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No Straight Path

What lists can teach me

Lists are an excellent way to quickly gather information, and then be able to respond. When we make lists we don’t place judgment on what’s being written or stated, we merely include it for review. Lists are a great way to begin to gain self-knowledge and assess our own responses and reactions to different situations.
Example prompts:
• What makes me angry
• What me sad
• Guilty pleasures
• Irrational fears or pet peeves
• What makes me lonely
• What makes me feel good
• What makes me trust another person
• Things I accept as fact
• Hiking trails close to me
• Yoga poses
• Foods that bring me comfort
• Things that make me feel disrespected

Percentage Check In

Most of us multitask and space out regularly. Trying to be somewhere fully can be a big challenge. Checking in on where our attention is, knowing what our focus is split between, and where and what we want to be doing can instruct us on the self-care we need.
Directions:
Respond to the following prompt: what percentage of me is here, and where is the rest of me?
Example:
20% of me is at work
30% of me is asleep
20% of me is thinking about a fight I had
30% is outside running
Self-care: Take the time to go running

Vision Board

There is a belief that we have the ability to create our own realities. We can turn our attention to what we want, what we believe in, and what we hope for and create those things in our reality.
Directions:
Collect all sorts of magazines, quotes, art supplies, scissors, glue, paper, glitter, ribbon, photos, etc. On a canvas or poster board represent your own dreams. This can include favorite places or things, good memories, goals and aspirations, words and phrases, abstract designs. Create an image for what you envision so that it can be stored in your mind’s eye. Glance at your vision board the next time you need inspiration, rest or reassurance.

Artist game

Relating to ourselves as creators is a healthy expression of power and creativity. Art gives us an opportunity to break rules, daydream and build, which can be a source of healing and joy.

Directions: Get a piece of paper and a pencil. In 5 minutes draw a picture that conveys who you are, what you are thinking, or how you are feeling without writing any words or numbers. If you do this exercise with a group, at the end of 5 minutes your picture will be collected. The pictures will be shown to the group one at a time to try and guess who drew it. Each of the artists will be invited to introduce themselves and explain their work. If you choose to do this independently, still take the time to reflect on what you created and what you observe in your artwork.

Six word story

When our thoughts are racing or cluttered, it can be helpful to have a word limit that isolates our main idea. One technique is to write a six-word story. The words can comprise a phrase or be separate words or concepts. The sentence can provide a definition, a response to a question or critique, or center reflection on an event or topic.

Directions:

Each person must summarize their feelings about a question posed or focused on a certain topic in six words. These six word stories are then read or said aloud to the group. Use this practice to help prepare for an important conversation, to center your mind, or to organize your thoughts before writing or journaling.

Example words: ready, anger, identity, loss, leadership, broken, lost, recovery, fear, trauma, lesson, addiction

Rape of the Spirit

*Inspired by the writing of Margaret Cho in Yes Means Yes
“…Rape of the Spirit—a dishonest portrayal or distortion of my own desire in order to appease another person…”
Directions:
Identify the ways that you suppress your own needs and desires. Think of all of the times that you have said yes this week without meaning it. Consider why, and consider how that impacts you.
Affirmation: I affirm that I will say yes when I mean to say yes, I affirm that I will say yes when I really want to say yes

13 ways to self-sooth through touch

Tactile experiences—things that we can touch and feel with our hands-- help both to ground the body and release pent up energy. Identify at least one technique to incorporate into your self care.
1) Creating a water table
2) Kneading playdough
3) Kneading dough
4) Taking a pottery class
5) Playing in a sand box
6) Gardening
7) Washing dishes
8) Cooking
9) Finger painting
10) Coloring with chalk
11) Ripping paper
12) Woodworking
13) Walking a labyrinth barefoot
14) Baking

Inside My Head

This is an exercise to organize your thoughts, refocus attention, and release whatever thoughts are unhelpful. This can be used if you are worried, frustrated, distracted, disappointed in yourself, or just to reflect on your day. Use this picture to visualize what is going on inside your head. This is also a way to nonverbally communicate to someone what is going on in the moments when that feels more comfortable.

Directions:
Take a sheet of paper and draw what your brain looks like at this moment. Include what you’re focused on, what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. This is a great mental check in to do independently or to discuss and share in small groups.

Homemade Journals

Journaling is a safe outlet for self-reflection and honest insight. Here are two examples of ways to make your own journal.
Example 1:
Materials-magazines, scissors, tissue paper, newspaper, glue, stickers, stamps, foam brush, mod podge, composition notebook
Directions-Take a composition notebook and paint the front and back covers with mod podge. Take clippings from magazines, cut out shapes and patterns, and use various mediums to fill the surface. When you are finished, seal the cover with mod podge to give it a smooth shine finish.
Example 2:
Materials-cardstock, white paper, colored paper, needle, embroidery floss
Directions- (To make a 4 ¼ by 5 ½ journal-use 8 ½ by 11 paper)
Take a piece of card stock paper and fold it in half on the long side. Depending on how thick you want your journal, continue to fold each piece of paper in half, no more than four or five sheets at a time. Take your needle and punch two or three holes in the inside seam along the fold crease. Take the embroidery floss and fold it in half so you can tie a knot (thread through needle before tying). Lace the embroidery floss through the holes you punched, then tie to bind the pages together.
Example uses: Add quotes, Create a sketchbook, Collect photos, Take notes, Record trips, memories, daily events, dreams, hopes, goals, prayers

Embracing Poetry

Poetry is commonly referenced as a universal language, similar to music and other expressions of art. Poems are able to get close to an experience, evoking an image that captures the depth of emotion, memory, loss, the human experience, the majesty and heartbreak in the world. For those of us who don’t relate to formal writing and are in need of a release, poetry can serve to give voice to trauma and the fits and starts of recovery and healing.
Tips:
• Approach the poem indirectly-craft it as a letter, recipe, list, prayer, rant, conversation, dream, etc.
• Experiment with point of view-write as a character, parent, friend, stranger, celebrity, sibling, pet
• Seek inspiration—go on a fieldtrip, watch a movie, read other poems, listen to performed poetry, people watch
• Free write
• Observe everything
• Respond to an image, current event, memory, emotion, quote
• Make a list of questions—respond to one
• Take a body scan—chart your feelings and sensations; record how people and places make you feel

Luminaries

Making things with our hands is one way of staying aware of our bodies. Art often provides an outlet for invention and release. One art project that is easy to complete, uses few materials, and has few instructions is called a luminary.
Materials: Empty jar, foam brush, mod podge, and tissue paper
Directions:
• Use your brush to paint the outside of the jar with mod podge
• Rip the tissue paper into small pieces of various colors and shapes to place on the jar; it will resemble stain glass
• Use the mod podge to seal the tissue paper, painting over it
Example uses: Fill the jar with a candle, use it to collect one thing that brought you joy during the day, fill it with affirmations, prayer requests or things that you are grateful for

Progressive story

Story telling is a tool for building cohesion and depth in a group, allowing for more intentional sharing and participation. The progressive story format serves as an emotional check in that is facilitated and then debriefed. The progressive story can also have a targeted theme.

Directions:

For this exercise, a group of people must know one another and feel comfortable discussing personal issues. Everyone must be able to hear the other members in the group, but people do not have to see one another. The facilitator begins the story by setting the initial scene and mood. (The mood will alter as a result of the addition of more content to the story.) Each person will contribute at least one sentence to add another element to the plot. The main point is to make sure everyone adds something. The progression of the story indicates where the group members are emotionally and is representative of what is high on their lists of priorities, concerns, and thoughts. This exercise is a creative form of expression to reveal a group’s collective state of mind. The facilitator plays a big role in interpreting what each person says.

Example starting prompts:
“This weekend I…”
“I got a call last night from…”
“When my alarm went off I was dreaming about…”
“My first thought today was…”
“I thought about driving to…”

Grounding that works

Grounding refers to any strategy that re-attaches us to our bodies and the natural world. There are tons of approaches and explanations for what works and why, but the most important question is, “what works for you?”
Directions:
Create a list of at least five grounding techniques that work for you; write them somewhere that you can carry with you and use when you start to feel numb or disconnected, or if feel yourself re-experiencing a traumatic memory.
Consider the following questions:
What are examples of textures, tastes, sounds, images and smells that soothe me?
Where do I feel safe?
Do I need to make a list? What will distract me?
What is a phrase I can repeat to myself? A song I can sing?
What object do I connect to?
How can I connect to a natural element-take my shoes off, touch my hair, run my hands under water, stand up?
Am I breathing? What will remind me to breathe?

Fear is...

Fear is a rational and universal emotion that everyone feels, even if we do not show it every day. Fears can have a lot of power over us and keep us in a state of crisis and immobility. Naming our fears is one way of reducing the strength they carry.

Materials: Pieces of paper, pencils

Directions:
Write down one fear that you have (spiders, heights, death, being alone, etc). Read your fear out loud to yourself. If you feel comfortable, share it with someone else. Ask at least one other person to name something that scares them. Allow yourself to know that it is normal to be afraid sometimes, and remember that we all have them.

"I dream of..."

Directions:
Select a canvas to be a blank vision board for a group. Fill it with words or pictures that express dreams—your dreams, dreams for the communities that you belong to, dreams for the world, dreams that others have for you, dreams for the future. Allow your mind to dwell on all that is possible, and take a moment to record what it is that you imagine.

Consent Slips: I have the right

*Adapted from Breñe Brown’s concept of permission slips
A consent slip is a permission you grant yourself. It is also a way of reminding ourselves that what we need and want is important, and that we have the right to make choices freely. For example, “I give myself consent to ask that others not touch me”, “I give myself consent to be ambitious”, or “I have the right to say no”, “I have the right to make time to do art”, etc.
Affirmation: I give myself consent to ask for help. I give myself consent to need more time.

The Truth About Myself

Directions:
Identify a jar that you can use and keep by your bed. Establish a routine at the beginning and end of your day of writing a note to place in your jar. Write one thing that you know to be true about yourself, paying special attention to the parts of yourself that are in need of confidence, support, praise, gratitude, or just attention. Give yourself positive attention. Begin and end your day with your mind focused on your worth and what you love about yourself.

Body Care

Exercise is one of the most effective and universal ways to relieve stress and regulate moods. Exercise helps with issues of sleeping, restless energy and anxiety relief. It can be a great way to reconnect with one’s body, to affirm the body’s intelligence and need for care, and restore a feeling of power and control. Below is a list of common types of exercise that can relieve stress; try to commit to engaging in at least one form of exercise a week.
Examples: Zumba, Running, Walking, Hiking, Skipping, Dancing, Gymnastics, Roller Skating, Rock Climbing, Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, Martial Arts, Kick Boxing, Team Sports, Bike Riding, Jump roping, Pole dancing, Swimming, Gardening, Kayaking, Weight Training, Spin Classes, Tennis, Stretching, Ultimate Frisbee
Affirmation: I affirm that my body wants to move. I affirm that exercise is energizing. I affirm that my physical health is important.

Personal Definitions

Many of us believe that what a word means is universal. We assume that we are referring to the same thing when we use the same word. Often though, definitions are nuanced and used differently by different people, and this can prevent us from hearing someone’s point or being heard ourselves. This exercise asks you to think about what you mean when you use a word so that you can say what you mean.
Directions:
Make a list of five or ten words that you use regularly, or that carry significant meaning for you. Write a definition for each word that conveys the meaning and associations you assign to it.
Example words: ready, safe, abuse, choice, freedom, anger, curiosity, fact, body, reality, crazy, consent, appropriate, happy, belief, prejudice, privilege, child, etc.
Example definition: choice is a verb and a noun; to choose is to make a selection, to assign preference, to decide freely, to say yes to something and no to something else

Body Scan

We tend to take our bodies for granted until something is wrong with them. We begrudge what they can’t do and neglect to let our bodies rest and tell us how we’re doing. One of the best ways to care for our bodies is to simply check in with them and observe.
Directions:
Take a minute to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Starting with your forehead, notice how your body feels. What temperature is it? What sensations are you experiencing? Is your heart racing? Continue with this train of thought throughout your body as you collect information about how your body is feeling, how comfortable you are, and what you might need to keep doing or stop doing to feel at ease in this moment. If you can, get in the habit of taking body scans at least once a day, especially if and when you are feeling anxious or fearful.
Ex) my heart is racing, my skin is cold, my ears are ringing, my vision is blurry, my chest feels tight, my stomach hurts, and my legs are restless

Letter to Self

We can get into the habit of relying on others to tell us the things we most need to hear. We can get stuck in that dependence and fixate on questions of our worth. This exercise is an opportunity to give ourselves the affirmation we are seeking.
Directions:
Find a piece of paper or stationary and an envelope. Write at the top, “Dear (your name)”, and begin to write a letter to yourself. It can be as long or as short as you’d like, but it should be positive. Tell yourself something you need to hear, give yourself a compliment, and offer encouragement. When you’re finished, place it in an envelope, address it, and mail it to yourself.

Soothing scents

Smell is an evocative tool that can be harnessed to restore a sense of calm and peacefulness when we’re overwhelmed. Smell can serve as a grounding technique, helping us to associate smells with safety and form memories that allow us to stay connected to our bodies when faced with a trigger. Below is a sampling of natural scents. Take the time to identify at least two that are personally soothing. If possible, keep one handy during the day as a tool for dealing with triggers. Consider adding an aroma therapist to your list of resources.
Examples of scents:
Honey, vanilla, sandalwood, rose, rosemary, peppermint, sage, lemon, lavender, jasmine, beach walk, eucalyptus, bergamot, spearmint, cherry blossom, cinnamon, coconut, citrus basil, apple blossom, cucumber melon, gardenia, ginger, Georgia peach, green tea, lemongrass, lime, lilac, orange blossom, rain, honeysuckle

Word Association

We are excellent at organizing thoughts and grouping ideas together, sometimes in ways that don’t make sense and that we don’t even realize. Realizing what ideas are coupled in our minds can provide valuable information for self and group reflection.
Directions:
Select a word or two that you want to focus on. Write it on a big piece of paper-a dry erase board, flip chart, or a chalkboard. Set a timer for five to ten minutes. Spend that time writing your immediate associations with that word, not editing what you write down or spending a lot of time thinking about it. When the timer goes off, take a look at what you wrote. Circle anything that confuses you. See if you can notice patterns, inconsistencies, experiences or individuals that have informed these associations. Turn the paper over, or erase the board, and write two or three associations that you want to have with that word. Write them down somewhere visible as a reminder.
Example words: trust, safety, love, anger, sex, violence, health, God, parent, friend, good, identity, panic, wanted, shame, community, commitment

Mantras

The words and stories that we tell ourselves are powerful, and they shape how we feel and what we believe. A mantra is a word, sound or phrase that is recited repetitively as a tool for meditation, concentration or sometimes as a self-soothing technique.
Directions:
Identify at least one mantra that has meaning to you—something that you want to cultivate in yourself, something that you want to feel more of, an image or truth that is comforting or relatable. At least once a day, spend some time reciting your mantra to yourself—out loud, in your head, with someone else, write it down. Allow yourself to sense the words coming out of your mouth and be affected by what you say to yourself.
Examples:
I let go, I let go, I let go, I let go
I am enough, I am enough, I am enough
I am safe, I am safe, I am safe
Change is good, change is good, change is good
Breathe, breathe, breathe

What do I need?

For many of us, it is a challenge to know what we need and to know how to meet our own needs. This exercise is an opportunity to ask the question “what do I value?”
Directions:
Brainstorm a list of values: personality traits, roles and responsibilities, relationships, faith traditions, educational fields, pastimes, virtues, etc. Once you have a good sized list, circle three to five things. What you circle will provide examples of what is important to you, or what you assign value to.
For the second part of the activity, write each word or phrase on a new sheet of paper. For each one, make a list of what you would need to meet that value in your life. The goal is for your list of values to help you to recognize and name your needs, and to begin to consider your needs when you make decisions.
Example:
What I value-growth
What I need-mentorship, freedom at work, trusting relationships, skill building, connection to a purpose, time to be alone, exercise

Knowing My Boundaries: My Traffic Light Exercise

A boundary is a dividing line, a signal for where one’s limits are placed. When we know what our boundaries are, we are better able to communicate them to others and to believe that they will be respected.
Directions:
Draw three circles: one green, one yellow and one red. Write beside the green circle ‘things I will do’, write beside the yellow circle ‘things I might do’ and write beside the red circle ‘things I won’t do’. If you’d like to use additional colors and categories feel free as well. You can create traffic lights for specific topics, e.g. my sexual traffic light, my work traffic light, my family traffic light, my vacation traffic light, or you can make a traffic light that is more general. Perhaps your boundaries are more fluid and this exercise can be a daily routine. The goal is to identify for yourself what your boundaries are, and to practice communicating them to yourself and others.
Ex) Things I will do: Ask for help; Take breaks during the day
Things I might do: Introduce myself to a stranger; Make myself breakfast
Things I won’t do: Spend time alone with people who make me uncomfortable; Raise my voice in anger

Circles of Sexuality

*Inspired by Dr. Dennis Dailey’s “Model of Sexual Being”

*Inspired by Dr. Dennis Dailey’s “Model of Sexual Being”
In Public Health there are typically five aspects of sexuality identified: Sensuality, Intimacy, Sexual Identity, Sexual Health and Reproduction, and Sexualization. The messages we receive about each aspect of sexuality collectively inform our sexual knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.
Directions:
Draw five circles, allowing each circle to overlap with another circle on either side. Write one of the following words-sensuality, intimacy, sexual identity, sexual health and reproduction, and sexualization-next to each circle. Reflect on the messages that you received about sex, and place them in the appropriate circle. This can include what these words mean to you, and if they’re familiar or new. Reflect also on what questions you still have. The goal of this exercise is to observe what we’ve been taught about sexuality and how that impacts us.
Ex) Sensuality: my partner’s desires are more important than mine
Intimacy: sex is a way to express love
Sexual Health and Reproduction: it is important to anticipate risks associated with having sex and plan ahead
Sexual Identity: identity is diverse and numerous in expression
Sexualization: sex can be used to control or hurt another person

Free Write

On an average day, there are many occasions to self police what we say and do. We rarely have the opportunity to freely express ourselves or to un-clutter our thoughts. This is an outlet for just that.
Directions:
Set a timer for ten to fifteen minutes. Until the timer goes off, write without stopping or picking up your pen from the paper. Write words, sentences, sounds, song lyrics, math equations, definitions, poem lines, recipes, repetitions, etc, only do not erase or stop writing. Your writing can be a story, a series of related thoughts, or merely words that were on your mind. When the timer goes off, stop writing and if you choose read what you wrote. Perhaps a theme will appear or a line will stand out to you surprisingly. You can also simply throw it away, or tear it up. Either way, don’t make changes or judge the quality of what you wrote.

Finding Joy

Our brains are really good at identifying threat and danger, sometimes at the expense of helping us notice what brings us joy. This exercise is an intentional time to record examples of things that make you laugh, smile and feel connected to others, and to store them in your consciousness.
Directions:
Spend a few moments in a quiet place, maybe closing your eyes or taking a few breaths. From that calm place, write down as many examples of things that make you happy as you can think of. You can write several in one sitting, or you can identify a certain number to add to your list every day. Keep it somewhere accessible so that you can reference it as a reminder.
Ex) Being barefoot, lying in the grass, sleeping in, visiting an old friend, hearing a baby laugh, winning a game, singing in the car, etc.

Communication Norms

Similar to boundary setting, communicating with others in healthy and consistent ways can be a challenge. A communication norm is a precedent for how we want to speak to others and be spoken to. Establishing a rhythm or an intention for healthy conversation allows for better listening and trusted relationships.
Directions:
Take a few minutes to brainstorm some of your pet peeves or frustration triggers when communicating with others. Next, write the opposite behavior next to each pet peeve. Consider those inverse behaviors a template for the norms you want to establish. Those norms both indicate how you will respond when someone frustrates you, and how you will ask to be spoken to by others.
Ex) I will wait at least fifteen to thirty seconds after someone makes a point before I respond; I will practice repeating back to someone what I heard them say; I will keep my tone of voice consistent and choose my words consciously; I will walk away

Piece of the Puzzle

Directions: Cut a puzzle out of poster paper. Decorate or write o each piece one part of your identity and what you think of that part of yourself. Then assemble the puzzle. What do you see? What stands out to you? What do you think about the whole?

Consider some of the following prompts:
“I want to know more about…”
“I want to better understand why I…”
“I want to like _____ about myself…”
“If ____ were not true, I wouldn’t know/have ______”
“I wonder about….”
“I worry about….”
“I get excited when….”
“I was told ______ about myself…”
“I have learned….”

Mirror Affirmations

Looking at yourself in the mirror can feel uncomfortable, upsetting, or awkward. Our first thought might be to notice what we don’t like about ourselves, what we want to change, what we’ve been told by other people. It requires self-discipline and practice to affirm images of our selves.
Directions:
Find a full-length mirror and a dry erase marker. When you’re by yourself, stand or sit in front of the mirror holding the marker. Write something you like or something that you are thankful for, about each part of your body, even if you don’t believe it or you feel silly as you write it. When you’re finished, read what you wrote out loud. Hear yourself speak kind words about yourself, and suspend your desire to criticize.

Super-self Portrait

This is a game for relaxation and laughter, especially when you’re feeling helpless, exhausted and are ready to give up. Sometimes a super power is getting out of bed every day, talking to a stranger, telling someone what you need, communicating a boundary, going to therapy or showering. Celebrate those victories and motivate yourself to keep going. Plan to have the powers that feel the most unrealistic.
Directions:
Go off into a corner of the room with a sheet of paper and something colorful to draw with, like crayons or markers. Think of a super power or multiple superpowers and draw yourself as a superhero (or villain) with those powers. Silliness is key here, go all out and make it as fun as you can. Display your super self-portrait somewhere where you can see it.

Tonglen Meditation: Sending and Receiving

The Tonglen Meditation is a spiritual discipline rooted in Tibetan Buddhism. It is an example of a breathing meditation that is used to teach us to be present with suffering as we give and receive compassion. The Tonglen Meditation is a means of opening oneself in order to be present to the hurt of the world-- beginning with us, in order to become steadfast in sending out compassionate love. When an environment feels toxic, breathing out compassion allows us to not only absorb and react to the negative energy of others.
Directions:
Step 1: Breathe in your own suffering. Feel the heaviness, the unbearable-ness, remain and expand. Breathe in.
Step 2: Breathe out your own joy. Transmit light, warmth, all that you would like to see expressed. Contract. Feel joy. Breathe out.
Step 3: Breathe in the suffering of others. Breathe out joy for others. Breathe out joy for the world. Acknowledge the dark. Send forth light.

Music and Sound

The five senses are resources for self-soothing, stress management, and self-knowledge. The body communicates to us through our senses, and we form memories and positive and negative associations to different sounds, sights, smells, tastes and feelings. Of those five, sound is easily portable and can be helpful for things like commuting, studying, waiting and distracting or altering our moods.
Directions:
Spend time listening to different songs and sounds. Record in a journal what you like and how the sound or song makes you feel when you hear it. Create a play list that you can travel with that includes a label for the effect the sound has on you.
Ex) Running water; effect: reminds me to breathe/not hold my breath when panicked

Interviewing and introducing

This exercise is a great way to practice active listening. It can also help you become comfortable with receiving attention or working in small groups or pairs.

Directions:

The goal is to learn enough about one other person to be able to introduce them to the entire group. Pair off with someone that you do not know and take turns interviewing each other. After about five minutes, each pair will return to the large group to introduce their partner to the whole group based on what they learned. This is a great way to rehearse getting to know new people, remaining present, managing group anxiety and talking about you.

Centering Prayer

Centering prayer, also considered silent meditation, is a mindfulness technique for focusing the mind and stilling the body. It is used as a way of practicing quieting the mind and bringing attention to something calming.
Directions:
Identify a length of time that feels comfortable, typically 10-20 minutes, in which to be silent and still. Identify a word, or two words, that will serve to focus your period of silent reflection. You will repeat this word to yourself when you feel your mind wandering. Some people find it helpful to play music or a sound in the background as a form of white noise. Select a position that you can comfortably sit or lie in for at least ten minutes. Centering prayer is a great routine to begin or end your day with, or to use before you become anxious or overwhelmed.

“Wellness Mapping”

*Inspired by the Icarus Project’s vision of radical mental health
Wellness Mapping is an adaptation on Madness Mapping, and is intended as a way of action planning for mental health crises and natural responses to trauma and coping. It is one version of a self-care plan.
Example Plan Components: Dissociation, Triggers, Self-Harm, Isolation, Mania
Directions:
• Create a checklist for signs of mental and physical wellness
• Create a list of coping mechanisms ranked from 1-10 to indicate level of desperation that it signals
• Create a chain of events/responses for “plan components” that are personal to you
• Anticipate common traps
• Make a list of specific things others can and can’t do for you; ex) touch you without permission, remind you to get enough sleep, go for a run with you, etc.
• Tell at least two people to give you additional support and accountability
• Include a daily checklist of ways to change your mood and energy level

Scars

Scars are the residues of ways that we’ve been hurt or wounded. They fade into our bodies and experiences, but they serve as a reminder that we were impacted. Scars hold memories and disappointment, but they also allow us to know that we are resilient and strong.

Directions: This activity can be done by yourself or with others. If you choose to do it by yourself, use a mirror and dry erase marker to write down places you feel scarred. Consider the stories behind your scar, whether they are physical, relational, emotional, spiritual, or internalized. For each scar, write one way that you have healed so far. Notice the ways that you have grown and how the body cares for itself. Hold your healing as equally real as the scar, and give yourself credit for moving forward despite pain.

Consent is...

Directions:
Hang a clothesline along a wall. Gather clothespins and different shades of origami paper, along with different mediums of art. (Markers, crayons, glue, etc.) Express with words or pictures what consent means to you, something weighing on your heart, a question or hope to express out loud. When you finish, hang your paper from one of the clothespins. As you have new questions and understandings, add to the collection to observe the countless manifestations of consent that we experience and wrestle with.

For the World

Sometimes as we go through the day we forget that the earth is a being we can touch, see and interact with. At a sand box, a body of water, a garden, or patch of grass, allow your fingers to touch the surface. Fully immerse your hands as you reflect on something you long for, something the world is teaching you, or somewhere in the world that is in need of care. Summon your attention there, and receive that longing in your heart. In you feel comfortable, express this desire out loud.
Affirmation: Thank you that I am a being with desires. Thank you for the hugeness of life.

The Examen: A Tool for Daily Discernment

*An adaptation of the Ignation spiritual discipline from the Jesuit tradition
The Examen is a mindfulness technique inspired by the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is used as an instrument for increased self-awareness and guided reflection on your day. While typically used in the Jesuit tradition, the technique provides a five-step template for a mindfulness routine that is straightforward and easy to use. The Examen considers the ebbs and flows of your experiences and emotions.
Directions:
Step 1-Calm yourself
Take steps to center your self and quiet your mind and body
Step 2-Give thanks
List at least three things you are thankful for today
Step 3-Review your day
List some feelings from today and what caused them
Step 4-Focus on shortcomings
Think through your failures from the day, and identify at least one that you would like to learn from
Step 5-Look toward tomorrow
Consider the lesson you want to learn from today, and ask that what you’ve learn help you live tomorrow better than today
Affirm what you intend to do better tomorrow and name what you need

Forgiveness Slips

*Adapted from Breñe Brown’s concept of permission slips
Offering forgiveness is a way of extending compassion to ourselves and releasing ourselves from the shame of being imperfect or not always doing the right thing. It is a way of allowing yourself to try again after making mistakes, times of failure, and when you have hurt yourself and people you care about.
For example, “I forgive myself for pushing people away”, “I forgive myself for not proofreading that email”, and “I forgive myself for feeling frustrated”.
Affirmation: I forgive myself for healing imperfectly. I forgive myself for moving backwards.

Journal Prompts

Journaling is a universal outlet for our internal thoughts and feelings. To get started, consider one of the following prompts.
1) Emotion Mapping: “I feel…in my body”
2) I have faith in
3) I cannot control
4) Healing is
5) I have learned
6) I judge myself when
7) I am silent when
8) I feel vulnerable when
9) What if
10) I am proud when

Comfort Circles

Directions:
Place two circles of different sizes on the ground resembling a bulls-eye. After each prompted statement is read, step to the place representing your level of comfort-- the innermost circle represents where you feel completely safe, and the outer circle represents where you feel threatened. This is a great exercise for identifying triggering situations and events, as well as for identifying what resources-people, places, activities, etc. that you have available for self soothing.

Commonalities

When we feel hurt, sad, and angry or betrayed, we naturally withdraw and isolate from others. We hear only our own voice on repeat, and imagine that we are unlovable, abandoned, different, or on our own. When we can see that we are connected to others, we begin to develop lasting relationships and positive self-images.

Materials: carpet squares, chairs or pieces of paper

A group of people will get into a circle and one person will be chosen to be in the middle of the circle. There should be one fewer chair than number of people to account for the person in the middle. This game is kind of like musical chairs. The person who is in the middle will say their name and then something about them or something they have done. The only rule is that the statement must be true—for example I hate winter, I like to sing, I’m afraid of snakes, etc. Anyone in the circle who has the same thing in common will run out of their spot in the circle and find another spot. Whoever gets stuck in the middle has to go next. You can make this game a little more complicated by having 2 people in the middle (remember to take away an extra square). Those two people must find something they have in common such as “we have older brothers”. The game provides an opportunity to be playful and safely vulnerable with others while learning how much you have in common.

Discovering Ritual

Ritual is a way of honoring moments, events, people and experiences that hold significance in our lives. In many faith traditions, during times of transition, in marking rites of passage, a ritual is often used to memorialize a milestone. Creating a personal ritual can be an instrument of healing. Rituals can serve as daily routines or can happen only once. They can be performed alone or with others, pre-planned or spontaneous, consisting of constant or changing aspects.
Directions:
Identify a goal you have for a personal ritual, or multiple goals for multiple rituals. For example, in anticipation of grief or a known trigger, you may decide to plan a ritual to honor the impact of that event or date, or simply give yourself intentional room to feel emotional. After identifying a goal, name whom if anyone you want present. Name a location and time of day. Select a date, or series of dates and commit to formally observing your ritual. Choose whether you want to create a ritual by yourself or with the help of a trusted group. Once you know those things, begin to brainstorm images, sensations, words and objects that are meaningful or comforting to you. This may include a poem or sacred text, a candle or incense, a photograph or piece of artwork, a dance or body movement. After you select what you want to include, begin to create an outline to record your intentions. The hope is that you feel a sense of creativity and connection in the preparation process. If your goals or desires change, feel free to listen and begin again.
Ex uses) Anniversaries of significant dates, after a loss, in celebration of growth, to acknowledge a risk being taken, to express gratitude or hope, to restore relationship to a person or place, to let go or reclaim

Reclaiming Sleep

Rest and relaxation are essential for health, yet it is hard to sustain or establish a good relationship with sleep. Whether we toss and turn, experience anxiety or nightmares, can’t turn our minds off, or feel lethargic and fatigued, figuring out a sleep routine can provide assistance.
Directions:
Make a commitment to experimenting with a sleep routine for at least two weeks. If possible, this may include going to sleep at a consistent time and developing a nightly practice for how you will spend the thirty minutes before you go to bed. Limiting the amount of time you spend in bed to do other things is one way of allowing your brain to unwind and associate your bed with going to sleep. Create step-by-step instructions that are written down and can be displayed for reference.
Ex) Steps: Take a shower. Turn on a sound machine. Turn my phone/electronics off. Dim the lights. Read for fifteen minutes. Take three minutes to complete a free write. Turn off all lights. Get into bed.

Masks

We wear a lot of masks in life to survive, hide and fit in. Sometimes we identify with our masks so strongly, that we struggle to take them off even when we are alone. This is an exercise to practice seeing who you are when you’re not wearing a mask.

Directions:

Find a piece of paper (preferably poster board). Cut out a face shape (that is fairly large - like the size of a regular face). Cut out eyes and a mouth if you would like. Decorate the face. On one side, illustrate what you feel people see/know/believe about you (on the outside). On the other side, illustrate what you believe and value about yourself. These don’t have to be true things or anything you’ve shared with someone else before. When you’re finished, look at both sides and look for themes—what is different? What is the same? What surprises you?

My Best Self—A guided reflection

Directions:
• Remember a time when you felt the most confident and fulfilled. Select three words to describe yourself at that time.
• Give an example of how that description was evident.
• Next, list three factors that allowed you to feel or act in those ways.
• List three needs of yours that were met.
• Describe how other people related to you; how would someone have described you?
• Consider what is required in order for you feel that way again. What do you need? What needs to change? What factors are the same or different?

2 truths and a lie

This game is often used as an icebreaker activity, but for the purpose of this exercise try playing it independently. The goal is to expose areas of self-deception, false beliefs, and areas of growth.

Directions: Write down a list of at least three things that you have said about yourself. With a different color marker or pen, cross off any statement that is not true, that you do not believe, or that you want to change. Use this exercise to practice being honest with yourself and gathering insight on what you communicate about yourself to others.

Back Talk

It is common to default to the extremes of codependence or independence in our relationships, relying on each other to meet all of our needs, or not allowing anyone else to help care for us. This is a game to practice being interdependent toward a shared goal, as well as to practice trust and consensual touch.

Materials: Whiteboard and marker or pen and paper

Directions:

The objective is to correctly draw the image on the board. The game is played in teams and there is no talking allowed. Each group creates a line. An instructor shows the last person in each group a picture. The last person must then use their finger to draw the picture on the person’s back in front of them. The first group to get the message back to the first person correctly wins. To win the first person must draw what they see on the board or on paper to show the instructor. The team that correctly draws the image first is the winner.

My Mind’s Eye—trying Visualization

Visualization is a common mindfulness exercise that can provide a calming effect. There are a variety of reasons to use visualization, but it is an instrument for focused, guided meditation. Assigning a physical and visual component to describe our experiences can assist us in relating to them as real, and facilitate greater clarity.
Directions:
Find a secluded place to close your eyes and sit or lie down. Consider one of the following prompts:
• My safe place
• My protective, nurturing figure
• My happy place
• A shield
The image can be real or imagined, but concentrate on as much detail as you can. How do you feel, what do you see. Create a full description; consider all of your senses, perhaps pretend that you are there now. What exists in your visualization that you can use in your everyday life?

Signs

Signs is an excellent game for team building, energizing, strengthening observation skills, and for using forms of nonverbal communication.

Directions:
Signs is a game of invisible catch. Each player selects a body movement or symbol as their own personal signal. The first player makes their sign and then the sign of another person to whom they want to throw the ball. In order to receive the ball, that player will make their sign to indicate that they are now in possession of the ball. The players stand in a circle where they can see all of the other players as they make their sign. One player tries to guess who is in possession of the ball while the group tries to move the ball fast enough to confuse the guesser. If the person guesses correctly, the player in possession of the ball becomes the new guesser. That person leaves the circle while the group decides a new person to start with the ball. The game is an excellent distraction from anxiety and a way to relieve stress.

Sign examples: Gesturing Whiskers, Gesturing antlers, a peace sign, making a fist, shaking your foot, etc.

Telephone Pictionary

We sometimes need help laughing at miscommunication, noticing different interpretations, and appreciating the unique and sometimes strange associations we have with pictures and words. This game encourages that we not take ourselves too seriously, and asks that we forgive ourselves when we misunderstand each other. Too, our brains often store trauma memories in confusing ways, and it requires some patience to arrive at new understandings.
Directions:
Gather together a group of five to seven people. Sit together facing each other (preferably in a circle at a table) with each person equipped with an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper and a pencil.
At the top of the paper, each person begins by writing a sentence. After everyone is finished writing, pass the paper clockwise. With new papers, everyone begins a drawing directly below the sentence to (try to) conceptualize it.
Once done, fold the paper so it hides the sentence above and then pass it on. The next person should see only the drawing, and then try to describe it in a sentence as best as possible. Afterward, he or she will fold the paper over the drawing and pass it on so the next person sees neither the first sentence nor the drawing, but only the second sentence. The next person draws based on the second sentence.
Continue this process until everyone receives their original paper. Finally, have everyone reveal each paper’s progression.

Group roles

This exercise allows us to look at the power of group dynamics, and what impact we have on each other when we fill different roles in group settings. Alternatively, use this to reflect individually of the various roles that you occupy when in a group setting, and how you have been responded to.

Directions:

Pass out a card to all participants with a different group persona or personality. For example: the enthusiast, the pessimist, the over contributor. Have each member role play their assigned role in an acted-out group meeting. After a few minutes of acting, guess each person’s role and debrief the impact each had on the group and their productivity.

Mock Trial

We have a lot of scripts, and a lot of assumed truths or positions that we take in an argument. For example, we may have a script that says that we are crazy, or over sensitive, high maintenance, etc. A mock trial is a simulated nuetral platform for hearing from all sides—judges, prosecutors, and defendants.
Directions:
This exercise can be used in a variety of ways, but here are two to start. The first is an independent activity. The next time you have to make a decision, make an argument from every angle. Argue either in favor of the decision or in opposition to the decision, and articulate the reasons the judge sides with either outcome. Read over all of the arguments, and see what you notice. Is the logic fair? Is the decision in your self-interest? What is your gut telling you, and why?
Alternatively, the next time an event happens that is controversial; use this technique with a group of small groups, co-workers, or classmates as a way of promoting healthier dialogue and even participation. Ask each group to practice representing more than one position to ensure that everyone listens to what others have to contribute.

Re-scripting

We are given a lot of messages. We learn how to view ourselves, the roles assigned to us and other people, what is true, what is good, what is right, what is appropriate. We assign authority and truth to these messages. We use these messages to determine how valuable things are. Taking a look at those messages and message sources allows us to decide what we personally value, and what messages we can amplify.
Directions:
Make a list of different roles and significant figures in your life. For each role, list some of the lessons you were taught. For example, if one role is “sister”, a message might be sisters are caregivers, sisters are close, sisters tell each other secrets, etc. For each message, assign a voice or source that enforced that message. If you agree with the message, circle it. You can cross out all other statements. Finally, write a new list that only includes what you personally value and believe. Include the voices you listen to and respect, and the ones that no longer influence you.

Trauma Lessons: What I know for sure

Like all experiences, traumatic experiences can teach us new things about ourselves. You might have insights and wisdom that feels unexplainable to others. As you shed old skins, false beliefs, and uncover questions, take time also to observe what you’ve learned.
Reflection prompt: Things no one told me about trauma
• What I know
• What I don’t know
• Myths
Affirmation: I am teachable. I am teaching. I am wise. I will stay on the journey.

Falling into Recovery

Coping can be a misunderstood and shameful topic to broach in public. We tend to place value on healthy or appropriate ways of coping, and demonize anything that isn’t “good for us”. Self-harm, substance use, risk taking behaviors, sex, perfectionism, over exercise, disordered eating—each of these is an attempt to manage pain and function. All behavior is a way of meeting a need, and no form of coping can be changed or substituted without first understanding what we need, and what a coping mechanism has and is providing.
Directions:
Make a list of your coping mechanisms, anything that you currently use or have used in the past. Describe what that tool offers you-- how you feel before, during and after you use it. What themes do you observe? What needs have been unmet?

We invite you to travel on a path that spans across seasons and unknown journeys. We invite you to keep going, to trust in your tools, to join a community, to receive hope. There is not one path, but many paths, not one answer, but many tools, some that will work, some to reject and outgrow. We seek to reflect back the wisdom survivors have gifted to us and to invite communities to begin to build their own unique toolkits.

Like a watering hole, ‘There is No Straight Path’ can be a source of respite and inspiration. If you click on the spiral you will open activities and reflection prompts, art projects and meditations, grounding techniques and recipes; ideas that can be accessed immediately and provide direction. Come anonymously or communally, frequently or skeptically and see if there is value. We welcome interaction and additional suggestions, and we will continue to build on the wisdom that is collected.

If you are interested in learning more about the resource “No Straight Path”, or would like to recommend an activity, please email alindamood@dcrcc.org directly.