Sleep Tracking

Whether your issues are with falling asleep, staying asleep or quality of sleep, you could look into some ways to keep track of it. Tracking sleep is similar to keeping a journal, it will aid with problem solving and identifying patterns around bedtime or daily routine. When considering your daytime routine and activities, examine aspects like stressors, caffeine consumption, when you exercise, work related details, etc. It can be extremely frustrating when identifying what negatively impacts our sleep, coming up with a solution to the problem and figuring out how to get our bodies to respond to our healthy solutions. – downright exhausting! Completing this sleep tracking worksheet is one way that you can work towards achieving higher quality sleep. You may try answering some or all of these questions daily or only once per week, whatever you feel is adequate. Use a notebook or journal to track. Write down the date and log your answers to the questions. Tracking sleep takes time and any progress made might not be immediately obvious. Try sticking with this process for at least one month, the more persistent you are, the greater the positive impacts and improvements you’ll see.

Download the worksheet below.

Uniquely Me, Body Image, Body Positivity

This worksheet helps with recognizing what our bodies do for us and what is unique about us. Think about the abilities and all that our bodies achieve every day, there are several! Walking, speaking, reading, thinking, feeling, eating, and reproducing, just to mention a few. Our bodies are elaborate and designed to do absolutely astonishing things! This worksheet is for anybody to complete: children, adolescents and adults; use in the classroom setting with children; use in a group setting, so that you can learn from and relate to others. I have used this as a tool when working with people who struggle with body image, eating disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in a group therapy setting.

We may be dissatisfied with certain parts of our bodies and find it difficult to accept them. The focus tends to be on our flaws and sometimes we long for our bodies to appear or function differently, in unattainable ways (distorted thinking). As you work through the uniqueness section of the worksheet, remember that everybody is different and that if we weren’t, then how dull this world would be! Things that make you unique are your talents, special abilities, personality, a birthmark, etc… again, there are several!

A word about going against negative body image obsessing… we can battle our distorted thoughts and beliefs about our bodies by really thinking through body positivity and appreciation. Positivity and appreciation will increase self-awareness, and when we accept our bodies as they are and their unique characteristics, we can find peace and satisfaction. As we focus on these positive qualities, stay clear from thinking about what we view as flaws or what we dislike about our bodies because it is most important to be grateful for them and not judge ourselves. For example, you may not like the appearance of your birthmark. Try not to think about the appearance as much, give thought to a meaning behind the birthmark. Does or did anyone else in your family have that birthmark? How does your birthmark make you unique? At times, we are our most critical judges. Through this whole process of learning, appreciating and accepting, we gain self-esteem and it becomes easier to love ourselves as we are. Don’t give up if you become stuck, take a short break or ask for help.

Lastly, about taking care of our bodies and meeting our basic needs. Self-care sounds simple, but when there is a struggle accepting and appreciating our bodies, it is complicated. It is key to know ways that we can take care of our bodies to help them stay strong and healthy. Eating well-balanced meals, exercising the appropriate amount, practicing good hygiene, going to the doctor’s, dentist’s, chiropractor’s office when necessary, are all perfect examples of taking care of our bodies. There is an endless list of creative ways to take further care, such as, feng shui the bedroom to get better sleep, practice dance or yoga therapy, head to the spa, do simple stretches for your muscles, breathing exercises, etc. Self-care means feeling better, having gained confidence and love towards our bodies.

Download the worksheet here:

Common Abbreviations, Definitions, Slang and Idioms Used in Autism

There is an overwhelming number of abbreviations, definitions, slang and idioms used in Autism, that it can be hard to keep up with. Use this list as a quick reference, it is in alphabetical order and has plenty of space to add information. This list originated from The Autism Community in Action website, I tweaked and updated it (it contained DSM-IV pieces). I last updated it in February, 2020. * Note: 11 pages in length.

Patterns, Patterns, Patterns

Patterns and Mindfulness Strategy

Pay attention to your patterns, they can be physical, mental and or emotional. Patterns will reveal your reactions to situations, giving you feedback on what works, versus what doesn’t work. When you are doing something that works, do a little more of it.

This is a mindfulness strategy that helps anyone suffering from stress, anxiety and depression, chronic pain, relationship problems, focus and attention issues, and painful memories and feelings.

Example

Here’s a short example:
A person who is suffering from seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder) is exhausted and lacking energy most of the time. Their usual routine is, they wake up, get ready for work, skip breakfast, head to work, work their usual shift, come home, eat dinner, unwind by watching television, clean part of the house, call someone over the phone, get ready for bed, try to get some sleep. They realize that this routine doesn’t work for them because it isn’t really addressing the depression or tiredness.

Looking at their patterns, they realize that they could start their day off better by eating breakfast before rushing out the door for work. Eating a healthy, balanced breakfast is added into their daily routine. They liked the idea of breakfast and coffee, and having fuel in the tank effectively addressed the tiredness.

After adding breakfast into their routine, they kept up with that for a few weeks. Reexamining their patterns, they felt like eating breakfast wasn’t enough in itself when battling their seasonal depression. Instead of watching television, they exercised for 30 minutes to an hour every other day. Adding the exercise boosted their mood and overall wellness. Making these adjustments of adding breakfast and exercise improved their seasonal depression.

What to do

Ask yourself these questions (maybe spend 5 minutes a day working on this):

Pay close attention to what happens when difficult thoughts and feelings arise – what do you do in reaction?

Why do you keep doing what you do?

What do you get from it?

It’s not always easy finding your patterns, solutions and making the adjustments, but stick with it. We go through several difficult and complex situations in life, so when necessary, talk with a therapist because they can support you through this process.

[This card is from the deck of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT Deck) cards, which I purchased through Amazon, online.]

Safety Plan on an Index Card

Materials and instructions

Materials: an index card; colored pencils; markers; crayons; stickers.

Instructions: this crafty project is for children and adolescents who need a little reminder of their most effective coping skills or ways to help them to stay safe when they are feeling overwhelmed or escalated. Having a safety plan written on an index card is accessible, can be kept hidden to protect privacy, or shown to a trusted adult (teacher or family member) when additional support is needed.

A safety plan can contain any number of coping skills or strategies that will help de-escalate a reaction to a situation. I like to ask children and adolescents to choose five things that they find most helpful to do when they feel like they are losing control or feeling unsafe. Five is a good number because it gives a variety of options to choose from. The child or adolescent can choose what they feel will be best option for in the moment.

When creating the card, sometimes figuring out coping skills and strategies is challenging and requires children and adolescents to really think; an adult who knows the child should help come up with ideas. These need to be things that can be used immediately, in the here and now. Try to avoid requiring any specific toys or equipment because that requires extra effort. The things also need to be very detailed and specific. Being detailed and specific will promote brain change and way of thinking. Write the coping skills and strategies on the index card and decorate it!

Examples of coping skills and strategies:

  • Counting to ten in my mind while taking deep, easy breathes.
  • Notice five things in the room and what color, shape or texture they are.
  • Sing a song.
  • Think about my favorite memory.
  • Think about my favorite pet.
  • Use a fidget toy.
  • Read a book.
  • Listen to music.
  • Think of a positive self affirmation.
  • Curl and uncurl my toes ten times.
  • Draw.
  • Stretch my legs and arms.
  • Dance.
  • Puzzle.
  • Ride my bike.
  • Notice three scents and where they are coming from.
  • Feel the texture of my clothing.

Where to keep the safety plan

This card can be kept in many different places, but keep it easily accessible, which means carrying it around:

  • In a pocket.
  • In a desk, locker or lunch box at school.
  • In a backpack.
  • On the refrigerator or a mirror at home (better if there are two or more are created).
  • Kept on a coffee table, dining room table or night stand.
  • Used as a bookmark.
My safety plan example, displayed on the refrigerator. Being completely transparent, these are my coping skills of choice 😊

Valuing Your Time

Have you ever wished that you had more time for something or someone? There isn’t time for everything and we don’t know how much time we have, so we must respect time and prioritize the things that matter most. Increase your happiness and gratitude by using your time wisely.

Work is a huge priority for most people, but what about family and friends? Set work aside and arrange a weekly date night with your spouse. Visit someone who you value having in your life, but haven’t seen in a while. Call someone you used to be close with. Enjoy a monthly outing with your family. Spend more time with the people you value because the benefits are great.

When we don’t value time and prioritize the most meaningful things, we could end up feeling regret or grief. The opportunity was missed and it can’t be re-done. A friend or family member could become ill and unable to spend time with you like you wanted. There could be a friend or family death and you wish that you spoke with them more. Don’t wait for opportunities, take action, because even though you can heal from regret and grief, you should take advantage of the present time.

Do you have something that you’ve always wanted to do before you die? We don’t know how much time we have, so it is best to take action now. Travel to National Parks that you’ve always wanted to visit. Write that book that you’ve been thinking about for years. Apply to be a contestant on your favorite game show. Go see the world’s largest waterfall. Learn, grow and follow your dreams. Maybe involve the people you care about in your goals.

Work will always be there, but time for the things and people who matter most will not. Don’t miss opportunities to do what you truly value in life, create the opportunity yourself. Spend your time wisely, it will increase happiness and gratitude, you (and others) will be glad that you did.

Gerard Hiking Trail, Oil Creek State Park, PA

My Positive Attributes

A positive attributes worksheet to help identify, give thought to and celebrate your positive qualities. Download, save and print. Print more than one worksheet, you have more than four positive attributes.

Journaling Prompt: Setting a Future Goal, Adventure is Out There

Instructions & Materials

Material ideas: Large paper or poster board; pens; pencils; crayons; markers; glue; glitter; stickers; magazine clippings; photos.

Journaling prompt: What adventure do you wish you could go on? Make sure that the adventure is realistic, like planning a vacation. Where would you go, how would you get there, and what would you do once you are there? What is your mode of transportation? Will you go alone or will someone go with you? What are the steps that you might take in order to put this plan into action? Try to come up with three specific steps for putting your plan into action. How might you feel once you have reached your destination? How might you feel throughout the adventure? What about when it is over? Write a story. Be specific and descriptive. Use your creativity. Draw. Create designs. Most importantly, have fun setting your goal!

When Hard Becomes Easy

One day, your “hard” will become your “easy.” Whatever mountain you’re climbing, whether it is the loss of a loved one, difficulty at work, anxiety blanketing everything, a conflict, etc, don’t give up. Don’t lose hope and faith.

Keep moving forward, though a short rest is okay, you should take action in the valley and continue working in the climb. The first step is to acknowledge that what you’re going through is difficult and allow yourself to feel your emotions. Acknowledgement is a key to being able to move forward. Along side of acknowledgement, look after your well-being and practice self-care.

Take a deep breath, find something relaxing, something that works for you. Read a book or articles about what you’re going through, use credible sources. Talk to a professional. Try something new; this can be stressful because one, it is hard to think of something new to try when you feel like you’ve tried everything. – Your mindset may not be in the right place. Two, because trying something new is taking a risk, it is unfamiliar. It is worth the risk because it might be highly beneficial, and even if it ends up falling short, at least it was partly beneficial. We learn from taking action and risks.

The things that we experience in life make us stronger. Climbing mountains make us stronger. Muscle fibers must be broken down in order to rebuild, becoming more powerful. We learn about ourselves and figure things out, like how to boost ourselves up. Eventually, the situation becomes easier. We face, adapt and work through what is going on, and the more we practice this, the easier it becomes. As we’re strengthened, it becomes easier and you gain confidence that you can reach the peak. Don’t give up, keep moving. Remain hopeful and have faith. The view at the top is beautiful.

Pacific Crest Trail, CA