How to create a collage for relaxation

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Sometimes just cutting and pasting paper and tinkering with paints can be so relaxing. You don’t have to have an any art experience or agenda to make a beautiful piece of artwork, just a desire to play—be a kid and welcome your muse. Creating a collage is very simple. Just follow these easy steps:

You will need the following materials:

Sheet of white watercolor paper

Black fine tip permanent marker

White Gesso

Paint brush

Stamp pads in various colors you like such as Distressing ink pads and pad

Stencil that creates a simple pattern

Assortment of colorful papers and images that are pleasing to you (and your muse!)

Glue and/or flat matte medium

Watercolors

Easy-breezy steps

  1. Write free flowing thoughts on watercolor paper with fine tip permanent black marker. (Go ahead and let your thoughts flow—they will be covered up with paint and paper!)

  2. Paint over your words using white gesso allowing some words to show.

  3. Distress the paper using distressing ink pads and stamps.

  4. Stencil the paper with another distress ink color to make 2-tone effect.

  5. Make a design using the assortment of paper and images that is pleasing to you (You—)

  6. Photo your design.

  7. Glue your paper down using your photo as a reference. Use a glue stick or flat matte medium.

  8. Add a quote if you’d like…

  9. Highly your collage with watercolors and/or pull back colors with more gesso.

  10. Wha-la! You’re done! Have fun admiring your creativity! You went from white paper to a collage all evident from using of your creative spirit!

If you would like to learn more about how to create art for relaxation and/or have questions regarding coping with depression and anxiety, please contact me for your free 15-minute phone consultation at 610.329.1684 or email me at info@createarttherapy.com.

Decrease your anxiety by dropping this one word

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Many times anxiety can build when we start thinking of the worst possible outcomes.  We want comfort in certainty that we can handle whatever comes our way, so we start to entertain the “What if’s” in anticipation.  Before we know it, these rippling thoughts flood us and we are swiftly led down a current of overwhelm before anything has truly happened. 

 “What if?” questions begin to rapidly fire and plague the mind:  

…You learn your company lost a product line and you start to quickly think, “What if I l get laid off from my job?” 

…You’re all ready to go on a romantic vacation with your husband and you conjure, “What if our child gets sick while we’re away?”

…. You hear a siren and you reach for your phone to text your loved one in dread, “What if he’s been in a car accident?”

Instead of responding and taking action based on reality, we catapult into catastrophic thoughts and react. Not only does the “What if?” thought have a way of robbing us of the present moment, it can also pump our bodies with unwanted hormones placing demands on the sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety can even build into a full-blown panic attack by the spiraling thoughts we are feeding our minds.

 Catastrophic thoughts can come quickly to those with:

Hypersensitive systems

Emphatic sensitivity acutely aware of others (“empaths”)

Hypervigilant conditioning (flight-fight-freeze-flee states) from surviving trauma

Hyper-alert media sensitivity to current events

Careers prone to high degrees of stress &/or violence

 One way to calm down the sympathetic nervous system is to calm your mind.  Instead of auto-playing “What if” scenarios, try rehearsing “What is” moments  “What is” is based on the reality of being present to the here and now. Using your five senses to guide your thoughts gently back can quickly turn the nose dive of anxious thoughts back up and out of a downward tail spin.

 Stop for a moment the next time you hear yourself saying “What if?” and trade your “if” in for an “is”:

What is it I’m seeing right now?”

What is it I’m smelling right now?”

What is it I’m feeling right now?”

What is it I’m tasting right now?”

What is it I’m hearing right now?”

Look out your window. 

Do you see the blue sky with robust clouds at sunset gently twirling in shades of pink and orange drifting onto the horizon? 

Go outside. 

Do you smell the fresh cut grass and notice the buds beginning to blossom in shades of pink with lace petals? 

Do you feel the cool breeze gently brush against your face? 

Listen to the children outside playing chase. 

Do you hear them laughing and squealing with delight? 

Have a cup of mint and lavender tea. 

Do you smell the spearmint as the tealeaves turn the water a light shade of green?  How does it taste?  Can you feel the warmth from the cup in the palm of your hands?

When you rehearse “What is” all of a sudden you feel yourself breathe and exhale deeper, sense your heart beating a little slower, and notice an upturned grin. You feel yourself calming down—almost as though everything will be okay, because in this moment, it is.

If you find that you need help coping with anxiety, trauma or depression and would like to learn more ways for managing stress, please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation at 610.329.1684 or email me at info@createarttherapy.com.

 

6 Points for Identifying a Healthy Relationship

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While I was taking post-graduate classes, I was in awe when my professor said that about 25% of the population is comprised of sociopaths.  25%!  My jaw dropped.  He said that the reason why we don’t recognize the number as being so high is that many times it is difficult to spot sociopaths because their behaviors are so covert and too many times they are people you think you can trust.  Who they present themselves to be, is seldom who they really are.    Amy Lewis Bear’s book From Charm to Harm:  The Guide to Spotting, Naming, and Stopping Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships does a great job explaining harmful interactions so they can be more easily and quickly recognized.

 

While we want to avoid sociopaths and may have to brush up against toxic people, we don’t want to shut ourselves off from the world.  The remaining 75% of folks out there are most likely awesome human beings!  So how do we create some “set points” and “check points” to understand who we want to have relationships with and to what extent?

 

Create A “Set Point” for Relationships:  Does this relationship set well with you?

 

1.     Set a standard of safety.  Be able to identify a safe person from an unsafe person.  Townsend & Cloud’s Safe People:  How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You And Avoid Those Who Aren’t expands on Amy Lewis Bear’s guide.  What does your gut say?  Do you honor your intuition even if you don’t have all of the answers yet?

2.     Set a time.  Take your time.  Don’t be in a rush.  Observe the other person especially with their interactions with others.  Do they want you to commit quickly?  Do they gush with compliments only to have an agenda?  Do their words align with their actions?  Time will usually be a great agent for truth.

3.     Set boundaries.  Know your personal boundaries. What does it mean to you to be respected and reciprocated?  Can this person accept your “no”? Do you feel honored around this person?  Do you feel confused by their actions/inactions/words?  Are you questioning yourself more?  Feeling more obligation, guilt, shame or fear? 

 

Create a “Check Point” for Relationships:  Does this relationship check out?

 

4.     Check in with yourself.  Know the difference between being able to be alone vs. isolating oneself and being lonely.  Do you feel self-sufficient?  Do you love yourself?  Can you be okay being alone or do you feel you need to always be with others?  Do you feel you isolate yourself?  Can you still keep your identity and not enmesh?  Can you readily give yourself permission to end the relationship if it is toxic/unhealthy/hurtful?

5.     Check in with your tribe. Have a tribe of safe peeps who share mutual respect and mutual reciprocity.  Are you keeping your friends and family relationships?  How would you imagine your tribe first meeting this person?  How do they respond to this new person?  Do you listen to their impressions?

6.     Check in with your spirituality gauge.  For me, I call it my God-Gauge.  Sitting in prayerful meditation, I seek to know if this person is who God would desire for me to have in my life.  I almost always, always get an answer!

 

If you want to learn how therapy can help you, please feel free to contact me at 610.329.1684 or email me at info@createarttherapy.com for a free 15-minute consultation.

One Main Ingredient Every Healthy Relationship Should Have: Salt.

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Salt?  Yes, salt.  A good relationship is like salt.  It has these common characteristics:

It’s a preservative. 

How do you keep your relationship alive?

How do you protect it from harm or injury?

What promises do you make to each other?

How have you celebrated making it through hard times?

It’s a curative.

How do you restore the relationship?

What salves do you have on hand to remedy hurt?

How do you help one another?

What do you do to keep your relationship healthy?

Its’ an enhancer.

How do you bring out the best in each other?

What enriching things do you do for your relationship?

How are you working to improve the relationship? Yourself?

How do you show appreciation for one another?  How often?

How do you suppress bitterness?

It’s a nutrient.

How do you nourish your relationship?  How often?

What gives your relationship energy?

What builds your relationship?

It’s a binding agent. 

What keeps you truly committed or sticking together?  In the tough times?

It’s a unit measure of exchange.

Do you feel mutually respected?

Do you both mutually reciprocated?

It’s shaped like infinity.

Need I say anything more?

Call me at 610.329.1684 for your free 15-minute consultation to learn more about how therapy can help you to have healthier relationships.

 

How to Create a Positive Intention for Yourself

Creating a positive intention for yourself can impact your choices and actions. So it’s important to know what elements make an intention more powerful. Start with these basics:

  1. Make your intention positive. Sometimes people will write an intention stating what they don’t want to happen. Write your intention as though it is what you imagine happening in your life that is positive.

  2. Make your intention in the current tense. Writing your intention as though it is happening in the “here & now” versus in the future is more empowering. So instead of saying “I will” state your intention with “I am.”

  3. Make sure your intention is with the first person instead of third person. State your itention using “I” instead of “you.”

An example may be:

“I am enjoying feeling more companionship in my life with healthy and trusting friends.”

Notice how this intention is first person (“I”), positive, and present tense (“I am enjoying..”).

Go ahead—make your intention!

If you are going through a major life transition and/or need help coping with anxiety, depression or trauma, please feel free to contact me at 610.329.1684 or info@createarttherapy.com to schedule your free 15-minute phone consultation to learn how therapy may help you today.

4 Ways to Reduce Anxiety & Have a Healthy Lifestyle

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One reason people feel anxious may be because life has started to feel out of balance.   Checking in with yourself to see if you are managing four basic areas of your lifestyle can be a quick way to see what areas of your life need to be addressed.  Take a piece of paper and fold it in four sections.  Label each section with the following heading:

Physical

Emotional

Social

Spiritual

Start to fill in each section with how you are addressing each lifestyle area.  Think in terms of what you are doing weekly to attend to each area.

Physical aspects of caring may include:

  • Getting daily exercise by doing something you enjoy

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet

  • Drinking enough water daily

  • Getting appropriate health care if in need

  • Taking any necessary medication and/or supplements

  • Reducing exposure to toxins

  • Getting massages to reduce tense muscles

  • Stretching with basic gentle yoga movements

  • Having appropriate eye wear

  • Getting fresh air and sunlight

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Having a sleep routine

  • Participating in a team sport

  • Grooming with products that promote calmness

  • Having a clean and organized home and working area

Emotional considerations:

  • Having a trusted person to discuss feelings with

  • Writing thoughts and feelings in a personal journal

  • Keeping a gratitude list

  • Going to a support group

  • Having a healthy outlet to discharge stress

  • Checking in with your personal boundaries

  • Reading books for personal growth/inspiration

  • Having something fun to look forward to

  • Giving yourself time to be alone to recharge

  • Listening to uplifting music

  • Treating yourself to simple and inexpensive indulgences

  • Providing loving self-care with a bubble bath, pedicure, manicure etc.

 

Social Ideas:

  • Going out with a friend

  • Calling/Face-timing a friend

  • Belonging to social groups that meets regularly

  • Actively pursuing a hobby or interest

  • Volunteering

  • Making sure you are not isolating

  • Helping a cause that is important to you

  • Finding ways to engage with your local community

  • Finding a special interest group in your area such as a Meet Up group

  • Host a simple gathering

  • Gather friends for a charity cause

 

Spiritual Topics:

  • Worshiping in a way that reflects your beliefs and values

  • Praying for yourself and for others

  • Expressing spiritual feelings/thoughts with music or art

  • Being with a community of those with similar beliefs

  • Having quiet time to meditate or pray

  • Having a weekly time to practice with others

  • Having a weekly time to practice your faith by yourself

  • Creating a simple ritual for a self-blessing and healing

  • Creating a prayer list for yourself

  • Creating a prayer list for others

  • Reading inspirational or books of prayer

  • Visiting a place that is healing for you

  • Creating 20-minute quiet time for meditation

 

If you find that you are feeling anxiety is difficult for you to manage, please call me for a free 15-minute phone consultation at 610.329.1684 or contact me at info@createarttherapy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

100 Ideas on How to Reduce Anxiety with Little Cash and Limited Time

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Easy ways to reduce anxiety & manage stress

 

What gets in your way of being able to manage stress?

 

While I was running a stress management group in a hospital, inevitably the consensus that made managing stress difficult was:

a.) Not having enough time and

b.) Not having enough money. 

So taking away those constraints, I challenged patients to explore reducing stress under 45 minutes and for less than $10.00.  For creative problem solving everyone made magazine collages to explore possibilities.  By the end of one hour, not only did patients have new ideas for reducing their stress, but they were able to benefit from the group’s collective ideas.  Debunking the money and time myths made managing stress …well...manageable. 

 

Making stress management manageable and maybe even a little playful

 

Over the last 25 years, I have seen so many people benefit from this collage experiential.  What I found most interesting was that when time was reduced and funds were limited, it brought out the kid in most adults and an element of playfulness reappeared.   It turned out that the need for lavish and expensive activities burdened with high costs and reserved for large amounts of time were making stress reduction prohibitive.  Stress management was causing stress!  Once these stressors of high expectations of money and time were removed and replaced with a mini-recess and trinkets, child-like spirits reappeared with carefree playfulness.

 

I have to admit that this concept had been beneficial for myself and even made me reflect on my childhood when I used to love to save my quarters and buy myself a small hamburger after reading books at the library.   It was the best feeling ever!  Another special memory was of my Sicilian grandmother always tucking a $1 bill in my pocket with a packet of gum after having Sunday dinner with her.  On the way home, I would go to the store and buy myself some simple pleasures and treasures:  Gum, stickers, baseball cards etc. or go to the neighborhood bakery and purchase a gingerbread cookie.  It was such fun to see how far I could stretch that $1!   While times have inflated the costs of bubblegum, the idea of getting a little treat can still make you feel like a million bucks…and while the Sun Rexall around the corner from my house in Texas is long gone, there always seems to be a dollar store around the turn of every corner!

If you find stress getting in the way of having a calm and peaceful life, please call me at 610.329.1684 to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.   

Permission to go play: 

50 Ideas for managing stress in under 45 minutes

* Go for a walk in a park and stop to swing on the swing set

* Ride a bike on a nearby trail

* Doodle in a sketchpad with markers or oil pastels

* Take up an old hobby that you used to enjoy

* Take a bubble bath for a nice long soak

* Plant bright flowers in a container planter or window box

* Find a Meetup group with your interest and make a play date with new playmates

* Visit or walk to your local farmers market and buy a new fruit or vegetable you’d like to try in a new healthy recipe

* Jump rope

* Take your camera/mobile phone on a “wonder walk” and take photos of what you notice

* Take a neighbor’s dog on a walk

* Volunteer with neighbors to clean or care for a mutually shared area

* Cook a new recipe

* Window shop

*Fly a kite

* Dry flowers and press in frame from the dollar store

* Dry flowers and make into paper with petals and recycled paper pulp

* Blow bubbles

* Dance by yourself in a room to really loud music

* Send yourself an inspiring card in the mail (Have a friend mail it to you so it’s a surprise)

* Try a new genre of music

* Sit by a stream and listen to water

* Play Frisbee

* Plant a free tree sapling

* Skip rocks

* Try out new art media samples at an art store

* Make a gratitude list

* Play with a yo-yo

* Attend a festival in a neighboring town with a friend

* Sample flavors of gelato at a gelatoria

* Bird watch from your deck—keep count of how many different species you see

* Fill a composition notebook with your daydreams and dreams

* Make an old family recipe with fresh herbs or ingredients

* Prepare a nice cup of tea

* Have a bubble gum blowing contest with your kids

* Take starter roots from a plant to repot and share one with a friend

* Make 02 loaves of homemade bread and give one to a neighbor in need

* Make a fruit salad and prepack it for lunch for the next day

* Look for earthworms with your kids and give them silly names (My kids still call them Henries to this day!)

* Save bulbs from spring flowers and plant in the fall for a splash of uplifting color in late winter/ early spring

* Watch sunlight glisten on a pond just before sunset

* Refinish or paint an old piece of furniture from a thrift store (Clean it, prep it, finish it-45 minutes of fun x 3)

* Visit a sporting event or arts event at your local high school

* Ride local transit to a local park or museum for a new perspective

* Attend a free lecture at your local library

*  See free movies in the park

*  Plant exotic plants in a terrarium

* Make a mandala

*  Visit museums on free public days

Being a kid in a candy store: 

50 ideas for managing stress for less than $10

 

* Magazine of your hobby or interest and explore new ideas

* Chocolate bar…really good chocolate

* An accessory for your hobby to rekindle an old interest (tackle for fishing, yarn for knitting, canvas for painting…)

* New fingernail polish

* New shade of lipstick

* Scented candle

* Potted houseplant

* Bouquet of flowers from a local farmers market

* Sachets for your closet or drawer

* Scented soap of lavender for relaxation

* Fun pen or set of pencils

* Set of stationery and some postal stamps to send a card to a friend

* Fun office supplies (notepads, paperclips, tape etc.)

* Take the beads off junk thrift store jewelry necklaces and restring into a new necklace or bracelet

* Scarf from a sales rack

* Older library books that are on-sale reduced or for free

* Travel section at the store to try new products like lotions, lip balms etc.

* Cup of specialty coffee or tea

* Fancy dessert at a café or bakery

* A tool for your home and learn new ways to use it for a craft or to fix something

* Scarves from thrift store to make a new window treatment

* Decorative paper napkins for lunch box or dinner

* Gelato or ice cream

* Comfy warm and soft socks

* Scented hand soap

* Blow bubbles (I did this once while stuck in Atlanta traffic and made fellow motorists smile!)

* Frame an inspirational greeting card

* Packet of seeds and soil

* Starter plant for a vegetable in a container

* Origami paper

* Composition notebooks filled for random inspiring thoughts

* Mix and matched saucers and teacups from a thrift store reserved for a nice cup of tea –for tea or for a nice tea cup floral arrangement

* Scented bubble bath

* Colorful fresh fruit for your fruit bowl

* Fresh mint for summer tea

* Bubble gum and make bubbles—big bubbles

* Scented pillow spray

* Lemons for lemonade

* Day-old bread for feeding ducks at a pond

*  Throw pillow

*  Fluffy cotton towel

*  Print of your favorite photograph

*  Eye shadow

*  Pair of earrings on sale rack or from a vintage store

*  Sidewalk chalk for making your mandala

*  Teddy bear (We are never too old for teddy bears!)

*  Nice glass for drinking water

*  A drop-in for a yoga class

*  An embroidery kit or cross stitch kit

*  A deck of playing cards with themes of flowers or places of travel

If you are finding anxiety difficult to manage, please feel free to call me at 610.329.1684 to contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation to learn how therapy may help you today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you could paint a canvas full of all you hoped for in life, what possibilities would you see?

To help you get to know me and the excitement and passion I feel for all who come to CREATE for healing, I’ll share a little story with you about the seed of transformation planted early on for CREATE.

It all started over 6 years ago…

At 46, I unexpectedly became widowed with two teenagers. Eleven days after my husband of 24 years died, my son was accepted to a college 700 miles away from home and four days later, my daughter was to have celebrated turning 13.  Six months later, they both lost two grandparents.  Looking back at that time as a single, working, newly widowed mom, I felt like I was a Whirling Dervish all the while balancing Chinese porcelain plates spinning on sticks with each too precious to fall.  Even though I wrote my graduate thesis on loss and death and had worked with many young and old alike coping with loss, nothing could have prepared me for navigating such compounded losses for myself or for my children. 

As a seasoned and trained counselor, art therapist and artist, I did know one antidote that would help--making art. The simplest and smallest elementary gestures of self-expression became a beacon of light leading me out of the darkness of death. At first it was making simple doodles and then drawing light sketches in a journal. It did not matter if I could draw or make something that looked good—what started healing was the simple act of creating.  

Creating was life-giving and gave me hope.

Eventually every week I painted with other artists.  Being with others and creating at a time of loss breathed new life into me. I felt inspiration again.  Whenever I painted, the act of creating seemed to make death dissipate and diminish depression’s voracious appetite.  Death could not exist while creativity and self-expression was present.  Every day for three months at the studio, I worked on painting a portrait of my daughter so that when she came home from school, she could see new color on the canvas—a stroke of life and light kissing her face, tickling her toes, or brushing her shoulders that would somehow be an offering of hope and love to her.  Creating had a surprising and far-reaching effect not only making me feel more vital, yet also fostered hope and vitality for both of us.

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Creating this painting made me begin to imagine how life may be like a canvas. Looking towards the future, I wondered what if I made a visual collage journal of all I could hope life could possibly bring. Believing that anything could be possible if I could let faith trump fear, I began filling pages of pictures of what I hoped for...

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I hoped to live in a cottage home with a sunny front porch adorned with window boxes and surrounded by serene gardens with an attached art studio in a safe and friendly walking town with a farmers market and town festivals. 

I hoped for my children’s hearts to heal and for them to move forward getting great educations to reach their potentials, personal goals and dreams. 

I hoped for my faith to grow even at the bleakest time of my life.  

I hoped to make new girlfriends and host warm gatherings inviting them to widen their circle of friendships. 

I hoped to live by water and woods so that I could kayak and take long hikes with other kindred souls.   

I hoped for a bike with an attached wicker basket brimming over with flowers and filled with French bread from the local farmer's market.

I hoped to be able to travel easily by train and see places afar. 

I hoped to discover ways to study abroad so that I can learn about other cultures and continue educational pursuits. 

I hoped to open a private practice as a safe place for women to relax, kick off their shoes and feel empowered, celebrating and honoring their innate creativity all the while discovering new possibilities and making their new beginnings become a reality. Whether women made art or talked—the conversation and mission is the same:  Sitting with women as their hearts healed and reimagining and creating vibrant lives they were passionate about living.

And with grace and some (…okay, a lot of….) elbow grease and feeling scared to death at times (…many times…) it all came true.  I gave away one-third of all I owned, closed my old business, moved across the country with my teenage daughter, Golden Retriever, and two Beta fish in tow, moved into a cottage home in a walking town after a two-year search, got my kids off to college, made lots of new friends, and on my 49th birthday opened CREATE in Greater Philadelphia, Inc (Counseling Resources & Expressive Art Therapy for Empowerment)..

What do you hope for?

All you hope for is possible.  

Contact me today at 610.329.1684 or email me at info@createarrtherapy.com for a free 15-minute consultation and let’s talk about how therapy may help you begin creating a life you love and living it passionately.