Monday, October 31, 2022

The Grind – Part 14 - Trouble Ahead: Creating an Emotional Self Care Plan


Creating an Emotional Self Care Plan 


When managing the grind in our lives, we may find ourselves to be like a lookout on a ship out at sea. The lookout can see the weather and the waves of a storm ahead and sound the alarm that there is “trouble ahead” as rough seas are approaching. Then rest of the crew on the ship does not respond impulsively, rather they know exactly how to react. That is because there is a pre-established plan in place for rough seas and other troubles. The crew then works together to follow the plan to safely and effectively navigate the storm until it is over.


The same could be true for our own lives. Like the lookout on the ship, we may see signs ahead that a “storm” is approaching. We could be experiencing work problems, financial problems, health problems, family problems or any other situation that may require some grit, resilience and extra effort to get through. Like the crew on the ship facing rough seas ahead, we do not want to react impulsively to our own troubles. It is better to have a plan in place.


One aspect for planning to manage difficult times is to have an “Emotional Self Care Plan” in place. The purpose of this ESCP (aka “Escape Plan) is to be prepared for the inevitable mental and emotional challenges that will occur during times of troubles. We all know it can be very difficult to manage emotionally with the added stress of a sudden problematic situation in life.


Key aspects of an ESCP includes a list of Do’s and Don’ts


Do – Establish some form of regular physical activity (biking, exercising, jogging, weights, etc.)


Don’t – Live a stagnant, movement free life which can only keep you in a rut



Ø What is your plan for regular physical activity (to the degree you are able)?




Do – Come up with a system for relaxation. More than one method is a good idea (for example, breathing, reading, stretching, walking, sports, etc.) – Have some healthy distractions prepared (Hobbies, entertainment, etc.)


Don’t stay in a state of constant stress, thinking you can solve your problems by going full speed every waking minute. Down time is essential especially when times are tough. Don’t fall into a pattern of unhealthy escapes like alcohol use, gambling, spending or other negative ways to self-medicate


Ø What is your plan for relaxation and what are your healthy ways to get your mind off of things?




Do – Use your support system. Make sure you are in regular contact with people who can help refresh you and encourage you


Don’t isolate thinking you can do everything on your own and don’t do the opposite by telling everyone who will listen all of your problems. Use your supports who you can trust


Ø What is your plan for using your support system?




Do – Look at the big picture. Think of the long game. Stay focused on your goals and your purpose. Consider your values and morals. Even if things are tough now, hold on to your positive vision for the future. Focus on what you have control over and leave the rest


Don’t let short-sightedness lead you into a hasty decision you will regret or a risky quick fix that may make things worse in the long run. Don’t give up just because things are tough for now. Don’t compromise your values and what’s most important to you. Don’t waste time trying to control what you have no control over


Ø What are your long-term goals and what is your positive vision for the future once you are though this tough time?




Do have a set of “go to” day to day coping skills for when you feel discouraged or are otherwise struggling. Have some positive self-statements you can say to yourself to remind yourself to keep pressing forward (Positive self-talk)


Don’t wait for a crisis to happen to then all of a sudden need a plan. Have a plan in place before a crisis happens to remain strong and resilient when you need it most


Ø What coping skills work for you? (You can use some of the other ones mentioned already)




Do – Know your emotional triggers. Know what types of situations can trigger negative thoughts and mood states (like a bad day at work, or arguing with family, etc.) Have a plan for your triggers to rebound from them by using your coping skills and supports


Don’t wait until you are triggered to react impulsively and do something you may later regret. Don’t let triggers put you into a negative tailspin.


Ø What are some of your emotional triggers and what can you do when you feel triggered in a negative way?



Do be patient with yourself. Remember that negative thinking only makes things worse so as difficult as it can be when things are tough, practice staying positive and grateful for what you have. Pay attention to even the small gains and the baby steps forward because they all add up to eventual success if you keep moving forward.


Don’t let discouragement get you down especially by beating yourself down with negative thinking. Life is tough but if you stay focused and positive, you’ll get through.


Ø What can you tell yourself to stay patient, positive and focused and to drown out negative and discouraging thoughts. Again, using supports who can you turn to for encouragement when you need it most?




Friday, October 28, 2022

CBT and Me - Part 2: Feeling Our Feelings


CBT AND ME: Part 2: Feeling Our Feelings


Opening Icebreaker – “I Feel You”

The purpose of this exercise is simple, which is to get the group identifying and talking openly about feelings. Make sure everyone in the group can see a feeling list. (It may make sense to print one or more of these feeling lists out if you do not have your own. People can share them)

Feelings List 1 From Hoffman Institute

Feelings List 2 From ndapandas 

Feelings List 3 From Center for Nonviolent Communication

Directions: Take turns where one person in the group picks a feeling word from one of the feeling lists and shares a brief true story where they really felt that feeling in their life. Stories should be brief but descriptive with a focus on helping others understand how you really felt and why. Everyone in the group should do their best to listen to one another and show support for these feelings’ stories. When a person is done with their feeling story, if anyone in the group had a similar experience that resulted in the same (or similar feeling) that person should say “I feel you” and share with the rest of the group their similar experience with that same feeling. There may be more than one group member who has the “I feel you” experience so everyone should get a chance to share who is interested. When this follow up process is complete, resume again with the next person picking a new feeling from the list. - Counselor: When the group is over, you may need to take some time to debrief everyone and make sure the group is ready to continue as it may take a minute after people express some more difficult feelings.

About Feelings

Discussion: Read each point about feelings and discuss the questions that follow as a group

Feelings are often misunderstood – Feelings can seem mysterious or difficult to recognize and even more challenging to appropriately express. Also, it is important to be careful when learning about feelings because there is a lot of inaccurate information about feelings on the internet.


Ø Does anyone identify with this and struggle a little with identifying or expressing feelings?



Ø Why can identifying and expressing feelings be a challenge?



Feelings can be intuitive, but sometimes feelings are misleading – Our feelings may be telling us something so we should listen to them. However, it is important to also use caution as sometimes feelings can lead us to an inaccurate conclusion. Therefore, the general rule is “Listen to and consider your feelings, but do not automatically trust them”


Ø Have you ever listened to a feeling about something, and it was helpful? (For example, maybe you had a “creepy” feeling about a situation and got out and found out later you avoided trouble)


Ø Have you ever had a feeling about someone or something and later learned the feeling was misleading?


o   Example: feeling “love” for someone new only to learn later that the person was no good for us.


o   Example: feeling angry about something but later learning that you jumped to a wrong conclusion about what triggered your anger.


o   Example: feeling annoyed or strong dislike for someone you first meet but later that person becomes a close friend



We can let our feelings inspire our (positive) actions, but we should not let our feelings control our actionsThere’s a difference:


Ø How can feelings motivate you? (For example, how can a person could let their feelings inspire them to make life changes)


Ø Why can it be a really bad idea to let your feelings dictate your actions? (For example, imagine saying something hurtful to someone you care about in a state of anger but later regretting it



Feelings are subjective and influenced by time, context, surroundings as well as perception


Ø Can anyone come up with an example of how feelings can change with time?  - Why is it better sometimes to “sleep on it” or wait when we are confused or unsure about our feelings?



Ø How can our context and surroundings impact feelings?


o   Example – Your friend or partner makes fun of you during a fun conversation where everyone is being playful and joking around compared with your friend making fun of you in public in front of people you don’t know or who just met in a more serious setting.



Ø How can new information and facts change our perception which can then change our feelings?


o   Jumping to conclusions is a risk involved with blindly following our feelings. Why is it important to try to get the whole story before taking action on strong feelings?


Feelings are contagious


Ø Has anyone had an experience where being around happy people made them feel happier or being around angry people made them angry or any example where feelings were contagious?



Finally - There are things that all of us can do each day to better manage our feelings and make good choices in spite of challenging feelings. Think positively and soon you will feel positively


1.    Track and name your feelings – How does identifying our feelings help with managing our feelings?



2.    We can learn more about feelings using empathy – When listening to someone else talk, try to imagine what it must feel like for them. You can do the same when watching movies or listening to music by practicing identifying with the writer or character’s feelings. This can help with our own feelings too. The more we understand feelings, the more equipped we are to handle them well.



3.    Express your feelings with someone you trust - How does talking about our feelings help? Do you have someone in your life who you can share your feelings openly and honestly with?



4.    Learn to work with our thoughts to better manage feelings. - Our thoughts impact our feelings so it is often better to adjust our thinking which can help us change how we feel


a.    Example – “I lived my life thinking that everyone is out to get me, so I often felt uncomfortable and stressed around people” However I have learned to adjust my thinking by telling myself “Some people out there are not safe, but not everyone wants to hurt me. I have friends now”


To close the group, share a positive thought that can help inspire positive feelings. For example, thoughts of:


Gratitude, Optimism, Creativity, Love, Appreciation, Compassion, Peace, Kindness, Goodness, Joy, Acceptance, Friendship, Beauty, Admiration, Confidence, Faith, Warmth, Patience, Respect, Affection, Enthusiasm, Encouragement, Comfort, Laughter, Delight, Motivation, Inspiration, Courage, Hope




Friday, October 21, 2022

CBT and Me- Part 1: Starting with Thinking


CBT For Me – Part 1: Starting with Thinking


Introduction: One thing that everyone should get out of a substance use or mental health program is a basic understanding of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is one of the easiest to understand ways to change behaviors, for anyone who is motivated to make those changes. This worksheet focuses on starting a discussion on Thinking, Feelings and Behaviors, the core elements of CBT with emphasis on Thinking first


As an icebreaker, try the following exercise as a group. On the next page are some common thoughts, feelings and behaviors that may be associated with substance use and mental health. Of course, there are many more than this, but this list is enough to start a discussion and to start the group talking about thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Notice that some of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors are more positive and others not so positive.


Directions: Everyone in the group should get a copy of the list. Take turns and when it’s your turn simply pick a Thought, Feeling, or Behavior on the list that stands out to you and tell a brief story related to it. If you are up to the challenge, you can pick two items from the list: a thought and a feeling or try to use all three: a thought, a feeling and a behavior for your story. It’s up to you


Group member 1 picks the Thought: “It could be worse” and tells a story: “When I was in detox for heroin last month I honestly felt like I was going to die because I was so sick, but I kept remembering that I was telling myself at the time: It could be worseI could be in jail or dead right now”


Group member 2 feels up to the challenge and picks two items: a Thought – “I’ve got skills and talents” and a Feeling “Blessed” and tells the story: “I nearly lost everything because of my substance use and mental health issues until I got help. Now I am feeling so blessed because I’ve got skills and talents doing carpentry and I have been able to get a business started up again since I have been in recovery.


Group member 3 goes for a combination of all three: Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors from the list and tells the story: “I used to struggle for years with negative thoughts like I’m not good enough which left me feeling discouraged, however now that I am working on things, I have learned to choose the behavior of using my support system to help me work through these negative feelings when they come up.




I quit

I’m the greatest

I’m not good enough

I’ve got this

No one cares

I deserve better

I’ll figure it out

He/She/They are out to get me

I’m not going to quit

I can’t do it

Everyone else has it better

Things are getting better

I’ll never get there

I have a good shot at this

I have no idea

It’s starting to work

I am a fake and a phony

I’m steadily improving

This just isn’t fair

I’m making the best of it

I’m fooling everyone

I’ll survive

I’m not strong enough

I’ll get through this

I don’t measure up

I have a lot to offer

The deck is stacked against me

I’ve got skills and talents

I can’t adapt to this

I’m flexible and clever

I’m not smart enough

I can master this with time

I’m going to fail

I’ll win if I stay in the game

It’s never going to happen

I can see it in my future

I’m about to break down

I’m resilient and will endure

I can’t do this honestly

I can face the truth today

This is too much for me

I have what it takes

I can’t handle any more

It could be worse




























Burned Out


















Aggression (Verbal)

Reach out for help

Run away

Use support system

Pretend everything is fine

Practice and learn to improve

Aggression (Physical- Fight)

Compromise to find peace

Stay stuck in situation

Explore new options

Repeat the cycle

Keep on trying


Seek professional help

Find a way out

Return to bad situation



Use coping skills

Sulk and complain

Handle my business

Sit back and wait

Take accountability

Blame others

Accept and move forward

Neglect responsibility

Try something new

Avoid change

Stand up for self

Come up with excuses

Set new goals

Give up

Adjust priorities

Stay lost

Remain grounded

Strategize new plans

Scheme, cheat or lie

Do some self-searching

Shut down

Find a way to make peace

Take it out on someone else

Patiently endure

Suffer in silence

Rise to the occasion


Change your thinking, change your life

There are several factors that need to be in place in order to change our thinking in a positive way. Discuss each one below and answer the questions:


Self-Awareness – Learning to look inward into our own mind to examine and openly define our own thoughts is a skill that can be learned but takes practice. This comes easier to some people than to others, but anyone can develop this skill. How about you, do you feel ready to look deeper into your own thinking?


Self-HonestyIt can be a challenge to admit to ourselves that we are having negative thoughts, especially fearful or embarrassing thoughts. For example, it can be difficult for some people to openly admit things out loud that may make them seem vulnerable. Are you able to get honest about your own thoughts even the difficult to admit or accept ones?


CourageSometimes we may be afraid to face our thoughts. Facing thoughts can mean facing reality and accepting the need to change. Are you prepared to face and admit some of your fears and insecurities?


Break the HabitNegative thinking can become habitual. Complaining about life, looking at the dark side of things, being pessimistic or self-defeating can all become “comfortable” when it becomes a regular habit. If you have the habit of looking at things in a negative way, are you prepared to change?


Open Mindedness- We have all met someone who ignores facts and experiences in favor of stubbornly holding on to a certain way of thinking. Instead, life is about learning and growing which requires looking at different perspectives and adapting our thinking with new information and experiences. Are you working on being open minded about new information instead of stubbornly holding on to old opinions?


Ability to “Reframe”When we identify a negative or harmful thought, it is essential to be able to reframe those negative thoughts in a more positive and realistic way. An example would be reframing the negative thought ‘I’m not good enough” to something like “I am still a work in progress, but I am getting better with time” Do I need to learn more about or practice using cognitive reframing?


Help for More Serious Mental Health IssueProfessional help may be needed when disorders like Major Depressive Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are present because negative thinking can be symptomatic of these and other mental health disorders. This does not mean that you cannot work on changing thinking but sometimes some more outside help is needed in therapy or with a psychiatrist/APN. Talk to your counselor more about this if you feel that you need more help with negative thinking


Thursday, October 13, 2022

Drop the Rocks

Drop the Rocks 


READ: The Climber

A man was climbing a mountain to get home to his village at the top of a steep mountain. Unfortunately, there were some mean and hurtful people that lived along the trail on the way up to the top of the mountain. Every once in a while, one of these bitter and mean people would hurl a rock at the climber to try to prevent him from getting to the top of the mountain. Having rocks thrown at him by these bad people made the man very angry. So, what the man would do is catch the rocks that were thrown, and then he would put them in his backpack. The idea was that he would save each rock to then one day throw back at these bad people when he sees them again.

With time however his backpack got heavier and heavier. This only made the man angrier and angrier, and it slowed him down on his climb to the top. The man let his anger turn to hate and bitterness which fueled his grueling struggle with a backpack full of rocks. The struggle eventually became unbearable as the weight was too much to carry but still, he pressed on. One day a wise man told the man to just let go of the rocks so he can climb freely again and get where he needs to go. The man questioned “If I let go of these rocks, what am I going to use to hurt the people who tried to hurt me?” The wise man replied “Nothing. but if you let go of the rocks, you will reach the top of the mountain much quicker and easier, and all of these people will be behind you” –

The man emptied his backpack full of rocks and felt a huge weight off of his back, literally and emotionally too. The man then focused on his climb and then focused on dodging thrown rocks instead of catching and holding them any longer. Before he knew it, he reached the top of the mountain where he began living happily with the people who cared about and loved him. The man thought to himself “The way I was going I never would have made it to the top of the mountain if I didn’t drop the rocks - They were far too much of a burden to bear”


You have probably heard something similar to this before but holding on to resentments is like trying to climb the “mountain of life” with a useless weight on your back. Resentment slows us down in our progress as it is a useless burden to bear. Most people know this on some level still so many people refuse to “drop the rocks” and lighten their load in life. Why- because of faulty reasoning:  Here are some myths and faulty reasons why people hold onto resentments:

Read and discuss each myth and corresponding truth. Some people who are holding on to resentments may feel strongly and struggle with this as sometimes letting go can be a challenge. So, if it feels like this topic may be a struggle for you, try to be open minded and listen


Resentments Myths and Corresponding Truths:

Myth: Holding on is punishment for the person who hurt or wronged me – We can falsely reason that we need to hold resentments as if this somehow “punishes” the person who is the object of resentment.

·       The truth is that by holding on to resentment a person is primarily punishing themselves. Resentments almost always cause more pain to the person holding the resentment than the person being resented. It is true that the person being resented may not like it however remember holding on to anger and hate does far more damage to us than it does to anyone else.

The Myth of False Power – Resentment is just old anger. Anger can bring a feeling of “power”, or a “rush” People can faultily reason that resentment empowers and strengthens them.

·       The truth is that resentment weakens a person. It takes a lot of wasted energy to hold on to resentments. Sadly, some people don’t ever let go long enough to find out how much better it feels

Myth: Forgiveness is weakness – People may reason that holding on to resentment means they are “strong” or “tough” like a grudge holding gangster or vigilante seeking revenge on their enemies like in the movies.

·       The truth is that it takes a lot of strength and courage to let go and to forgive. Holding resentment is often based on fear of being hurt again rather than strength. Letting go is a brave journey

Myth: Letting go means they “win” – A person who is experiencing resentment may believe that they “lose” a conflict and the enemy “wins” if you are the one to let go. This can result in a sick contest to see who can hold on to the hate longer

·       The truth is again that letting go of resentment is not “losing”- To the contrary it is a “win: for you emotionally if you can be the bigger person and let go

Myth: It’s Ok to hold on to resentment like a bad habit – Resentment can become habitual just like anger can become habitual and so can complaining and a lot of other negative behaviors if we repeat them long enough. Just because something like resentment becomes comfortable does not mean it is good for us.

·       The truth is that like most bad habits, we can break the cycle of habitual resentment with time and effort, and it is worth it to work on it and move on

Myth: The person never apologized so I must hold on to resentment – Sadly. people can wait a lifetime for an apology that may never come.

·       The truth is that apologies do make letting go of resentment much easier. However, people can struggle with this fact: An apology is not required for letting go. We do not need to wait for an apology (that may never come) in order to let go. Remember again we let go of resentment for ourselves not for them. We cannot force someone into a sincere apology no matter how badly we may want that apology, but we can work on our own emotions for our own self improvement regardless of the other person.

Myth: My resentment protects me – This is the thought that resentment builds a figurative wall around us which keeps the person who hurt or wronged us away. This in a sense is true but its not the best way to go about it:

·       The truth is that you can still distance yourself from someone without holding on to resentment. Resentment is just a feeling and nothing more. If a person in our lives is dangerous or toxic, we can choose to stay away calmly without resentment or anger. Letting go might make a person feel vulnerable but that does not mean you are not safe if you let go. You can still protect yourself in healthy ways by using supports and surrounding yourself with people who care. You don’t need to be angry to be emotionally safe

The Myth of Justification - This may be one of the most common reasons for holding on to resentment. A person may reason that because they are justified in feeling anger, hurt and resentment then this is good reason to hold on to resentment. “I am entitled and justified in holding on to my anger and resentments!” Another way a person may view this is:  I must hold on to my resentment because I’ve got good reason to – There are plenty of “reasons” a person may use to hold on to resentment including:

They hurt me

They cheated me

They lied, mislead, and deceived

They disappointed me

They took from me or stole from me

They backstabbed me and betrayed me

They were not there for me when I was in need

They abandoned me

They took advantage

(Or they did these things to a person whom I care about)

·       The truth is that your feelings are valid and the reason you feel angry may be completely justified. However, letting go of resentment does not mean we are condoning the offense. It does not mean that we are saying the person who hurt or wronged us is now innocent. Letting go of resentment in no way means that we are saying that what happened is “ok” - It just means we are no longer carrying the emotions with us any longer and that is it.

·       The truth is that all of these reasons may be 100% true – The person may have done awful things. However, letting go of resentment is not about justice. You are not giving a “not guilty” verdict to someone who has hurt or wronged you or someone you love. In the universal court of justice, nothing has changed – wrong is still wrong however you are just letting go of a negative feeling for your own good and no one else, and that’s what you need to focus on


Can the group think of any other reasons or rationalizations why someone may hold on to resentment?


Some Key Points on Letting Go:

Letting go of resentment is healing

Letting go often is not easy and takes time

Make the choice to work on letting go- It’s your choice to work on it no one can make you do it. It’s often process and not just an event (Although with experience it does get easier and easier). The worse the hurt, the harder it may be, but the reward may be a great relief in the end

Focus on coping with emotions – Get help for your emotions if you cannot do it alone: The anger, the hurt, the trauma, the pain, etc. – Process these in therapy if your support system is not enough. Still use your supports too as friends and family mean so much in this process

Move away from focusing on being a victim to a focus on being a survivor by releasing the power that the offending person had over you. Again, you are letting go of resentment for your own growth – For you

Use your coping skills regularly and as needed – Learn new ones if you feel you are lacking in this area

Remember as an added bonus: All of your other issues will get better when you let go of resentment. There are scientific studies showing that letting go of resentment is tied to improved outcomes with all of these conditions and symptoms:

·       Substance use disorders (Letting go of resentment promotes recovery)

  • ·       Anxiety disorders
  • ·       Depression
  • ·       Mood instability and emotional dysregulation
  • ·       Aggression
  • ·       Relationship problems – (Friendships and romantic relationships all improve when resentment is removed)

Letting go of resentment promotes serenity, recovery, longevity, and inner peace

Whatever you may believe in personally, consider the “spiritual” aspects of letting go: Your goals, your purpose in life, your sense of meaning and belonging as well as whatever spiritual beliefs you may have will all be enhanced when you let go of resentment. If you do have a more defined spiritual belief system, use that to your advantage because resentment does not fit into “the big picture” in the greater scheme of life. Let it go