When I was in graduate school, I got a tattoo across my arm – “serenity.” It is scripted, and so often people ask what it says, and then still seem puzzled when I respond. For me, the meaning is twofold.

First, I had found a sort of peace and calm through meditation and mindfulness that I had never known before. I strive to find that peace and calm whenever I can. I try to build in comfort , and make time to find peace in my own mind.

Secondly, I was inspired by the spirit of the “serenity prayer.” If you are not familiar, it goes like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”  -Reinhold Niebuhr

In an effort to feel in control of my own life, I had been exerting an enormous amount of effort trying to control things around me. For me the struggle wasn’t necessarily with substance use, as it is typically reserved for, but with the acceptance of what I did not have the power to control. Through accepting that you cannot control the decisions of others, or the weather, or traffic, a sort of calm and peace can emerge.

You may try to challenge yourself – identify a situation in which you are trying to have control when you actually do no. One typical example is road rage when you are stuck in traffic. It seems common for people to become overly upset about traffic patterns, but becoming upset does not change the outcome at all. Your anger, whether expressed internally or externally, does not the make the car in front of you go any faster.  In a sense, this is wasted energy that you could be using in a more positive way. What is one way you could exert what control you do have over the situation to make it more positive? For the traffic example, you may choose to find a song you love to sing along with (try the link for a list of some ideas), and play it with the windows down to enjoy the breeze.  You may pick a podcast or audiobook that you really enjoy (see links for some of my favorites to get started). You can step back from the situation, recognize where you do have control, and choose to make it a positive experience.

For me, my tattoo is a constant reminder to check my need for control. What do I have control over in this situation? What do I not have control over? How can I direct my energy towards something that will bring me joy instead of choosing frustration and misery? We can make the most out of this life by choosing happiness.

Finding Comfort

As a child, our parents are primarily responsible for giving us comfort. As we grow and mature, we take on that role ourselves. Yet, for many adults, the idea of comforting oneself can be foreign. In times of stress they may spin out, not having a way to slow down the chaos. And in a time of chaos, the last thing you want to do is brainstorm what to do to feel better. So, how do we build comfort into our lives in a way that works?

One of my clients had a brilliant idea – a comfort box. You could think of anything that makes you smile, makes you relax and makes you feel good. You might put pictures of comforting things/places/people in your box. You might put things that you can touch, feel, smell, wrap around you or experience with your senses in some way. You might put that one book or movie that you always come back to in your comfort box. You might include candles, music, or an oil diffuser with some essential oils. That way, when you experience stress, you can just go to your comfort box, with everything all ready to go.

Also, touch from others can go a long way. Get a hug from a friend or family member, or go for a massage. Spend some quality time petting your animals, or visit someone who will share theirs.

Figure out what works for you. Start a list, and if something doesn’t work for you, then agree to try it again a different time, or scrap it all together. Ask friends and family what works for them, and try their ideas out, too. In the end, you should be able to compile a list of activities that you can do to feel comforted. pexels-photo-935750.jpeg

Do more of what makes you happy

Hello! I am Nicole Lee, LICSW. Welcome to my blog!


I am a clinical social worker who currently does therapy with clients identified with disordered eating. One of the first things I always ask my clients is – what do you do for fun? I get lots of sidelong glances from this one – I’m sure they are wondering how some random “fun” activity is going to help that raging “ED” (eating disorder) voice go away. Well what I find is that, especially in those with disordered eating, is that they have centered all of their free time around their eating disorder, and have nothing left that is just for fun anymore. By establishing a hobby, you can carve out time in your life just to relax and do what you enjoy. It sounds simple, but can have remarkable results. What do you like to do for fun?

If you struggle with any habits that you aren’t as happy with, such as disordered eating, you may try to create a list of positive activities you can do before using your less functional coping skill (i.e. binge eating, biting your nails, etc.). If you struggle to find activities that you like to do now, you may have to think back to another time when you did allow yourself to have hobbies and down time, and think what you liked to do then.

Some common activities you can do on your own might be reading (check out The Emily Program for some great suggestions for those struggling with disordered eating), meditating with an app on your phone or with You Tube, listen to cheery music or calling, texting or, best yet, face-timing with a support person. Also, watching some funny TV can help lift your spirits if you are down.

If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or ADHD symptoms, you might struggle with being fidgety. Sometimes going with the fidget and giving yourself something to do can help calm your mind. My favorite way to fidget is to crochet, knit or weave. If you have interest in learning how to do any of these, you can get supplies here, and there are plenty of tutorials online here. For the less crafty, there are a plethora of other way fun fidget toys to pick from here. You can combine the activities above with a fidget activity in order to keep your mind and your hands busy.

A huge contributing factor to depression and other mental health concerns is isolation. One way to increase your happiness is to increase your social time. Depression decreases motivation and takes pleasure away from the things you used to like to do, so getting out of the house and being social can be a push if you are suffering from these symptoms, but can be effective in increasing positive mood. If you are struggling to find motivation to do this, start slow – meet a friend for coffee or do something that is short in duration and a low-pressure activity. Work your way up from there.

As we say, “Fake it until you make it.” Slap on that smile, and your brain thinks you are happy. Go forth, find a hobby and have fun!