How to Use Self Care to Help with Your Emotions

LCA News and Information

I find that many people do not take care of themselves.

Girl with a lighted heart shape.
Managing your emotions through self-care can have mental and physical health benefits.

They worry about others, making sure that they: children, husband, community, church, friends, work, etc., have their needs met. Not leaving time during the day to get their own needs met and not taking time for themselves. The consequences of this are that they are burning themselves out. They’re in survival mode instead of thriving. In survival mode we are more tired, hungry, irritable, and drained. We give from pure will, not from the strength we could because we’re not giving to ourselves for self care. When we’re drained and strained we can become easily more emotional. Things that wouldn’t normally be irritating are intolerable because we can’t filter well. Our brains are tired, we have too much to do, and we react. Coping skills can help at these times (start reading about coping skills here) but self care can give us the energy we need. Often times our reactions aren’t even to the people that we’re irritated with but to our families or to ourselves with negative self talk. It’s time to take care of yourself, then you’ll be able to better take care of your emotions and your tasks at hand.

Self care in its basic sense is doing something for yourself. It’s not about all consuming self attention or putting yourself above everyone else. It’s about taking time to meet your basic needs. Taking care of ourselves is invaluable to emotional regulation. I’m sure, if not right now, you can remember a time when you weren’t getting your needs met and when you were drained. Being drained, which happens in many ways, causes our rational brain to throw up its figurative hands and allows our emotional brain to go for a spin by itself and that emotional spin is worse because we’re drained. We become short with our spouse, children, co-works, etc. We want to be kind, patient and compassionate, but we don’t have the mental strength. We want to be able to wait for our kid to tie their shoes but we’re in such a rush that we just do it for them, often irritated about the time lost letting them try. We want to be able to stop and have a meaningful conversation but it seems too taxing, so we hurry off, ever busy with the next thing to take care of. Then when we can’t take it anymore we explode, we become passive aggressive, or we let others down by not taking care of our everyday tasks. We criticize the very people we’ve been running around taking care of, nagging our spouse about what they haven’t gotten done or our kids for their lack of consideration. I’m sure you can think of how you react when you’re drained and emotional.

There are periods of time when some things can’t be avoided. Do what you can, when you can to take care of yourself. Sometimes it’s not everything we should do to take care of ourselves, it’s what we can fit in, not our best but at least we’re trying something and even a little is helpful. In this and the next blog I’m going to talk about five areas of self care that you should start focusing on getting in to your day for your own mental and physical health. Our mental self is affected by our physical health. These self care topics will help you to have more energy to get the things you want, need, and have to get done, without burning yourself out. It will help you to feel more energized. I want to stress that taking care of yourself is not selfish. We all know people who are selfish and they’re not taking care of themselves, they’re just doing whatever they want over others, seeing their wants as more important than others. This is not self care. Its ok, you can take care of your needs and not be a selfish person.

Physical Illness

Taking blood pressure
Mental health can effect your physical health, just as physical health can effect your mental health.

We all know what physical illness is, having a cold or flu, strep throat, acid reflux, all the way to heart disease, diabetes, or fibromyalgia. There are so many forms of illnesses from mild to severe and they can affect our mental health. Conversely mental health can affect our physical health. The stress of anxiety, anger, and depression has on our bodies is well documented. They decrease our immune system, put strain on our hearts, our eyes, brain, appetite, etc. There are even links to increased illnesses because of unhappiness in relationships.

I don’t want to get you down about having a mental illness and it’s affects on your body. I do want to encourage you to take care of your mental health by taking care of your physical health. The link between them means that when we take care of that cold, instead of pushing through our work anyway, we are also taking care of our mental health. Our bodies have the time to combat those germs.

Working with people with mental illness, I’ve seen a clear link between when they are not feeling well and an increase in their symptoms. For instance, I’ve seen how increased stress can cause one persons to have higher blood sugar. Though it doesn’t seem like the two should be connected our minds and bodies are and can affect each other.

When you have an ongoing disease like arthritis or heart diseases, or any of the long list of possible problems, make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Know your body’s limits and stop well before reaching them. Do what you can, it’s all you can do. Then make yourself a priority and take care of yourself. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

Make sure you are seeing a physician as needed or directed by them. Don’t put off getting a check up when you’re not feeling well. If you continue to not feel well that will increase your mental stress which in turns contributes to less ability to cope.

Make sure your children are getting their physical health needs addressed as well. Even little things can cause large differences in their ability to cope with things. They become more angry or reactive to situations. Think of when a baby is teething, they’re fussier and less able to be soothed. At any age this is true, though the behavior has changed the cause and affect hasn’t.

You are worth spending time on, so take care of yourself. Taking care of your physical health is as important as taking care of your mental health.

Join me next time when we talk about more ways to take care of yourself. Until then start working on taking care of your physical health.

What’s the Next Step?

Follow us on Facebook to see when the next blog is posted, or check back here.

Coping skills can help, but they cannot take the place of counseling and cannot solve many of the challenges associated with mental illness.  If you need more help, we’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).  For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office.  Please let our office support staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling.  Please check out our staff bios here.


Diane Cerven, LPCC


Want to read past posts on distraction skills, follow them here:

How to Calm Yourself

20 Minute Distraction to Calm Yourself

How to Decrease Emotional Pain with Distraction Skills

How to Decrease Your Emotions Using Distraction

Physical Grounding Skills for Emotional Regulation

LCA News and Information


Boy walking through a field of flowers.
Physical grounding gives us time to pause and helps reduce our emotional response.

We have been talking about the use of coping skills to better regulate our emotions. When we are not overwhelmed emotionally, we are better able to handle problem solving in the moment or move forward from the difficult situations we find ourselves in. Grounding skills are a type of coping skill that allows us to focus our attention away from what is bothering us most. Last week I introduced physical grounding techniques. Physical grounding skills work by using our senses to give us time to pause that helps to reduce our emotional response. Earlier I also talked about mental grounding skills where we change our thoughts through mental exercises (read more about those here). The purpose of both is to grab our attention and give ourselves a break from the thoughts that are running through our heads.

Physical Grounding

In the last post, we began the list for physical grounding skills (If you missed the last post you can find it here).  As you read the list below, remember to think about how useful each would be for you personally and when a skill may be helpful. Some are more helpful when your emotion is anger and others might help with sadness or fear.

Walk slowly, notice the feel of each step, pay attention to the roll of your foot or how it touches what you are walking on. You can add words while you walk like “left,” “right.” You can make it more soothing by saying coping statements with each step or even breathe in and out with each footstep. Increase or decrease your pace.

Wherever you are, simply focus on your breathing, notice each inhale or exhale, or like when walking, you can focus your attention on a coping word or a phrase such as “breath in, breath out” or “I am calm”.

Clench and release your fists. Really build up the tension, putting all your focus in your grip and then release, feeling the muscles relax.

Grab tightly onto a chair, holding as hard as you can, then focus on the release of tension as you let go.

Dig your heels into the floor, pushing your weight onto the ground.

Smell something you like, something that really draws your attention. Try an aromatherapy scent. A quick search showed that lavender, lemon, jasmine, and rose can all help to reduce tension. Light a candle you can smell or think about the smell of something you enjoy, like fresh baked cookies.

Bite into something sour like a lemon or lime or a sour candy to draw your attention. Something spicy may work as well. Focus your attention on how your taste buds react to the intense flavor.

You can also savor something that you enjoy like a piece of candy, favorite food, or even take just a piece of something like a raisin and really pay attention to chewing and enjoying it.

Look at pictures of people you care about. Find a picture book of nature.

Write it Down

When we are emotionally charged it’s hard to remember new skills, so having them written down and available will help you to utilize them. Sometimes to help with an emotion like anger we need the thought, “I need to use a coping skill,” and that’s the best we can do if we can’t remember a coping skill. Modify the suggestions so that they make sense to you and find a place to record them so they would be meaningful when you need them. We’ve created a pdf, Grounding Skills, you can download and put on your fridge or somewhere convenient. Take a screenshot or come back here to remind yourself, anything that will help you to remember to utilize the different skills or techniques available. Don’t forget to add mental grounding skills to the list (find those here and here).

Use Physical Grounding Skills with Your Kids

Boy walking on a trail in the woods.
Physical grounding skills help kids remember what to do when their emotions are escalated.

Grounding skills are not just for adults. Kids can find benefit in the activity as well. Kids will learn best when they are given the activity to use while they’re in emotional distress (the same is true of adults). That will help them to remember better what to do when their emotions are escalated. Having signs posted on boards or walls, especially with pictures, is also helpful.

Along with the above grounding skills here are a few more that kids can relate to (you may even like these too).

Stomp your feet. For more sensory you can have them stomp empty cans.

Jump up and down.

Roll a fuzz ball or pipe cleaner in your fingers.

Tracing figure eights “8” or other connected symbols with your fingers. You can have them trace with a pen or pencil or other type of object.

Blow bubbles or blow up a balloon. This gives them something physical to look at while they are trying to calm or distract themselves.

Chew gum. This adds a flavor to their mouth to focus on as well as the activity of chewing.

Give your child different ones to try and have a list with pictures for them to look at and use. Have them readily available. Make sure to do the techniques with your kids, especially at first. Be helpful and reminding, that way they learn by you teaching them and can even begin to notice, for themselves, when they need to use the different skills. You should use your coping skills where your child can see and tell your children that you need to calm yourself too. This teaches them by observing you do it, which is the best way kids learn.

Need More Help

Coping skills of all types are helpful ways of dealing with our emotions. Mental illnesses like depression, generalized anxiety, trauma, eating disorders, OCD, etc, need more help from a qualified mental health professional. If you need more help, we’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).  For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office.  Please let our office support staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling.  Please check out our staff bios here.


Diane Cerven, LPCC

Want to read more about distraction skills and mental grounding skills?

How to Calm Yourself

Mental Grounding as a Coping Skill

How to Use Physical Grounding as a Coping Skill

LCA News and Information

There are times when our thoughts run away with us, taking us to the past or to a possible imagined future. Typically there is a trigger, sometimes something we don’t even recognize. Maybe something that reminds us of what happened back in 2nd grade and then our minds are reminding us of all the other times we felt the same way, when we had similar negative emotions or we fear experiencing the emotion moving forward. Once this happens, Footprint in sandour minds seem to take control and the longer we allow our brains to ruminate on the thoughts that are surfacing, the longer we have to live with the emotional response that is caused by those thoughts. Our bodies react physically and our brain floods with chemicals. In some types of mental illnesses, it is the lack of certain chemicals which causes the problems and medication management is needed, but we can still utilize coping skills. I talked about PTSD (read here) a couple posts ago. PTSD symptoms are often triggered by an event or memory which creates physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that are difficult to control. PTSD is an extreme example of our minds taking us on a ride. When we have a chemical reaction, coping skills help redirect our minds to focus on something else and that in turn allows our bodies to decrease or stabilize the chemicals that were taking us on a mental trip we didn’t sign up for. Often 20 minutes of diverting our attention by using coping skills is enough time to settle our physical reactions and allows us to calm ourselves.

Coping skills are the tools to use to deal with emotions that are difficult to handle and can help us focus or divert our attention so that our emotions don’t get too big or overwhelming. When using coping skills we are able to divert our minds  from remembering the past, to help address difficult situations in the moment or stop worrying about future “what ifs” that may be keeping us from enjoying our life. There are many types of coping skills and this month I want to continue focusing on grounding. Grounding is a technique where you control your thoughts by focusing your mind on a specific train of thought (mental) or your senses on the real world (physical). When used consistently and effectively, grounding will help to change or calm your emotional state. If you’d like to read about mental grounding skills then please start by reading here but here I would like to spend time on physical grounding.

Why Use Physical Grounding Skills?

Physical grounding skills use our five senses or the world around us to focus. Since many triggers come through our senses, physical grounding helps to move our thoughts to the moment. That focus on something real allows our thoughts to dissipate and our emotions to come back down to a tolerable level or a level that doesn’t feel so all encompassing or overwhelming. We can then move on if that is appropriate or gather strength to deal with the situation at hand. The worst thing for effective problem solving is too many emotions. Remember, our emotions are important as they are telling us something about ourselves and the moment we find ourselves in but too high of an intensity of an emotion gets in the way of dealing with the message appropriately. If it is a current or an immediate situation, taking a mental break and grounding ourselves gives a bit of emotional calm which in turns allows our brains to use our problem solving skills so we can see the situation realistically.

Physical Grounding Skills

Physical grounding uses our senses and our bodies to focus our attention on our environment to help us cope. It is recommended to create a list to use in the moment when it is hard to think of all the options at your disposal. Here are some suggestions.

Let’s start our list with using our 5 senses:

  • Name 5 things that you see
  • Name 4 things you feel with your body (back of chair, warmth of a ring, fabric)
  • Name 3 things you can hear
  • Name 2 things you can smell or wish you could smell (baked goods)
  • Name 1 thing you can taste (a memory of a taste or putting something small to taste in your mouth)

Pet an animal (very soothing). Focus on the feel of their fur under your hand, between your fingers, the softness or roughness, the rate of their breathing, etc.starfish

Stretch. Fully reach, bend and move, or if limited because of where you are, stretch your arms, stretch your legs out if sitting, roll your neck.

Hold a pillow, stuffed animal, blanket, or even hug yourself. Sense the object in your arms, feel how you can squeeze it.

Run water over your hands, pay attention to how it feels flowing over you. Use hot or cool water or vice versa to heighten the awareness. You can also take a shower and focus on the water hitting you, washing over you, the warmth or coolness encompassing you.

Have an object that you can manipulate. Not long ago, river stones were very popular because of how smooth and cool they felt, but you can also have an object that you can manipulate like a paper clip or fidget. Focus on really noticing that object.

Touch various objects. Notice the smoothness and coolness of the desk, the texture of your clothing, the feel of a pen or pencil, the bumps of the phone cord, etc.

Notice your body. The weight of your body in the chair, focus on your feet how they feel, you hands, can you feel each finger?

This list is not complete and next time we will go over a few more. Practice the ones that sound interesting to you and see how they work. The important thing to do is to put your whole focus on what you’re doing. Draw your attention to it fully. Really notice the sensations while letting your other thoughts drift away. Keep your focus on the coping skill of your choice until you know you are past your emotional moment and can relax and address the issue that has triggered your emotional situation.

What’s the Next Step?

Follow us on Facebook to see when the next blog is posted, or check back here.

Coping skills are a tool that can help you help yourself with difficult emotions in the moment. For some individuals, more help is needed by a trained mental health counselor who can provide guidance on the best approaches for you. If you need more help, we’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).  For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office.  Please let our office support staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling.  Learn more about LCA clinical staff here.


Diane Cerven, LPCC


Missed reading about using distraction skills as a coping skill, catch up

How to Calm Yourself

Want to know about Mental Grounding Skills



De-Stress with More Mental Grounding Skills

LCA News and Information

We continue learning about coping skills bytree roots and waterfall learning how, when and why to using mental grounding skills. We talked last time about how mental grounding skills are helpful for people with PTSD (read here), but I recommend grounding skills to anyone who feels that their thoughts get stuck. This can include rumination or repetitious pondering of depressive thoughts or the “what if” and excessive worrying that comes with anxiety. Grounding skills can also help those with anger problems as it allows your mind to move away from the anger and onto another subject (or emotion).

Another use for the various mental grounding skills is when you need a break. Perhaps you have too much to do at home, or at work, and the pressure is overwhelming. Perhaps a relationship isn’t going well and the conversation you were trying to have has turned into an argument.   Perhaps you are in uncomfortable situations that you are not familiar with. Changing the focus of your mind onto something else can be very helpful to many people. Personally, when the roads are icy or snowy in the Minnesota winter, and there is ice that has to be traversed in order to get to and from places, I find that my stress level increases. These are all situations where it is helpful to take a mental break and do a grounding skill. In fact, at a previous high tension job I had, I would do several grounding skills throughout the day to relieve the stress. Though it may not change the situation you’re in, it helps your brain to take a break from the moment, then recover or at least de-stress a little from your problems.

Regardless whether you are having diagnosable mental health problems (ex: depression, anxiety, PTSD) and need a skill to help reduce the immediate symptoms you’re facing or if you find that you need a mental break from stress or a difficult situation, grounding skills can help. I’m focusing first on mental grounding skills, and then in a future blog, to physical grounding skills. Be sure to come back and read about those.

Practice and Make a List

Grounding skills need to be practiced and used in order to be effective. At times you may have wanted to try something quick, but it didn’t help. I would recommend that you dedicate more time to doing and focusing on the skill. Our minds like to wonder (we’ll talk about that more when I write about meditation*) and we need something that will capture our attention and direct it to the thoughts we want to cultivate. Often our thoughts will try to take us back to our problems but with practice and intention we can keep our mind where we need to be. See last post list to learn more. Skills are tools you can use when you need to divert your focus and listing the tools out for easy access is very helpful. Here is a link to a useful PDF that you can print and write down the skills that you like, Grounding Skills. When you make a list, take a screenshot, write post-it notes, write it on your mirror or door, hang it up on the fridge, return to this page, whatever it takes to have it convenient for your use. When our minds are consumed by stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, anger, an argument, etc. we often forget the skills we want to use, make sure that you keep your own list handy.

Mental Grounding

Mental Grounding is focusing on thoughts. Here are more suggestions to add to your list of skills:

Play a categories game with yourself. (Bonus if you can do this with someone else). Write example categories that you like on your list such as; types of foods you like, types of dogs or animals, pets you have had, cities (this is a favorite of mine to use in session when someone is very anxious), sport teams, cars, TV shows, songs or groups. Anything goes here, you pick the category. I worked with a young person who would name her favorite types of cookies which helped her during school to take a mental break and be less angry.

Read something, focusing on each word. You can read slowly or read the letters backwards. This is not about comprehension or getting lost in a book, it’s about a quick break. Personally I like reading each letter backwards. It takes more concentration and therefore distracts away from what’s going on outside and inside your brain.

Read something fun. Reading something fun can help move our focus away from our ruminating thoughts. Maybe this is why Facebook is so popular; we all read little snapshots or small doses of a lot of things.

Count in multiples. In anger management they recommend counting to ten, this has to be done slowly to be effective. Personally I like to count in multiples; doing 7s is a personal favorite 7-14-21-28-35-42-49 etc. Your brain has to work to access its math center. Make it easier or harder depending on your mood or your math ability.

Count what you see. Look outside and count the trees, the cars, or houses. Whatever you see out there, count.

Imagine. You can dream of being someplace. I have a friend who likes to take mental breaks by looking at real estate in Hawaii. I have a picture of the beach and ocean in my office. I take a break and dream of being there, especially in the winter.

Imagine leaving the situation. Use your imagination and see yourself closing the door to your problems or turning the light off on them. You can also imagine riding, skating, or driving away from them.

Say the alphabet slowly, very slowly.

Look at pictures or think of the people you care about.

Think of the things you’re looking forward to that are coming up, being with a friend, going out someplace, time away or time in. Anything that encourages you and gets your mind occupied. Plan an activity if you don’t have something to look forward to.

Mental grounding is something you can do anywhere, at any time. No one knows what you’re thinking about. Instead of continuing to ruminate in depressive, anxious, angry, stressful thoughts, just focus your mind on a grounding skill.

Use with Your ChildrenMother and Child

Grounding skills can be very useful with your children. When you notice that they are emotionally stressed or losing control, that’s the time to help them by bringing up a skill you can do together or you can remind them to do one on their own. I mentioned about the child that would name her favorite cookies, it didn’t take very long and she would calm down. She focused on something she liked and it gave her a mental break. Most, if not all of the above, plus the ones from the last article can help your child just as they can help you. They are going to need more help applying each skill, even as a teenager, they may need you to remind them about using a grounding skill or start the grounding skill for them, but it will soon help. Remember that when they become calm; you should try discussing with them whatever may need to be addressed or talked about. So next time they show a need, bring up a skill and you’ll soon see a change in their emotional behaviors.

What’s the Next Step?

Follow us on Facebook to see when the next blog is posted, or check back here.

Coping skills can help, but they cannot take the place of counseling and cannot solve many of the challenges associated with mental illness.  If you need more help, we’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).  For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office.  Please let our office support staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling.  Learn more about LCA clinical staff here.


Diane Cerven, LPCC


Missed reading about using distraction skills as a coping skill, catch up

How to Calm Yourself

Read more about Mental Grounding Skills

Mental Grounding as a Coping Skill

LCA News and Information

This month we continue discussing how to use coping skills to manage our emotions when they become over whelming. Last month we focused on the use of deep breathing and distraction skills like using games, household chores, and other distraction options. I recommend you take time to read those posts because each tool can be useful in different situations. In this post, we are going to learn about grounding skills. Grounding is a technique that helps keep someone in the present. Grounding skills are used to focus our mind. They help a person be “in the here-and-now” and in reality. This focus can be on different thoughts or on physical sensations. In fact, you probably do grounding skills but don’t even know it. Grounding skills help because they help redirect and control thoughts. This focus on changing our thought process in turn helps to decrease the emotional response that we’re having and we gain some control or center on something else rather than on our negative emotion.


One of the main mental health disorders that grounding skills can be used for is post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder is an emotional disorder that occurs after a traumatic event or multiple traumatic events. A person can get PTSD by direct exposure as well as indirect exposure to a traumatic event or by witnessing or learning about an event done to a loved one or close friend. PTSD has many symptoms, which I will not be able to address in this blog post, but the main categories of symptoms include intrusive and distressing memories or thoughts, avoidance of things related to the trauma, thoughts and feelings that worsen after the event and increased anger or hyper vigilance. One of the predominant symptoms of PTSD is remembering emotional or physical feelings that remind us of the event(s). These emotional reminders or triggers take hold of a person’s brain, releasing chemicals and the negative thoughts follow.

Persons who have PTSD can try to avoid anything that will remind them of the event and therefore try to avoid the symptoms, but it’s not possible. There is no way to avoid everything. Plus, our mind has the event(s) in our head so it can bring them up in our thoughts and even at night in our dreams. PTSD is a complex psychological disorder and I recommend counseling with a trained therapist to address the trauma and symptoms and to help solve the many challenges of PTSD.

What Works for PTSD?

Working with your therapist is the best way of dealing with PTSD, but there are things you can do in your day to day life to help with the symptoms. Anytime the emotional brain is taking over with thoughts of anger, anxiety, sadness or even depressive thoughts, grounding skills can help so that you can get control of your emotions. It takes awareness that your emotional mind is taking over and that your emotions are increasing. It takes work but redirecting your thoughts can make a difference. If you’ve read the other blog posts you’ll know that redirecting your thoughts doesn’t have to take a lot of time, only 20 minutes to decrease our heart rate and get our emotional brain chemicals back to a normal level.

Of course, PTSD isn’t the only mental health diagnosis that grounding can help with. I remember helping a client who was very anxious, their thoughts were all over the place and we worked on using mental grounding skills. It didn’t take long before I could physically see they were less anxious.

Helpful Grounding Skills

Grounding skills are not one size fits all. Luckily there are a lot of different ones to choose from. There are two categories of grounding skills, mental and physical. Mental is working with our thoughts ansign that says you are hered feelings. Physical is working with and using our physical environment through our senses.  Some of course use both. This month I’m going to focus on mental grounding skills. I’m going to suggest some techniques now so you have a couple weeks to try them and then provide additional approaches in the next blog. Find the ones you like and make sure to have several options available when you’re feeling anxious, depressed, angry, or even when having PTSD symptoms. Write them down or have them on your phone for easy access.  So lets’ get started.

Mental Grounding

Mental grounding is focusing on thoughts so let’s practice.

When you are having PTSD symptoms or not feeling safe, even though you are, then try saying a Statement of Safety to yourself. Remind yourself of your name, where you are located and that you are safe, the date and time, how old you are, and that you’re in the present not the past. And yes you can say this out loud if that helps.

Repeat a mantra to yourself. “This too shall pass”. “All is well”. “I can handle this”. “I can stay calm and relaxed”. You can even combine a coping statement with deep breathing like “breathe in peace, breathe out anger”. (To learn more about deep breathing read here.)

Use humor. Remember funny times you’ve had, watch a funny video or movie, think of a joke that makes you smile. There are a ton of videos of every type on YouTube, watch one of those or remember ones you’ve watched before.

Describe your environment in great detail. The more details the better. If there are sounds or smells then mention those too (this also adds some physical grounding) For instance: I have 4 beige walls, one brown wooden door, a brown desk with one drawer, a two door black filing cabinet, there are 7 books on the top shelf, one turquois tote, one grey lidded box, one grey marker holder and lots of colored markers, lots of colored construction paper, one window with two panes, one green plant with two white flowers, one dark brown couch with two pillows, one circular medium brown chair, I hear the white noise maker….etc.

A variation on the above is to spot and name categories of things you see, 5 circles/diamonds/squares/triangles or make patterns in your mind, name 5 blue/red/yellow things that you can see or look for rarer colors like orange and note to yourself how many things you see with that.

Describe an every day activity in great detail. For example describe your morning routine, “I wake up and get out of bed, I put my slippers on, I use the bathroom, then brush my teeth, then take a shower, etc. Or use preparing a meal, “In a large bowl I combine lemon juice, salt, oregano, cumin, garlic, chili, and paprika; add the chicken and marinade in the refrigerator…”.

Try the above list out and see what works for you over the next few weeks. Then tune back in for more examples to try. Make sure you keep these suggestions in a place you can find them; of course, coming back to our website is always an option. You can also put them on sticky notes, on the fridge or door, or any place you’ll see them and be reminded to use them.

What’s the Next Step?

Follow us on Facebook to see when the next blog is posted, or check back here.

Coping skills can help, but they cannot take the place of counseling and cannot solve many of the challenges associated with mental illness.  If you need more help, we’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).  For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office.  Please let our office support staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling.  Please check out our staff bios here.


Diane Cerven, LPCC


Want to read past posts on distraction skills, follow them here:

How to Calm Yourself

20 Minute Distraction to Calm Yourself

How to Decrease Emotional Pain with Distraction Skills

How to Decrease Your Emotions Using Distraction

Cottage Update – Picnics, Pergolas and Pianos

LCA News and Information

The Piano

Lake Country Cottage Members would like to thank Lake Country Cottage PianoDave and Sandy Munson of Walker for their generous donation of a beautiful piano.  Now housed in it’s new home in the Cottage living room, the piano will not only bring enjoyment to those practicing, learning and relearning to play, but will deliver a sense of festivity and community to all who hear it.  Thank you!

The Garage Sale

Dog at Garage Sale
Nala, Supervisor, made a new friend at the Sale.

The second annual Member garage sale was a huge success!  Members of the Lake Country Cottage had a great time sorting, pricing and laughing together…and it paid off.  In two days, they raised over $750 for outings and group activities that promote good mental health!  Members decide how to spend the 100% of the funds.  Last year’s proceeds went to fund many activities, such as Friday barbeques (affectionately known as “Grill Baby Grill!”), trips to Itasca State Park, and an occasional pizza party.  To read or download a monthly events calendar for the Cottage, visit our Forms Page.


The Pergola

We’re continuing Drop-in Center Pergolato look for ideas for the floor of the Pergola.  We’ve been doing some head scratching and concluded that we’ll likely install some flagstone pavers.  In the meantime, it’s a nice comfortable space tucked into the trees.  Ideas on flooring are welcome.  We’re also working on transplanting grape vines, that we hope will eventually cover the upper portion and bring even more shade and comfort to the environment.

The Picnic

All Cottage Members and ARMHS recipients are invited to the 8th Annual Lake Country Associates Community Programs’ Picnic.  The picnic will be from 11-1 on Wednesday, August 29th at Heartland Park in Park Rapids.  For more information about the picnic, call Lake Country Associates at 218-366-9229.


To learn more about the Cottage, go to the Lake Country Cottage page or select the locations tab at

Using Distraction: How to Make a Personal Plan

LCA News and Information

In the previous three posts, we talked about how our emotions can become too “big”, even overwhelming, especially when we focus on the negative ones.  To help ourselves we can use distraction as a coping skill.  Distraction is something we are all familiar with in some form or another.  Please read the previous posts discussing distraction strategies by clicking here: 1st post, 2nd post, and 3rd post. This will be the last week that we discuss distraction as a strategy.  As you read, I hope you recognize or understand the importance of using positive coping skills for your mental health.

busy street pictureWhen using distraction as a coping skill, the goal is not to be distracted from your life. That is not what I am recommending for you.  There are so many things that we want to be actively aware of in life and they are important. However, we all need mental breaks. We all have times when something happens and our life feels hectic and our emotions flare. Sometimes it is words someone has said, see week one for an example of feeling anxious because of responding emotionally to a perceived verbal threat. Sometimes something happens physically, like almost getting hit by a car, and our emotions understandably escalate. Sometimes it’s something that reminds us of a negative event or a traumatic occurrence that happened in the past. In each of these situations we can and should use distraction to remove ourselves from the stress and drama of the moment but we also need to move forward.

Moving forward doesn’t mean that we drop the problems and it doesn’t mean we avoid or ignore what is happening with our emotions. We want to deal with our problems, but not emotionally. If we’re too angry, anxious, depressed, disrespected, guilty, shamed, giddy, tired, rejected, humiliated, abandoned, grieving…the list goes on, we need to deal with those feelings so we can communicate to others in a way that they will listen where we can be heard and we can hear them. We will all have big emotions at times, let’s deal with them so we can then solve the problem if there is one and get back into our lives.

We need to be aware of those times where we are stuck. When we get an emotional response that is not in our best interest, it is our responsibility to calm ourselves back down to a level where we can carry on. The importance of self soothing is huge. Distraction is an important tool but only for a limited amount of time. Remember the “20 minute” rule where it only takes 20 minutes for your brain to de-escalate.journaling picture

Make a List

There are so many activities that can draw our attention away from our negative emotional state. What are some that you use personally to help you to focus? Write down ones from the list below that you want to try, ones you already know, and any you find along the way. Listed are the distraction skills that come to mind but perhaps the list can spark some additional ideas for you or get you thinking about what you like to do. Have the list handy to look at when your emotions have escalated. Then you can help yourself by picking something from the list. Part of the problem with big emotions is they can cloud our mind and we forget the things we want to do. Writing it down and having it someplace where we can easily get to is a perfect way of solving this problem. You can write the list down on note cards, post it notes, use a dry erase marker on your mirror, in your phone, or use the this printable Distraction Skills Worksheet.

  • Read a book
  • Read a magazine
  • Go to the library
  • Watch a show or movie
  • Go shopping (even window shopping)
  • Eat something sour or hot – something that will get your attention
  • Read old letters or cards that have positive sentiments
  • Hug a stuffed animal
  • Organize your calendar
  • Make a shopping list
  • Make a favorite meal (careful you don’t choose to use food to cope, stress eating can cause a real problem)
  • Copy recipes onto cards (last week we talked about going through old magazines, you can copy the recipes you wanted and get rid of it)
  • Research something you’re interested in
  • Read inspirational quotes – online or from a book
  • Journal
  • Start a new hobby (coloring books for older people are popular now)
  • Take a walk

Don’t forget about your children. Distraction is one of the best ways to help your children when they become too emotional. You can help them by distracting their mind toward something else. At different ages this will mean different things. For the younger kids, give them a toy or have them pick out a book to help them de-escalate. As they get older you can have them play a game (remember the time limit), have them do a favorite activity or watch a tv show. I’ve mentioned this before if you’ve been reading weekly, but all you need to do to decrease your emotions is to distract for 20 minutes. After that 20 minutes, it’s time to help your child understand their emotions, which should include labeling the emotion for your child and discussing the incident, plus letting them know that distraction is what helped them. Distraction skills are not a get out of trouble free card, but they are a way to make progress with learning about their emotions and about what they did instead of just punishing the emotional response.

What’s the Next Step?

Next month we will offer two posts about coping skills. Follow us on Facebook to see when they are posted, or check back here.  I’m looking forward to moving onto a new category of coping skills to share with you.

Coping skills can help, but they cannot take the place of counseling and cannot solve many of the challenges associated with mental illness.  If you need more help, we’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).  For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office.  Please let reception staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling.  Please check out our staff bios here.


Diane Cerven, LPCC


Want to read past posts on distraction skills, follow them here:

How to Calm Yourself

20 Minute Distraction to Calm Yourself

How to Decrease Emotional Pain with Distraction Skills

Cottage Update – Household Items Needed

LCA News and Information

Time for a Cottage Update!  Members of the Lake Country Cottage are holding their second annual Garage Sale on August 9th and 10th and need your donation of household goods.  All proceeds of the sale go to funding activities for members of the Cottage.  Last year, the sale was a huge success.  Proceeds support activities and events, such as; Friday grill-outs for Members, an outing to Itasca State Park, pottery classes, a bowling outing and other activities in our community.  Cottage Members have also chosen to donate a portion of last years garage sale proceeds to the construction of a backyard pergola.

Pergola Progress

Spike Wellman at Lake Country Cottage Pergola
Spike Wellman, ARMHS Treatment Director and Pergola Contractor/Enthusiast

The pergola project continues to make progress in the back yard of the Cottage.  Most of the framing is up and stained.  We’re looking for a good deal on some flagstone for the floor and path leading up to it (call Shawn or Spike at LCA if you have any ideas – 218-366-9229).  Once the flooring is installed, we will transplant some grape vines from the yard to the base of it.  Our hope is that the grape vines will completely cover the roof and add to the backyard charm.  Once finished, the pergola will be a peaceful place for Members to meet and retreat.   If you drop off items for the sale, take a peek into the back yard to check out the progress.

How Can I Help?

Members are asking for donations to this years garage sale.  Household goods, tools, small appliances, dishes, shop toys, etc. are always a hit.  They ask that you not donate clothing or other fabric items, such as beds or stuffed furniture (wood or plastic furniture sells very well and is greatly appreciated!).  Please drop off your donations at the Lake Country Cottage during drop-in hours (see hours below).  Members also hope that you’re ableLake Country Cottage Drop-in Center to make it to the sale to pick up some great deals.  The Lake Country Cottage is located at 516 West First Street in Park Rapids – immediately West of Casey’s Convenience Store on Hwy 34.

Drop-in Hours

Mondays     9AM – 1PM
Tuesdays   12PM – 4PM
Thursdays 12PM – 4PM
Fridays 9AM – 1PM

Feel free to check out our Facebook page or share this post with those you think may be interested in it.  Learn more about the Lake Country Cottage.


How to Decrease Emotional Pain with Distraction Skills

LCA News and Information

by Diane Cerven, MA, LPCC

In the last couple posts, we have been talking about distraction skills to help us with our emotions when they become too big or overwhelm us. In the first post, I talked about using deep breathing (which is also a relaxation skill. View here), and in the second post I talked about playing a 20 minute game to focus our mind on something else (view here). Distraction skills can be anything that will put our mind on to something other than the emotions we are struggling with, but why is that important?

Our Emotions Can Get in the Way

We talked in our first post about having large emotions and how those can get us into trouble (from constantly snipping all the way to yelling at someone, being rude or saying something in a way that others become defensive). Last time, we looked into the depressive thoughts our emotional brain can have. Our emotional brain is important, it is always telling us something. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s telling us that what’s going on is that it remembers a traumatic past or a stressful event. During these self-talk thoughts, we learned how to cope or survive the thoughts. The more these thoughts occur the more engrained our ways of coping become. That’s positive if it’s a good coping skill.  When we just listen to our emotions then usually it’s not all that helpful. Some ways we cope or protect ourselves is with anger such as yelling at the person or sometimes we are just flooded and as a defense we shut down. Sometimes we isolate ourselves.  Isolation is depressions best friend. If we want our depression to be worse, isolation is a good way to increase the depression.

Emotions are not always good at telling us how to cope. Instead of coming up with positive ways to cope or manage our thoughts, our emotions may have a negative dialogue with us. These thoughts then run through our heads, over and over again. For example, many of us have anxiety. Anxiety when facing a bear is very helpful. It shuts down unnecessary systems, doesn’t take superfluous information, it is working on how to stay alive. This is a good thing. However, when we have that level of anxiety about shopping, leaving our house, driving, talking to people, or taking a test, then our brains are working against us. The thoughts in our head that are making the anxiety worse and are trying to keep us alive are not helpful because the situation is not life or death. These are the times when we need to focus our brain on something else. This is where coping skills are helpful.  There are many coping skills we can use, keep reading our posts to find out more.

Distract with Household Chores

Today, we will continue with distraction skills. messy houseAs you monitor your thoughts or notice your emotions growing or beginning to overwhelm you, then it’s time to work on something else. You can try doing household chores. Let’s face it we all need to straighten or clean something in our homes. This is a perfect way for us to get our mind busy (bonus: some chores give us exercise too).

My first advice is to look around and find something to work on. Make it something doable. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to clean the entire kitchen. That’s a large chore. Instead, focus on something in the kitchen that needs to be cleaned or straightened, like that stack of papers in the corner or those dishes in the sink. We are trying to reach 20 minutes of distraction to decrease our emotions, with the bonus of getting something at least partly done, again, yay!

If your brain is concentrating too much on your emotional thoughts, make a list, and then pick something off it. Here’s my helpful list to trigger some cleaning ideas for you:

o    Sweeping

o    Vacuumingcleaning house

o    Mopping

o    Dusting

o    Straightening things on a table

o    Doing laundry (clothing, bedding, rugs, couch blanket)

o    Washing dishes

o    Cleaning out the junk drawer (the one with the old toaster’s manual and dead batteries)

o    Cleaning the bathroom

o    Getting rid of cob webs

o    Watering plants (come to my house and do those too, lol)

o    Taking out the trash

o    Bathing pets (your pet snake really needs it, ok… maybe not)

o    Cleaning floorboards

o    Cleaning the refrigerator and freezer (what was that thing)

o    Cleaning blinds and windows

o    Vacuuming or laundering curtains

o    Planting seedlings

o    Going through old magazines (the ones you saved for the recipes but never used)

o    Sorting through that stack of paper and junk mail (it’ll feel so good for that to be gone)

o    Sorting through books and donating the ones you don’t want anymore, same with movies and music

o    Putting those old photographs into a photo album (awww look at great-grandma)

o    Pruning trees or shrubs

o    Weeding

o    Washing the car

Ok the list is endless; there are so many projects inside cleaning house pictureand out to work on that it can become overwhelming. Let’s not add to our emotional stress by focusing on an overwhelming amount of things to accomplish but do something small and short-term to distract ourselves and bring our emotions back down.  The goal is at least 20 minutes. When our system is flooded with emotions, it takes about 20 minutes to come back down, so let’s take that 20 minutes and distract ourselves. Set the timer on our phone or stove and work for that amount of time. Along with picking places to clean to make the work more doable, we can also break it down into smaller more manageable tasks. Instead of cleaning out the closet, sort one box. Go through one stack of papers or magazines. Clean part of something or set a time limit. That’s all we need and any progress made is still progress, even if it didn’t get completely done.

Remember that we can use these coping skills with children who are overwhelmed emotionally as well. We can use distraction by redirecting their attention to something they can do. Personally, I would try doing a game first (remember it doesn’t have to be electronic and should last for only 20 minutes), or something physically active or calming, like deep breathing, and then suggest something in the cleaning/straightening realm. It will just go better, depending on your child. Now with children who are overly emotional, telling them to go clean something isn’t going to go well. For those of you who end up yelling at your children to clean up, that causes an emotional reaction in them. Sometimes children are already in the habit to overreact (aka emotionally react) just by asking them to do some household task. They are reacting as if trying to stay alive and you’re the bear. With their brain only responding with how they’ve learned to survive you (the bear), you’re getting resistance, not compliance. Make sure you’re calm, using your distraction skills (or other coping skills), and in calmness help your child to find their calm. If you catch their emotional reactions when they are still minimal, or find something they like, this can help them to redirect their thoughts and energy. When kids see you handling your emotions by distraction, such as with cleaning, they will learn that as well. Showing them how to manage emotions is the best way to teach them.

What’s the Next step to Distracting Myself?

Join us next time when we go over the final distraction skill before we head into new types of coping skills. Coping skills can help, but they cannot take the place of counseling and cannot solve many of the challenges associated with mental illness. If you need more help we’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).

Please check out our staff bios here.


Diane Cerven, LPCC

Next Article

20 Minute Distraction for Emotional Health

LCA News and Information

By Diane Cerven, MA, LPCC

Last week, I talked about our emotions escalating and needing a simple skill to use toSymptom Distraction reduce our emotions, deep breathing.  Look for the deep breathing guide here. Let’s continue on the topic of distractions and learn new skills. Week 1 focused more on annoyance, which is part of the anger category. This week, let’s talk about how distractions can help with depression and sadness.

Depression and Sadness

Let’s first define them. Depression is chronic, at least 2 weeks, when one feels sad, or loss of interest or pleasure. Eating, sleeping, and energy can all change. We can be more fidgety or even have a marked slowing of our speech and movement. Thoughts of worthlessness and guilt can take over, and we can have concentration problems or decision problems. Finally thoughts of death, or wanting to die, all the way to trying to kill ourselves, can be present as well. If you feel like killing yourself please seek help and see this article: Resources for Suicide Prevention. These symptoms affect our functioning; we just don’t want to work, be social, or participate in general with life. If you have 5 or more of these symptoms I encourage you to get a diagnostic assessment and help from a trained and licensed mental health counselor. We can all relate to times when we at least felt sad, maybe having some of these symptoms but not 5 or more, or not lasting as long, and this is what I define as sadness. Even in the throes of depression we can get a mental break from our depressive brain and focus on something else.

Let’s bring up a time when we felt sad or depressed. Our depressed brain was dwelling on the negative.

“There’s no point.”

“No one cares.”

“Why try.”

“Nothing goes right.”

“I could just kill myself.”

I could go on with depressive thinking, we all get the idea. At these times, our depressive brain is taking over (by the way, this could be any emotion our brain is stuck on). Our brain is running, ruminating really, it’s controlling our thought process. Our emotion gets worse. Many times depressive people will try to make it through the day with a heavy weight on them or they sit around, even just going back to bed, to get their thoughts to stop.

I want to encourage you when you’re sad, depressed, or any other emotion, and your brain is stuck in the thinking that comes with the emotion, to step out in a new way by using a coping skill. Coping skills are used to get our minds on something else, to fill our thoughts with something that is helpful. We’re starting with distraction skills, to distract us. There are so many ways we can distract ourselves. Like I mentioned last week, every coping skill is technically a distraction because it gets our mind on something else.

Games – A Great Distraction Skill

This week I want to focus on something that you may be doing in your free time but never thought of using to cope with difficult or large emotions. There is research being done and there is anecdotal (people have told me) evidence that this has helped them with their emotional regulation. Before we get there, I do want to caution to make sure that you don’t get lost from life in distraction skills. If your distraction is keeping you from living life, from paying attention to your family, friends, or anything else you need to be doing, then your distraction skill is not a skill, it’s a detriment. So let’s be mindful that we’re using this in moderation.

This week let’s talk about games as a distraction. I know this is one of my favorite ways to get my mind on something else for a little while.  As my attention is focused on a game, my emotions have a chance to decrease. Another caution, there are games that increase anxiety or anger, or any emotion really depending on what they are. I was working on a cooking game, you have to get the orders done in a certain amount of time, and as it became more difficult, I became more irritable because of the anxiety that was caused by trying to remember how to do the recipes. That’s not good. Just give yourself a limited amount of time. When someone is flooded, it takes on average 20 minutes to decrease their emotions. Not several hours. 🙂

So what kinds of games am I talking about? Games that allow our thoughts to focus, so games that take some thought.

Solo Games

There are solo games we can play by ourselves.  Try Sudoku, Mahjong, crossword puzzles, word finds, brain games, Solitaire, or puzzles.

We can also play individual games on our phone (don’t forget to set a time limit).  For example: Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Candy Crush, Tetris or Solitaire.  I like the detective kind of games. Really it’s endless. Just monitor how you feel playing. If it’s causing anxiety (like the game I was playing) or you get sucked in for too long then find another one. I’m also certain that the solo games from above can be found on your phone.

Games with Others

There are some great games that can be played with others.  Try playing chess, checkers, Scrabble, card games, puzzles or Apples to Apples (a favorite with a big crowd).  It’s endless here too. Any game you play with someone is going to distract you. Pick one that you find fun, or one that causes you to think.

We can’t forget playing with others online or phone.  Try Words with Friends (they’ll even match you with friends if you don’t have family or friends who play) or try Facebook games, many you don’t directly play with others, but you can send and receive items with friends.  Try Googling multi-player games.  The possibilities are endless, limited only by your search.

When your emotional mind is taking over, decrease the thoughts and feelings by distracting yourself with a game. Over this next week, practice using a distraction skill by playing a game when your feelings are escalating. Then make a list (in case your brain is too overwhelmed to let you remember) of the ones that help.

Need More Personal Help?

Again, coping skills are tools. For more serious mental health concerns, please click here to contact us through our website and we’ll call you back.  Feel free to call our Park Rapids office at 218-366-9229 or our Bemidji office at 218-444-2233. Please check out our staff bios.  You can view mine by clicking on my name below. We are here to help.


Diane Cerven, LPCC

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Welcome Christina and Aaron!

LCA News and Information

Lake Country Associates welcomes two new staff to the ARMHS Program in Park Rapids:

 Christina Olson

Christina jChristina Olson, Mental Health Practitioneroined our Park Rapids ARMHS team and is working with clients in Cass and Hubbard counties.  She received her Social Work degree from Bemidji State University in 2008.  From there she relocated to southern Mexico where she taught English and music, and gained a whole new perspective on life and living.  She has worked with individuals of all ages in community, home and school settings.  In her position as a Mental Health Practitioner, Christina is very motivated to work together with people to improve the quality of their lives.


 Aaron Majors

Aaron Majors is an MSW intern at Lake Country Associates. Aaron He earned a B.A. in Applied Behavioral Science in 2014.  Aaron also earned his A.A.S. in Aerospace Ground Equipment Technology in 2010.  Aaron brings a unique background to Lake Country Associates.  He is retired from the Air Force after serving 20+ years on active duty.  Aaron has worked in some of the most diverse and dynamic environments in the world. During his internship, Aaron would like to be involved in the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS), Community Support Program (CSP), Adult mental health drop-in center, and hospice services with St. Joseph’s Healthcare.  Aaron has a passion for people and community and follows a strengths-based approach when addressing individual issues.  Aaron is eager to apply his skills and knowledge in ways that will serve to the betterment of the community.  He wants to empower those the people we serve and connect them to the services they deserve.

How to Calm Yourself – Introduction

LCA News and Information

By Diane Cerven

There are times when we become overwhelmed, flooded with emotions.  At those times our anger, anxiety, depression, disappointment, guilt, shame, fear… the list goes on, they take over our brain and we respond, well, emotionally.  Some people are more emotional people, they’re just born that way, but most everyone can relate to losing emotional control.  A time, let’s be honest, timeS, in our lives when we react based on our emotions.

I’ll start with a good emotion, one we all like feeling as an example, love. The saying ‘love is blind’ is so true. It gives us energy, we can stay up all night talking or just thinking about the one we love. Their flaws and annoyances disappear, sometimes even rational thought that would save us disappears, and we act emotionally. We allow love to take over, and since it feels so good we don’t complain (though we all have our share of regret).

But what about the other emotions? When anger sweeps through us?  When we are so anxious that we freeze? Or our depressive brain tells us no one cares, just stay in bed.  What are we supposed to do then? Do we just let our brains react and behave as our emotions dictate?  Well, some of us do, and all of us have. Is there a better way? Well, I’m glad I asked.

What Can I Do About My Emotions?

One of the simplest things we can do when our emotions threaten to overwhelm us is to practice a coping skill or coping mechanism, as some call it.  These are ways of controlling, or at least lessening the intensity of our emotions so that we can allow our logic brain time to help.  Emotions are a sign.  They’re trying to tell us something.  The larger the emotion, the bigger the sign.  Let’s use annoyance as an example.  We can all think of something that annoys us.

I’ll choose someone clicking a pen over and over again.  It’s distracting.  Our brain can’t focus on what we’re doing.  The repetitiveness starts to grate at our nerves.  As it continues, our annoyance increases and increases until we make an emotional response to the miscreant that floods our ears with their click, click, clicking (PS – name calling increases that angry feeling).  We snap, we bark something, “Do you mind!?”, or “Stop!” or even “Shut it!”.  Just now, our emotional brain has left a mean message, we’re in a foul mood, and hopefully, once we’ve recovered and calmed down, we have remorse for how we acted. Not good dude, not good because the emotional mind made the call of what to say and because it’s emotional it didn’t do it well, it was rude.

Related image

Now if we were the clicking perpetrator.  We’re offended, maybe we’re anxious now (depending on who is saying it and what we know of that person).  Heck, maybe we were nervous to begin with, which led to the clicking to get rid of nervous energy and now we’re even worse.  Now we have a choice, and the typical choice is not to say something like, “hey man, I’m sorry. I’m really nervous and wasn’t paying attention.” Wow, wouldn’t that be a nice responder (this person is emotionally healthy).  The typical response however when we’re verbally attacked is to get defensive.  We’re emotional and we’re acting it, so we find another way to act out our anxiety, shaking our leg, chewing on the pen, etc.  Or we hide our anxiety with anger and say something back, maybe not verbally either but with body language, like glaring at them with a ‘come at me bro’ look on our face.  This is escalating, isn’t it.

Instead of being the emotionally annoyed person who lashes out or the anxious person who is letting off anxious energy but not decreasing it we can have emotional intelligence and handle our own emotions by self-soothing.  Same situation, clicking pen (you can conger up an annoyance you have too, make this real).  You feel your annoyance rising.  This time instead of letting it go to the braking point you choose another way…and that way is, let’s tie it to the top now, a coping skill.

We here at Lake Country Associates would like to offer coping skills for you to use.  Our goal is to do a coping skill a week, over the next year.  Actually, each month we are going to pick another category of coping skills, and make sure you get a nice list of them during that month.  Each week we’ll have at least one, but most likely several coping skills.  The hope is to help you to deal with your emotions affectively, so that you don’t become flooded and make emotional decisions, like lashing out.  Come back weekly to learn some new ones and pick the ones that work for you in the situations you need them in.  I don’t want to minimize mental health by acting like coping skills are a cure all, but they can help in many situations.

Let’s start with the category of distraction.  Technically, all coping skills fit into this category because they get your mind on something else, we’ll get more specific later.  For this first coping skills blog we are going to teach you the counselors coping skill number one pick.  No really, it’s that basic, BUT we need to include it because of it’s importance. For this next week, and well for forever after that, I want you to practice deep breathing. There are several different ways of doing deep breathing, I’m going to teach the way that works great for me and doesn’t make me light headed. Let’s begin.


Get into a comfortable position. Feet on the floor, arms relaxed, shoulders down.  Now slowly inhale, fill up your lungs and all the way down into your belly, fill your lungs as full as you can, and hold it.  Now slowly exhale, letting all the air out.  Repeat; inhale slowly, filling your lungs completely, hold it for a second, and slowly exhale, letting it all out. One more time; inhale, filling all the way up, hold it, and exhale slowly, releasing any remaining tension in your body.  Feel your body relax.  And that’s it.  The more you practice this technique, the calmer you’ll feel at the end.  Plus, you get a muscle memory so that just thinking about doing deep breathing will cause an automatic relaxation, which when you then practice deep breathing, you will feel even more relaxed at the end. You see, you can’t be in a state of emotional tension and relaxed at the same time.

There you have it, your first coping skill.  You can come back here and be led through deep breathing, use it on your own, or even walk through it with a loved one (your kids can love this too).  Some variations: balloon breathing (literally get a balloon…it takes very deep breaths to blow them up), bubbles, or add imagery like smelling in something delicious (like fresh cookies, hot chocolate, a flower, etc), and then slowly breathing out (if it’s hot chocolate or a hot cookie you can imagine blowing on it to cool it down). You can also tell yourself that you’re breathing in peace and breathing out anger or anxiety or sadness (or use the words that work best for you). Practice this, practice this with your kids, teach your friends, you can do this.

What’s the Next Step to Calming Myself?

Join us next week when we go over another distraction skill to help with our emotional regulation. As I mentioned before coping skills help but are not a solution to major mental illness.  If you need more help we’re here for you.  To make a counseling appointment call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji).

Please check out our staff bios.  You can view mine here.

Watch Part 1 of Calming Yourself:



Diane Cerven

Next Article: 20 Minute Distraction for Emotional Health

Coming Soon – STEPPS Group Therapy

LCA News and Information


Lake Country Associates will again be offering Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving (STEPPS) therapy group on Wednesday afternoons beginning July 18, 2018.


STEPPS is a cognitive behavioral, skills training approach to assist people in the management of emotional intensity and the development of emotional regulation skills.  Developed at the University of Iowa, this program is a skills training approach originally designed for persons diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  However, in our experience delivering this group we find that the material applies well to any disorder in which an individual experiences intense emotions that are difficult to manage and regulate.  We call these “emotional intensity episodes”.   Persons with  Depressive Disorders, Bipolar Spectrum Disorders, Anxiety Disorders as well as PTSD can find this skills-based approach helpful in their recovery.  A key aspect of this program is the development of a Reinforcement Team.  This allows key support persons, family, friends and professionals working with the individual to learn and reinforce the skills the individual is learning.

What Can I Expect?

STEPPS consists of 20 – 1½ hour group therapy sessions and 1 Reinforcement Team session.  This group is co-facilitated by Jean Greseth, MSW, LICSW, a clinical social worker and Laura Kempnich, MSW, LGSW, a clinical social work trainee at Lake Country Associates.  Jean has facilitated STEPPS groups for the past 8 years and is an experienced clinician in the treatment of mental illness.  Ms. Kempnich is working towards licensure as a clinical social worker, under the supervision of Jean Greseth.

STEPPS will be offered on Wednesday afternoons from 5:30 pm to 7:00 p.m. at “Lake Country Cottage” Drop-in Center.  The Cottage is located on Hwy 34, next to Casey’s convenience store, 516 West First Street, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

How Do I Sign Up for STEPPS Group?

We are accepting referrals for STEPPS at this time.  Start date is July 18, 2018.  Please call Lake Country Associates at 218-366-9229 to make a referral or download a Referral Form.  All individuals referred will need to have a current Diagnostic Assessment completed by a Mental Health Professional and meet with Ms. Greseth or Ms. Kempnich for a 30 minute individual session prior to the start of group.

Family Separation?

LCA News and Information

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Have you ever been distracted in a public place and lost track of your young child for even 15 seconds?  Do you recall how it felt?  How about when you were a child; do you remember getting briefly separated from a parent while in a store?  Imagine having that feeling for a day, a month or for an indefinite period of time.

The National Association of Social Workers and the American Psychological Association are asking the United States Government to stop the policy of separating the children of asylum seekers crossing the border from their parents and to reunite those children already separated with their parents or families. At Lake Country Associates, we recognize the damage that has been done to generations of people, such as Native Americans, Japanese Americans, African Americans and others.  We ask the administration to stop this practice which inflicts unnecessary trauma on vulnerable children.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) writes:

“A “zero tolerance” immigration policy that would prosecute families who attempt to cross the border and forcibly separate children from parents is malicious and unconscionable and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will press lawmakers to rescind this egregious action.”

Following the executive order rescinding immigrant family separation policy, the American Psychological Association (APA) made the following statement:

 “While we are gratified that President Trump has ended this troubling policy of wresting immigrant children from their parents, we remain gravely concerned about the fate of the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated and are in shelters. These children have been needlessly traumatized and must be reunited with their parents or other family members as quickly as possible to minimize any long-term harm to their mental and physical health. In the interim, they should be assessed for and receive any needed mental or physical health care by qualified health care professionals.

Decades of psychological research show that children separated from their parents can suffer severe psychological distress, resulting in anxiety, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, withdrawal, aggressive behavior and decline in educational achievement. The longer the parent and child are separated, the greater the child’s symptoms of anxiety and depression become.

The American Psychological Association stands ready to assist in getting these children the psychological care that they will need during the time they are in U.S. custody and upon their release.

However, the executive order could create new challenges to the health and well-being of immigrant families by opening the door to holding children with their parents longer than is now permitted by law. The bottom line is we need to have immigration policies that are humane and in the best interests of children and families.”

Resources for Suicide Prevention

LCA News and Information

by Diane Cerven, LPCC

Suicide Resources Dried Flower Picture

With the recent celebrity deaths by suicide it’s on our minds to reach out to people in need.

We look at celebrities who kill themselves and we ask, why?  They’re rich, they’re famous.  If someone like Anthony Bourdain can commit suicide, when he seemed to be living the dream, what’s the point of my life?  What’s there to live for?  Many of us have these thoughts run through our minds.  Especially when suicides are in our newsfeeds and on tv.

For some of us, it’s more than just a passing thought.  They are real questions that we’re asking ourselves.  They’re real feelings of hopelessness, sadness, even numbness that cloud our minds, cloud our lives.  Those questions drive us to despair, and lost in our depression, our pain, our chronic medical condition, our grief, we just want it all to end.  Believing that our pain ending is the only way through this, and to end our pain suicide is the answer, but it’s not.

There is hope, let us help you find it.  Psychotherapy has been found to be an effective way of helping people to get through their mental pain.  Talking to a counselor, someone who is empathetic, and impartial, who can help you to see there could be a tomorrow without the depression being so large.  A counselor can use their training and therapeutic techniques to help.

It takes a choice on your part.  You can continue listening to the questions, to the depression, to the emotional desire for things to get better but wanting to end it quickly.  Or you can give counseling a chance and start the work of getting better with support.  Call us at 218-366-9229 to schedule an appointment with a Lake County Associates counselor.


Diane Cerven, LPCC

Considering Suicide Right Now?

If you’re in crisis and considering suicide now, please contact one of these resources, 911, or go to the nearest emergency room. We want you to be safe.


24 Hour Crisis Line (for adults and children):        1-800-422-0045
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:     1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Crisis Text Line:         Text MN to 741741


Navigating the Changes in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

LCA News and Information

by Loretta Bach, LADC

  • What’s the difference between a Rule 25, a Chemical Use Assessment and a Comprehensive Assessment?
  • What is Peer Support and Treatment Coordination?
  • Do I need Outpatient Treatment, Substance Use Disorder Treatment or Residential Treatment?
  • What’s the difference between Withdrawal Management and Detox?
  • How do I pay for services…what’s a PMAP…what is a Consolidated Treatment Fund?
rocks on the beach

If you or a family member find yourself in a position where you believe a problem has developed with mood altering chemicals it may be a confusing and daunting task to know where to turn and how to get help.

My name is Loretta Bach and I am a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor. I started partnering with Lake Country Associates (LCA) in Park Rapids and surrounding communities this February. In my bio on the LCA Website, I mentioned that I have been working in the field of addiction treatment (no, wait, its now “Substance Use Disorder” treatment) since 1986. Over that time, I had been fortunate to work with many talented and forward-thinking professionals; delivering care in the treatment of chemical dependency. With my community partners, we have adapted to countless changes, challenges, and advances in treating Substance Use Disorders (SUDs).  I have had the opportunity to see many changes in the field over the past 30+ years and I look forward to working with LCA in adapting to the new round of changes that are set to be put in place July 1 of this year.

The good news is we live in Minnesota, which has been a pioneer in this field.  Many other states have looked to us as a model to help the populations in their respective states.  Lake Country Associates has invested the time with consultations, webinars and meeting with surrounding county workers to make sure we can provide the direction and assistance needed with our unique challenges of delivering care in our rural setting.

Are the upcoming changes to SUD in MN confusing? Yes

Are these changes meant to improve the care to people needing help? Yes

Have many people spent countless hours pondering changes and listening to professionals in the field in order to put a workable system in place? Yes

Am I dedicated to helping you navigate the changes and get the services you need? Absolutely!

I look forward to being a part of this transition with you and to helping you get the services that best fit your situation.

There are a couple ways to learn more:

– You can call your county Social Service Department. In Hubbard County, the contact staff is Tammie Roth.

– You can call Lake Country Associates at 218-366-9229 and talk with me about your questions or set up an appointment for a “Rule 25” or for care associated with a (join me in practicing the new terminology) “Substance Use Disorder”.

Loretta Bach, LADC



LCA Welcomes Laura Hansen, MSW, LICSW

LCA News and Information

Lake Country Associates welcomes Laura Hansen Master’s of Social Work (MSW), Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) to our Bemidji office. Laura has thirty-two years of experience working in the mental health, counseling and social work field. In 2008, Laura obtained her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota – Duluth. Prior to earning her master’s degree, Laura worked as a social worker in the areas of child protection, family service and welfare reform. Laura has sixteen years of experience as a school social worker, school counselor, and mental health therapist. In February 2011, she obtained her clinical license with the Minnesota Board of Social Work as an Independent Clinical Social Worker. Laura has worked as an adjunct instructor in the Social Work Department at Bemidji State University.

Laura enjoys working with people and uses a comprehensive, person centered approach, drawing on the strengths perspective. She utilizes cognitive-behavioral therapy, one’s environment, physical health, psychological and emotional aspects and spirituality. Laura has extensive experience working with people addressing anxiety, depression, life changes and transitions, grief and loss, relationships and communication, trauma, couples relational issues, spirituality and family therapy. Laura also works with people who are managing severe and persistent mental illness. Laura enjoys working with adults, adolescents and children ages seven and up. Laura is honored to share in people’s exploration and journey through the challenges in life and to work together to improve the identified issues and concerns.

Changes in Txt4Life

LCA News and Information

Community members may have heard that the state of Minnesota’s crisis text provider “Txt4life” is ending next month. This service will be moving from a Minnesota provider to an existing national nonprofit called Crisis Text Line. Txt4life will be responding to texts through March, though texters will receive an auto message with their first text letting them know of the change and what the new number is. This automated message is active now and will be in place for an undetermined amount of time after March. 

How to Access the Crisis Text Line

The new service through Crisis Text Line is active and available now. Your clients/students can access this service by texting “MN” to 741741.  For now, please help make the transition by discontinuing promotion for Txt4life.  Promotional materials for the new line will soon be available in schools and in the community.  In the meantime, please spread the word about the change.  

More information on Crisis Text Line is available at

Welcome to LCA Caleb Roiko, RN!

LCA News and Information

Caleb Roiko, a Registered Nurse, joined ourCaleb Roiko, RN Park Rapids ARMHS team in December and will be providing Medication Education services for people in the ARMHS program.  He attended Northwest Technical College in Bemidji and become a Registered Nurse in 2016.  Caleb is excited about working in his community and helping people understand the symptoms of their illness and overcome the side-effects of their medication.

What is Medication Education?

Medication Educators help teach people in the ARMHS program about the following:

  • Their mental illness and symptoms
  • The role that medications play in treating symptoms of mental illness
  • Coping with medication side effects

Medication Education can also include helping family members or significant others develop ways to better maintain the medication regiment for their loved one.  To begin with, Caleb will be providing services in a group setting, but he is willing to meet individually with people by appointment.

See the ARMHS calendar, found at the Forms and Brochures page for details of upcoming Medication Education groups.

Please join us in welcoming Caleb Roiko, RN to the LCA Team!

Lake Country Welcomes Loretta Bach, LADC!

LCA News and Information

Please join us in welcoming Loretta Bach, LADC to the Lake Country team. Loretta Bach-Gansen Loretta graduated from Minnesota State University-Mankato with certification in chemical dependency counseling in 1986. She went on to work towards certification as a CCDCR and was ultimately licensed by the State of Minnesota as an LADC. Loretta has worked continuously since her certification and licensure at all levels of Substance Use Disorder treatment.  She has worked with both adolescents and adults.  Loretta was the Program Director of an adolescent residential treatment program in Winnebago, Minnesota.  She also has worked in delivering outpatient services in the roles of primary counselor and outpatient coordinator.  She helped Mayo Health Systems develop an extended care/board and lodge program as well as helping with staff development. 

 Loretta moved to Park Rapids in 2009.  She has worked most of her time at Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center and Northern Pines Mental Health since her move “Up North”.  

 Loretta says she has been fortunate to work with many compassionate and forward-thinking staff and supervisors over her years of practice.  She has witnessed staggering changes in health care and has worked with the people that have drawn up policy and still have found ways to provide “person centered” care while working with these changes.  She is excited to continue that journey with her coworkers at Lake County Associates.

Client Comments

“Very welcoming place. We love our therapist!”

Office Hours

Park Rapids Office

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
    8:00 to 5:00
  • Wednesday
    8:00 to 7:00
  • Friday
    8:00 to 1:00

Bemidji Office

  • Monday – Friday
    8:00 to 5:00

Both LCA offices may be closed over the noon hour. 

Important Numbers

Park Rapids Office Phone:

Bemidji Office Phone:

LCA Fax Number (both offices):


24-Hour Crisis Line:


LCA Brochure 5.14.18

Community Resource List 5.9.18

All Forms and Downloads