New Moon Series of Self-Care

I can’t believe it’s been over two months since my last post. Clearly life has gotten in the way of blog writing. Now that the Fall season is in full swing, I was able to look back at my last couple of months and notice what’s important to me, what’s missing in my life, what are some things I want to focus on.

So with that in mind, I wanted to bring some intention around my blog writing here – ways that I can both share a bit of me and what i find helpful. Since i focus on how to build a wellness toolkit for trauma survivors and people who are in the throes of new parenthood, I thought I could bring a focus to that.

So I give you the New Moon Self-Care Series. Each month on the new moon, I’m going to share some ideas and thoughts for that moon cycle as well as an expressive arts-based prompt that can help you bring more self-care practice in your daily life. Expressive Arts Therapy is a great way for our bodies to feel the shift in relationship to what our mind is thinking. Because we are actually doing the work of making something with our hands and bodies, it can help feel like you’re integrating those parts of us that can feel so separate. We do not have to be artists in order to do these activities, nor do we need to spend a lot of money on any of the supplies. You can do this from the comfort from your own home, whether it’s in your bed, on your couch or at a table.

As the inaugural month falls on the month of All Hallows Eve, as well as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month, I thought we could do a simple activity that can help us when we need some self-compassion. Take a moment this week to hold space for yourselves in your grief. Sometimes it can be hard to escape that inner voice, so a visual reminder can help. As this new moon falls on a Monday that also happens to be Thanksgiving here in Ontario, it’s a fitting time to take notice of both what we were thankful for as well as what we might need forgiveness for. As we notice the leaves changing just like the cycle of the moon, this starting point of our month can be a great guide to help us take stock in what is changing for us – what do we can change as well as what is evolving around us.

One thing we can control is the messages we keep in our mind about ourselves. I know that sounds easy to do and yet the reality can be so hard. This activity provides you with a simple watercolour practice as well as an opportunity to put down a mantra that could help you heal and find comfort. By making it yourself, your body and mind both can hold its message longer than if you were to buy a set of coasters.

Self-Compassion Coaster
Supplies:
Coaster or thick paper cut to size
Watercolour paints and brushes, bowl of water
Decoupage glue and brush
Magazine and scissors (optional)

Steps:
1) Before you start it can be helpful to help you set your mind and stage at ease. Listen to a guided visualization or meditation to help centre yourself and feel more connected to the activity.
2) Once you’ve done that, now spend a moment thinking about an affirmation, a quote, or a lyric that really speaks to you. It can be simple, a word, or something you’ve heard said again and again.
3) Once you’ve thought of the saying, now get your watercolours out and think about what feels like the right colour and motion you’d like to put down on the coaster. It could be swirls or an actual image – whatever speaks to you. Feel free to combine and colours or just stick to one.
4) Leave it to dry for a few minutes and have a cup of tea. Once the coaster is dry, you can now add the saying. I like to use permanent marker with a fine point instead of paint as I find that’s neater for me, but you can use whatever you like. Feel free to get creative – you could also use magazine cut-outs as a collage or use letters as a way to put your saying down.
5) Leave the coaster to dry completely. Once dry, add some decoupage glue to help seal your work and this also can help make it waterproof. And you’re done! Find a good place to keep this coaster is a nice reminder to you for those moments you need some extra love and self-compassion.

How to Hold On to Summer

The summer break is about to end. While here in Toronto it was a bit of an anti-summer weather wise, i’m sad to see it go. We filled it with a lot of exciting and fun events, trips, and activities. It was also filled with sibling fights and mosquito bites. That said, i know it’s so easy to move into Fall and the usual routine and forget all to quickly about the lovely memories we built over the summer.

In my work as well as home life, i work on ways to hold on to the good stuff. I don’t know about you, but i so rarely print photographs, and my annual photo book is done in December. So, in a time where we don’t have the traditional way to hold onto memories (photographs), i wanted to share with you some simple but helpful ways to hold onto summer.

Draw a PostCard
As someone who uses expressive arts therapy in my work, i really love this first exercise. My daughter is the crafter in our house and she can go through pages and pages of papers with her drawing. I have a collection of postcard size canvases. You can get them at a local arts and craft store or even a Dollar store.

Think if a symbol or image that you especially loved or resonated with this summer. It could be a slice of watermelon, an umbrella, tent, ice cream cone, sunflower. Spend some time recalling a specific event or day that connects to this image. For instance, here are some of my examples: As a family, we spent a few Sunday afternoons last year creating this communal painting of our trip to New York. My daughter drew a scene of our week at the cottage (top right). Get out your crayons, pencil crayons, markers, pastels or paints. Pause so you can capture the feeling in your body and then draw to your heart’s content. The time we spend creating this image and using our hands to draw can help send a message back to our brain to really capture the memory. It’s like when we have to learn something new or study for a test – if we actually practice, we can really hold onto the info.

Remember this is not art class and no one will judge your work. After you feel happy with your work, find a place that you can notice it over the next few weeks or month. It will help you take pause in the day when you feel that life is moving on and away from that lovely day in summer.

Phone Selfie
I love how you can take a photo of your phone – if you have an iPhone like i do. I also love changing my wallpaper on my cell phone and computer. I update it it seasonaly, to find another way to hold onto something i especially loved. It’s a good way to sneak a peak of something that was a good and positive time in your life. I’ve done this with my donut donut – remember my last post where i spoke about it? You can do it with updating your social media photo too – not for anyone else but as a way to help you recall a memory that you want to hold onto. So, right now on my phone, i have my beloved donut donut and legs floating in the water.

This is a great way to take pause in the busy day-to-day. Most of us have our cell phones with us, or access a computer. Why not make it personal and add a photo or an inspirational quote that really speaks to you? When life seems to be overwhelming, this is a great tool where you can regroup how you are feeling and can help slow down life just enough to help take care of you. I love that this simple activity can be a tool to help you be in control of your emotions, as easy as clicking on your phone to see this helpful image!

Resource Anchor Work
In therapy work, there is some great information about how using these images as symbols to help us create a state of being that is our desired state. Here’s one example: Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). You can find out more about it here – it’s a great tool that talks about how to send a message to your brain by doing some repetitive touch and tapping work, and using a part of your body to help connect to it.

Message in a Bottle
I have collected sand, shells, and rocks for years now. For major trips, the kids and i make a scene in a pretty glass jar and keep it in our dining room. We have several jars now and a large bowl of rocks. I notice the kids sometimes sit by the nature table and look at the rocks. I can see them touch it, and connect to the place where they found it. It’s a great exercise to help recall a happy memory for sure, as the relationship of the sense of touch and sight can really help boost our mood.

These are just some of the ways we hold on to summer. What are some ways you do it?