurred in 2016; so I’m a little late to the party. The campaign was to support the founding of his charitable foundation; Random Act Funding.

What is Trauma?

One of my passions is helping individuals who have experienced trauma, or are experiencing PTSD, to overcome that trauma. To put it more simply I love the help people move from Post-traumatic stress into Post-traumatic growth. So, what exactly is trauma, and what makes an event traumatic?

Trauma is an emotional or psychological response to an event that is experienced as deeply distressing or disturbing; it could be an event that is directly experienced or witnessed. For example if one person were to be involved in a car accident and another were to witness that car accident, the event could be traumatic for both. Trauma can also be caused by one incident (acute) or a series of incidences (chronic) over an extended period of time.

Traumatic events are different for each and every person. What may be experienced as traumatic for one person, may not be traumatic for another. One individual may experience trauma in the form of a military deployment, another may experience the trauma of divorce, a third may experience the trauma of child loss; none of these is “more legitimate” or “more real” than the other. Each and every one is a trauma and has an effect on the individual experiencing it.

Now, within trauma a whole bunch of “stuff” is going on within the brain. To provide an explanation on this I’m including a video on “Trauma and the Brain” by NHS Lanarkshire EVA Services.

Heart & Brain

One of my favorite webcomics is written by Nick Seluk and focuses on the relationship between the Heart and the Brain.  I like the comic because it often focuses on the interplay between Emotion Mind (Heart) and Rational Mind (Brain).  You can check out all of Nick’s comics on The Awkward Yeti.  Below you’ll find a few of my favorites featuring Heart & Brain.

What's a dialectic?

“What does that even mean?” is the typical response I get when I tell people what DBT stands for; Dialectical Behavior Therapy. So what is a dialectic? Probably not what you’re thinking, it has nothing to do with dialect or the language of a particular region.

Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT, describes a dialectic as “a synthesis or integration of opposites .” I describe dialectics as holding two differing ideas or emotions within ourselves and giving them both space to exist; basically saying two opposing ideas are both true. That sounds a little abstract, let me give some examples. When someone you love behaves in a manner you don’t find acceptable you may experience frustration or anger or upset; while also loving them. This is a dialectic.

In regard to treatment it’s the balancing of acceptance (for where you are) and change (for where you’d like to be). To put it into one word, it would be “bittersweet” or that feeling of happiness that is accompanied by sadness. In candy form it would be a Sour Patch Kid; both sour and sweet.

I’m going to leave you with a dialectic idea that recurs throughout DBT, it’s the thought that “You’re doing the best you can, AND you can do better.”

And instead of But

A “simple” trick that I have many of my clients do - to begin to sit with ambiguity and to highlight the dialectics that occur within our everyday lives - is to switch the use of the word “but” to “and.”  Let me give an example.

Let’s say you’re describing a day that started out quite excellent, which then was interrupted with an inconvenience.  Many people would describe the situation in a way like this.

“Oh I was having the greatest day.  I woke up fully rested, I had an excellent cup of coffee, and my partner had taken the dog out for a walk; it was excellent.  But then I went to start the car and the battery was dead.”

When we use the word but, it negates everything that came before it.  We no longer care about that great morning, we instead are focused on the one perceived negative of the dead battery.  A more effective way of describing the situation, that allows the positives of the day to continue would be to swap “but” out for “and.”

“Oh I was having the greatest day.  I woke up fully rested, I had an excellent cup of coffee, and my partner had taken the dog out for a walk; it was excellent; And then I went to start the car and the battery was dead.”

It changes the tone of the thought we’re having and the story we’re telling both ourselves and others.  No longer is the positive discarded; instead both events are given space and it balances out a bit.

Give it a try!

Princess Peachy

I came upon this adorable naked guinea pig when I was scrolling absentmindedly through Facebook on Monday and couldn’t get enough. Princess Peachy made me smile and more importantly made me laugh. This little guinea pig is definitely one of the delights for this week. Below is a gallery of some of my fave pics.

Definitely check him out on instagram @pretty.princess.peach

Stomp Out Stigma

So last week I wrote briefly about the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) of West Michigan, today I’ll be highlighting their event, Stomp Out Stigma. Stomp Out Stigma is a 5k walk around downtown Grand Rapids to help bring awareness to Mental Health and to help raise money for MHF.

This year’s Stomp Out Stigma walk takes place this Saturday (May 18, 2019) and starts at Grand Valley’s Downtown campus. Check out their website for more information.

Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I’m taking this time to do a kind of “shout out” to an organization in Grand Rapids that is doing great work for mental health in the area. That organization is the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, which has some great programs and campaigns including Be Nice; Stomp Out Stigma; Shining Through; and Live, Laugh, Love.

Please take the time to check out their site(s), there are some excellent resources and information available.

The Science of Happiness

Today’s post is a podcast recommendation for The Science of Happiness, which is produced by The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. I’m posting their most recent episode below, which covers an exercise on writing yourself a self-compassion letter. Listen and hopefully enjoy!

Why Deep Breathing?

Why Deep Breathing?

Deep Breathing is often shared as a great coping skill by numerous healthcare professionals, so much so that when I mention it to someone I’m counseling it’s often met with an eye-roll. I get it. It’s been discussed and discussed and recommended and recommended, but I think it’s seldom explained as to why it’s helpful.



Recently I came across this wonderful illustration by @positivelypresent and it cemented my thoughts that everyone would benefit from reminding themselves of this “simple” fact.  My expectations (and yours) are not those of others.  What you expect from a situation or a person, isn’t going to match up with the expectations of that person or that situation.

And that is fine.

This is where mindfulness and non-judgmental stance (DBT) come into the picture.  By accepting people, places, events, and things as they are we will make our interactions with them run much more smoothly.  When we begin to perceive that things are going “bad” or “poor” we would benefit from taking a step back, taking a breath, and re-orienting ourselves.

Call to Courage

Brené Brown has a Netflix special that went up on Friday (4/19) and it is great. If you’ve got Netflix be sure to check it out. If you don’t have Netflix track down a friend that does and watch it together.

Brené Brown : The Call to Courage. With humor and empathy,  Brené Brown  discusses what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty

Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. With humor and empathy, Brené Brown discusses what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty