Hot Chocolate Breathing: Use this breathing exercise to teach children how to regulate their bodies in a fun, winter-themed manner! Suggest that caregivers prep hot chocolate supplies (when in doubt, milk and chocolate chips work fine) and practice sipping hot chocolate while breathing deeply to smell the chocolate, then slowly breathing out through your mouth to cool off the hot chocolate. Depending on the needs of the child, engage the caregiver in utilizing this as a way for the child to ask for a break or help co-regulating (“Mom, can we do some hot chocolate breaths?”) during overwhelming holiday moments.
Sample Progress Note: The focus of the session was (tailor based on treatment plan). The therapist taught a breathing exercise for the child to utilize during stressful or overwhelming moments. The child (was/was not) engaged in this practice).
Couples strategy of the week:
Determining How Much to Spend During the Holidays: Couples sometimes have different ideas about how much money is “appropriate” to spend on holidays, gifts, and decorations. Not surprisingly, money is one of the most common issues that couples disagree about. What might be surprising is that these disagreements may not actually be about money at all; instead they may be about what money means for each person. To begin finding a holiday spending plan that works for both of you, start by talking about what money means to each of you and why. Some questions to get you started:
What did you learn about money growing up? How did you learn it?
What does money represent for you? Some examples include security, the ability to provide for others, comfort, education, the ability to have unique experiences. However, there are hundreds of things that money can represent!
What is the most important thing during the holidays that you want to spend money on? What makes it important?
How can you create a spending plan that respects both your values around money and the holidays?
Sample Progress Note: The focus of this session was… The therapist helped the couple improve their communication skills and explore their values related to finances and the holidays. The couple was (able to/not able to) communicate effectively while discussing finances and the holidays, and they reported that discussing this topic was (helpful/challenging/etc.)
Adult strategy of the week:
Gratitude During the Holidays: This year, holiday celebrations are likely different than in past years. In addition to acknowledging whatever emotions come up for you during the holidays this year, another helpful thing can be practicing gratitude. A growing body of research has shown that people who engage in gratitude practices (even during the COVID-19 pandemic) have higher wellbeing and vitality than those who do not. To get you started, the following website has a great list of ideas about ways to practice gratitude individually or with loved ones: https://daringtolivefully.com/gratitude-exercises
Sample Progress Note: The focus of this session was… The therapist helped the client explore their emotions related to upcoming holidays, as well as explore ways to practice gratitude to enhance their sense of wellbeing. The client was (able to/somewhat able to/etc) identify and express their emotions in session, and they reported that exploring ways to practice gratitude was (helpful/boring/etc.)
Mindfulness/Meditation of the week:
Three Minute Breathing Space: “In mindfulness training, the Three Minute Breathing Space is taught as a practical, effective tool to manage stress, feel more centered – and, as we come out of Automatic Pilot, be more in control of our responses. The Breathing Space offers a way to reconnect with the present moment, and to your experience. It can be practiced anywhere, at any time, and doesn’t need to be three minutes – this is just a guide.”
Sample Progress Note: The focus of this session was… The therapist led a mindfulness activity (Three Minute Breathing Space). Ct. (engaged/did not engage in the activity), and they reported that the mindfulness activity was (helpful/difficult/not helpful).
Sit or stand with a tall spine. Close your eyes or keep a soft half gaze. Feel the body grounded.
Begin to notice the nature of your current experience: begin to tune in with your bodily sensations, your thoughts and feelings.
Notice the texture of your experience without becoming drawn into it, or pushing it away. Become a quiet observer, just noticing.
Come gently back to this broad, soft awareness, whenever you notice you are becoming entangled with thoughts or worries.
After a minute or so, gently redirect your attention to your breath – to each inbreath, and to each outbreath.
Again, just notice your breathing: its speed, texture, quality; and where you can feel the breath most alive in the body. Your breath is an anchor to bring you back to the present.
Keep coming back to the sensation of the breath, whenever you become aware of being distracted. Do this with kindness, without judgement.
Expand the field of your awareness around your breathing, so that you become aware of your whole body: your posture, breath, facial expression.
Gently broaden out this awareness to notice the nature of your whole experience. Hold everything in your awareness with equanimity.
Do this practice at any time in the day, or night, when you feel you could benefit from feeling more grounded and relaxed. Think of the Three Minute Breathing Space as a habit; to form a tool to help your find more space in your thoughts and emotions, and perhaps a greater lightness of being.
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