As we all know, a regular school year is a big transition in itself, but in the midst of this pandemic, where everything feels uncertain there is definitely more anxiety all around—for everyone involved—teachers, school staff, students, parents and caregivers. And so, whether school is happening virtually or in person, I wanted to share three tips to help ease anxiety. You can read all about Tip #1 here. Although, these strategies and exercises are created to do with the children, you will see that these tips ultimately benefit the whole village of support it takes to transition our kids into a new school year — school professionals, parents and caregivers. This part 2 is all about Promoting Feel-Good Emotions.
Tip #2 – Create a Feel-Good Menu
Creating a Feel-Good Menu is one of my most favorite tips to use with clients, with students in classrooms and even with my entire family (myself included). In fact, I love it so much that we put it in two of my new books; My Interoception Workbook, as well as The Interoception Curriculum. 🙂
The reason why I find a Feel-Good Menu to be so powerful is because it highlights the idea that we all have different strategies or activities that promote our positive feeling emotions. It is not a one size fits all approach! Deep breathing does not work for everyone. Mindfulness does not work for everyone. Yoga does not work for everyone. Jogging does not work for everyone. Don’t get me wrong. Activities like deep breathing and mindfulness are great….for some people. But I frequently see a canned approach when supporting clients. One where we teach a few strategies and expect them to work for everyone. And then what happens? Continued dysregulation! So called ‘challenging behaviors’! Frustration for all!
An Individualized, Validating and Empowering Process
The process of creating a personalized Feel-Good Menu encourages our clients to be curious and explore a variety of potential feel-good strategies and choose the strategies that work for them. A truly individualized, validating and empowering process. And a process that sure is extra important for all of us during this time of chaos, change and uncertainty.
Today I’m going to teach you how to create a version of a Feel-Good Menu with your clients (and maybe even for yourself!). If you love this idea and want even more detailed information on creating Feel-Good Menus, check out Lessons 24 & 25 in The Interoception Curriculum.
Exercise: Create A Feel-Good Menu
I’ve done this exercise many times with my clients and even several times with my own family. We start by creating a written list of all of the activities or the strategies in our life that promote positive feeling emotions in our body– in other words things that make our bodies feel comfortable. We use the following questions to guide our process:
- What are the things we enjoy doing?
- What are the things that help us to feel really comfortable?
In addition to these questions, you can also offer a variety of activities for your client to try, almost like experiments, and they can identify how each activity makes their body feel. If they find an activity that makes their body feel good, add it to their Feel-Good Menu.
There is no ‘perfect’ number of items to include on the menu. In fact, many times, my clients’ lists are very short. Especially when interoception is a challenge–when their inner experience is confusing– it makes it tricky to identify or connect with what makes their body feel good. That is why in The Interoception Curriculum, creating a Feel-Good menu is found in the final two lessons (Lesson 24 & Lesson 25). First, in the earlier lessons, we nurture body curiosity and guide the client in noticing and understanding their own personal body signals and emotions. Then, in the later lessons, we provide a structured approach to exploring a variety of activities and the client is in control of identifying how each activity makes their body feel. For those of you using The Interoception Curriculum you know that we provide 15 different menus containing 85+ activities to explore with your clients. Each of these exploratory menus have a different theme—like a sound menu or a kindness menu—and can serve as both a helpful and fun way for our clients to expand their Feel-Good Menus.
Above is a sample of my Feel-Good Menu as well as my daughter’s Feel-Good Menu. We created these lists together in March at the start of the pandemic–boy did we both need our menus!! Please note that Feel-Good Menus can change over time. For example, on my Feel-Good Menu, I recently added ‘walking my new puppy’. Before we got her, this was not on my list, but it sure does get added now!! I love our quiet early morning walks together.
After creating a menu on paper, we then moved it into a word document and added corresponding images to each activity. Check out the picture below to see what our current Feel-Good Menus look like. Adding the images next to each activity transformed the menu into a powerful visual support.
It is so exciting to watch my clients discover their own inner experience and connect with more things that make them feel comfortable. Many times at the beginning of the curriculum, my clients might only be able to identify 1 or 2 things that make them feel good, so it’s a relatively short list. However by the end of the curriculum they’re often able to create a list of 15+ activities or strategies that make them feel comfortable! It’s great to see tangible growth!
Lastly, keep a lookout next month, for our final tip in our 3 part series – 3 Tools to Help Kids Succeed at School.
Which Product is a Better Fit for You?
Interoception Curriculum: The Interoception Curriculum provides professionals with an evidence-based framework for nurturing independent self-regulation, by sequentially guiding a learner to notice body signals, connect body signals to emotions, and then determine what action to take to promote comfort within the body. The curriculum uses a coaching method where the learner is in control and the therapist serves a guide in helping the learner discover their own unique inner experience.
Designed for professionals to use with clients, the curriculum builds interoception connections.
For example, for someone that struggles to recognize when they are hungry, the curriculum provides lessons on how to notice body signals (growling stomach), connect them to the emotion (means I’m hungry), use a feel-good action (eat).
Interoception Workbook: My Interoception Workbook guides adolescents, teens and adults in discovering their own unique interoception experiences and provides tips on outsmarting challenges that may be interoception-related. Professionals and caregivers alike can use this resource to structure conversations around interoception
Designed for professionals, caregivers and self-helpers, this workbook provides tips for outsmarting interoception related challenges–so rather than building interoception skills like in the Interoception Curriculum, the workbook teaches how to compensate for interoception challenges.
For example, for someone that struggles to recognize when they are hungry, the workbook- provides compensatory strategies for not noticing the growling stomach (e.g., setting a phone timer for certain times of the day to serve as a reminder for when it is time to eat).
Start a client’s interoception journey by completing the workbook together. The workbook provides a structure for your client to consider and share their own personal interoception experiences. Read through the tips for outsmarting interoception challenges and collaborate on how to implement these tips in daily routines. After the workbook is complete, move onto The Interoception Curriculum, helping your client to discover their own personal Body-Emotion-Action connections.